Our region is home to some of the most beautiful locations in England – and of course, the villages that inhabit them. Our network crosses eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and we’ve picked out some of the most appealing English villages to visit to help you decide on your next trip.
Searches for village life have increased by more than 250% in some areas of the UK – and with many villages enjoying great transport links to their nearest city, it’s no wonder. With people being drawn by the wide-open outdoor spaces, slower pace of life and tight-knit communities that come naturally as part of village life – not to mention the ability to work from home more now than ever – it’s a great time to take stock and look at whether village life might be right for you .
So, we’ve highlighted our nine favourite villages across the south western region for you to discover.
Great for: reliving childhood TV adverts, wine tasting
We all remember the iconic 1973 Hovis advert - voted Britain's favourite television advert. But did you know that it was filmed in the heart of Dorset? Shaftesbury village is home to Gold Hill, the steep cobblestone hill climbed by the baker's boy and his bike. To this day it's considered one of the most romantic sights in England, and a tourist draw in its own right.
But there's much more to Shaftesbury - three churches, an abbey, charter market, museums, gardens, and ample snowdrop walks in February – as well as a nearby vineyard! All this and the incredible views over St James & Blackmore Vale on a clear day.
Great for: getting out on the water, coastal walks
This waterside village is described as being the second most important yachting location in the UK after Cowes. But what makes Hamble extra-special is its beautiful views and location where the River Hamble meets Southampton Water. With Netley Abbey, the Royal Victoria Country Park and the marina all a stone's throw away from a picturesque and historic village centre, it's enough for a weekend away, let alone just a day trip.
The charming, historic village of Odiham and nearby North Warnborough have been around since the time of William the Conqueror. That royal link lasted through to the reign of King John, who stayed nearby at Odiham castle before making his way to Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta.
Today, the long High Street is host to regular markets outside the Georgian-fronted shops, and nearby Odiham Common is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - one of the few examples of wood pasture outside the new Forest. You'll also find the Basingstoke Canal - another SSSI and perfect spot for long summer walks.
Where to stay: Bel & The Dragon at the George, Odiham High Street
One of the three "Downland Villages" in the shadow of Box Hill, Mickleham lies on the eastern side of the river Mole Valley. A perfect site to base yourself for a walking holiday, you'll find the Zig-Zag Road leading up Box Hill to the impressive panoramic view point, Mickleham Downs and the River Mole. You'll also find the nearby Norbury Park - home to a "Druids Grove" of Yew trees at full maturity.
Where to stay: The Running Horses, Old London Road
Nearest station: Oxshott, 40 minutes from London Waterloo
Great for: being close to history, mountain biking
Billed as the "most expensive village in England", Oxshott is home to a number of Chelsea FC footballers - who must live within six miles of their training ground in nearby Stoke D'Abernon. But Oxshott itself enjoys plenty of local sights making it one of our favourite villages on the network. Along with Oxshott Heath just north of the railway stations, you'll also find the Prince's Coverts (named not after an English prince, but Prince Leopold of Belgium) and Esher Commons - all marked as an SSSI and ideal for walks and exploring.
Where to stay: The Woodlands Park Hotel provides a luxury touch, but The Swan in nearby Claygate offers more affordable options. Nearby in Chessington is the Premier Inn – with a pleasant walk through nearby woods to get there – and right next to Chessington World of Adventures.
Known for its castle, this village sits in the heart of the Isle of Purbeck, and enjoys some of the most spectacular scenery in the South. Built almost entirely from local limestone, the village has changed little since the reign of Queen Victoria - but has certainly retained its charm. You'll find the charming Corfe Castle station in the town, too, part of the Swanage Railway, where you'll see regular steam trains passing through.
Where to stay: The Bankes Arms offers spectacular views of the castle itself, and backs onto the railway line through the village.
Great for: photography and long walks in the woods
A quintessential English thatched village, Milton Abbas sits in a pretty wooded valley - making it a photographer's haven all year round. The famous landscape gardener Capability Brown worked to design this chocolate box village, considered one of the first planned settlements in England. Here you'll find walks to suit all tastes - as well the beautiful Abbey Church and its grounds, part of 75 structures in the village that listed by Historic England.
Every two years, you'll find the villagers celebrating the building of the village with a historic country fair - complete with traditional music, farmers' market, Morris dancing and local food, as well as 18th century costume worn by the locals.
Where to stay: The Hambro Arms is named for the local manor and offers charming rooms in the heart of the village.
Nearest station: Tisbury, 15 minutes from Salisbury
Great for: biking in the Nadder Valley
Tisbury has a long history of history of human settlement, with evidence of Bronze Age civilisations being found nearby. Nowadays it's a bustling village on our West of England Main Line - an ideal spot for exploring South Wiltshire. You'll find the Blackmoor Vale and the Vale of Wardour here - National Character Areas perfect for long walks with incredible views across Somerset. You'll also be able to visit one of the largest tithe barns in England - now a prestigious arts centre.
One of the real gems is Chicksgrove, a nearby hamlet. Head here for the Fovant Badges, Fonthill lake, and Cranborne Chase - all worth a trip of their own.
Where to stay: The Compasses Inn is a beautiful thatched pub with four rooms and views of the stunning Nadder Valley.
Fawley is expected to become a popular destination, with the closed power station being transformed into Fawley Waterside. With beautiful views across Southampton Water, and easy access to the city, properties are expected to move quickly.