Some are beautiful country villages, others are vibrant cities, but all of them are places where you can be sure of a happy welcome. What makes one location better than another' It might be the weather, it might be the shops and amenities, or it might be something much harder to define. A good community spirit. Happy, smiling faces. Neighbours looking out for each other. A quality of life that statistics cannot measure. Nominating the 20 happiest places in Britain is necessarily a subjective exercise. How wide is a smile' How long is a piece of string' But if anyone is qualified to make such judgements, it is probably us. Since our first branch opened 180 years ago, we have acquired extensive local knowledge in towns and cities across the country. We notice which communities are relaxed, at ease with themselves, and which seem a bit more care-worn. So here is our happiest twenty, in no particular order, with some insights from our experts on the ground and some properties currently on the market. [slideshow_deploy id='3147'] If you're looking to buy, sell, rent or let then click here to book an appointment with one of our experts.
Some are beautiful country villages, others are vibrant cities, but all of them are places where you can be sure of a happy welcome.
What makes one location better than another' It might be the weather, it might be the shops and amenities, or it might be something much harder to define. A good community spirit. Happy, smiling faces. Neighbours looking out for each other. A quality of life that statistics cannot measure.
Nominating the 20 happiest places in Britain is necessarily a subjective exercise. How wide is a smile' How long is a piece of string' But if anyone is qualified to make such judgements, it is probably us. Since our first branch opened 180 years ago, we have acquired extensive local knowledge in towns and cities across the country. We notice which communities are relaxed, at ease with themselves, and which seem a bit more care-worn.
So here is our happiest twenty, in no particular order, with some insights from our experts on the ground and some properties currently on the market.
You always see a lot of happy faces in the vicinity of canals, and the ancient market town of Devizes, on the Kennet and Avon, offers canal-side living at its best. There are some beautiful old buildings in the town centre and, just to show that Devizes has its heart in the right place, a flourishing brewery. For sale: a stunning six-bedroom home that dates back to the 17th century with a beautiful garden and outbuildings £1,200,000 (01380 729 777).
Tourists flock to Winchester because of its history and its magnificent cathedral. But modern Winchester is a vibrant and cheerful community, set amid lush green countryside, but within commuting range of London. Always scores highly in ?quality of life? league tables, and you can see why. It is just so wonderfully stress-free. ?It is a vibrant artistic community, and there are some great schools, both state and private,? says Debbie Boothroyd of Winkworth Winchester. Expect to pay about £150,000 for a one-bedroom flat and up to £2.5 million for a large detached house. For sale: a large flat in a beautiful period conversion with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and lots of original features including ceiling roses, fireplaces and panelled doors. £795,000 (01962 866 777).
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Put away those stereotypes about grumbling Yorkshiremen. In a 2014 survey by Rightmove, Harrogate was voted the happiest place in Britain for the second year running. It is the English spa town par excellence, seen at its best in spring, when the daffodils are out. For sale: a superb, privately situated residential and sporting estate within the North York Moors National Park. The property is spacious with five bedrooms and three reception rooms. Aislaby, Nr Whitby, North Yorkshire, £1,450,000 (01932 500 200).
Anyone who only knows Oxford through Inspector Morse will probably assume it is teeming with scholarly dons and students. Nothing could be further from the truth. Modern Oxford is a bustling, friendly, cosmopolitan city, with a funky cafe' around every corner. ?Oxford offers city life, but with the countryside on your doorstep,? says Hannah Walsh of Winkworth Oxford. The average four-bedroom detached house costs between £700,000 and £800,000, but you can get modern two-bedroom terraces for around £225,000. For sale: a spacious family home with fabulous views, located off Cumnor Hill, Oxford. There are five bedrooms, three reception rooms and a well-established garden. £520,000 (01865 511 333).
When social researchers try to measure the ?quality of life? in different parts of Britain, factoring in everything from the weather to bus services to life expectations, Hart regularly comes out on top of the pile. It is just a great all-round area, offering something for everyone. ?The beauty of Hart is that it is not dominated by any one town, but has numerous classic Hampshire villages, with village greens and pubs,? says Michael O?Shea of Winkworth Basingstoke. You can get starter homes in some new developments for not much more than £100,000. For sale: Near to the centre of the pretty village of Crondall, this home has four bedroom and a large garden backing onto a beautiful spring-fed pond. £850,000 (01252 733042)
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
No city of comparable size in Europe has more trees than Sheffield, which may explain why so many of its residents seem so happy with their lot. Would you rather live in a concrete jungle or surrounded by greenery?
Lewes, East Sussex
The only thing that disturbs the peace of Lewes, snuggling in the South Downs, is the odd high note from a Hungarian soprano at neighbouring Glyndebourne. The town seems quite sedate at first blush but, once you get to know it, has a wonderfully bohemian side. For sale: a four-bedroom period property in the heart of Lewes. It has an eclectic mix of original features and exposed floorboards. £595,000 (01273 471471).
