Love Exploring - The UK’s most beautiful streets
Posted on 15 November, 2023
Photo by Artur Kraft on Unsplash
Written by & for Love Exploring
Whether known for its historic charm or unique beauty, the UK is filled with plenty of spectacular streets with a story to tell. From ancient, cobbled lanes and narrow passages to tree-lined avenues and picture-perfect pathways, here we take a look at some of the most beautiful streets in the UK.
Elm Hill, Norwich, Norfolk, England
Trailing through the heart of Norwich’s Cathedral Quarter, Elm Hill is the most famous and most complete medieval street in the city. Steeped in history, a major fire destroyed much of the original street in 1507 but it was later rebuilt and restored to its former glory. Retaining much of its original character, the cobbled lane is now filled with craft shops, antiques and galleries alongside tea shops and coffee houses.
Vicars’ Close, Somerset, England
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This peaceful street in Wells claims to be the oldest residential street in Europe. Built over 650 years ago, it was designed to provide communal accommodation for the Vicars’ Choral, who sang daily at the nearby cathedral. The houses were built in the 14th century while its famous chimneys were added later in the 15th century. Originally there were 42 houses (one for each vicar), but now only 27 remain as well as a library, chapel, treasury and muniment room. Hailed for its impressive architecture, Vicars' Close is the most complete medieval road in the UK.
Steep Hill, Lincoln, England
The clue is in the name, running through the middle of Lincoln, Steep Hill is thought to be one of the most vertiginous streets in England. Dating back centuries, Steep Hill first became used when the city was known as Lindum Colonia and its Roman inhabitants decided to expand the settlement down the hill. Today, Steep Hill is famed for being a hot spot for independent businesses, including quaint tea rooms, vintage boutiques, fudge parlours and is hugely popular with tourists.
Main Street, Solva, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Lying just off the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales, the postcard-worthy fishing village of Solva is considered the jewel of the region. With its colourful buildings and pristine road, Main Street trails through the heart of the charming town and looks like something out of a storybook. Filled with independent shops, cafés and restaurants, the vibrant shopping street is one of Solva’s best attractions.
Gold Hill, Dorset, England
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Overlooking the Dorset countryside, Gold Hill is a steep and charming street nestled amongst Shaftesbury’s thatched houses. The street rose to fame after featuring in the popular 1970s TV advert for Hovis bread, where a boy pushes his bike up the hill to deliver a loaf of bread before wheeling back down. With a breath-taking panorama across the town and surrounding countryside, the view from Gold Hill has been described as “one of the most romantic sights in England'', and has appeared in calendars, books and even chocolate boxes.
Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland
Trailing through Scotland’s historic capital, connecting the impressive Edinburgh Castle to the beautiful Palace of Holyrood House, Royal Mile has been intertwined with Scotland’s royal history for years. One of the city’s best-known streets, Royal Mile is peppered with shops, restaurants and pubs as well as some of its most popular attractions like The Real Mary King’s Close (a unique, historic underground street) and St Giles’ Cathedral.
Bregagh Road, Ballymoney, Northern Ireland
Fans of HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones will recognise this dark and mysterious avenue of beech trees in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland as the Kingsroad. Planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family as an impressive entranceway to their estate, the trees have grown and tangled together creating the magical and eerie tunnel of trees known as the Dark Hedges. With its atmospheric appearance, the verdant street draws tourists and visitors from all over the world.
The Shambles, York, England
With its beautiful Elizabethan buildings with overhanging timber frames, The Shambles in York is known as one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe. Originally filled with butchers’ shops, the winding cobbled street was kept narrow to keep the meat out of direct sunlight. Many of its buildings still feature their original wooden shelves and hooks, a reminder of when their produce was served and displayed from the open windows. Today, the street is dotted with quirky boutiques, adorable cafés and a few gift shops.
Arlington Row, Bibury, England
Located within Bibury, a charming Cotswolds village, Arlington Row is a picture-perfect string of honey-coloured houses perched on the banks of the River Coln. Originally built in the 14th century as a monastic wool store, in the 17th century, the street's houses were converted into a row of weavers' cottages. Set amongst lush countryside, the Grade I-listed cottages are one of the best-known beauty spots in the Cotswolds. All of the cottages are occupied except one, which is owned and rented out by the National Trust.
Christmas Steps, Bristol, England
Dating back to medieval times, Bristol’s Christmas Steps are one of the oldest and most picturesque parts of the city. The original steps were completed in 1669 but today only a few from the mid-19th century have survived. Part of the Christmas Steps Art Quarter, the steps are home to a variety of cafés, pubs and restaurants as well as several independent shops, art galleries and a theatre nearby.
