Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Want to escape to the country? Behold Britain's top 50 rural places to live in 2015


From rolling fields to lower property prices and people who actually say hello to you in the morning (rather than shove you out the way on the escalators), it's little surprise that more and more of us are craving the simple life of the countryside. 

Government figures released last year showed that Londoners in their thirties are leaving the capital in record droves of nearly 60,000 a year.

The big question, of course, is where to go.

A new survey has revealed the top 50 rural places to live in Britain, featuring areas that combine the country idyll of space and beautiful views with a great quality of life.

The annual Halifax review assesses the best countryside places to live based on a wide range of factors, including life expectancy, crime rates, weather, employments, school results, broadband access and personal well-being.

These are measured using figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and local government data.

Rutland in the East Midlands

Rutland in the East Midlands boasts one of the happiest populations in Britain

The tranquil East Midlands borough of Rutland - England's smallest county - has come out trumps this year, topping the list of best rural places for quality of life.

This gorgeous corner of Britain, known for its iconic Normanton Church on Rutland water (above), is all about sublime countryside peppered with sleepy villages and quaint market towns.

The survey found that residents here tended to be fit and well, with over 96% reporting good or fairly good health. The employment rate in Rutland is high, with four out of five of 16-64 year olds in occupation, and a weekly average earning of £623.

The area boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country and relatively good weather, with less rainfall per year here than the national average and more weekly sunshine hours (30.4 hours against the national average of 29.5 hours).

Perhaps due to all this, ONS data on personal well-being indicates that the Rutland adult population is among the most happy, satisfied and content in Britain.

Chiltern in the South East

Those living in Chiltern enjoy long life expectancy

Chiltern in the South East of England comes next on the list. 

A beautiful pocket of countryside just out of London, this county is home to the Thames-side market town of Marlow and the bustling Georgian hub of High Wycombe

The jewel in its crown is the Chiltern Hills (above), an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty that's perfect for a spot of walking, hiking and general exploration. 

"The inhabitants of this Buckinghamshire local authority district tend to be in good health, with a high average life expectancy of 82.2 years and 97% reporting good health," reads the entry on this year's survey. "The employment rate is 80% and those in full time occupation typically enjoy high incomes with weekly average earnings of £941 – the highest amongst rural areas in this survey. "

Gardens in Saffron Walden, in the East England borough of Uttlesford

Gardens in Saffron Walden, one of Uttlesford's charming market towns

In at third place of best rural places to live is Uttlesford in Essex

This region is ideally located for commuters, with close links to London and Cambridge and a real sense of countryside life. Beautifully preserved medieval towns include Thaxted and Saffron Walden, with its museums, mazes and public flower gardens (above). 

"Uttlesford has consistently reported positive scores across a wide range of indicators for a number of years," says Craig McKinlay, Halifax Mortgage Director. "And taking a wide range of economic and social factors into account residents here can now lay claim to having the highest standard of living in rural Britain."

The Towcaster race track in South Northamptonshire

The Towcaster race track in South Northamptonshire, the UK's fourth best place to live

South Northamptonshire has made the fourth most desirable place to live in the British countryside this year.

A rural and sparsely populated landscape, this area of the East Midlands has remained largely unchanged for decades, with miles of rolling green countryside, woodland and quiet country lanes.

Its Roman town of Towcester is home to a famous race course (above). 

Overall, the top 50 rural places to live in Britain are dominated by the South East with fourteen districts found in this region, followed by East of England which claims ten of the top 50 spots.

Southern areas tend to receive higher ratings for weekly earnings, the weather, health, and life expectancy. Whereas Northern areas score well on education in terms of grades and smaller class sizes, lower house prices in relation to earnings, and both lower traffic flows and population densities.

Come see all 50 of this year's best rural locations, below. 

The top 50 places to live in rural Britain

(in descending order)

Rutland, East Midlands
Chiltern, South East
Uttlesford, East of England
South Northamptonshire, East Midlands
Rushcliffe, East Midlands
Waverley, South East
South Cambridgeshire, East of England
Mid Sussex, South East
Huntingdonshire, East of England
South Oxfordshire, South East
Babergh, East of England
East Hertfordshire, East of England
West Oxfordshire, South East
South Kesteven, East Midlands
East Cambridgeshire, East of England
North Kesteven, East Midlands
Aylesbury Vale, South East
Tonbridge and Malling, South East
Wealden, South East
Mid Suffolk, East of England
Orkney Islands, Scotland
Hambleton, Yorkshire and The Humber
Richmondshire, Yorkshire and The Humber
Selby, Yorkshire and The Humber
Malvern Hills, West Midlands
Harborough, East Midlands
New Forest, South East
Vale of White Horse, South East
Wychavon, West Midlands
Tewkesbury, South West
South Derbyshire, East Midlands
St Edmundsbury, East of England
Tandridge, South East
South Staffordshire, West Midlands
South Norfolk, East of England
Ryedale, Yorkshire and The Humber
Test Valley, South East
West Berkshire, South East
East Riding of Yorkshire. Yorkshire and The Humber
Shetland Islands, Scotland
Cherwell, South East
Suffolk, Coastal East of England
Cotswolds, South West
North Dorset, South West
Wiltshire, South West
Monmouthshire, Wales
East Dorset, South West
Newark and Sherwood, East Midlands
Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Herefordshire, West Midlands

Photos: Rex Features and ThinkStock


Neilston, East Renfrewshire.jpg

Britain's most desirable postcodes for work-life balance revealed


The world's top 10 destinations of 2015

sleep pods.jpg

Sublime design; take a look inside the UK's most incredible offices


Meet the high-flying women who walked away from huge salaries


New restaurant openings for April


British bucket list: places to see and things to do before you die



Bake Off’s Mary Berry confirmed for brand-new cooking show

And it’s hitting our screens in time for a very Berry Christmas…

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Oct 2016

This 'Very British Problems' Twitter account is all of us

"Best weekend activity: a really nice sitdown"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
24 Oct 2016

13 Going on 30 is the latest film to get a musical makeover

by Amy Swales
24 Oct 2016

This streaming service is so boring it will send you to sleep

Forget Netflix and chill

by Harriet Hall
24 Oct 2016

Poldark slammed by women’s rights campaigners as “romanticising rape”

“It’s worse than if it had been a straightforward rape scene”

by Kayleigh Dray
24 Oct 2016

The selfie vs. the group photo: which actually makes us happier?

Time for an Instagram break?

by Moya Crockett
24 Oct 2016

Backlash follows Wonder Woman’s appointment as UN ambassador

The move has been called 'reductive'

by Harriet Hall
24 Oct 2016

Bake Off fans scandalised by Berry and Hollywood news: “I am OUTRAGED”

"It makes me feel sick and empty inside"

by Kayleigh Dray
24 Oct 2016

Meet the 'supermodel' dog whose hair is bewitching the internet

She probably has better hair than you

by Sarah Biddlecombe
24 Oct 2016

Male contraceptive pill (and nasal spray) could be here by 2021

Breakthrough “switches off sperm within minutes”

by Anna Pollitt
24 Oct 2016