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9 exceptional places to live for an incredible lifestyle (not too) far from the crowds

9 exceptional places to live for an incredible lifestyle (not too) far from the crowds
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Want to make a fresh start? From remote coastal towns to the quietest countryside – and everything in between – allow us to inspire you

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We all love to get away from it all on holiday, but getting that balance right when it comes to picking somewhere new to live can feel more daunting. You want somewhere remote enough to feel like it’s an escape, yet within easy driving reach of the essentials as and when you need them. Luckily, the UK has an abundance of beautiful towns, villages and coastal regions where the good life – strong communities, access to nature, the space to live and work as you choose – is there for the taking.

Best for getting away from it all

Orkney Islands 

Scotland’s islands are both remote and beautiful and the archipelago of islands that makes up the Orkneys – located just above John o’ Groats – is no exception. Orkney itself (known as Mainland) is routinely cited as one of the best places to live in the UK for its combination of lifestyle, ancient history and deep connection to nature. The pretty town of Stromness on the southwestern part of the island is celebrated for its offbeat, creative vibe and as the site of main ferry port, its well-connected (in relative terms – the population tops no more than 2,200 overall).


Pembrokeshire

From the puffins on Skomer Island to exploring the Welsh Coast Path, this exceptionally beautiful Welsh county boasts more than 50 beaches and has been honoured with the title of second-best coastline in the world by National Geographic magazine. Which sounds great for a holiday right, but to live? In fact, for a remote coastal spot, Pembrokeshire boasts more than its fair share of pretty inland towns, one of which – the market town
of Narberth – was rated as one of the top 10 places to live in the UK in 2019. Not quite ready to say goodbye to city life? Then head for St David’s – home to just over 1,400 residents it’s the smallest city in the UK.

Yorkshire Dales

The current All Creatures Great and Small reboot has re-turned the attention to this beautiful part of Britain, all picture-postcard villages and sweeping views across rolling valleys around. But it’s Clapham (no relation to the chichi south London neighbourhood) that perfectly sums up the spirit of both community and ingenuity in these parts.
Of course, the great paradox (and somewhat bittersweet irony) is that the freedom to live remotely depends, for many of us, deeply dependent on modern technology, but this tiny village proves it can be done – it boasts a brand-new super fast broadband network that, earlier this year, its 600-odd residents pulled together to build and install itself.


Best for foodies

Co Antrim, Northern Ireland

With a population of just 150 people, Rathlin Island on the northern most coast of Northern Ireland certainly wins points for ‘remote’. But its proximity to the pretty seaside town of Ballycastle a short ferry ride away might go part way to explain why that population, while still small, is growing. (The dramatic Game of Thrones scenery doesn’t hurt.) In recent years, Ballycastle has developed a buzzing reputation with foodies who come here for everything from dedicated food tours to the seafront artisan food market from which independent local businesses sell everything from craft ales to local cheese. With Belfast an easy not-quite-20 mile drive away, it’s the best of both worlds.

Scottish Highlands

You don’t have to head to the islands to enjoy some of Scotland’s most picturesque treats. Beautiful villages such as Ullapool (population 1,500) situated on the edge of Loch Broom is just a 90-minute drive from Inverness but a world away from anything close to the bustle of the city. For a – quite literal – flavour of the place, check out just-released cookbook from the Seafood Shack:Food & Tales From Ullapool, by locals Fenella Renwick and Kirsty Scobie. The considerably more remote Achiltibuie is a further 24-miles up the coast again. Gateway to the truly stunning Summer Isles (of which Tanera Mor was the last-inhabited), the village is home to an enclave of artists, musicians and craftspeople.   

Best for variety

Forest of Dean

Remote doesn’t have to mean coastal. This is ancient English woodland in Gloucestershire, said to have inspired Tolkien’s setting for Lord of the Rings and home
to wild boar, offers nature at its finest and ideal for all kinds of individuals and families looking to up sticks and relocate. The area it covers is large and varied enough to meet most requirements, whether that’s good schools with easy access to one of the bigger towns and cities (such as Chepstow of Gloucester) nearby, strong community spirit or
a complete change of lifestyle entirely. Both close enough to nature and remote as you need or would like it to be.


Cornwall

This beautiful corner of southern England has been a lure to settlers of all persuasions for centuries and offers myriad ways of getting lost while still having some of the UK’s most dramatic scenery and vibrant communities in easy reach. The university town of Falmouth has, in recent years, become a hub for creatives of all sizes – from tech start-ups to artists and makers – while the area surrounding tiny, picturesque Mousehole (pronounced ‘muzzle’) is an increasingly popular option for new arrivals and no wonder. It offers that close-up community feel within easy striking distance of Penzance and buzzing St Ives, just 3.2 and 10.9 miles (in that order) drive away. 

Best for getting away while feeling connected

Essex

Yes, really. Essex gets a bad rap but the fact of it is there’s a reason why so many Londoner’s moved there from the capital in the 1980s and 90s and that’s because
the county is full of rolling hills and remote countryside while remaining in easy reach
of multiple urban destinations, including London (one town, Sewardstone, even comes with a London postcode – E4– despite being firmly within Epping Forest District). Maldon – world-famous for its salt and currently ranking at five as one of the UK’s best places to live – is just one example of a part of the region that confounds preconceived expectations. But if you really want to get away from it all and stay within an hour’s drive of the M25? Then Mersea Island – which, thanks to tidal changes that mean it can only
be accessed twice a day for roughly one week every month– offers just that.

 

Kent & Sussex

First it was Brighton and Eastbourne, thenMargate and Broadstairs – the towns that run along the Kent and Sussex coastlines have become increasingly desirable in recent years, particularly to young creatives looking to move out but still stay within easy reach of the ‘big smoke’. A few more undiscovered gems are still there for the taking – one of the most surprising of which might just be Dungeness. While previously more notorious for its nuclear power plant, its most lasting legacy is proving to be Prospect Cottage – former home of filmmaker Derek Jarmon (for whom Tilda Swinton was a muse) – which serves as a lure to artists to this day. A little further along the coast, meanwhile, is the pretty West Sussex seaside town of Worthing. Perfectly situated at the foot of the South Downs, it’s just 11miles west of Brighton. Need we say more?


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