10 of the most tranquil places in the UK (2023)

The search for tranquillity used to have three perfectly simple rules, principles that had stood the test of time since first expressed by the Greek master of mental calm, Epicurus: don’t fear death or God, spend plenty of time walking in gardens with friends … and buy the kids an Xbox. Like so many other aspects of our lives, however, those wise old nuggets no longer offer a route out of the tossing maelstrom in the way they used to. Head out early to your local park and chances are every favourite tranquil corner is occupied by another cabin-fever escaper.

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The lockdowns have, I reckon, made us more aware of the need for tranquillity, and the threats to it. The drop in traffic noise has been a blessing, particularly in the first lockdown. When you consider that a 2007 survey found UK cities to be shockingly noisy – at 80 decibels, Newcastle upon Tyne’s traffic was the equivalent of an alarm clock forever clanging in your ear – it’s little wonder we have noticed the difference, and liked it.

And perhaps because nights have been so quiet, we’ve looked up to the sky more, and any light pollution has seemed more intrusive. In fact, according to the 2016 report Night Blight (by CPRE, the Countryside Charity), the land area of England with dark night skies has dwindled to a measly 22%.

So what is tranquillity? CPRE research found that the essential elements for most people were “natural landscapes”, “birdsong” and “peace and quiet”. Dividing the country into 0.5km2 squares, it generated a map showing England’s most tranquil spots. Unsurprisingly, they were in the same places as the dark skies and silence. Here are my top 10 serene spots.

Ronan’s Way, Glendun, County Antrim

10 of the most tranquil places in the UK (1)

My first instinct is to head for the hills, somewhere like Glendun near Cushendun on the Northern Irish coast. Essentials of peace like woods, streams, the sea, and birdsong are found in abundance on Ronan’s Way, a trail created in tribute to local farmer Ronan MacAuley in this north-eastern corner of the country, 50 miles north of Belfast. The 3½-mile route (with two shorter options) winds up to some fine views – over to the Mull of Kintyre on a good day – and will inevitably be accompanied by the sound of birdsong: merlin, hen harrier and curlew if you’re lucky.

Afon Goedol, Snowdonia

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Even in the hills, the golden rule when seeking peace and quiet is to look in places close to some hotspot attraction that draws the crowds. So it is with almost every Welsh mountain that is not called Snowdon. Walking south from Blaenau Ffestiniog down the Afon Goedol stream, you reach some idyllic ancient woodlands, parts of which are nature reserves and home to lesser horseshoe bats, orchids and many birds. Once busy with slate miners heading up to the Blaenau quarries, the area is now deeply peaceful. When things are more normal, work your way down to Tan y Bwlch and catch the Ffestiniog steam train back up the hill.

Fen Drayton, south Cambridgeshire

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Although that first instinct to go to the mountains is understandable, tranquillity is also available in flatter forms. The area south of Cambridge is home to some quiet countryside. The Wimpole Estate is a lovely old house and grounds, but 335,000 visitors a year (in 2019) is a bit high for true tranquillity. A better option may be one of the county’s numerous nature reserves. Fen Drayton certainly passes the test for most improved on the peacefulness scale, as it was a noisy gravel extraction site until 1992. In 2020, this extensive system of lakes and reed beds was visited or inhabited by 169 species of birds.

Stour valley/Dedham Vale AONB, south Suffolk/north Essex

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The seeker of serenity could do worse than select a decent guru to follow and John Constable (1776-1837) might be a good candidate. The artist’s own hope was to depict “the calm sunshine of the heart”, a delightful meditative ambition in an era of revolution and war. He particularly associated peacefulness with the River Stour, which forms the border between Suffolk and Essex. These days the looping walk upriver from Manningtree to Dedham and back still gives plenty of the natural landscapes and birdsong that Constable knew, including Flatford Mill, once owned by Constable’s father and painted by the son several times. Since this lovely rural walk is unavailable to some of us at the moment, it does raise the possibility of enjoying a little vicarious peace by admiring Constable’s paintings, those holy icons of tranquillity, online or, eventually, in Tate Britain.

Norham Castle, Northumberland

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Equally active in seeking the arcadian corners of Britain, Constable’s rival JMW Turner (1775-1851) headed north to Norham Castle, returning again and again to paint the ruins. Ivy-clad, roofless towers and crumbling battlements are, of course, ideal for escaping the riot of human activity. Besieged at least 13 times, Norham has had more than four uninhabited centuries to ruminate on past glories. From the village of Norham (on the south bank of the River Tweed, the Scotland-England border), head east for the quickest route to the castle or explore other idyllic riverside walks in the area. Turner’s serene evocation of the place, Norham Castle, Sunrise, 1845, is in Tate Britain (and online) and makes an excellent surrogate.

Jervaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire

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If ruins make great theatres of meditation, Jervaulx is one of the finest stages. These darkly evocative ruins were once a great Cistercian abbey famed for its horses and its wensleydale cheese. The days of prayer, contemplation and delicious accompaniments to cream crackers were not to last, however. The abbot, Adam Sedbar, protested about the dissolution of the monasteries and was incarcerated in the Tower of London in 1537. He carved his name – it’s still visible – in Beauchamp Tower, before being hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Since that tumultuous episode, peace has returned. If there are no other cars in the tiny car park, you’re in luck. To get the full effect, it is necessary to dress in the manner of John Keats and lie swooning on the lawns on a perfect summer evening as soaring swallows give way to owls and bats.

