Situated in what was once Huntingdonshire, Elton is perhaps most famous for the hall of the same name – an impressive blend of mainly 15th and 17th century architecture. Elton itself, meanwhile, was winner of the Cambridgeshire Calor Village of the Year in 2008. Map
Places to stay: The Crown Inn (information at TripAdvisor) is a beautiful old thatched property within the village itself.
Hemingford Abbots, Cambridgeshire
Mid way between the historic towns of St. Ives and Huntingdon, Hemingford Abbots is a picture-postcard village on the banks of the Great Ouse. Many of its buildings are half-timbered and thatch, while nearby Hemingford Grey Manor is one of the oldest inhabited buildings in Britain. Map Places to stay: Surprisingly, there is nowhere for the history-enthusiast to stay in Hemingford Abbots itself, but The Old Ferryboat at nearby St. Ives is one of the oldest inns in England. Alternatively, Houghton and Wyton (below) are only half a mile away and offer alternatives.
Houghton and Wyton, Cambridgeshire
Only a couple of miles to the east of Huntingdon, the ‘twin’ villages of Houghton and Wyton are two delightful settlements whose histories date back to at least the Saxon period. Houghton Mill, owned by the National Trust, is a particularly superb example of 18th century timber construction. Map Places to stay:Cheriton House is a highly-rated Victorian bed and breakfast in Houghton, while Magdelene House in Wyton is a stunning thatched house dating from the 17th century whose accommodation is within a converted barn.
In an area inextricably linked to The Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan was born in the nearby hamlet of Harrowden), the valley at Millbrook is thought to possibly have been inspiration for ‘the Valley of Humiliation’. Map Places to stay: Although there are no period hotels or inns within Millbrook itself, anyone who takes pleasure in staying in historic places will no doubt be interested in nearby Menzies Flitwick Manor – a Georgian country house which offers four-star rated accommodation.
Located on the banks of the River Great Ouse (which marks the boundary between Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire), Turvey is a comparatively large village of some 1,200 residents. It possesses a large number of listed buildings, ranging from small cottages through to grander structures such as Turvey House. Map
Places to stay: We are unaware of anywhere presently offering accommodation within Turvey itself, while Linden’s Guest House is a fine Victorian property in nearby Olney. More details are available at TripAdvisor.
Castle Hedingham, Essex
There are plenty of medieval buildings to be seen throughout the village, while the history of its castle goes even further back in time. The Suffolk town of Sudbury is only twenty minutes away by car, while Colchester and Cambridge are both within easy reach. Map Places to stay: Those interested in Tudor buildings might find Church Hill House B&B in nearby Wethersfield to their liking, while the Olde Bull in Sudbury (see TripAdvisor) is a Grade-I listed coaching inn dating back to the 16th century.
The Crown Inn at Elton, Cambridgeshire
Cheriton House in Houghton, Cambridgeshire
Magdelene House at Wyton, Cambridgeshire
The Greyhound at Aldbury, Hertfordshire
Brocket Arms at Ayot St. Lawrence, Herts.
Some say that Finchingfield is the most photographed village in the whole of England. Of course, given that it is impossible to measure such things the claim is hyperbole (and especially given competition from the likes of Bibury in Gloucestershire and Castle Combe in Wiltshire). But it genuinely is extremely pretty – delightful cottages, ancient village green and duck pond, a windmill and more listed buildings than you can shake a stick at. Map Places to stay:The Three Tuns in Finchingfield offers bed & breakfast accommodation within the village itself, while a short drive away is the small town of Thaxted in which one will find The Swan – a traditional coaching inn.
Full of timber frame houses, Writtle’s main claim-to-fame isn’t that it happens to be very attractive but that some have suggested it to be the place in which Robert The Bruce - the legendary king of Scotland – was born in 1274 (although the claim is strongly disputed). Map Places to stay: Alas, despite being so historic there are few places of heritage to stay in the immediate vicinity excluding Channels Lodge – a 15th century former farmhouse on the northern outskirts of Chelmsford.
Still in possession of its village stocks, Aldbury is in many ways the archetypal ancient English settlement. With its name derived from the Anglo-Saxon for “Old Fort”, it possess a village pond, green, medieval church, and a couple of old inns: The Valiant Trooper and The Greyhound. Map Places to stay: The Greyhound is a pretty old inn offering bed & breakfast within the village itself, while the mock-Tudor country house Pendley Manor is little over a mile away.
Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire
It was here that George Bernard Shaw lived until his death in 1950 (his house is owned by the National Trust). The towns of Luton, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City and St. Albans may all be less than 10 miles as-the-crow-flies, but Ayot St. Lawrence feels as if it’s in a different world altogether. Map
Places to stay: The Brocket Arms offers accommodation in 14th century surroundings - further information is available via TripAdvisor.
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