Britain’s 10 best towns without the crowds (plus easy access to the countryside)


Over the past three years, for understandable reasons, the nation has become even more obsessed with the housing market than it had been. The focus was on the countryside: The Zoom dinner conversation was dominated by stories of neighbors who had put everything in place to start a pig farm in Somerset or build an ecolodge in the Highlands.

However, this trend is finally showing signs of reversing. Inquiries about moving to UK cities have increased by 50% in the year to January 2022, while the number of inquiries about country homes has started to slow. Many still want to leave the bustling metropolis and buy more space, but many of us are heading back to the office, and the need for convenience is moving up the priority list of shoppers.

As a result, the appeal of Britain’s smaller towns, often perceived as sleepy or off the beaten track, is on the rise for those who want easy and quick access to amenities, schools, jobs, public transport and greenery – a trend that analysts predict. continue to.

“Over the past few years, small towns have done well due to changing buyer preferences. They offer the best of both worlds for those looking to get away from the busier cities but don’t want to make the leap to rural life,” says Stephanie Thomson of Savills.

“Now that office workers are returning, local economies in these small towns should benefit from increased footfall and we expect some form of rebalancing away from rural markets,” she adds.

This was evident in Wells in Somerset – the UK’s smallest town. Demand in May was 24% higher than January 2020, while demand for Salisbury jumped 86% (Rightmove).

New research from Savills and The Telegraph reveals the most desirable ‘micro-cities’. The top 10 all have populations of around 100,000 or less; selections were made based on high home prices and home price trends over the past year and five years. The analysis also shows affordability relative to the county average.

Buyers fall for these old towns with historic centers, often near a cathedral; Yet housing prices in these areas are significantly lower than their counterparts in major cities like Mayfair in London, Clifton in Bristol or Summertown in Oxford.

Paul Swinney, director of policy and research for the Center for Cities, says small towns have a strong sense of community, which he attributes to having a centre, as opposed to the polycentric nature of London. Tradition and long-established culture play a role here too with eel throwing (not real eels) in Ely and pedal car racing in Lichfield.

Kate Eales, residential sector manager at Strutt & Parker, says life is easier in smaller towns, including Winchester, Chichester and Truro.

“The pace of life is slower. People want to be able to walk to public transport and easily park on downtown streets that welcome a buggy,” says Eales. “These towns have very attractive period housing and a range of stock, from small workers’ homes to large Georgian townhouses. Families and downsizers inquire very specifically about moving to such places.

Here are Britain’s 10 most sought-after historic small towns, where small truly is beautiful.

The 10 Most Desirable Small Towns

St Albans, Hertfordshire

⇢ Population: 82,146
⇢ Average property price: £624,789
⇢ Increase in house prices over the past five years: 13%
⇢ Properties here are 20% more expensive than the county average


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