There are a range of primary, secondary, and grammar schools – most of which are located in the nearby town of Cheltenham; Cheltenham Ladies’ College – for girls between the ages of 11 and 18 – is an independent school founded in 1853 is one of the UK’s leading schools for young women;
Westward of Cheltenham, Southam is close to the M4 motorway, which runs between Birmingham in the Midlands and Bristol for the Southwest.
Driving to London means cross-country travel eastwards to the M40 motorway, taking approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes.
Why live in Southam?
Live in Southam if you are looking for a small, friendly, community-oriented place to live which attracts those still in work and many who are retired.
It is one of the quintessentially English hamlets of the world-famous Cotswolds – with buildings constructed from the distinctive honey-coloured stone of the area.
2. Epping, Essex
Epping is a market town in the southwestern part of the county of Essex, surrounded by countryside yet only 17 miles to the northeast of central London.
Its strategic location so close to London – it even has its own stop on the London underground rail network – attracts both commuters and those eager to retire to a village community within easy striking distance of the capital.
The article highlighted the proximity of Epping Forest’s 6,000 acres of ancient woodland – a massive draw for joggers, dog-walkers and cyclists alike – and the independent shops and cafes of the town’s bustling high street.
Frome Community College – for ages 13 to 18 – was also rated “good”; there are several excellent independent schools and some grammar options within commutable distance of Frome.
Frome is some 26 miles (41 km) from junction 18 of the M4 motorway (east to London, west to the west of England and Wales). Driving time by car is approximately 2 hours – depending, of course, on traffic.
Frome railway station – one of the oldest stations still in service in Britain – offers direct services to London Waterloo (2½ hours), Bristol Temple Meads and Exeter St David’s.
What makes Frome one of nicest small towns in England?
Despite its small size – population around 30,000 – and quaint appearance, Frome nevertheless has a vibrant nightlife in keeping with its status as the fourth largest town in Somerset.
Independent shops dominate the heart of this market town, which exudes a friendly close-knit community spirit.
5. Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire
Dorchester on Thames is a small village of around 1,000 inhabitants some 8 miles (13 km) southeast of the county town of Oxford.
Dorchester on Thames is already to the south, so the City of Oxford can be avoided on routes by road to London. Via the M4 motorway, the capital is just 53 miles (85 km) away – typically a one hour and 20-minute drive.
The fastest route by bus and train goes via Reading mainline railway station to London Paddington (one hour and 36 minutes).
Why live in Dorchester on Thames?
It’s a rural setting, with local community spirit, located in the heart of England, with easy access to both the university City of Oxford and London, boasting excellent schools in the immediate neighbourhood.
6. Arundel, West Sussex
Arundel is a historic market town nestled into a steep-sided valley of the River Arun in the South Downs of West Sussex.
Slindon College is a highly rated independent day and boarding school for boys aged 8 to 18 in the attractive setting of the South Downs;
Arundel railway station, on the eastern side of the town some 500 yards or so from the high street, runs services to London Blackfriars in journeys of around 1½ hours.
The drive into central London takes around about the same time, travelling via Guildford and Esher.
Why live in Arundel?
The old town of Arundel features fine houses from practically every architectural period (but especially Georgian) – so much so, that one website says those who live there feel that they’re living on the set of a 19th-century costume drama.
London is only 65 miles (15 km) away while the coast at Littlehampton is just a 10-minute drive away.
There are also numerous, highly-rated independent schools in the area – including, for example, the highly selective, coeducational day and boarding Sevenoaks School voted the top independent boarding school in 2018. It currently enrols more than 1,100 students from 45 different countries;
The ancient road between London and the Weald eventually became the A21 trunk road, which now bypasses the town of Sevenoaks, but joins London’s orbital M25 motorway within a short distance at junction 5.
Sevenoaks is especially well served by train services to London – including London Charing Cross, Blackfriars, Victoria, and Cannon Street stations – with the fastest journey times of just 32 minutes.
Why live in Sevenoaks?
It is little wonder that Sevenoaks has been one of the favourite commuter towns to the south of London.
The capital is only 34 miles (55 km) away and can be reached in around half an hour by the fastest trains.
Yet Sevenoaks still offers lots of green space, surrounded by wooded countryside that is steeped in history.
8. St. Ives, Cornwall
Lying in the far southwest of England, St Ives is one of the most famous destinations in Cornwall.
It is known for its glorious beaches, the surfing, and a local haven for internationally renowned British artists, sculptors, painters, and potters.
Among the several reputable independent schools in the area, Sibford School is a notable coeducation establishment for all ages from 3-18 – and children of all faiths, although it was founded in 1842 as a school for Quaker families;
Banbury is located 21 miles northwest of the City of Oxford, and local services offer links to the rail hub there. London (Marylebone) is just an hour away by trains that depart every 30 minutes from Banbury station and are operated by Chiltern Railways.
