Prettiest Cambridgeshire Towns & Villages to Explore
5 Apr 2021
It’s not surprising that the towns and villages of Cambridgeshire often feature on lists of some of the prettiest places to visit in the country. Rolling countryside and flat green fields surround many of these picturesque Cambridgeshire towns and villages, with many linked by quiet walking trails and country lanes.
Coloufully painted thatched cottages to centuries-old stone houses demonstrate the area’s rich history, as well as an abundance of working windmills, museums, and old tea rooms. Modern and unique amenities include a vineyard, wildlife park, and most importantly, plenty of independent eateries and pub gardens to sit and while away a sunny afternoon.
Looking to explore more of Cambridgeshire? Discover some of the most highly-rated towns and villages in Cambridgeshire, famed for their beauty, history, and rural locations.
Photo credit: suffolkcambs.muddystilettos.co.uk
Kick-starting our list of the prettiest Cambridgeshire towns and villages is the thriving market town of St Ives, which has been built around the River Great Ouse which flows through the county.
The town oozes historic charm, with a 600-year-old stone bridge and a weekly market that has been operating weekly since 1912, drawing in hundreds of bustling traders, looking to sell their wonderful wares. There’s also plenty of independent boutiques and high-street shops available to browse, as well as a plentiful collection of great cafes, restaurants, pubs to relax in.
But if you’re looking to spend some much needed time outdoors, then there are plenty of great walking routes around here too, which will guide you past lovely views of the river and into its nearby surrounding villages. In fact, the five-mile walk between St Ives and the nearby village of Houghton recently featured on our list of the best walks to enjoy in Cambridgeshire.
Photo credit: fulbournpc.org
Tucked near the Gog Magog Hills not too far from the city of Cambridge, the small town of Fulbourn has settled here since Neolithic times. Taking its name from the nearby stream, this leafy village is brimming with green space and great for exploring with children.
Exuding cosy pub charms and old, dreamy buildings, there’s even a quirky windmill in the town which originates from the 19th-Century. Visitors should also explore the site at Hall Orchard, a medieval moated site known as Dunmowes, which was first believed to have been constructed in the late 12th or 13th century.
Although be warned. As one of the county’s most quaint and charming Cambridge villages, there is limited parking available. You’d be better parking in a nearby village and trialling one of the local walking trails. Besides, it’s the best way to view all the lovely houses and thatched barns which occupy the town.
Photo credit: tripadvisor.co.uk
Now, the 2,000-resident village of Buckden may be small, but it’s brimming with history. Centred around the 12th-Century Buckden Towers, formerly known as Buckden Palace, this fortified house was once the home of the Bishops of Lincoln. Located roughly 80 miles from Lincoln, the town’s remote location became a running joke of the locals, with one Bishop even being referred to as the “Bishop of Buckden who never saw Lincoln.”
It really is a village infused with history, with Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII, also having lived in Buckden Towers for a short time after she was banished from the Royal Court.
Today, the settlement preserves its history and is a peaceful residential village, nestled close to the popular walking spot, Grafham Water. Charming stone-walled houses and thatched cottages line the main streets, Buckden Towers now hosts religious retreats and conferences, while several independent eateries and B&Bs make it a warming welcome for locals and tourists looking to soak up its history.
Photo credit: travelaboutbritain.com
As Cambridgeshire’s largest town, St Neots has a lot to offer - including being one of the prettiest Cambridgeshire towns to visit. Nestled on the banks of the River Great Ouse, it’s conveniently located to the west of the county, making it a popular residential location for those that work in and around the city of Cambridge.
St Neots offers a decent selection of shops, pubs, and other eateries - with some posing along the riverside, for idyllic lunchtime views. The market square occupies the centre of the town and is surrounded by fine Georgian buildings. In the spring and summer months, this becomes alive with al-fresco diners and fortnightly markets, complete with live entertainment.
