Orkney, the Scottish archipelago known for its historic sites and vast landscapes, has been named the best place to live in the UK.
The area’s high levels of employment and low crime rate, combined with steady health and happiness scores, smaller class sizes in primary schools and strong exam results, saw it knock Hart in Hampshire off the top spot in the 2019 Halifax Quality of Life Survey.
Despite its remote location off the Scottish mainland, Orkney has been a consistently high scorer on the survey, claiming second place for the past two years.
But while Hart has topped the list of the 50 best places to live for five of the past six years, the latest result survey has seen it drop to number 13 in the rankings.
Anne Robertson, a local solicitor and estate agent in the smaller town of Stromness in Orkney, is unsurprised by the area’s new accolade.
She said older Orcadians who may have moved away for work often return to the islands to retire, while younger residents are attracted by the arts and music scene, and the established renewable energy and marine biology industries bring workers and students alike.
“We’ve only got a short distance between us and the north of Scotland, it’s not difficult to access,” she said.
“There’s nothing strange about us coming top of the places to live – it’s the sense of community at the heart of it that people respond to here, whether coming to work or study. And the sun doesn’t shine every day – but it shines enough.”
Nearly nine in 10 people in Orkney aged between 16 and 64 are in employment with weekly average earnings of £671. Average house prices on the islands stand at £173,349 - 5.2 times the average annual pre-tax local income – making the area one of the most affordable places to live in the UK.
Orcadians themselves reported being in good health, while the latest ONS figures showed residents to be among the most happy in the UK, with low anxiety rates.
Richmondshire in North Yorkshire, which has one of the highest ratios of pubs to population, has risen from ninth place last year to come in at second place on the survey. The area was boosted by its high personal wellbeing scores for life satisfaction and happiness, while having low levels of crime and traffic flows.
Rutland in the East Midlands took second place, followed by Hambleton in North Yorkshire and Eden in Cumbria in fourth and fifth place respectively.
The survey also highlighted a continuing north-south divide, with more than half of the top 50 places to live now found outside of southern England.
And while the South East was the region with the most entries on the list with a total of 18, including places such as South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse, the South West had just one spot on the list – the Cotswolds.
Only two areas in London made it onto the list, with Westminster taking 15th place and Richmond upon Thames coming at number 40.
The South scored better for long life expectancy and saw more people report good health.
It also has a strong labour market with high employment levels and average earnings.
The North fared better in terms of housing affordability with a low house price to earnings ratio, low traffic flows and crime rates, and fewer people per square kilometre.
Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines.