February 18, 2018

3 Little Gems of England

A few months ago we discovered two of Europe’s secret villages, Kuressaare in Estonia and Giethoorn in Holland.

Today we’re opening the door on a few more of these “secret” villages by traveling to cheery old England.

Castle Combe Tea Room Cotsowld England

Castle Combe Old rectory tea room by Saffron Blaze

England is littered with small beautiful villages sprinkled across the landscape. Some regions of England, like the Cotswold’s, are famous for their little gems. Even though the villages we’re discovering today are within easy reach from London, visiting these beauties will give you the feeling as if you’ve gone back in time!


Introducing 3 Little Gems of England!


Castle Combe river Cotswold England

Castle Combe river by Saffron Blaze

Castle Combe is located a mere 85 miles west of London in a lovely lush valley in the Cotswold’s. The castle of this beautiful and serene village no longer stands but you can still see a medieval church including one of the few medieval clocks in England that is still in use and a 14th century carved market cross marking the site of the town’s old wool market. Wandering this village, dubbed by some as “The Prettiest Village in England”, you will still notice the traditional Cotswold architecture of thick walls and roofs made of natural stone tiles. The village is so charming that it has been the filming site of many movies including last years Warhorse.

St Giles Church Chalfont St Giles England

St Giles Church by Skinnyde, on Flickr

Chalfont St Giles is the 3 time winner of the “Best Kept Village” competition and anyone walking the village will see why! At every corner the cozy town oozes old world charm. Chalfont St Giles is located in Buckinghamshire only 25 miles from London but seems a world away. The village green still hosts cricket matches and the river Misbourne has a Roman road crossing it. If you’re looking for traditional English pubs maybe one of the six located in the village will be to your liking! As London was being ravaged by the plague, it was here that Milton settled in 1665. In this 11th century village Milton’s cottage, where he finished Paradise Lost, still stands. Noel Gallagher of Oases used to call Chalfont St Giles home as did William Penn who is buried here – next to both his wives!

Chalfont St Giles by timo_w2s, on Flickr

Since 1944 Lacock has been almost entirely owned by the National Trust which helps ensure its charm stays intact. This well preserved village was once a medieval market town and its streets are lined with Tudor style houses. Besides the quaint houses of Lacock, visitors will want to see the parish church and the Lacock Abbey. The Abbey was founded in the 13th century by Lady Ela, who was Countess of Salisbury and whose husband was an illegitimate son of King Henry II. Lacock has also been seen in many TV shows on the BBC including Pride & Prejudice and the Abbey was seen in Harry Potter films as well as the Other Boleyn Girl.

Lacock Abbey Forecourt Cotswold England

Lacock Abbey Forecourt by Ian Petticrew

As you can see, all 3 of these villages can be descried using the same words – serene, beautiful, charming, medieval, unspoiled, prettiest, picturesque and traditional.

Ford in Lacock Cotswold England

Ford in Lacock by Immanuel Giel

Some may even call these “secret” villages but I think little gems fit better!

What do you think?

6 Walled Cities of Europe

Walled European cities have a romantic allure to them but if you think about it, there is nothing romantic about the reason the walls were needed in the first place.

These beautiful walls were erected as a defense from invaders.  They were used to squash and kill anyone trying to take over the town.  Literally, thousands have been killed at the base of the fortified walls, which were also used to regulate people and goods going in and out of the city.

Despite all of this, I am drawn to medieval walled cities.  Below are 6 walled cities in Europe that I would love spending time in wandering through their streets listening as the wind tells their story.

Medieval Carcassone France

Fortified cité of Carcassonne by thierry, on Flickr

Carcassonne France

Europe’s largest medieval fortress is Carcassonne.  Located in southwestern France, near the foot of the Pyrenees, Carcassonne rises above the lovely vineyards in the valley below.  The mighty walls were first erected by the Romans during the 1st century but the elements have taken their toll making it necessary to restore these walls to their magnificent beginnings.  Make sure you spend some time strolling through the impressive gates and cobblestoned streets stopping by the pleasing shops and restaurants.

Dubrovnik Croatia a medieval village

Dubrovnik Croatia by Rambling Traveler, on Flickr

Dubrovnik Croatia

To say that Dubrovnik is a beautiful city is truly an understatement.  This walled city at the southern end of Croatia sits like the beautiful star it is overlooking the Adriatic.  Heralded as the most beautiful spot in the Mediterranean, Croatia is filled with streets that are lined with Baroque buildings and is steeped in architectural wonders.  The Old Town of this stunning city is home to many churches, monasteries and fountains.  Make sure to leave time to enjoy views of the Adriatic by walking along the city’s intact walls.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Bavaria Germany

Rothenburg Panorama courtesy of Bayern Tourismus

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany

Rothenburg holds a very special place in my heart.  During my first ever trip to Germany I visited Rothenburg and fell in love with this amazingly quaint village.  Yes it is touristy but it is worth every minute you will spend here.  Walking down cobblestoned streets you will be greeted by old houses, towers and gateways that have all withstood the test of time. At every corner you come face to face with the history this town has seen.  Be sure to enjoy walking the city walls, which almost circle the town, and from which you can get amazing views of the Tauber valley below.

Medieval York England

York Minster from the Roman walls by James Preston, on Flickr

York England

York welcomes those that love history.  This magical city hold much English history as it was the 2nd most important city in all of England at one point in history.  This historic town is surrounded by a 700 year old wall.  The grand cathedral of York, The Minster, looms above the city.    This gothic structure took over 250 years to complete and contains many stained glass windows along with the flying buttresses.  There is much to do in York but don’t forget to spend time wandering her narrow cobblestoned streets gazing at the timbered buildings.

Medieval Bruges Belgium

Bridge over Bruges Canal, Belguim by kevgibbo, on Flickr

Bruges Belgium

Two thousand year old Bruges is known as the Venice of the north due to the many canals gracing the city.  At one point in history, Bruges was the most important commercial city in Europe.  Walking the streets of Bruges is a great way to soak up the history that greets you at every turn.  Explore inside the city walls to see the churches, castle, romantic canals, chocolate shops, colorful homes and museums.  You can even visit the Diamond museum or the French fry museum!

Medieval Avila Spain

Ávila by valakirka, on Flickr

Avila Spain

As you approach Avila you will be treated to a very stimulating sight.  From a distance, you can see the 11th century fortress standing as it must have yesterday.  This is the oldest fortification in all of Spain and home to a gothic cathedral and striking 15th century houses.  The most fun is spending time strolling the old town with its cobblestone streets and abundance of plazas.  Don’t forget to look for the storks that make their home under the rooftops of the city.


Have you been to any of these medieval cities?

What other walled cities would you add to the list and why?