‘If you’re tired of London, then you’re tired of life’, a statement that is rapidly losing credibility as more and more people begin to put their mental health, personal wellbeing and sanity first as they decide to leave the rat race of London life behind in the pursuit of more affordable places to live, a better quality of life or simply somewhere to slow down and breathe.
For some people leaving London is a daunting prospect, after all, the capital does come with fantastic transport links, excellent job prospects, a bustling day and night life and access to almost every shop, restaurant and amenity you could want. Not to mention that London accounts for around 22 per cent of UK GDP and around 19 per cent of employment, making it a metaphorical honey pot for young, fresh students and business people looking to start their careers. But London is a city that can wear you out. The pace of London life is notoriously fast and the cost of living there is notoriously high, and at times, it can feel like you’re on a metaphorical hamster wheel that you simply can’t get off.
But don’t despair, if you’re tired of London living but not yet tired of life, then there are still places you can go. Here are five great places to live in the UK that will get you out of London but still provide you with everything you need to maintain a buzzing social life and a fulfilling career.
Just 45 minutes by train from the centre of London lies the beautiful, historic university city of Cambridge. World- renowned for its prestigious top ranking university, Cambridge is a melting pot of knowledge and innovation with a thriving up-and-coming technology community, meaning that if you don’t fancy the commute into London there are plenty of job opportunities on your doorstep.
Considering its relatively small size, with a population of just 123,867 people (including over 24,000 students), Cambridge still attracts big brand names and has a host of attractions such as historic museums, galleries and libraries that you’d be hard-pressed to find in any other comparatively sized location. In fact, people travel from all over the country to visit the famous Fitzwilliam museum, which has a vast collection of antiquities from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The river Cam runs scenically through the middle of cobbled stone streets, and as punting boats float gracefully down river it’s easy to fall in love with the ambience and history of Cambridge town centre.
As Christmas approaches, the famous Cambridge University choir perform their carols. It really is a truly magical place to be. Ask anyone living in Cambridge what they don’t like about the city and the only thing that comes up is the cost of accommodation. Sadly, when a city has so much to offer and at such proximity to London, this value is reflected in the house prices too. The prices are pretty similar to that found in London, but for many the charm, country vibes and history of Cambridge are worth the cost.
If you’re looking to make the breakaway from the hustle and bustle of London but still want a quick morning commute or an easy connection to friends in the city, then Reading and the surrounding areas may be the place for you.
With a 28-minute direct Great Western Rail service to London Paddington that runs regularly as often as every 7 minutes, it’s no wonder that Reading is considered a commuter haven. And for those who aren’t willing to give up their social life, then Reading is home to the infamous Reading Festival, has a modern central shopping complex, a truly bustling nightlife, and access to Oxford, Bristol and London within the hour.
For those looking for a more rural escape, Reading also provides nature lovers with access to the beautiful surrounding countryside, such as Sulham Woods and Clayfield Copse; not to mention the charming countryside of Henley-on-Thames, which is a short drive or train journey away and is home to the famous Henley Regatta.
Surprisingly, despite having a population greater than Cambridge, Reading is still classed as a town as it does not have a cathedral, but you’d never guess it lacked a city status from all that this place has to offer.
With jaw-droppingly picture-perfect rolling hills and countryside — such as Delamere Forest, which is just a stone’s throw from the bustling town centres and pretty little villages — it’s no wonder that Cheshire is such a popular county to live in. Quaint chocolate box villages can be found spread across the unspoilt countryside, whilst the City of Chester provides fantastic dining opportunities, modern shopping and vibrant entertainment for those who want a little more going on.
If you love a location with some history then the city of Chester boasts the largest Roman Amphitheatre in Britain, a 1000 year-old cathedral and the oldest racecourse in the country, not to mention some beautiful old buildings that will make it feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Ranking as one of the top places to live in the UK, it’s no wonder that the population of Cheshire is continuing to grow as people flock to some of the new housing builds from companies such as Redrow to make the most of what this country has to offer.
If you’re not ready to give up access to bustling city life and are concerned about job prospects then don’t fear, as Liverpool and Manchester are still only a short commute away and you can even still access London in a couple of hours.
According to a 2013 study, Sheffield was the happiest city in the UK to live in (now overtaken by Brighton) making it a great place to consider if you want to leave the dreary streets of London behind and inject some happiness and laughter back into your life.
As you enter Sheffield the city just feels friendlier, the people are nicer and the whole place feels more like a town than a city — people even speak to one another!
As another thriving university city, Sheffield still boasts an envious nightlife scene and is home to plenty of aspiring musical and theatrical talent. For those who like to frequent the theatre, both the old and new theatres stand literally side by side with the new Crucible standing proudly next to the historic Lyceum on the corner of Norfolk Street. These theatres offer some of the finest players in the country and people travel from all over the world to perform here. But if nightclubs, bars, theatres and live music isn’t your cup of tea then you’re literally five minutes by car or train from the infamous Peak District where you can walk, run, cycle, horse ride or climb some of the most famous terrain in the country. And for sport lovers Sheffield is also home to a thriving football culture and a strong sense of sporting community.
5. Brighton & Hove
Affectionately often nicknamed as ‘little London’ and also recently named the happiest place to live in the UK, Brighton has always been a popular spot for ex-Londoners looking to settle down by the sea. Despite a growing population of 290,395 and a never-ending influx of tourists, Brighton remains a personal and friendly seaside town with a real sense of community and an ‘anything goes’ vibe.
With a long-standing LGBT-friendly history it was recently estimated that up to 15 per cent of over 16-year-olds in Brighton were a part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transexual community and this part of Brighton’s culture makes it a unique and eclectic hub that is open and accepting of everyone.
Brighton is also renowned for its party scene and its infamous yearly Pride celebration which celebrates the diversity that Brighton has to offer. With some of the most popular pebble beaches in the country literally on your doorstep, a bustling pier and the world-famous South Downs just a short drive away, there really is no wonder that so many Londoners want to escape to the town.
Hosting a vibrant university culture and home to bars, pubs, clubs, shops, boutiques and restaurants galore you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason not to like this mini-London seaside town. But if you’re looking for somewhere a little more away from the nightlife, then the slightly quieter Hove end of Brighton offers a sophisticated retreat. If you do need to get back into the city, then it’s a reasonable 60-minute commute on the Gatwick Express into London Victoria, or a slightly longer 1 hour and 15 minutes into London Bridge or King’s Cross.
So if you’re currently feeling tired of London and are ready to make a move into one of the other bustling towns and cities that the UK has to offer, then take a look at these five, make a day trip to each and see if any of them work for you.