I do, of course, consider my home country as a very friendly one, but even I have to admit there are some places in the UK that are just that little bit more friendly than others. When it comes to the friendliest places, the small, out-of-the-way, lesser-visited, towns are certainly up there. These are the kinds of places where everyone you encounter on the street says hello, where the staff in stores, cafes, restaurants, and bars, go out of their way to make you feel welcome. These are the places you want to go back to again and again. From the north to the south, here’s my pick of the friendliest towns to visit in England.
1. Boston, Lincolnshire
This modest Lincolnshire town was once a giant amongst other towns, a very important and a very wealthy town. Although today it’s a quiet market town with a close community living there, its position close to the sea made it a strategic port town and an ideal place for trade and the movement of people to and from Europe. It’s hard to imagine its former glory now, but nip into the Guildhall and you’ll be regaled with tales of the history of the town. Now a museum and a venue for private functions, this incredible building was erected in 1390 and housed the town’s courts. The small cells beneath the courtroom are still accessible today. The museum has a fascinating collection and the staff will happily talk to you about the artifacts and show you around the building, complete with sloping floors and wonky walls!
2. Keswick, Lake District
This pretty market town is located in the north of the Lake District, amid some stunning and dramatic scenery. The old market still arrives every Saturday and Thursday in the market square, with a note that on days of “high winds” it will be absent. This tells you a lot about the kind of weather you can expect in Keswick, but the people here are exceptionally friendly, and when you pop into the cafes and small shops that line the high street, you’ll always get a welcome. This is a popular base for walkers and those wanting to attempt the nearby peaks, but it’s also a sleepy town with a settled community at its heart. It’s also a great place to stay and explore the rest of the area from.
Take a boat out on Derwentwater or enjoy watching some Theatre by the Lake. This is one of the most incredible locations for outdoor theatre and the setting really adds an extra layer to the storytelling. The lake is a place of calm and quiet, so whether you‘re boating or watching a play, it’s a great way to relax.
3. Tewksbury, Cotswolds
Set in the beautiful Cotswolds, Tewkesbury is a medieval market town with Tudor buildings and an air of another time and another place. The Festival of Lights event takes place at Tewkesbury Abbey and celebrates the history of the town, which is everywhere you look. Tewkesbury is famous for its medieval heritage and Tudor architecture, along with being one of the most flooded towns in the UK, meaning it’s set amongst a fair amount of water. The town’s location, at the meeting point of the River Avon and the River Severn, is both what makes this so beautiful as a town and also what makes it most prone to flooding. More randomly, it was also voted to have the prettiest roundabout in the UK!
Considering the waterways and the flood risk here, a river cruise is perhaps the perfect way to enjoy this old town. English Holiday Cruises, based in nearby Gloucester Docks, operate a historic river cruise that cruises down the river and stops off in Tewkesbury for a number of tours, including the infamous Tewkesbury Abbey.
4. Looe, Cornwall
Looe is one of the most picturesque seaside towns you’ll find anywhere in the world, and on a good day of sunshine and pure blue skies, it wouldn’t look out of place in the Mediterranean. There’s a soft sandy beach here and clear waters, making it popular with tourists. Looe gets busy in the summer and keeps getting more and more popular year on year, but it still manages to retain its small-town charm. There are various events and festivals throughout the year, including a music festival, but visit in spring and you’ll find a quieter town that’s just waking from the winter. It makes a lovely base to explore the rest of Cornwall from, but equally, there’s enough to do here to keep visitors happy without moving much at all.
This is a working fishing port, so you can watch the fishermen bringing in their catch, see it being sold, and book a table at one of the town’s seafood restaurants to enjoy a dish of succulent fresh fish. Pick up fish and chips for lunch by the sea and you’ll have an equally amazing meal of freshly caught fish.
5. Lyme Regis, Dorset
Lyme Regis is a very special town. Situated on the “Jurassic Coast,” it’s popular with fossil hunters, and in the height of summer, the familiar sound of tools hitting rocks down on the pebble beach literally fills the air. But there’s a lot more to Lyme Regis than dinosaur fossils. I’ve stayed in this seaside town many times and the sense of community while welcoming visitors with open arms is unusual and fresh. On one of my stays, a local invited me to join their annual festival of light, the Candles on the Cobb, which involves locals walking down to the Cobb, Lyme Regis’s harbor, and placing candles all along the stone walkway. I felt so welcomed and included in this intimate local festival, it’s something I’ll never forget. On another visit, I witnessed the Easter parade, along with other tourists and locals all watching together.
6. Knaresborough, Yorkshire
The North Yorkshire town of Knaresborough feels ancient and kind of quirky, but its inhabitants are extremely friendly, perhaps because they are so happy to live here. The town itself is quaint, with a few good restaurants and some unusual little shops, mostly arts and crafts stores and all independents. The market is held every Wednesday and features produce from local farmers and makers. When it comes to eating out, it’s mostly pubs, tea rooms, and small intimate restaurants, and you’ll always find locals welcoming you. Don’t miss a visit to Mother Shipton’s Cave, an old cave supposedly once the home of Mother Shipton, a local resident, recluse, and soothsayer. This is England’s oldest visitor attraction, opening to the public in 1630!
I’d highly recommend a walk in nearby Nidd Gorge if you like hiking. You can go as far as you want and take it at your own pace, and it’s a beautiful walk through lush woods and fields by the lovely rumbling River Nidd, even if you don’t go very far. Take a picnic and enjoy the serenity; there’s plenty of open space and fresh country air.
7. Newmarket, Suffolk
The quaint town of Newmarket in Suffolk has a close-knit community and is the home of British horseracing. Located just a short distance from London, it’s the perfect weekend getaway from the city. Relax and unwind in the heart of Suffolk at Bedford Lodge Hotel. The four red star hotel is nestled in three acres of manicured gardens in Newmarket, the ancestral home of British horseracing. Offering luxury throughout, the hotel is home to an award-winning restaurant that includes a traditional bar menu, a la carte, and scrumptious afternoon teas!
One of the finest luxury spas in Suffolk, The Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel has some of the best facilities and treatments available across East Anglia. Recognized by the Good Spa Guide with their highest “5 Bubble” rating for those looking for relaxation and a tranquil sanctuary after a day exploring the local area. This will make you feel right at home and give you a little insight into just why Newmarket locals are so happy.
8. Faversham, Kent
A very friendly town to visit is Faversham, the oldest market town in Kent and steeped in history. It even has the oldest brewery in England, Shepheard Neame Brewery. Community is important in this town, and at the heart of it is Macknade. Macknade creates spaces and experiences that bring communities together around a shared love of food & drink. Encompassing retail, hospitality, events, food service, and farming, Macknade has been synonymous with quality and community since 1847. With strong roots in the garden of England and the island of Ischia in Italy, Macknade is on a mission to bring producers, suppliers, and consumers closer together in true community spirit. You can explore one of Macknade’s Kentish Food Halls or enjoy the Macknade experience from the comfort of home, with hampers & gifts delivered direct to your door. The friendliness of Faversham comes through in the produce, and also in their drive to build better community links and keep the friendliness alive.