The stars that ’twixt the rise and fall,
Like relic-seers, shall one by one
Stand musing o’er our empty hall;
And setting moons shall brood upon
The frescoes of our inward wall.

That’s not actually Keats, but I would look even sillier dressed as Alice Meynell.

Kensal Green Cemetery, London

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The aforementioned Meynell, suffragette and poet, is buried in Kensal Green, north-west London, along with dozens of other luminaries and people who ought to have been Dickensian characters, William Scamp and Barnabas Daft included. But a good cemetery can be a perfect place for the living to seek tranquillity, too. Perhaps it’s the density of weeping stone angels in the cemetery’s 29 hectares, including two conservation areas, but the atmosphere at Kensal Green is significantly more hushed than on the nearby A40. Stroll down the central avenue, admiring the handsome monuments, and muse upon the Epicurean goal of a life of pleasure pursued intelligently, ethically and without fear. It feels like a perfectly modern message. For more time to ruminate, head out along the towpath of the nearby Grand Union Canal. When looking for solace and calm in our cities, I do recommend canal networks.

Pollok Park, Glasgow

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With almost four-fifths of Scotland enjoying dark skies, finding tranquillity ought to be easy. But what about in the centre of Glasgow? There is a canal network, but nothing like those of Birmingham, Leeds or Manchester. So where to go? In Gaelic the city’s name means “green place”, and it does boast more than 90 parks. Saint Mungo’s Zen garden is a little-known gem, with boulders and pebbles to recreate the serenity of nature. But, as it’s temporarily closed, I’d head for 146-hectare Pollok Park on the south side of the Clyde. It’s a lovely place for a stroll and, when things open again, home to the estimable Burrell Collection.

The Japanese garden, Gatton Park, Reigate, Surrey

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For some, Zen gardens are the epitome of peace. Founded on the three principles of simplicity, naturalness and austerity, they feature large stones and carefully raked pebbles to create restful patterns. I like the curves and textures, but prefer something shaggier and greener: a Japanese garden hits the spot perfectly. Gatton Park’s example was built in 1909, then abandoned and not rediscovered until 1999. Restoration is ongoing, but this is already a lovely, restful place within a much larger park where there are many fine walks. A no-travel alternative is to start building your own zen garden – that would be a worthy lockdown project.

Kedleston Hall, Derby

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If any element of a garden is able to inspire serenity, it must be the trees, especially the ancient giants. After all, the Buddha achieved enlightenment under one. In the churchyard in Crowhurst, East Sussex, there’s a venerable old yew that took a direct hit from a cannon ball during the civil war, and yet it has never complained and lives on peacefully. Estimates of its age vary from 2,000 to 4,000 years. At Croft Castle near Leominster in Herefordhsire there is a stunning array of comparatively youthful 400-year-old sweet chestnuts, and at Kedleston Hall, just five miles from Derby city centre, ancient ash trees are quietly fighting to survive their own pandemic: ash dieback. The 2.6-mile Wilderness Walk is particularly good.


10 of the most tranquil places in the UK? ›

Wales has taken the crown for being home to the quietest place in the whole of the UK: Powys, which is its largest county. With only 26 people per square kilometre, you can be promised a quiet stay in this amazing place, and find a true escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Where is the most tranquil place to live in the UK? ›

Wales has taken the crown for being home to the quietest place in the whole of the UK: Powys, which is its largest county. With only 26 people per square kilometre, you can be promised a quiet stay in this amazing place, and find a true escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

What is the most relaxing village in the UK? ›

As well as being England's prettiest village, Castle Combe is one of the most relaxing places in the UK for a staycation. Castle Combe in the Cotswolds is already a beloved tourist destination — and now it has made it on to the list of the most relaxing staycation destinations in the UK.

Where are the kindest people in the UK? ›

Glasgow, Scotland

In the 2022 Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Choice Awards, Glasgow scooped the top spot for the friendliest city in the UK.

What is the most peaceful place in the UK? ›

Bassenthwaite has been rated as the most peaceful UK destination, with a peace score of 86.62 out of 100. The area, part of the Lake District, is home to 39 hiking trails and 29 bird watching trails.

What is the most picturesque village in England? ›

Bibury, Cotswolds

Bibury was once described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England” and it's easy to see why. The typical Cotswolds village is home to Arlington Row, one of the most photographed locations in the country, if not the world.

Where is the nicest village to live in the UK? ›

Britain's poshest villages, according to The Times
  • Hopeman, near Elgin, Moray.
  • St Mawes, Roseland peninsula, Cornwall.
  • Mells, near Frome, Somerset.
  • Solva, near St Davids, Pembrokeshire.
  • Walberswick, near Southwold, Suffolk.
  • Barningham, near Darlington, Co Durham.
  • Mumbles, near Swansea, West Glamorgan.
Jan 12, 2023

Where in the US is most like the UK? ›

For example, Connecticut is often compared to England due to its colonial history and strong ties with the UK. Similarly, Virginia has a number of similarities with English counties such as Gloucestershire and Somerset. Both states are known for their rolling hills, picturesque villages, and historical landmarks.

