Escape to the country: The UK’s top 5 retreats

After almost a whole year working from home, it’s no surprise that more and more people are swapping the cramped confinement of city dwelling for the rolling countryside.

According to Rightmove, the number of city residents contacting estate agents to buy a home in a village rose by 126% in June and July 2020 compared with the same period the year before.

The escape to the country continued in September, with nine areas with populations of under 11,000 seeing buyer searches doubling from 2019.

If you long for green spaces and a better quality of life, here are five of the UK’s top retreats to consider.

1. Orkney, Northern Isles of Scotland

Orkney was crowned Scotland’s best place to live for the eighth year in a row in the Bank of Scotland Quality of Life survey 2020.

With its unspoilt landscapes and coastline, you couldn’t be further away from city life. The stunning scenery is no doubt a major contributor towards Orkney residents’ high level of wellbeing. A survey by the Office for National Statistics found adults in Orkney have the second-highest life satisfaction in the whole of the UK, with a rating of 8.4 out of 10.

People in Orkney also benefit from high employment, low crime rates, smaller class sizes and more affordable housing. Data from Rightmove puts the average house price at just £161,668.

If you’re looking for somewhere peaceful where your children or grandchildren can play safely outside, this could be it.

2. East Hertfordshire, East of England

If you want to be close to the UK capital but without the hustle and bustle, East Hertfordshire might be your cup of tea.

Crowned the best place to live in Britain in the latest Halifax Quality of Life survey, East Hertfordshire is home to more than a hundred villages and hamlets. These include the picturesque village of Much Hadham, which has its own museum featuring Tudor wall paintings and a local history gallery.

East Hertfordshire benefits from high life expectancy, good health and happiness scores, and excellent schools. The downside is house prices are typically more than the UK average. According to the Land Registry, houses in East Hertfordshire cost an average £386,743.

3. Beddgelert, Wales

Fancy a home where you can pop up a mountain or wonder at legends gone by? If so, Beddgelert in Snowdonia National Park could be for you.

With a population of just 455 at the last census, Beddgelert is a beautiful stone-built village. It is one of the stop-off points on the Welsh Highland Railway from Caernarfon to Porthmadog.

Complete with dramatic hiking terrain and the legend of Prince Llewelyn ap Iorwerth’s trusty dog Gelert, it could be a great home for adventurous spirits.

According to Rightmove, the average house price in Beddgelert is £245,528.

4. Waddington, Lancashire

The village of Waddington in Lancashire made The Sunday Times’ list of the top ten places to live in the North West.

The judges said Waddington was “their favourite of the picturesque stone villages and a place that best sums up the unspoilt northern charm of this happiest of valleys”.

Set in the heart of the Ribble Valley, Waddington has fantastic walks, a café, a social club, three pubs and a children’s play park area. The average house price, according to Rightmove, is £359,410.

5. Clovelly, North Devon

Clovelly in North Devon is one of the prettiest villages in the UK. With its white cottages and cobbled streets, living in this coastal village will feel like a permanent holiday.

Set on a 400-foot cliff, there’s even an ancient harbour with a thriving fishing industry. There is no vehicular traffic – just donkeys and sledges. Clovelly offers long walks along the cliff tops where you can take in the beautiful scenery.

The average house price, according to Zoopla, is £259,060.

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