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The 50 best rural areas to live

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For quality of life, you can't beat these 50 rural locations!


Halifax has been doing some digging into our quality of life in Great Britain.

It examined 119 Local Authority Districts to find the 50 rural locations where living standards are highest.

To find these 50 'rural hotspots', Halifax ranked local performance based on 17 key factors, covering the labour market, the housing market, the environment, education and health.

Rutland bags the top spot

Rutland has taken top spot from last year's leader Uttlesford, which drops down to third place this year.

Here’s why:

  • Over 96% of Rutland’s residents report being in good or fairly good health
  • Four out of five 16-64 year olds are in occupation, with many earning high incomes. The average weekly earnings tots up to £623
  • It’s got one of the lowest crime rates in the country
  • Somehow, they’ve managed to beat the British weather. There’s a fair bit less rainfall in Rutland than the national average (681 mm compared to 879 mm) and more weekly sunshine hours (30.4 hours against the national average of 29.5 hours)
  • 98% of all households have access to good broadband compared to 87% for the UK as a whole
  • According to the ONS survey on personal wellbeing, Rutland’s adult population is among the happiest, most satisfied and content in Britain.

However, these perks come at a price. The cost of living in Rutland is higher than many other parts of Britain. The average house price is 6.7 times the average pre-tax local income, compared to the national average of 6.2%.

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Honourable mentions

Chiltern has climbed six places to reach second place, up from eighth place in 2014. The average life expectancy there is 82.2 years with 97% of residents saying they’re in good health. The Buckinghamshire-based district has an 80% employment rate with those in work typically enjoying average weekly earnings of £941, the highest among rural areas in the survey. It starts from a younger age with 85% of 15+ year olds achieving five or more GCSE results at grades A-C.

There were several significant climbers in this year’s survey, most notably Huntingdonshire, rising thirty six places to ninth. South Oxfordshire is up 19 places to 10th, Babergh in South Suffolk going from 42nd to 11th and West Oxfordshire shooting up 27 places to 13th.

These changes can be put down to improved personal wellbeing of adults; they’re now more satisfied, happier and less anxious about their lives.

Southern England is still going strong

The list is dominated by areas in southern England, with 14 districts located in the South East, followed by the East of England which has 10 of the 50 spots. Southern areas tend to get higher ratings for weekly earnings, the weather, health and life expectancy.

In contrast northern areas score well on education in terms of grades and smaller class sizes, lower house prices in relation to earnings, lower traffic flows and lower population densities.

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Top performers

These were the stand-out performers in some of the main categories:

Employment: Eden in Cumbria has the highest employment rate of 87%, ahead of North Dorset (85.2%) and Uttlesford (84.6%). The British national average is 72.2%.

Average earnings: The highest average weekly earnings can be found in Chiltern at £941 a week, followed by Waverley at £903 a week and South Oxfordshire at £845 a week. The national average is £623 a week.

Most affordable: The lowest average house price to earnings ratio is in Copeland and East Ayrshire (both 3:8) and East Riding of Yorkshire (5:2). The national average is currently 6:2. 

Lowest burglary rate: There is only one burglary per 10,000 people in the Orkney Islands followed by 5.4 in the Western Isles and 7.3 in North Norfolk.

Good health scores: The healthiest district is the Isles of Scilly with 97% or more households rating themselves as being in good or relatively good health. Chiltern, South Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Aberdeenshire share second place with 96.8%. 94.6% of households rate themselves as in good or fairly good health across Britain.

Life expectancy for males at birth is highest in South Cambridgeshire at 83 years, almost four years above the British average of 79.3 years.

Lowest rainfall: The lowest average annual rainfall is in Maldon, Essex at 561 mm. Eight of the ten driest districts in Britain are in the East of England, with the national average sitting at 878.8 mm.

Sun: Lucky residents in the Isle of Wight have the most sunshine; an average of 36.9 hours a week in fact. The national average is 29.5 hours.

Small primary school class sizes: Scotland has the smallest class sizes, with seven out of 10 local authority districts having the smallest primary school classes. The Western Isles has the lowest in the UK with an average of 17 compared to the national average of 26.4.

Best GCSE results: In North Lincolnshire, 89.4% of pupils earn five or more GCSE grades A-C, closely followed by Denbighshire in Wales at 88.8%. These are both well above the UK average of 82.4%

Personal wellbeing: Personal wellbeing is based on four factors: life satisfaction, purpose, happiness and anxiety.

  • Adults (16 and over) in Orkney have the highest average rating for life satisfaction in the UK. On a score out of ten, adults in Orkney had an average rating of 8.2 while the national average is 7.5.
  • A rating of 8.3 (out of ten) adults in Babergh in Suffolk believe that what they do in life is worthwhile, the highest average rating in Britain, which itself has a national average of 7.4.
  • Babergh adults are also the happiest with an average rating of 8.2, significantly higher than the national average of 7.4.
  • Adults in Richmondshire in North Yorkshire are the least anxious with an average rating of just 1.8. The national average is 2.9.

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The top table

And here it is, the top 50 rural local district authorities to live, as ranked by Halifax:

Rank

Local authority district

Region

1

Rutlands

East Midlands

2

Chiltern

South East

3

Uttlesford

East of England

4

South Northamptonshire

East Midlands

5

Rushcliffe

East Midlands

6

Waverley

South East

7

South Cambridgeshire

East of England

8

Mid Sussex

South East

9

Huntingdonshire

East of England

10

South Oxfordshire

South East

11

Babergh

East of England

12

East Hertfordshire

East of England

13

West Oxfordshire

South East

14

South Kesteven

East Midlands

15

East Cambridgeshire

East of England

16

North Kesteven

East Midlands

17

Aylesbury Vale

South East

18

Tonbridge and Malling

South East

19

Wealden

South East

20

Mid Suffolk

East of England

21

Orkney Islands

Scotland

22

Hambleton

Yorkshire and The Humber

23

Richmondshire

Yorkshire and The Humber

24

Selby

Yorkshire and The Humber

25

Malvern Hills

West Midland

26

Harborough

East Midlands

27

New Forest

South East

28

Vale of White Horse

South East

29

Wychavon

West Midlands

30

Tewkesbury

South West

31

South Derbyshire

East Midlands

32

St Edmundsbury

East of England

33

Tandridge

South East

34

South Staffordshire

West Midlands

35

South Norfolk

East of England

36

Ryedale

Yorkshire and The Humber

37

Test Valley

South East

38

West Berkshire

South East

39

East Riding of Yorkshire

Yorkshire and The Humber

40

Shetland Islands

Scotland

41

Cherwell

South East

42

Suffolk Coastal

East of England

43

Cotswold

South West

44

North Dorset

South West

45

Wiltshire

South West

46

Monmouthshire

Wales

47

East Dorset

South West

48

Newark and Sherwood

East Midlands

49

Aberdeenshire

Scotland

50

Herefordshire

West Midlands

Source: Halifax

Best rural area in your region

Local authority district

Region

Ranking

Rutland

East Midlands

1

Chiltern

South East

2

Uttlesford

East of England

3

Orkney Islands

Scotland

21

Hambleton

Yorkshire and The Humber

22

Malvern Hills

West Midlands

25

Tewkesbury

South West

30

Monmouthshire

Wales

46

Ribble Valley

North West

56

Northumberland

North East

76

Source: Halifax

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This article is updated each year

More on property:

How to beat Stamp Duty

The 10 best towns for landlords

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