The centre of Banbury is a 16-minute drive away from junction 11 of the M40 motorway – and from there, south to London (approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes) and north to the Midlands.
Why live in Banbury?
Life in Banbury has been described as like living in a large village, with all the facilities you might need, close to good schools, where you will be sure of a friendly reception.
One of the country’s leading independent schools for ages 3 to 18 is Yarm School, approximately 40 miles to the west of Whitby. Closer to Whitby itself is the smaller, independent Fyling Hall School;
Because of its location on the east coast, in an area of natural beauty, Whitby is not especially well served by transport links – but is still a popular tourist destination throughout most of the year.
To get to Whitby by train will also involve changing at other rail hubs, such as Middlesborough, Newcastle, or Sunderland.
What makes Whitby one of the best small towns in England?
It is off the beaten track but steeped in maritime history and surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of moorland and coastline.
11. Great Budworth, Cheshire
Great Budworth is a hamlet – of barely 300 souls – in the far northeast corner of the county of Cheshire in the northwest of England.
The village describes itself as “the most picturesque village in Cheshire” – and takes its name from the old Saxon words “bode” (dwelling) and worth (place by the water) – the latter a reference to nearby Pickworth Mere and Budworth Mere.
Great Budworth is almost impossibly pretty and harks back to some rural idyll of life in the northwest of England’s gently undulating Cheshire Plain.
For many, it may be the perfect place to get away from it all in retirement.
Bakewell is also home to the independent preparatory school and college (pupils from the ages of 3-16) St Anselm’s;
Thanks to its location just north of the Midlands, Bakewell is well served by the motorway network. The car journey from London, for example, takes roughly 3 hours via the M1 motorway (leaving at the junction for Matlock).
Bakewell to London by train – a distance of 134 miles (216 km) – takes an average of approximately four hours.
What makes Bakewell one of the most popular small towns in England?
In an article on the 22nd of September 2019, the Sunday Times newspaper described the attractions of living within the Peak District National Park and Derbyshire Dales, with their attractive stone cottages, rugged moorland, and green valleys – but by no means a backwater.
13. Stamford, Lincolnshire
Stamford is in the county of Lincolnshire in the East of England but also borders the east Midlands – some 31 miles (50 km) to the east of Leicester.
It is approximately 100 miles (161 km) from London.
On the old Great North Road, around halfway between London and York, Stamford grew rich from the English wool trade and retains many fine buildings.
The place describes itself as “the finest stone town in England“. The town boasts 11 churches, 30 pubs, 20 restaurants and more than 10 quality hotels and guest houses.
Although relatively remote, on England’s northeastern coast, Bamburgh is nevertheless just a few miles from the old Great North Road from London to Scotland – now the A1 trunk road which runs the length of Northumberland.
Trains from London Kings Cross take a total of 5 hours and 22 minutes.
It is a leafy and up-market suburb with some of the most expensive property prices outside of London and the southeast of England.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the town’s own website once claimed that “the immediate population is made up of an exceptionally high number of professionals, captains of industry and homeowners”.
From its earlier prosperity based on the wool trade, Cirencester today serves as an economic and cultural hub for the surrounding villages and a commuter town for bigger places such as Gloucester, Swindon, Cheltenham, and Stroud.
Keswick is on the A66 trunk road linking Workington and Penrith, as well as the A591, linking the town to Windermere, Kendal and Carlisle (via the A595). At Penrith – some 18 miles (29 km) to the east of Keswick – the road meets the M6 motorway and connections to the Midlands.
Why live in Keswick?
Although you are likely to feel somewhat off the beaten track, it is difficult to imagine anywhere else in England surrounded by such dramatic scenery.
One of the leading independent schools in this part of Hampshire is Sherfield School – some nine miles (14.5 km) from Odiham;
Odiham is ideally situated for connections to the principal motorway network in southern England as it is adjacent to junction 5 of the M3 – which runs eastwards into central London and west to Basingstoke and Southampton.
Odiham is also just 3½ miles (5.6 km) from Winchfield railway station, from where around 40 trains a day depart for London Waterloo (for a journey of a little over an hour).
Why live in Odiham?
Odiham is the administrative district of Hart Council and in survey after survey Hampshire’s Hart District has been voted the most desirable place to live in the UK, according to an article in Hampshire Life magazine.
Find the perfect property in of the small towns in England
This is just a sample selection of the small towns in England, there are many more quaint, picturesque places to live across the country many that are simply villages with more amenities.
Our buying agents have a deep geographical knowledge of their regions and would be delighted to offer guidance when you’re considering the best place to live.