Melbourne, South Derbyshire
This charming Georgian market town owes its name to the Victorian prime minister William Lamb (2nd Viscount Melbourne) rather than its Australian equivalent, and is something of an under-the-radar gem. The streets are dotted with one-off shops, great delis (the Melbourne Deli at 37 Derby Road is particularly good) and restaurants, and there are some lovely walks in the grounds of 18th-century Melbourne Hall, home of the original Viscount M. Keep the foodie theme going with a stay at Harpurs, a slick restaurant with rooms right in the heart of town.
Doubles from £75 room only, harpursofmelbourne.co.uk
This classic market town has an incredibly rich history – pilgrims named the American city after it. Dip into the Guildhall to learn more, take a cruise up the River Witham or join a boat trip out to sea to spot seals. The historic streets are dotted with bars, and the Quayside Hotel has been welcoming thirsty visitors since it opened in 1812.
Doubles £84 B&B, quaysideboston.co.uk
Washington, West Sussex
This pretty Sussex hamlet is the polar opposite of its US namesake; a clutch of traditional flint cottages, an 11th-century church and a classic village pub, the Frankland Arms, with a sunny, lawned garden. It’s an ideal stop for those walking the South Downs Way, which runs for 100 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester, undulating across the ridge of the hills. The stretch around Washington – taking in the prehistoric hill forts of Chanctonbury and Cissbury Ring and Steyning village – is particularly beautiful. Stay at Springwells, a Georgian manor house in the heart of Steyning, with six crisply chic rooms.
Doubles from £189 B&B, springwells.co.uk
It might sound as if it’s buried indeepest Bordeaux, but the picturesque Yorkshire village of Rievaulx couldn’t be more English, with thatched roofs, stone cottages and a historic watermill. The village is dominated by theatmospheric ruin of Rievaulx Abbey, founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks from Normandy. The Abbey makes a great day out, with expansive ruins to explore, and there are lovely walks across the North York Moors. Stay at the Feversham Arms in the neighbouring village of Helmsley, a cosy coaching inn lovingly converted into an upmarket spa hotel.
Doubles £350 B&B; fevershamarmshotel.com
Download the Beach Boys, slip on some shades and don’t look too closely, and you could almost be on the California shore on this lovely wide stretch of beach. Accessed via steep steps down the cliff-face (or from nearby Caister along the beach), the huge amount of space makes it perfect for families, dog walkers, or anyone who wants a sea-salty stroll beneath Norfolk’s trademark widescreen skies. Stay at the Old Hall hotel in Caister, 10 minutes’ walk from the beach, and take advantage of the indoor pool and Nordic sauna after a breezy beach stroll.
Doubles £94 B&B, oldhallhotelcaister.co.uk
America’s rock festival shares its name with this rather more proper town a few miles outside Oxford, known for its elegant period buildings and proximity to Blenheim Palace, one of England’s most expansive stately homes. It’s a lovely place to potter, dipping in and out of the antique shops and art galleries that dot the four main streets, but it also makes a great base for exploring Oxford (there’s a regular park and ride) without getting caught up in the city’s nightmare traffic. The Feathers, a 17th-century townhouse, is the place to stay, with funky modern rooms and a buzzy restaurant.
Doubles from £116 B&B, feathers.co.uk
Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire
An ancient market town that owes its French-sounding name to the Norman nobleman Alain de Parrhoet la Zouch, who became lord of the manor in the 12th century, Ashby is a great base for adventures in the National Forest, which is crisscrossed with cycling and walking trails, and offers horse-riding, wildlife-spotting courses and water-based activities on the canals and reservoirs that lie among the trees. Ashby’s ruined castle, founded in the 12th century, is great if you’ve kids in tow – the tower can still be climbed – and the Clockmakers is a lovely B&B in the heart of the conservation area.
Doubles from £86 B&B, clockmakershouse.co.uk
This small suburb of Stoke on Trent may not be able to match its namesake for art and museums, but the nearby Trentham Estate boasts glorious Italianate gardens, as well as a Monkey Forest where 60 Barbary Macaques roam freely. Stoke has its own rich heritage as the world’s capital of ceramics, the town is dotted with factory tours of still-working potteries, from big names such as Portmeirion and Emma Bridgewater, to small, independent studios. Stay at the Upper House, an elegant Victorian country house set in woodland gardens.
Doubles from £105 B&B, theupperhouse.com
Moscow, East Ayrshire
This small Scots village shares exactly the same latitude as its Russian counterpart, and reputedly had its name changed from Moss-hall in 1812 to mark Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. The bright lights and bustle ofGlasgow are just half an hour’s drive, as are the beaches of Troon and Barassie. Stay at Ayrshire Rural Retreats, a working organic farm a stone’s throw from Moscow, with a clutch of self-catering accommodation, from cosy ‘pods’ and chalets to a farm house.
One-bed chalet with outdoor hot tub from £214 room-only, ayrshireruralretreats.co.uk
Stoke d’Abernon, Surrey