What nationality are the kindest people? ›

French Polynesia. The friendliest country in the world according to you, our readers, is French Polynesia, a collection of more than 100 islands in the South Pacific.

Where do the best looking people live UK? ›

Brighton is home to the most attractive people in the UK - according to those that live there. According to a YouGov survey, 75% of Brighton residents reckoned those in their seaside resort had been blessed with good looks.

Where is the happiest place in the UK? ›

With some of the best beaches in the country nearby, crystal clear waters that could rival the Mediterranean and an abundance of culture on their doorstep, the happiest people in the UK are the cheery residents of St Ives, in Cornwall.

Is the UK a safer place to live than the US? ›

Is the UK safer than the USA? The UK has a lower overall crime rate than the US, but the US has a lower rate of certain types of crime, such as property crime. In terms of violent crime, the US has a higher rate than the UK.

Where is the happiest city in the UK? ›

Cambridge, Brighton and Bristol are among the happiest places to live and work in the UK. The study, conducted by job website Glassdoor's Economic Research team, analysed over 100,000 anonymous employer reviews from 20 cities.

Where in England has the best quality of life? ›

According to a recent study by Totaljobs, Edinburgh has the best quality of life in the country – ranking number one for work-life balance, happiness, access to affordable housing and short commute times (an average of 29 minutes).

Where is the best place to live in the UK for mental health? ›

While the seaside city of Brighton was crowned the wellness capital, other places include York, Bournemouth, Cambridge, and Scotland's Edinburgh — all praised for their high wellness scores and long life expectancy. If you're planning on relocating, Warrington, Southend-on-Sea, Oxford and Leeds also made the top 10.

Which is the best place to settle in UK? ›

The best cities in the UK
  • Birmingham. The UK's second-largest city lies at the heart of England and often ranks as one of the best places to live in the UK. ...
  • Edinburgh. Scotland's capital is often hailed as one of the UK's most historic and elegant cities. ...
  • Cardiff. ...
  • Belfast. ...
  • Glasgow. ...
  • Manchester. ...
  • Leeds. ...
  • Oxford and the Cotswolds.
Apr 14, 2023

Is it safer to live in UK or USA? ›

Is the UK safer than the USA? The UK has a lower overall crime rate than the US, but the US has a lower rate of certain types of crime, such as property crime. In terms of violent crime, the US has a higher rate than the UK.

Is life cheaper in the US or UK? ›

According to a report by Numbeo in 2021, the cost of living index in the UK is 7.73% lower than that of the US. This is due to a number of factors, such as lower healthcare costs, lower transportation costs, and lower overall living expenses.

What city in USA is most like England? ›

New York City (like London) has phonological variations all its own. Politically, too, New York may be more like England than any other American state. In both England and New York, geographically small, densely populated urban islands stand out from the expanses of countryside around them.

Where is the cheapest and nicest place to live UK? ›

8 of the cheapest places and cities to live in the UK (2023)
  • 1.Kingston upon Hull.
  • Aberdeen.
  • Leicester.
  • Coventry.
  • Derby.
  • Swansea.
  • Dundee.
  • Newcastle upon Tyne.
Apr 28, 2023

Where is the best place in USA for mental health? ›

New Jersey comes in as the number one best state to live in the US for your family's mental health in 2022. Data has shown that symptoms of mental illness among adults in New Jersey (16.14%) are lower than the national average in the US (21.1%)1.

Which US state has the best mental health? ›

According to the 2022 adult rankings, the top five states with the lowest mental illness prevalence and highest access to care are New Jersey, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Immediately following are Minnesota, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Illinois.

What is the most American place in the UK? ›

The largest single local cluster of Americans in the UK recorded by the 2001 UK Census was in Mildenhall in North-West Suffolk—the site of RAF Mildenhall and nearby RAF Lakenheath. This is because of the legacy of the Cold War and NATO cooperation. 17.28% of Mildenhall's population were born in the United States.

Where is Britain's happiest place to live? ›

Cambridge, Brighton and Bristol are among the happiest places to live and work in the UK. The study, conducted by job website Glassdoor's Economic Research team, analysed over 100,000 anonymous employer reviews from 20 cities.

What is the safest city in UK? ›

Shetland Islands

The Shetlands boast one of the lowest crime rates in the UK. In fact, fewer than 500 crimes in total were reported here during the whole of 2021-2022. The islands remain one of the most desirable (and safest) places for escaping the pressures of mainland living.

Is England more beautiful than USA? ›

A recent reader survey conducted by Rough Guides placed England as the seventh most beautiful country in the world, ranking higher than Iceland, Finland and the USA.

What is the #1 place to live in the UK? ›

1. London – Score 87.92. London, the capital, is renowned for being one of the world's most famous and known as the best place to live in the UK. This city has diverse communities, and vibrant scenes, and covers a huge area making it the largest city in the UK.


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