Fancy a house in the country? Head to the home counties for the highest quality of life in rural Britain

The verdant borough of Waverley in Surrey has recently been rated the best rural location in Great Britain. It includes the commuter towns of Godalming, Farnham and Haslemere

Woody Waverley (opens in new tab), in southwest Surrey, took the top spot in the 2013 Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life survey (opens in new tab). In second and third place respectively were Uttlesford (opens in new tab) in Essex and East Hertfordshire (opens in new tab).

‘The average [Waverley] resident has a high weekly income, enjoys above average health and life expectancy and low crime rates. But while they also benefit from a big home with central heating, living there does not come with a hefty price tag, with house prices relative to earnings below the average for rural areas,' enthuses Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis.

waverley in surrey has the best quality of life in rural britain

(Image credit: Rex Features)

Waverley's attractions are not lost on location scouts. Scenes from Sherlock Holmes, War Horse and the Harry Potter films have been shot in Bourne Wood (opens in new tab), near Farnham.

The Halifax researchers assessed employment, housing, environment, education and health in all 119 rural local authority districts to draw up their top 50 rural areas. Even broadband speed was considered to be a significant factor in contributing to quality of life!


Although Waverley did not win any category outright, it performed strongly across the board. For instance, the weekly wage is a hefty £888 - way above the national average of £609 - and the average house price is 5.6 times annual earnings, compared with 6 for all rural areas.

In total, 16 of the top 50 rural areas were in the South East, 13 in the East of England and 11 in East Midlands. The rest comprised five from the South West, three in Yorkshire and the Humber and two in the West Midlands.

lower house prices in rural districts in north

(Image credit: Rex Features)

But it's not all doom and gloom for those living outside the stockbroker belt. Rural districts in the north tend to have better school exam results and lower house prices in relation to earnings.

Scottish residents can take cheer from the fact that the Orkney Islands (opens in new tab) and Western Isles (opens in new tab) have the lowest burglary rates. North of the border is also best in terms of smaller primary-school class sizes, and Scotland has lower traffic flow and population density, too.

For the brightest weather, though, you need to head down south. Maldon (opens in new tab) in Essex enjoys the lowest average rainfall, while the sun shines on the Isle of Wight (opens in new tab) more than any other rural area of Great Britain.

If you want to live a long life, set up home in the West Country. The South West has four places in the top five for longevity. East Dorset (opens in new tab) folk clock up the most years, with an average male life expectancy of 82.

A rural area is defined as lying in a village or town with a population of 10,000 or less. A rural local authority district is one where the majority of residents live in rural areas.

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Heather Young
Heather Young

Heather Young has been Ideal Home’s Editor since late 2020, and also edits its sister title Style At Home. She is an interiors journalist and editor who’s been working for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines for over 20 years, both in-house and as a freelancer.