The Orkney Islands in Scotland are rated as the rural district of the UK with the highest quality of life for the second year in a row.
The wild and remote archipelago off the north coast of Scotland won the accolade for the best countryside living after scoring well on employment rate, education, crime rate and overall life satisfaction and happiness.
Rutland in the East Midlands shot up the chart to second place from 19th position last year, pushing Wychavon in the West Midlands to third place, according to Halifax’s annual survey.
Best rural districts: Orkney Islands top rankings for second year running
The survey takes into account a wide range of factors, from residents’ health, employment, crime rates and education to home size, broadband speed, pollution, weather and number of pubs and other leisure places.
The Orkney Islands had the highest employment rate in the UK and the highest average spend per pupil on education, while also scoring high in happiness and satisfaction and having among the lowest crime rates and anxiety levels in the country.
However, while there is plenty of space, the Orkney Islands have some of the smallest houses in Britain with an average of 4.6 habitable rooms per home – compared to the national average of 5.4 rooms.
The people living in Rutland in the East Midlands have the second best quality of life, with male and female average life expectancy of 82 and 85 years respectively, with nearly all adults considering themselves to be in good health.
Rural idyll: The Orkney Islands were named as the best place to live in the countryside
Why the Orkney Islands won: They scored high in happiness and satisfaction and had among the lowest crime rates and anxiety levels in the country
Nine out of ten homes have super-fast broadband and, unlike the Orkney Islands, Rutland residents have some of the biggest homes in rural Britain, with an average of 6.4 habitable rooms per home.
Schools in the area also performed well, with the highest percentage (70 per cent) of 15-year-olds achieving five or more GCSEs at grades A to C in the UK.
Famous landmark: Water Park in Rutland, which has shot up the chart to second place from 19th last year
Wychavon in the West Midlands, and Winchester and Waverley in the south east are also in the top five, scoring well on personal well-being and life expectancy. Waverley has the highest weekly wage in the UK at £921.
The report shows that almost a third of the top 50 best countryside places to live are in southern and eastern England, including nine districts in the south east and 10 each in both the south west and the east of England.
Scores well on life expectancy: Wychavon in West Midlands was the third best rural place to live in the UK
Some of the areas outside these regions making the top 50 include Craven and Richmondshire in Yorkshire and the Humber as well as Stratford on Avon in the West Midlands and Monmouthshire in Wales.
Craven, which is in sixth place, has the happiest adults in the country, while Copeland in the north west has the lowest average house price to earnings ratio of 4, nearly half the national average of 7.5.
Feelgood factor: The area of Craven in Yorkshire has the happiest adults in the country
People living in Swale in Kent had the best internet access and the lowest CO2 emissions in the country, while the Isle of Wight was crowned the sunniest place, with its residents enjoying an average of 36.9 hours of sunshine a week (against a national average 29.8 hours).
Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax said: ‘With strong education and employment levels, low crime rates and residents loving life, not to mention breathtaking wide open spaces, the Orkney Islands have retained the crown of Britain’s best rural place to live.
Best paid population: Waverley has the highest weekly wage in the UK at £921, Halifax said
‘The winning formula for quality of life in the countryside seems to consistently include high employment levels and top scores on wellbeing, along with low school class sizes and high average spend per pupil – more than twice the national average.
‘However, there is more variety and balance across the country scoring strongly across each category this year, with rural areas in the south east receiving higher weekly earnings, while the East Midlands have larger property sizes.
‘On the southern coast, sunnier climates shine through in the rankings, while, lower house prices to earnings, wellbeing and class sizes give northern areas the desirability factor.’
|Local Authority Districts||Region||Ranking|
|Craven||Yorkshire and The Humber||6|
|Richmondshire||Yorkshire and The Humber||7|
|Uttlesford||East of England||9|
|Ryedale||Yorkshire and The Humber||10|
|South Oxfordshire||South East||11|
|Selby||Yorkshire and The Humber||12|
|St Edmundsbury||East of England||13|
|Suffolk Coastal||East of England||14|
|Hambleton||Yorkshire and The Humber||16|
|West Oxfordshire||South East||17|
|South Cambridgeshire||East of England||21|
|Babergh||East of England||24|
|Maldon||East of England||25|
|Aylesbury Vale||South East||27|
|West Dorset||South West||29|
|East Devon||South West||30|
|Mid Devon||South West||31|
|Malvern Hills||West Midlands||33|
|South Norfolk||East of England||34|
|South Lakeland||North West||35|
|Vale of White Horse||South East||36|
|South Hams||South West||37|
|Huntingdonshire||East of England||38|
|North Warwickshire||West Midlands||40|
|East Hampshire||South East||42|
|Central Bedfordshire||East of England||43|
|Derbyshire Dales||East Midlands||44|
|North Devon||South West||45|
|Mid Suffolk||East of England||46|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||Yorkshire and The Humber||47|
|Ribble Valley||North West||49|
|North Kesteven||East Midlands||50|