Best locations for retirement living

Posted on: 14 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The pros and cons of the top 60 places to retire to in Britain.

Our run-down includes what’s good and what’s not so good.

Where Will You Spend your Retirement?

Discover the best places to retire in Britain.

North-East England

  • Berwick-upon-Tweed, Eastern Scottish Borders and Northumbrian Coast

Positives: Bird watching, clean air, history, moulting mute swans, scenery, walking and peace and quiet.

Negatives: Fifty miles from the nearest city, ASBO seagulls, poor shopping and a very small arts and entertainment scene.

  • Scarborough, North York Moors

Positives: Lively Victorian seaside town with two magnificent bays, good shopping, an arts scene and wonderful walking.

Negatives: A long way from an international airport.


North-West England

  • Chester, Welsh Borders

Positives: Walking country, an attractive, compact town with beautiful surroundings, affluent lifestyle and transport connections.

Negatives: It is expensive and touristy and some areas of the town are rough and should be avoided.

  • Kendal, Lake District

Positives: Affordable property and good scenery and transport connections, holistic spirituality is big in the area.

Negatives: The area is experiencing decline and low incomes.

  • Southport, Merseyside

Positives: Tremendous facilities and ambience with an arts scene.  Flat and easy to get around and transport connections.

Negatives: Some resentment towards incomers and a rise in the number of storm events observed in recent winters.

  • Whitehaven, Lake District

Positives: Historic, attractive town, Georgian architecture, money poured in for regeneration, natural beauty and wonderful views with friendly locals.

Negatives: Lacks an arts scene and Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant is a few miles south.

Central England

  • Cheltenham Spa, Cotswolds

Positives: Arts, beautiful surroundings and shopping.

Negatives: Popular with chavs.

  •  Chipping Campden, Cotswolds

Positives: Arty, friendly, social life and clubs, history, peace and quiet and walking.

Negatives: Car essential, parking, small town. 

  • Harrogate, Yorkshire Dales

Positives: Elegance, upmarket amenities and facilities, bustling, beautiful surroundings and walking.

Negatives: Part of God's Own Country, therefore everything about Harrogate is good.

  • Hereford, The Marches

Positives: Countryside, flat level, history, social life and walking.

Negatives: Not much to keep the grandchildren amused.

  • Leamington Spa, East Midlands

Positives: Architecture, green spaces, shopping and transport connections.

Negatives: Said to be not as friendly as many other places.

  • Malvern, Malvern Hills

Positives: Arts scene, fabulous countryside, transport connections great for active types.

Negatives: People who have retired there don't want anyone else to know about how great it is.

  • Shrewsbury, The Marches

Positives: Council tax low (band E £1,192), transport connections, history and medieval buildings.

Negatives: Traffic congestion.

East England

  • Fakenham, East Anglia

Positives: Attractive town, beautiful surrounding area, near the sea and cheaper than holt.

Negatives: Town lacks arts scene and has a reputation for dullness.

  • Frinton-on-Sea, East Anglia

Positives: Select atmosphere, primarily residential and retired, smart small shops, everything within walking distance and peace and quiet.

Negatives: Perhaps too select, terminally bored youths.

  • Holt, East Anglia

Positives: The health service is above average, crime is low, a pretty small town with upmarket shops and galleries.

Negatives: Filling up with ex-Londoners and the nearest serious arts scene is Norwich.

  • Hunstanton, The Wash

Positives: Flat seafront with miles of beaches, compact and good for the less agile, with fabulous walks and lively arts to enjoy.

Negatives: Very busy roads in summer and a high percentage of over 60's.

  • King's Lynn, The wash

Positives: Annual arts festival, history and attractive architecture with a beautiful surrounding area.

Negatives: Growing fast and developers are moving in.

  • Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire Fens and Wolds

Positives: Inexpensive eating places, a traditional seaside area with fabulous sandy beaches and everywhere is easily accessible for the disabled.

Negatives: The nearest hospital is 40 minutes away, there are cold east winds in the winter and it is very quiet out of season.  A bit run down with a high proportion of transients.

  • Skegness, Lincolnshire Fens and Wolds

Positives: A compact town which is flat for miles with a great bus service, big supermarkets and short hospital waiting times.

Negatives: Whiplash winds off the North Sea, caravan parks and can be very busy in the summer.

  • Southend-on-Sea, East Anglia

Positives: Majesty of the great tidal estuary of the River Thames, lots to do for retired people, quiet walks towards Shoeburyness can be found and London is easily accessible.

Negatives: It is the largest town in Essex, pretty low-lying with bingo halls along the seafront and drunken rowdies at night.

  • Southwold, East Anglia

Positives: Marvellous walking from the town, picture-book pretty, time stands still (almost), cosmopolitan with a vibrant community of professionals, artisans and the retired.

Negatives: Houses sell as fast as Glastonbury tickets.

  • Spalding, The Wash

Positives: A fascinating and friendly area with Georgian architecture, lots of space, fields of tulips and daffodils, landscapes and big skies.

