4 PICTURE PERFECT BRITISH VILLAGES with Hannah Tafft
“Whilst travelling a few years ago it dawned on me how un-travelled I was in my own country. I’d seen the world. But not much beyond my doorstep at home.” So says Hannah Tafft, who is now something of an expert on Britain’s oldest and most picture perfect villages.
“I hated history at school,” Hannah admits. But determined to explore more of the UK and inspired by living in the small town of Market Harborough (which is surrounded by country walks and historic villages) she developed a love of all things olde worlde. So much so, she now runs her own travel and social media company, InstaBritain, helping visitors and residents make the most of their adventures around historic corners of the British Isles.
“Most visitors to the UK head straight to London,” Hannah says, “And I can see why – it’s a great city. But there are others, even more beautiful and fascinating. I forever recommend York and Bath as the best cities to visit. They are totally different from one another but both have stunning architecture and are just oozing in history.”
The bright lights and historic charms of Britain’s oldest cities have undeniable appeal. But it’s the UK’s picturesque villages that really inspire and interest Hannah. What does she like most about these out-of-the-way places? “I come from a very large and very loud family,” she says, “So it’s nice to get out into these quaint villages to seek a bit of peace and quiet.” She also loves soaking up their many centuries of history and sinking into their slow pace of life, even if just for an afternoon.
To get to the heart of a new place, Hannah says, “Put your wellies on and walk the fields. You can often climb a hill and find a beautiful spot overlooking a valley or pretty village. Also say hello to the locals – country folk are very friendly!”
Food tends to form a big part of her village excursions too. Traditional afternoon tea is a favourite. “It’s a cliché, I know! But I’m a sucker for a strong brew and a jam-covered scone.” If afternoon tea isn’t on offer in whatever village she finds herself in, she heads to a local café. Or, on summer days, she finds a sunny spot in a pub garden to “chow down on some good pub grub and soak up the rays.”
Here Hannah shares her favourite villages in the UK, all within a few hours’ drive of London.
Lacock, The Cotswolds
"I try and avoid talking about the Cotswolds too much as they have become so popular, but I simply can't ignore them. Lacock is one of my favourite villages in the world! Not only am I a massive Harry Potter fan (and the village features in some of the movies), but I am fascinated that such a historic place can still be so relevant to everyday life. People live and work inside walls that have been standing for hundreds of years. I always wonder if you can appreciate this when you live there. You certainly can as an outsider."
"I am a little biased about this place as I grew up in a village just five minutes down the road. It’s a relatively unknown place by Instagram standards. But it’s a stunning village with a ginormous castle in the middle. The castle is a school so I wouldn't recommend visiting on a weekday but visitors are more than welcome to have a nosy around at the weekend."
"This place is tiny. And I mean tiny! You won't find any sort of shop here, but they do have a church and a red telephone box that is now filled with books to borrow or swap. Not only is it full of biscuit coloured houses, but the village straddles two sides of a valley so the views are amazing."
Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire
“My final choice is one from my old home county. I want to start off by saying that Northamptonshire is an absolutely magnificent county when it comes to cottages. Think of the Cotswolds, but no tourists! The county often gets a bad reputation. I'll admit that its main towns aren't amazing. But if you take the time to do a bit of exploring you will find yourself amongst some of England's prettiest chocolate box villages. Grafton Underwood is one of them. It’s tiny and completely unspoilt. It’s also where Bridget Jones' parents supposedly live!”