One of the Prettiest Villages in England

I’m not quite sure how a town or village gets nominated as the prettiest in England, but more often than not Castle Combe in Wiltshire is high on people’s lists and is a hot spot for visitors. But less than ten miles away, and still in Wiltshire, is another contender: Lacock.

Like Castle Coombe, the buildings in Lacock have not been modified with modern technology making it a firm favourite for classical drama film and television producers. Films such as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Pride and Prejudice, and the TV drama Downton Abbey have used Lacock as a location. The National Trust has created a map showing the film locations used in the village.

But there is more to Lacock than being a film location. At the heart of this medieval village lies a former nunnery, now a quirky country house owned by the National Trust. William Henry Fox Talbot once lived in Lacock Abbey, and in August 1835, he took the first photographic negative from a window in the South Gallery of the abbey. The Fox Talbot Museum collection tells the story of photographic development from this historic moment to the present day.

Lacock's village streets are laid out in a grid pattern and have a wonderful selection of shops, pubs, and premises to explore. You won’t find things like satellite dishes, TV aerials, or telegraph poles here. Most of modern life's conveniences have been carefully hidden away, helping to keep the village looking like it did a few hundred years ago. Probably the only modernisation you’ll find are the tarmac roads, parked vehicles, and waste bins on collection day!

The George Inn in Lacock © essentially-england.comThe George Inn in Lacock ©

Exploring Lacock

The National Trust has made exploring Lacock easy by creating three short walks that discover different parts of the village and surroundings. The walks are between 1 to 1.3 miles long. Please note that if you want to enter Lacock Abbey and its grounds, then you'll need a ticket. National Trust members can enter for free. For more information on opening times and events please visit the National Trust website here.

National Trust Lacock Village Walk

The National Trust describe this walk as...

"This easy walk takes you around the beautiful medieval village of Lacock and explores some of the off-the-beaten-track paths within easy reach of the village centre. Picturesque cottages, a bridge over the ford for playing Pooh sticks, and views of traditional English countryside are just some of the highlights along the way. "

Link to National Trust map and point-by-point walking instructions.

Hunting Lodge Tea Rooms in Lacock © essentially-england.comHunting Lodge Tea Rooms ©

National Trust Laycock Lovers Walk

The National Trust description for this walk is...

"Discover the medieval village of Lacock on this picturesque stroll. The circular route takes you through the historic village streets as well as along tracks on Lacock's outer reaches. It passes quaint cottages, a village church, and a little ford before heading along a field track and the narrow Lovers Walk."

Link to National Trust map and point-by-point walking instructions.

Bide Brook Ford in Lacock © essentially-england.comBide Brook Ford ©

National Trust Lacock Pleasure Garden Walk

The National Trust describe this walk as...

"A gentle walk takes you through Lacock village where the TV series Cranford was filmed, giving you some stunning views of the Lacock Abbey."

Link to National Trust Walking Instructions.

Lacock Abbey Gardens © essentially-england.comLacock Abbey Gardens ©

Lacock Abbey

Ela, the Countess of Salisbury established Lacock Abbey in April 1232. At the time, Ela was one of the most powerful women in England and had earlier held the office of Sheriff of Wiltshire. She became the first abbess and served the community for seventeen years. The abbey survived for over three hundred years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries enforced by King Henry VIII in 1533.

Lacock Abbey © essentially-england.comLacock Abbey ©

Like many abbeys after the dissolution, the partially ruined Lacock Abbey was purchased in 1540 and converted into a fine country house. The abbey church was completely destroyed in the process, but strangely, the cloisters from the 1400’s survived. The house received a royal visit in 1574 when Queen Elizabeth I came to stay. In return for her keep she knighted the owner, Sir Henry Sharington.

When Sir Henry died in 1581, he passed Lacock Abbey to his daughter and her husband John Talbot, who was a descendent of Ela, the abbey’s founder. What a strange coincidence!

And, apart from a significant restyle during the 18th century when the house was given a gothic twist, it has remained much the same to today.

Lacock Abbey Cloisters © essentially-england.comLacock Abbey Cloisters ©

So, does Lacock go on the prettiest village in England list? Well, we’ll leave that that for you to decide, but it certainly makes a great day out whether you’re a film location fan, interested in historical buildings, or just love wonderful surroundings. The walking is gentle and there are plenty of attractive old pubs and tea rooms for refreshments.

And if you’re a Downton Abbey fan, Lacock is part of our Downton Abbey film location tour!

Visiting Wiltshire?

Where You Could Stay

There is plenty of choice of accommodation in Wiltshire. You may want the convenience of a city like Salisbury, or one of the larger towns like Swindon, Chippenham, or Trowbridge. There are prettier towns such as Corsham and Bradford-on-Avon. Once away from these towns Wiltshire has a rural feel and life will be slower and quieter. Here is a small taste of what is on offer in Wiltshire…

Wiltshire Holiday Cottages: Wharf Cottage, Pewsey |

Wharf Cottage
Sleeps 6

Wiltshire Holiday Cottages: Holly Tree Cottages, Bradford-on-Avon |

Holly Tree Cottage
Sleeps 2

Wiltshire Holiday Cottages: 4 Holt Court, Salisbury |

4 Holt Court
Sleeps 6

To see other holiday cottages in Wiltshire click here. Or check out holiday cottages in other parts of England by clicking here.

Or maybe you would like to relax in a hotel. Here are a few examples...

The Marlborough, Marlborough |

The Marlborough

Bowood Hotel, Calne |

Bowood Hotel

The Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe |

The Manor House Hotel
Castle Comb

Not seen what you want. To view more...


What You Could See and Do

Stonehenge: Probably the most popular historic site in England and should be on your to do list.

Avebury Stone Circle: a good second to Stonehenge, and in our books better as you can get up close to the stones.

Old Sarum and the city of Salisbury with its medieval cathedral.

The pretty towns of Bradford-on-Avon, Marlborough, Malmesbury, and Corsham.

Have a slow wander through what has been claimed as England’s prettiest village, Castle Combe. Both it and Lacock are often used for filming period dramas. Lacock Abbey was used in the Harry Potter films!

Go for a walk in the glorious countryside and find a nice pub for lunch.

Click here to return to our Wiltshire home page.