Negatives: Increased risk of flooding from global warming.

South-East England

  • Herne Bay, North Kent Coast

Positives: Quiet and affordable with travel connections and improving facilities.

Negatives: Winds straight from the Arctic and the wind farm is an eyesore.

  • Rye, Romney Marshes

Positives: Pretty medieval walled town, with history, seclusion and great cycling, walking and bird watching.  Also very handy for Dover and Folkestone.

Negatives: Very expensive, Lydd airport may expand and the bus services are sparse.

South-West England

  • Bath Spa, West Country

Positives: A sophisticated lifestyle, a massive arts scene, cool shops and elegant architecture.

Negatives: A mega tourism spot, expensive and parking is a nightmare.

  • Dorchester, West Country

Positives: Lively arts scene and transport connections.

Negatives: Conservative with a big 'C' and Poundbury extension on outskirts.

  • Exmouth, West Country

Positives: Famous beach and views with easy connections to nearby Exeter.

Negatives: Prevailing winds.

  • Isle of Portland, West Country

Positives: This is an island, but not an isolated one with beautiful seascapes and great outdoor life.  It is fairly undiscovered and there is relatively cheap property.

Negatives: There are no big supermarkets and limited property comes on to the market and is snapped up for holiday homes.

  • Minehead, West Country

Positives: Beautiful surrounding countryside and property is slightly cheaper than the South Coast.

Negatives: A bit off the main routes, although some would see this as an advantage, a car is essential and it can be very quiet in winter.

  • Poole, West Country

Positives: This is one of the top retirement places in Britain and there is a high level of care services for the elderly.  Aquatic sports and sailing par excellence.

Negatives: This is the most expensive retirement place in Britain, the area is also hilly.

  • Roseland, Cornwall

Positives: Unique scenery, peaceful with wonderful walking, several pretty hamlets and a mild climate.  A sociable and freindly area with lots of water-based activities.

Negatives: Nearest large supermarket is 12 miles, isolated.

  • Sailsbury, West Country

Positives: A beautiful timeless city, culturally lively with excellent transport links.

Negatives: Doesn't move with the times and planners managed to do some damage to historic buildings in the 50's and 60's.

  • Seaton, West Country

Positives: Friendly and less crowded than many more popular resorts, with beautiful surrounding countryside and coast.  The seafront is long and flat and easily accessible for the less mobile.

Negatives: Less attractive seafront than many seaside places and considered downmarket.

  • Sidmouth, West Country

Positives: Busy socially, Sidmouth Folk Week occurs every August, good amenities and arts scene.

Negatives: It has a reputation as a hardcore oldie town, there is too much traffic on the seafront and property is expensive.

  • St Austell, Cornwall

Positives: This is the largest town in Cornwall, it is expanding and the town centre is being modernised.  The air is clean and there is a lot to do for the over-50's including excellent local adult learning facilities.

Negatives: It is flooded with visitors in the summer and it is lacking in aesthetic appeal.

  • Swanage, West Country

Positives: Lots of history, a beautiful, compact town and a fantastic location.

Negatives: Litter, traffic and public transport all need attention and a car is essential.

  • Torpoint, Cornwall

Positives: History and geography have kept it small and there is only one road into town.  The wider surroundings are spectacular and there is a frequent ferry to Plymouth.

Negatives: It is opposite the industrial navel dockyards which is an eyesore and the climate tends to be rainy.

  • Torquay, West Country

Positives: Has a balmy climate and is also home to a national flagship hospital.

Negatives: Intimidating inebriates around the harbour side.

  • Weymouth, West Country

Positives: A fantastic harbour area and a sailing paradise with wonderful walking and transport connections.

Negatives: The shopping and arts scene are limited, it isn't exciting enough for some people.

South Coast

  • Bognor Regis, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: It is in beautiful West Sussex, with lots of seafront retirement property and a good hospital in nearby Chichester. Property is cheaper than usual on the south coast.

Negatives: It is culturally dull with poor shopping and a tatty seafront.

  • Bournemouth, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: Everything you need is near at hand, beaches and beautiful walks and lively nightlife, although some say overly so.

Negatives: It is expensive, very crowded in the summer and the centre is rowdy at night.

  • Chichester, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: It has arts, history, gentility and elegance with many computer literate seniors.

Negatives: It is expensive with excessive traffic and parking a problem, also a third of residents are over 60.

  • Christchurch, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: History, a strong identity, a pleasant lifestyle, a Mediterranean microclimate and retirement developments.

Negatives: Part of Bournemouth conurbation, 1 in 4 of the population is over 60 and it is in a high crime area.

  • Eastbourne, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: A great sunshine record, beaches, public gardens and smart amenities.  Safe, except at night.

Negatives: Loutish drinkers.

  • Isle of Wight, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: Congestion free roads and the best beaches in England.