Bywater Street, London, England
London certainly isn’t short of colourful and quirky streets, yet Bywater Street with its pastel-hued houses tucked away from Chelsea's Kings Road, is particularly dreamy. Its colourful Georgian houses with large bay windows give the historic street an injection of fun. One of the houses here was used as the home of MI6 intelligence agent George Smiley in John le Carre’s spy fictional novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and was also in the 2011 film adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Gary Oldman. In recent years the tree-lined cul-de-sac has become a picture paradise.
Commercial Court, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Situated in Belfast’s buzzing Cathedral Quarter, this attractive alleyway gets its name from being the former commercial heart of the city. Numerous bronze panels pay tribute to the whiskey merchants, pottery and old iron foundry which once stood in the narrow street. Its cobbled path is now lit up with a blanket of red lights while its most popular site, the Duke of York Bar, is adorned with flowers. Another highlight is one of its entryways, decorated with vibrant street art celebrating some of Northern Ireland’s most notable figures amid umbrellas that hang above.
Main Street, Clovelly, Devon, England
Clinging onto a cliff on England’s southwest coast, Clovelly is a harbour village in Devon once owned by the Queen of England. Hailed for its unique beauty, Clovelly’s Main Street winds its way down from the hillside through flower-strewn and white-washed cottages, broken up by small narrow alleyways. The street is completely pedestrianised, which helps preserve the village’s peaceful atmosphere.
Victoria Street, Edinburgh, Scotland
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With its gentle curve, historic buildings and colourful shop fronts, Edinburgh’s Victoria Street is one of the city’s most photographed spots. The street was built between 1829 and 1834 as part of a series of improvements to the Old Town, intending to improve access around the city. With its higgledy-piggledy array of buildings influenced by the Old Flemish style, Victoria Street was the inspiration behind author J.K Rowling’s iconic Diagon Alley in her Harry Potter series.
Ashton Lane, Glasgow, Scotland
Hidden among the hustle and bustle of Glasgow’s West End, Ashton Lane is a quaint backstreet famed for its nightlife. With its cobblestones and twinkling fairy lights that hang above the heads of passersby, giving it a unique charm, the street feels pretty magical, especially in the evening. Although small, Ashton Lane is lined with renowned bars and restaurants, cementing itself as a thriving hot spot for Glasgow’s nightlife.
Eastgate Street, Chester, England
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Lying just above Chester’s historic city walls, Tudor-style buildings and a turret gate beautifully frame one of the city’s busiest shopping streets. Eastgate and its clock stand on the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix; its present gate was built in Georgian times, forming part of Chester’s walls. Designed by local architect John Douglas, the clock is Eastgate Street’s defining feature and alongside the gateway is a Grade I-listed site.
Neal’s Yard, London, England
Tucked away down a London side street is Neal’s Yard, one of the city’s most unusual streets. The alley was named after Thomas Neale who received a piece of land in 1690 in the Seven Dials area where the alley can be found, transforming it from a dark rat-infested space to a thriving shopping street. Today, with its rainbow colour palette of shop fronts, green foliage climbing up the walls and windowsills, the narrow street has become a favourite alternative shopping and dining destination for locals and tourists alike.
Clwyd Street, Ruthin, Wales
Trailing across its namesake river, Clwyd Street travels through the little Welsh town of Ruthin. The town dates back to medieval times and Clwyd Street is dotted with traces of the past with its well-preserved Tudor buildings set against pretty rolling hills and valleys. The street’s old houses have been transformed into a bustling mix of high street and independent stores, as well as a handful of fish and chip shops, restaurants and pubs.
Church Street, Ledbury, England
With its lovely jumble of Georgian houses and cobbled streets in the heart of Hertfordshire, Ledbury is a photographer’s dream. Although the historic market town is filled with scenic streets, Church Street is certainly one of the prettiest. With its narrow path, half-timbered buildings and scenic views of the nearby church, the peaceful lane looks as if it's been frozen in time.
Portobello Road, London, England
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Home to the largest antiques market in the world, Portobello Road is one of London’s much-loved landmarks. Dating back to the 19th century, it’s one of the capital’s oldest markets, with stalls stretching for a mile along the street to around the corner into Golborne Road. Today, with its rainbow collection of shopfronts selling everything from vintage clothes to street food, Portobello Road is a tourist hot spot and featured in the 1999 rom-com Notting Hill starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.