Of course, the River Great Ouse boasts the most charm, with fishermen and keen ramblers often found along the Ouse Valley Way path in the summer months. For those who wish to explore this colourful town by boat, St Neots boasts two marinas and a rowing club.
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Famous for being home to the highest population of Nobel prize winners in the world, the picturesque site of Grantchester is a small village on the River Cam, sitting just on the outskirts of the city of Cambridge. But it's not just the academic prestige of the village which makes it one of the most popular places to visit. The riverside water meadows and winding pathways make it one of Cambridgeshire’s prettiest villages, while its convenient location makes it easy to access by car, cycle, foot, or even punt.
Locals and other visitors often travel from Cambridge to Grantchester by punt or the pretty riverside trail to picnic in its expansive meadows or sample afternoon tea at the renowned Orchard Tea Gardens. There’s also a calendar of annual events, including a Christmas party and even Barrel Rolling festival - a tradition which sees the rolling of large wooden barrels in a relay race up and down the Coton Road on Boxing Day.
For those who live near or in Grantchester, it is an oasis of calm, with access to some beautiful green and rural areas. However, it’s also close to larger towns and of course, the university city of Cambridge, which is convenient for work and accessing plenty of recreational entertainment.
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Thatched cottages, a lush cricket green, and willow-draped townhouses; a trip to Cambridgeshire’s Hemingford Grey is what The Times once described as “if you’ve stepped out of a time machine.”
Located just six miles east of Huntingdon, Hemingford Grey and its equally quaint sister village, Hemingford Abbots sit on the River Great Ouse. As such, summer days are often spent in canoes or punts on the Hemingfords’ Regatta, followed by an outdoor pub lunch on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Many residents also open their gardens to serve afternoon teas, forging community connections between the local residents.
There are few amenities here, keeping it quiet and free from the hustle-and-bustle of nearby Huntingdon, where many locals use the train station to commute to London - with a speed train which can get you there in just over 45 minutes! However, village-created summer events, such as open gardens and bank holiday barbecues draw in clusters of people, eager to soak up the thriving community spirit and beauty of the Hemingfords.
Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org
Just a few miles away from Peterborough, the charming Cambridgeshire village of Thorney sits in the heart of the fenland. It’s the perfect destination for those who work in the city but prefer to retreat in a quieter, more remote village when they clock off. Thatched cottages and Grade II buildings can be found all over the town, making it an idyllic place to be.
This medieval village which has preserved its beauty once started life as an island which was the site for a monastery. It was in the 16th Century under the ownership of the Earl of Bedford, when the process of draining the waters for agriculture commenced.
With a settlement that has existed for over 1,500 years, Thorney is of course a village filled with intriguing stories. You can immerse yourself in its history with Thorney Heritage Museum, which details how Walloons from northern France settled here in the 17th Century, why the 18th-century windmill came to be, and how the popular 19th-century terraces have remained to exist through to the modern day.
Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org
With origins that date back to the Bronze Age, the historic village of Fen Ditton is named after the Fleam Dyke which trails through it, with early written records calling it “Ditch Town.” Sat on the east bank of the River Cam, it resides in the northeast of Cambridge, again, making it a convenient location for those travelling to and from the city.
Today, several thatched cottages, parget patterns, and decorative plasterwork buildings retain much of this village’s charm, while lush green spaces and tranquil waterways make it an idyllic place to go walking.
If you visit, be sure to take a trip to The Plough pub, which provides one of the best vantage points to watch “The Bumps.” This traditional event is a type of boat race which has been enjoyed for well over a century. As the River Cam is too narrow here for boats to race side-by-side, they line up behind one another and, if one is touched, it’s forced to pull over and let it pass.
Houghton & Wyton
Photo credit: access.arch.cam.ac.uk
Although technically classed as two separate settlements in Cambridgeshire, Houghton and its neighbouring village Wyton are so close together that they’re often referred to collectively as one. For example, both villages jointly run an annual music festival together, as well as a range of other busy calendar events throughout the year.
