Published: 19.09.2023

Essex’s Prettiest Villages for Cottage Holidays

Thinking of booking a cottage stay in an Essex village but want to know which are the county’s prettiest villages?  Let us guide you to some of Essex’s most picturesque hamlets, villages and towns. It is a little known fact that Essex has many unspoilt areas and hidden gems, away from the main towns where you can find tranquillity and plenty of rural or coastal charm, depending on your preference.


Which Pretty Essex Village Best Suits you for a Break?

Whether you want to discover charming coastal villages and towns such as Frinton on Sea, Maldon or Wivenhoe or country gems like Castle Hedingham, Coggeshall, Dedham, Finchingfield and Thaxted, Essex is home to some idyllic and beautiful places.  Wherever you choose to discover, if you're looking for a great place to stay, take a look at our selection of holiday accommodation in Essex.

Holiday Cottages in Essex


Which are Essex’s Prettiest Villages and Towns?

Castle Hedingham, EssexCastle Hedingham – with ample olde-worlde charm, prettily painted old houses, two tea shops, two country inns and a historic church, the older part of this North Essex village is a real gem.  Towering above the village is Hedingham Castle; a Norman keep, which is now a magnificent wedding venue, and is home to pre-bookable Escape rooms. Castle Hedingham is worth a visit for walks by the church and around the historic lanes where you can soak up the historic atmosphere.  The woodlands and woodland trails that run by the back of the nearby village of Sible Hedingham (on the exit from Sible Hedingham by the main road towards Castle Hedingham), are a great place for walks and are also a good place to spot muntjac deer which are commonly sighted along here.


Historical Coggeshall in EssexCoggeshall – this town lies just 10 miles from the large historical town of Colchester.  Although officially a town, Coggeshall has more of a village feel.  With its myriad of historic buildings including a number of impressive timber framed and timber clad medieval buildings, independent shops and character, Coggeshall is a joy to explore on holiday.  The tea shops and country inns add to this small town’s appeal. There are National Trust properties to visit within the town; including Paycocke’s House and Garden (originally a Tudor merchant’s house), as well as Coggeshall Grange Barn and Abbey (a building that dates back to the 12th century), plus a town museum.


Dedham Picture-perfect Dedham in Essexpicture-perfect, Dedham has an elegant and beautiful High Street with quaint boutique shops, as well as an Antique Centre with charming tea rooms, cafes and country inns.  Dedham is a charming place for a cottage break. 

Walking around Dedham is a real treat and there are some lovely walks through the village as well as down by the river Stour.  Dedham is very well placed for those looking to discover the landscape that so inspired John Constable’s paintings with Flatford Mill at the very heart of Constable Country, just 5 miles from Dedham.


Picturesque Finchingfield, EssexFinchingfield – renowned as one of Essex’s prettiest villages and said to be the most photographed, Finchingfield may be small but holds plenty of appeal.  With a large duck pond, pretty historic cottages, as well as country inns, Finchingfield offers plenty of rural charm.  With a tranquil village feel, Finchingfield is a joy to wander around and there is a good walk, up to the local white-washed windmill which dates back to the 1700s.  This historic windmill is open for visits on the 3rd Sunday of each month from April to September. 

Aside from the windmill, interesting buildings in Finchingfield include the Guildhall which dates way back to the 1500s and a Dutch style house which was once home to the author of 101 Dalmatians.

Near the duck pond in Finchingfield is a café, a restaurant, a high end pub.  Up at the top of the hill, there are couple of welcoming pubs (including one with a nice pub garden).


Coastline near MaldonMaldon – this historic Essex town is a real gem which has lots to offer families in particular.  Set by the Blackwater estuary, there are pleasant riverside walks, as well as Promenade park with its large children’s play area, outdoor splash area and Pirates Bay Adventure golf.

Maldon's historic high street is home to a variety of independent shops, cafes, tea rooms, restaurants and pubs.  Also in the town is a roller disco and a tenpin bowling alley.

For more tranquillity, head up the coast to Heybridge Basin where there are superb coastal walks by the lock where you can walk for miles and miles, a tea shop by the river, quaint pubs and unspoilt scenery.


Saffron Walden - With a fascinating sounding name, Saffron Walden was originally called Walden.  The town then became Saffron Walden after medieval times when the town took the Saffron part of the name from its reputation as a centre for growing saffron crocuses.

With historic buildings and a good selection of cafes, independent shops, restaurants and pubs, Saffron Walden is quite well to do, and a lovely place to while away an afternoon.   Bridge End Gardens are beautiful and lovely to stroll around.

On the outskirts of Saffron Walden is English Heritage’s Audley End House & Gardens, where various superb events and concerts are held each year.


Whichever of Essex's pretty villages or towns you choose to discover on holiday, we hope our guide has helped give you a taste of what each has to offer.


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