Want to Escape to the Country? Try Rutland, Britain's best rural area for quality of life

30 March 2015

Residents of Rutland enjoy the best quality of life of any rural area in Great Britain, according to the 2015 Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey.

Quietly nestling in the tranquil East Midlands countryside, Rutland is well known for Rutland Water and an array of unspoilt villages and charming market towns. As an idyllic rural destination it has many attractions for tourists and is now officially Britain's best rural place to live.

The annual Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey takes a wide range of factors into account, including residents' good health and life expectancy, crime rate, weather, employment, school results, broadband access, and personal wellbeing. This is the first time Rutland has come top, although prior to this the East Midlands had made the top ten on three separate occasions , coming second in 2014, and seventh in both 2013 and 2012.

Why is Rutland such a good place to live?

  • Residents tend to be fit and well – over 96% reporting good or fairly good health.
  • The employment rate is high with four out of five of 16-64 year olds in occupation, with many residents enjoying high incomes with weekly average earnings of £623.
  • Inhabitants live in relative security with one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
  • Residents enjoy a relatively good climate - less rainfall per year than the national average (681 mm against 879 mm) and more weekly sunshine hours (30.4 hours against the national average of 29.5 hours).
  • 98% of all households have a good level of broadband access – compared to 87% for the Britain as a whole.
  • Importantly, the ONS survey on personal well-being indicates the Rutland adult population is among the most happy, satisfied and content in Britain.

On the flip side, the cost of living in Rutland is higher than in many other parts of Britain - with an average house price that is 6.7 times the average annual pre-tax local income, compared to the national average of 6.2.

Chiltern second most desirable place to live

Chiltern has moved up six places in 2015 to second place, up from eighth place in 2014. The inhabitants of this Buckinghamshire local authority district tend to be in good health, with a high average life expectancy of 82.2 years and 97% reporting good health. The employment rate is 80% and those in full time occupation typically enjoy high incomes with weekly average earnings of £941 – the highest amongst rural areas in this survey. School performance is also strong with 85% of 15+ year olds achieving five or more GCSE results at grades A-C.

There were several other big climbers in the top 20, with Huntingdonshire rising thirty six places to ninth spot, South Oxfordshire up nineteen places to tenth, Babergh in South Suffolk moving from forty-second position in 2014 to eleventh in 2014 and West Oxfordshire moving twenty seven places to thirteenth position. The main reason for these changes is that personal well-being of adults has improved since the last survey; adults are more satisfied, happy and less anxious about their lives. (See Table 1)

Craig McKinlay, Mortgages Director, Halifax, comments:

Rutland has moved up eleven places to the top spot in the 2015 Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey. Taking a wide range of economic and social factors into account residents here can now lay claim to having the highest standard of living in rural Britain.

"In terms of personal wellbeing and general good health, Rutland residents score among the highest in Great Britain. And while house prices relative to earnings are above the rural average, Rutland still performs strongly in terms of average weekly earnings and a high employment rate."

Three out of five top 50 areas for the best places to live are in southern England

The top 50 rural places to live in Britain are again dominated by the South East with fourteen districts found in this region, followed by East of England which claims ten of the top 50 spots.

Areas from outside the south in the top 50 besides Rutland include South Northamptonshire (4th), the Orkney Islands (21st), Hambleton in North Yorkshire (22nd) and Malvern Hills (25th).

Southern areas tend to receive higher ratings for weekly earnings, the weather, health, and life expectancy. Whereas Northern areas score well on education in terms of grades and smaller class sizes, lower house prices in relation to earnings, and both lower traffic flows and population densities.