These two beautiful villages are filled with an assortment of colourful farmworker cottages and historic thatched homes in verdant surroundings. Wyton is known locally for being home to an RAF base since World War One. Meanwhile, Houghton is known for something a little more decadent: an 18th-Century watermill which is owned and maintained by the National Trust.
To fully appreciate the rural Cambridgeshire setting, you need to hike between the two villages, following the River Great Ouse to soak up all the wildlife which houses here. Park up at Houghton Mill, grab an ice cream from the cafe and follow the paved trail past the boating lock. You’ll eventually end up on the colourful cottage-paved lane, with a number of signed walking routes to follow. Alternatively, in the summer, many locals and campers bring their own inflatable boats or hire rowing boats from the local area and travel along the river from Houghton for the best views.
Photo credit: cambridgeindependent.co.uk
Take a short 30-minute walk along the River Cam, away from central Cambridge, and you’ll soon arrive at the award-winning suburb of Chesterton.
Filled with a bustling collection of cafes, yoga studios, and even a fresh and locally-sourced farm shop, Chesterton offers plenty to explore and enjoy on a free weekend. There’s also a boastful range of 10 different playgrounds, making it a destination that the whole family can enjoy.
But what places Chesterton on our list of the prettiest Cambridgeshire villages is the fact that the south of this suburb is bounded by the River Cam, Ditton Meadow, and Stourbridge Common. Wintry months sprinkled with frost make it a picturesque walking destination, while warm summer weather makes it the idyllic place to potter. With riverside pubs and plenty of children’s play areas, it’s easy to while away an afternoon, late into the dusk.
Photo credit: suffolkcambs.muddystilettos.co.uk
Sitting around 4 miles south of the city of Cambridge, the small villages of Little Shelford and Great Shelford (The Shelfords, when combined) are certainly an enviable part of the county. With the picturesque River Granta winding between the two, and green countryside wrapping around both villages, The Shelfords are both quiet and quaint, making for peaceful living for its residents.
As the crow flies, the two villages are only around a mile apart, with a combined population of around 5,000 residents. As the name suggests, the village of Little Shelford is the smaller of the two.
With the villages being so small, residents only have a limited but quality range of amenities and services to enjoy, including a local monthly farmers market which draws in lots of nearby residents of Cambridgehire towns and villages. However, despite their sizes, the villages are both served by Shelford Railway Station, offering access between Cambridge and London Liverpool Street - with a journey taking just over 1 hour.
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Tucked away in rural Cambridgeshire, the beautiful village of Linton has recently flourished into a popular property hotspot, thanks to the arrival of several new restaurants and shops, including an artisan bakery and gastro pub.
But the village of Linton has so much more to offer than just independent and quality shops and eateries. In fact, one of Linton’s stand-out features is that it is home to Chilford Hall, one of England’s oldest vineyards. At 18-acres in size, it tends approximately 17,000 vines with 9 different varieties of grape. However, if beer is more your thing, there’s a small collection of quaint and cosy pubs in Linton, such as the Dog and Duck pub, which is recognised by its distinguishable thatched roof.
For children, Linton Zoo is definitely one of the must-visit sites. With a strong focus on conservation and commitment to breeding, keeper experiences will help educate and entertain both children and adults. There’s also a great selection of wildlife to see, with big cats such as lions and snow leopards, plus other loved species such as zebras, wallabies, and lemurs.
Coach Hire in Cambridgeshire
Our depot is located in the heart of the county, making it perfectly placed to serve Cambridge, Peterborough and all the surrounding Cambridgeshire towns and villages which we’ve listed in this guide.
We’re also members of The Guild of British Coach Operators as well as being Coach Marque accredited - so you can book knowing we’ve committed ourselves to providing the best possible travel experience.
For more information about our fleet and to obtain a quote for your upcoming events, please get in contact. A member of our team will be happy to assist with your query.