Somerset folk tend to have a sanguine outlook on life, particularly when they have a glass of cider in their hand. And you won?t find many grumblers in Taunton. A survey last year found that its residents were happier with their local community than almost anyone else in the country.
Greenwich and Blackheath, South-east London
South-east London is going from strength to strength, thanks to improved rail links, and nowhere is reaping the benefit more than Greenwich and Blackheath. You can see why so many of the locals are grinning. They are living in a well-heeled, but relaxed community, with some of the best views in London. For sale: On the edge of the heath, this home has great views as well as loads of period features including wooden shutters, cornices and fireplaces. OIE £3,000,000 (020 8852 0999).
Brighton, East Sussex
If you cannot be happy in Brighton, you cannot be happy anywhere. Its mixture of old-world charm and contemporary swagger, is irresistible. To be within easy reach of London, strolling on the beach and sucking sea air into your lungs, would be many people?s idea of heaven.
For people who love the West Country, but want urban excitement as well as fields of cows, Exeter ticks all the boxes. There are some great shops and restaurants, the university adds youthful enthusiasm, and if you cannot appreciate the South Devon coast, there is probably something wrong with you. ?Exeter offers everything from Roman ruins to pretty Georgian streets,? says Simon Scott-Nelson of Winkworth Exeter. ?Then, on the fringes, you have got some great beaches and the wilder expanses of Dartmoor.? For sale: On the outskirts of the city, this four bedroom home has river views and a large garden, meaning you get the best of city living with added tranquility. £795,000 (01392 271177).
You won?t find many people complaining in Elmbridge, the Surrey commuter belt at its leafy best. Another area that always scores highly in ?quality of life? surveys?, the Elmbridge district comprises everyone from picturesque villages to St George?s Hill in Weybridge, where the millionaires hang out. ?The borough has some of the most beautiful countryside and villages that the UK has to offer, not to mention diverse entertainment and culture,? says Tom Lepsky of Winkworth Weybridge and Cobham. For sale: For the ultimate luxury property look no further than this five-bedroom home in the exclusive St George?s Hill. £8,950,000 (01483 339977).
The Scilly Isles
The Scilly Isles not only have some of the mildest weather in the British Isles, but the lowest crime rate. It is one of the few places where people regularly leave their front doors open when they go out ? which might almost be a definition of happiness.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, writing angry letters to newspapers, is part of English folklore. But not many people who live in this charming Kent town seem disgusted, or even mildly disgruntled. The shops are great, the town centre has real architectural grace and the surrounding countryside is wonderfully easy on the eye. For sale: an impressive six-bedroom family house built in the early 1900's ? located in one of the best residential areas of the town. £2,000,000 (01892 519600).
The Romans loved it. Jane Austen loved it. Everybody loves it. And why wouldn?t they? For a UNESCO World Heritage Site, fabled for its architecture, Bath has managed to stay remarkably un-pompous. It is a fun, laid-back city, with residents who know how to enjoy the good things in life. For sale: a fine two/three-bedroom Grade-II Listed Georgian maisonette garden apartment, situated adjacent to Queen Square and Royal Victoria Park. £699,950 (01225 829 000).
Few areas of natural beauty in England can match the Vale of Belvoir, dominated by Belvoir Castle. From Margaret Thatcher?s home town of Grantham, to the weather-beaten Lincolnshire villages that give the area its charm, there is a sense of quiet contentment in the air. For sale: a splendid rural Georgian gem, with 4 bedrooms, located in an enviable position within the magnificent Vale of Belvoir. £620,000 (01476 578888).
Llandudno, North Wales
You would never guess it, but seven of the eight warmest January days in the UK in the last century were in Llandudno. Its sheltered location is allied to a gracious, old-fashioned ambience. People always seem to have time to talk to each other.
Famous for ?Hovis Hill? in the iconic television commercial, Shaftesbury is the very epitome of good neighbourliness. 93.7 per cent of its residents ?look out for each other?, according to a 2012 Government survey ? the highest figure in the country. For sale: This home is in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has the views to match. £625,000 (01722 443000).
In a recent poll asking how content people were with their local communities, Inverness ranked second in the UK. The finding will come as no surprise to those who have discovered this most congenial part of Scotland, surrounded by matchless scenery.
Highgate, North London
If one thinks of London as a giant cluster of villages, Highgate has to be one of the most desirable villages in the capital. Why are the residents smiling? Partly because they can afford to live in such an exclusive area. But also because Highgate has stayed true to its village roots, with all the associated friendliness. For sale: a large three-bedroom flat in a Victorian conversion that has been beautifully remodelled so you have a blank canvas to work with when creating your ideal home. £700,000 (020 8341 1988).