Key facts

Labour Market

  • Employment is highest in Eden in Cumbria at 87.0%, ahead of North Dorset (85.2%) and Uttlesford (84.6%). The GB average is 72.2%.
  • The highest weekly average earnings are in Chilterns of £941 per week, followed by Waverley at £903p/w and South Oxfordshire £845 p/w. The GB average is £623 p/w.
  • The proportion of adults (16 years and over) with the highest level of qualification gained (such as a degree, NVQ level 4 and above or professional qualification) is Chiltern (55%) followed by Rushcliffe in Nottingham and Waverley both 54% – all significantly above the national average of 34.8%.


  • The biggest homes are in Uttlesford in Essex, Chiltern in Buckinghamshire and Rutland which all have an average of 6.4 habitable rooms. The average number of habitable rooms in Great Britain is 5.5.
  • 100% of homes in East Ayrshire have central heating; the national average is 96%.
  • The lowest average house price to earnings ratio in Copeland and East Ayrshire (both 3.8) and East Riding of Yorkshire (5.1).  The national average is 6.2.
  • 80% of local area districts households have access to superfast broadband, i.e. where download speed is greater than 25 megabits per second (Mbps).They include Waverley and Isle of Wight. Across all areas of Britain the majority of households have a good level of broadband access(i.e. a download speed of 2Mbps is regarded as the minimum for good broadband service).

Urban Environment

  • The Western Isles and Highlands takes the top spot for lowest population density, with just nine people per square kilometre, compared to a national average of 264. At the other end of the scale, the most populated rural areas per square kilometre are Thanet on the east Kent coast (1,323) and Arun in West Sussex (692).
  • The lowest traffic levels are found in the Western Isles with just 67 vehicles per square kilometre, Highland (100 vehicles/km), Isle of Scilly (125 vehicles/km) and Argyll & Bute (126 vehicles/km). The GB average is 8,792 vehicles/km.
  • Orkney Islands has the lowest burglary rate per 10,000 people (1.0) followed by Western Isles (5.4), North Norfolk (7.3), Broadland in the East of England (8.0), and Eden in the North West (8.1).
  • The lowest CO2 emission is in St. Edmundsbury in West Suffolk, Taunton Deane and Mid-Devon all with 2.1 tonnes of CO2 per household. The national average is 2.3 tonnes of CO2 per capita.

Physical Environment

  • The lowest average annual rainfall (561 mm) is in Maldon in Essex.Eight of the ten driest districts in Britain are in the East of England. In the UK average annual rainfall is 878.8 mm.
  • Conversely, the sunniest place in the UK is the Isle of Wight where residents enjoy an average of 36.9 hours of sunshine a week. The national average is 29.5 hours.


  • The healthiest district is Isles of Scilly with 97% or more households rating themselves in good or fairly good health. Followed by Chiltern, South Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Aberdeenshire (all 96.8%). In Britain as a whole 94.6% of households rate themselves as in good or fairly good health.
  • Life expectancy for males at birth is highest in South Cambridgeshire (83 years). The GB average is 79.3 years.


  • Primary school class sizes are smallest in Scotland, with seven of the 10 local authority districts with the smallest primary school classes here. The Western Isles has the lowest in the UK with 17.0 compared to a national average of 26.4.
  • The best GCSE results in England and Wales are in North Lincolnshire where 89.4% of pupils achieved five or more GCSE grades A-C followed by Denbighshire in Wales (88.8%). All are above the UK average of 82.4%.

Personal Well-Being

  • Personal well-being is based on four categories – life satisfaction, worthwhile, happiness and anxiety:
    • Adults (16 and over) in Orkney have the highest average rating for life satisfaction in the UK. Based on a score out of ten, the adults in Orkney had an average rating of 8.2.The GB average is 7.5.
    • With a rating of 8.3 (out of ten) adults in Babergh is Suffolk believe what they do in life is worthwhile, the highest average rating in Britain. The national average is 7.8.
    • Babergh adults are also the happiest with all having an average rating of 8.2 – significantly higher than the GB average of 7.4.
    • Adults in Richmondshire in North Yorkshire are the least anxious with an average rating of just 1.8. The average for GB is 2.9.