Main Street, Tobermory, Mull, Scotland
Sitting on the Scottish island of Mull, with its striking buildings reflected in the inky waters below, Tobermory’s Main Street earns it the title of one of the prettiest port towns in Scotland. Thanks to its sheltered bay and candy-coloured houses, the curved street beautifully frames the charming waterside town. Some may recognise the colourful houses from starring in the popular children’s BBC television series, Balamory.
Anita Street, Manchester, England
Two neat rows of Victorian houses make up Anita Street in Manchester, one of the best-preserved terraced residential streets in the city. Formerly known as Sanitary Street, the houses were built in the 19th century to resolve Manchester’s housing crisis and poor sanitary conditions. It was one of the first streets where the tenement homes each had their own toilet and sink, hence the name. Renamed Anita Street during the 1960s, the pretty row of houses has proved a favourite spot among photographers and filmmakers have become a long-standing testament to Manchester’s history.
The Royal Crescent, Bath, England
It’ll be hard not to find a stunning street in Bath, the only UNESCO World Heritage city (in its entirety) in the UK. Possibly the most famous of them all is the Royal Crescent. Built between 1767 and 1775, it was designed by John Wood the Younger and quickly became Bath’s most desirable address. Arranged around a perfectly manicured lawn, the crescent is made up of 30 Grade I-listed terrace houses overlooking Royal Victoria Park. Hailed as one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture in England, it is a popular filming location, featuring in the 2008 film The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley.
Church Street, Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales
Huddled on the Welsh side on the English/Welsh border, Hay-on-Wye is a tiny town on the banks of the River Wye nicknamed the “Town of Books” for its array of bookshops. Being a book lover’s dream is not the town’s only selling point however, its characterful Church Street – featuring shops painted in bright colours – which trails through the middle of the town has its own unique appeal. The traditional street is home to an abundance of independent shops including vintage stores, art galleries and of course some of its famous bookshops.
Catherine Hill, Frome, England
One of Frome’s main shopping streets, Catherine Hill lies in the middle of the sleepy market town in Somerset. Dating back to medieval times, the steep and cobbled street has become a symbol of the town’s long history. Lined with independent boutiques, vintage shops and cafés, Catherine Hill has become one of the area’s defining landmarks.
Joys Entry, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Considered one of the first streets of Belfast, Joys Entry is part of a series of entries that slice through its historic city centre. The pretty narrow street is thought to be named after the Joy family who were a prominent family in Belfast during the 17th and 18th centuries. Connecting Ann Street to the High Street, Joys Entry sits near some of Belfast’s most notable pubs including Henry’s and The Jailhouse and is decorated with street art as well as the occasional art installation.
Circus Lane, Edinburgh, Scotland
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Although Edinburgh is certainly not short of lovely streets, Circus Lane is easily one of the prettiest. Watched over by St Stephen’s Church in the city’s New Town, the cobbled lane is bordered by former coach houses that are now residential homes. Flower baskets give the houses a burst of colour while greenery grows between the cobbled stone porches, giving the quaint street a charming feel even on the rainiest of days.
Winkle Street, Calbourne, Isle of Wight, England
Often regarded as a hidden gem of the Isle of Wight, Winkle Street can be found in the chocolate-box town of Calbourne. The enchanting terrace of 18th century stone cottages is evidently the town’s most postcard-worthy street. Overlooking the peaceful waters of the River Caul Bourne, its houses feature front gardens filled with a riot of colourful plants and flowers, creating an idyllic scene that has proved popular with artists including English watercolour painter Alfred Heaton Cooper.
Streets of Culross, Fife, Scotland
Located in the southwest of Fife, the town of Culross is Scotland’s most complete example of a burgh from the 17th and 18th centuries. Walking through its beautifully preserved cobbled streets, which are lined by whitewashed red-tiled houses, is like stepping back in time. The unusual ochre-coloured Culross Palace is the town’s main attraction while its scenic streets are best known for featuring in the TV series Outlander.
Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex, England
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With its quintessentially English charm and fairy-tale feel, Mermaid Street in Rye is often named one of the most picturesque streets in the county. It is best known for being the home of the Mermaid Inn, which dates as far back as the 12th century. Dotted with well-preserved Tudor and Georgian buildings, the narrow cobbled lane offers a glimpse into the past and is a favourite spot among photographers.
The Street, Castle Combe, Wiltshire, England
Often dubbed “the prettiest village in England”, Castle Combe is the crown jewel of the Cotswolds, filled with charming streets. A classically English village, its most famous “The Street” slices through the 17th-century village, past its ancient honey-hued stone cottages and towards its iconic bridge. Looking as if it’s been frozen in time, The Street has become a symbol of English charm and is one of the country’s most photogenic locations.
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