Negatives: It is expensive and inconvenient getting on and off the island and the roads are in disrepair.

  • New Forest, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: It has history, commoners' rights, lots of outdoor activities and transport connections.  Large animals can be found roaming free.

Negatives: Its National Park status attracts trampling hordes, it is expensive and has a rising older population.

  • Shoreham-by-Sea, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: A historic river estuary setting, picturesque, a conservation area and traditional houseboat community.

Negatives: The surrounding area is very built up, it is fairly inactive economically and not much property comes on the market.

  • Worthing, South Coast and New Forest

Positives: There are excellent bus and train services, excellent medical facilities, a core development plan is underway and property is cheaper than Brighton & Hove.

Negatives: May just be the town with highest number of oldies in Britain.

Isles of Scilly

  • Isles of Scilly, The Scillies

Positives: Beauty of landscape, calmer pace of life, mild climate, friendly people and crime is almost non-existent.  Dinghy sailing and many other water and outdoor activities are available.

Negatives: Arts (but not artists) are very limited, property is expensive and there are few on the market.  It is isolated, foggy, there is a premium on everyday shopping and the hospital on the island is limited.

North Wales

  • Llandudno, North Wales Coast

Positives: A pretty town, spectacular views, a fantastic Victorian promenade, nice and flat for the less agile and great walking nearby for the more agile.

Negatives: It is unsophisticated and the beaches are packed in summer.

  • Moelfre, Anglesey

Positives: A mild climate, on a very beautiful island with fantastic bird and nature watching.  Empty beaches, walking, good connections to mainland and a wonderful community life for older folk.

Negatives: It is remote from most places and 75% are over 65 years of age.

  • Rhyl, North Wales Coast

Positives: Beautiful wild surroundings, it isn't remote, it has two hospitals, excellent road connections and two airports within an hour's drive.  Property is also cheaper than in most seaside places.

Negatives: It has become run down over the last ten years and run down housing is inhabited by the unemployed and those with drug problems.  Fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986) reached Rhyl, there are too many charity shops and subject to car boot sale mania.

South Wales

  • Brecon, Brecon Beacons

Positives: Sociable and safe, the air is clean, great walking and fabulous surroundings, theatre and arts.

Negatives: Late night brawling outside pubs, it is small, there is too much traffic with no pedestrian precinct and a predominantly older population.

  • Abergavenny, Brecon Beacons

Positives: A pretty town, glorious surroundings, public transport and theatre.

Negatives: Mostly middle class, rain, shopping, drug problems in parts.

  • Swansea, Swansea Bay

Positives: Arts and arts events, beaches and waterfront regeneration, Gower Peninsula and transport connections.

Negatives: A large, busy commercial city with a high crime rate and high rainfall.

  • Tenby and Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire Coast

Positives: Tenby has history, friendly people, clean air and is a beautiful walled town.  Saundersfoot is a pretty village, the sea is clear enough to see your feet in and has fabulous beaches and surroundings.

Negatives: Has inebriated stag and hen weekenders (Tenby), throngs in summer, is a cultural desert, fairly remote and has a poor bus service.

Central Wales

  • Builth Wells, Upper Wye Valley

Positives: Amenities more usual in a larger town, it has beautiful surroundings, wonderful walking and a community spirit, it is safe and friendly and a fishing mecca.

Negatives: A car is essential and petrol is expensive, it is a small rugby mad town where everyone knows everyone's business and the local community hospital may be closing.

North Scotland

  • Shetland Isles, Shetland

Positives: A high standard of living and amenities, longevity, unpolluted, community spirit and midnight fishing in summer.

Negatives: Alcohol abuse and associated violence is on the rise, it is treeless, winter makes you suicidal and the nearest acute hospital is Aberdeen.

East Scotland

  • Dunfermline, Kingdom of Fife

Positives: Friendly people, strong on community, a beautiful region with big shops, a great bus service and it is easy to access Edinburgh and many other interesting towns and cities.

Negatives: Bad driving and accidents.

  • Perth, Ancient County of Perth

Positives: It has history, handsome architecture, amenities and shops and beautiful surroundings.  There is great walking and golf, it is bustling and compact and has less through traffic than many places.

Negatives: Historical flooding problems (may be resolved by new flood defences) and cool summers.

Central Scotland

  • Stirling, The Lowlands

Positives: Attractive town and stunning castle, Scottish history in buckets and fabulous surroundings including the Trossachs and Loch Lomond.  It is less than an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Negatives: Flooding, as recently as 2006 parts of the Riverside area of Stirling were underwater and inhabitants had to be rescued by the fire brigade.

By Victoria Pybus

Victoria Pybus is athor of Where to Retire in Britain, published by Crimson Publishing, priced £12.99 at all good bookshops, direct from or online at Amazon for £12.34.

Where Will You Retire?

Do any of these retirement destinations appeal to you? Would you rather stay near friends and family? Or do you want to spend your retirement in sunnier climes? You can share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or visiting the 50connect forum.

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