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A hamlet, a village, a town or a city? holiday cottages

A hamlet, a village, a town or a city?

Elianne 31 October 2017

Do you know your hamlets from your villages? How about what differentiates a city from a town? Fear not – we have put together this handy little guide to help you!

Frequently Asked Questions


What is a hamlet?

  • A hamlet is a small settlement that has no central place of worship and no meeting point, for example, a village hall. 
  • Picture a handful of houses dotted along a road or a crossroads, perhaps separated from other settlements by countryside or farmland.

In the pretty village you have a charming ice-cream parlour and the local pub is just a short walk away.

The word hamlet is loosely derived from the Old French ‘ham’ which translates as home – the perfect roots for a word which describes a settlement in which everyone is sure to know each other.

For many, this sort of seclusion whilst still being surrounded by a close-knit community is the epitome of idyllic, with nothing but the sounds of the countryside and the occasional chat with a neighbour to disturb the peace.

Given the vastness of Yorkshire’s rural landscapes, it's unsurprising that the county boasts some of the prettiest hamlets in the country. Wouldn’t it be special to be able to dip your toe into the country lifestyle and step away from the fast pace of normal life? What’s stopping you? We’ve got a heavenly host of luxury cottages set in hamlets across Yorkshire. Come and stay in Bluebell of Lofthouse in the heart of gorgeous Nidderdale, for example. Just a short walk from Pateley Bridge, you can enjoy all the benefits of hamlet living while still being close enough for a hearty pub meal and a pint.


What is a village?

  • To be classified as a village, a settlement must have both a place of worship and a central meeting point. 
  • In the past, villages grew as small farming communities, living off the land which they farmed themselves. 
  • Nowadays, villages may be close to towns or larger urban areas, however, the image which is brought to mind is still of a fairly small collection of houses, perhaps centred around a central square, with a friendly community atmosphere.

Explore the idyllic village of Great Ayton with its cafes, river, village green and pubs.

The idea of living in a village is romanticised, and for good reason too, particularly if the village is in a rural area. According to research by Yopa estate agents, over a third of people in villages considered themselves ‘mostly happy’, compared to only one in four people in the city.

But we don’t need surveys to tell us that village life can offer a restful escape, and where better than the heart of the North York Moors or nestled within a lush green valley of the Yorkshire Dales? Trade traffic jams and commutes to the office for birdsong and countryside strolls from your doorstep – go on, treat yourself!

Try picturesque Great Ayton, a village in the North York Moors, complete with all the village must-haves - a village green, pub, cafes and one of the best ice cream parlours in Yorkshire!


What is a town?

  • In times gone by, in England and Wales, the status of town was traditionally reserved for ‘market towns’ which were different to villages and hamlets because they were the local economic centre and, more often than not, were larger and had more facilities. 
  • Nowadays, ‘town’ usually refers to market towns, settlements with a town council, and larger settlements which can’t be classified as cities.

The cosmopolitan town of Harrogate is just half an hour away and a must visit on any trip to Nidderdale.

Many of Yorkshire’s towns and villages offer the peace and quiet of a countryside location with the added advantage of shops, cafés, markets and attractions right on your doorstep. The architecture of some of Yorkshire’s towns is a reason to visit in itself. Take Harrogate for example; the spa town is peppered with Victorian splendour. The warm yellow brick of Betty’s famous tearooms, the Moorish design of the Turkish baths and the immaculate gardens which paint the town with splashes of floral colour all make it a feast for the senses.

To the northeast of Harrogate, halfway to the sea, Helmsley’s charming stone cottages and attractive shopping streets lined with independent shops and eateries are more than enough reason to pay it a visit. Its location as the ‘Gateway to the Moors’ makes it a top choice if you want to take a break from shopping to roam the wide-open moorland, taking in iconic sights such as Rievaulx Abbey.

Yorkshire has seaside settlements aplenty too, with Saltburn being one of the most picturesque towns on the coast. A cliff lift, Yorkshire’s only remaining pier, unique shops, an array of eating establishments and a surfing wave or two; it ticks all the boxes of a perfect seaside town.

Fancy staying in a town? Try York Mews in Harrogate. Keep your phone to hand because the photo opportunities in this picturesque town are too good to miss!


What is a city?

  • A city will typically be larger than a town and have multiple places of worship and several meeting points. 
  • Traditionally, in England and Wales, city status was given to settlements with diocesan cathedrals, though this is no longer a requirement. 
  • City status is granted by the reigning monarch, usually to commemorate special occasions.

A city

There are often differing opinions when towns are on the brink of becoming cities. The change in status may be seen as a step up, a way for a town to have more impact, and the royal connection is coveted by some. There are, however, no privileges for becoming a city, besides economic benefits which may arise from the associated prestige. In fact, many would rally against becoming a city, citing admin and fear of growing ‘too big’ among some of the counter-arguments.

Whichever corner you support, there’s no denying that Yorkshire’s cities are among some of the most diverse in the UK. On one hand there’s York, the ancient capital and site of York Minster, the finest Gothic church in northern Europe. On the other hand, we have Sheffield and Leeds: buzzing modern metropolises with an air of excitement and expectation.


If you fancy exploring the hamlets, villages, towns and cities of Yorkshire (yes, cities - there's seven!), then our cottages will provide the perfect base for your travels. Browse our full collection of luxury Yorkshire holiday cottages now.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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