Best places to live in the UK

So you’re returning to your home country after a period abroad, and haven’t yet made up your mind where to settle?
We’re blessed in the UK with a huge variety of fantastic villages, towns and cities which would welcome you and your family after your sojourn overseas. Whether you love a metropolitan buzz or prefer peace and quiet, there’s sure to be somewhere here for you.
Why not take your time to explore your home country a little before you make your decision? Expat car insurance arranged by Insurance Factory is specially designed to suit motorists returning from EU or Commonwealth countries, and we’d be delighted to give you a quote for cover.
And while you’re contemplating where to live, do take a look at our guide to apps to help you adjust to life back in the UK.

Here’s our guide to some of the gems that the UK has to offer. Which one might you choose to call home?

Best for urban variety

If you love being busy, meeting new people, and discovering new venues, then city life offers you all the cultural activities that you crave. Check out Nomad Nation’s list of cool places to live for 10 top UK cities, ranging from the mega to the manageable..
London needs no introduction: it’s one of the world’s great cities, with top class art galleries, theatres, and monuments, as well as beautiful green parks and the splendid River Thames.
Where to live in London? Well, a lot depends on the budget – and if you’ve been living abroad for some time, you might be staggered by house prices here. Dalston is up-and-coming, while the south-east around Abbey Wood will soon benefit from Crossrail. For the best travel connections, though, look north and west.
If you’ve been away for a while, look out for changes to motoring in London such as the congestion charge and Ultra-Low Emission Zone. Make sure you’re covered with expat car insurance, too.
Bristol is a popular choice for those who love city living, but find London a bit overwhelming or overpriced. It’s got all the cosmopolitan buzz you might hope for, plus proximity to amazing countryside in the West Country and Wales.
So if you’re one of the many people who love city living AND the outdoors, then check out Bristol. Try house-hunting in Southville or the Gloucester Road area for hip bars; or Clifton for designer boutiques and sweeping views over the Avon Gorge.
For a surprising third suggestion in this category, what about Portsmouth? This city on the south coast packs a huge amount of rich history into its compact size, and has a lively student scene as well. Southsea is the more upmarket end, while Old Portsmouth retains something of a fishing village feel.
And let’s not forget Scotland’s fine capital. Edinburgh has culture, scenery, and history galore, plus the fantastic festival in the summer and Hogmanay celebrations at New Year. Consider moving to the port area of Leith for an enticing mix of independent shops and bars – it was recently declared  one of the top 5 coolest neighbourhoods in the world by Time Out.
Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, also make it into Nomad Nation’s Top 10. They’re both vibrant cultural capitals in their own right, and many people find the pace of life less frenetic than in London. In Cardiff, consider Canton for your new home, while in Belfast, Stranmillis is a good place to look.

Best for retirees

Many pensioners, however, choose to leave the exciting city life behind and retire somewhere with a slower pace of life. According to a survey of 1,000 people by Age Co, 73% would like to relocate in retirement, with 24% having definite plans to do so.
So if you’re retiring back to the UK after working abroad, where might you consider? Which locations will offer you the best quality of later life, and the chance to make friends with like-minded retirees?
Age Co created a shortlist of 10 destinations by analysing internet search results for retirement towns in the UK, then looked at crime rate, percentage of older residents, and house prices.
The resulting top 5 were: Christchurch in Dorset, Ambleside in Cumbria, Skipton in North Yorkshire, St Andrew’s in Fife, and Wilmslow in Cheshire.
It’s no wonder that Christchurch is at the top: 30% of its population is aged 65+, which is more than double the UK average. It’s sandwiched between the bustling town of Bournemouth and the beautiful New Forest, and its position on the south coast gives it a sunny climate – great news if you’re currently living in a warmer country and are dreading coming back to dreary UK weather!
Meanwhile, if you plan to spend your retirement hiking and enjoying the great outdoors, then Ambleside in the Lake District should be top of your list. Sure, the North West of England is pretty rainy – but when the mist clears, the stunning views make it all worthwhile.
Of course, it’s all up to your personal preference and budget. We’d recommend taking a road trip round those five towns on Age Co’s list, plus any others that take your fancy. Get in touch with us for expat car insurance.  

Best for families

As any parent knows, finding the right spot to raise your kids is a huge responsibility. So it’s always good to gain some insights from the people who already live in the places you’re considering.
OneFamily has ranked British towns and other major cities with a population of more than 200,000 to find the best places to live, work and raise a family. And the outright winner might surprise you: it’s Sunderland, in north east England.
Sunderland residents are happy with almost all areas of their lives, but particularly the cost of living and commuting. Those are important factors to help you achieve that work-life balance that’s so crucial if you’re bringing up kids.
Leeds is at number two: it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, and its inhabitants rate it highly for job opportunities, housing, and generally quality of life.
Aberdeen, Milton Keynes, and Liverpool make up the rest of the top five. And at the bottom? Poor old Warrington.
But of course, the best place to raise a family tends to be the one where you’ve got a strong support network, so this category is a highly personal one.

Best for hipsters

However, schools and playgrounds aren’t top of the priority list for everyone. Fortunately, the UK has plenty to offer the cooler crowd, too.
You might be automatically drawn to London, but according to The Times, none of the UK’s 12 trendiest postcodes are in the capital. Sky-high house prices are driving Millennials out of the city – so where are the cool kids settling?
Up at the top is Hockley in Nottingham, which boasts vibrant graffiti murals, happening music venues, and buzzing art studios. Ancoats in Manchester gets a nod for its party vibe, while “grown-up off-gridders” should head to Beadnell in Northumberland.
More surprising is the inclusion of Tanera Mor, one of Scotland’s Summer Isles in the Inner Hebrides. You’d struggle to move here, as it’s a privately owned island that’s fast becoming an exclusive, luxury destination for the moneyed in-crowd. But we can dream!
And to help make your dreams of moving to a more accessible UK neighbourhood a reality, do contact us at Insurance Factory for your expat car insurance. It’s specially designed for people returning from EU or Commonwealth countries.

Best for low crime rates

Not everyone cares about coolness, though. If what you want from your new neighbourhood is peace of mind, then you might be examining crime statistics to help you choose.
So where in the UK are you safest from criminal activity? Well, there’s lots of different ways of looking at that question: do you choose an area with few crimes (but few inhabitants), or are you more interested in the crime rate per 1,000 people? Or perhaps you are only really deterred by major crimes?
Looking at crime rates, it seems that Scotland is the place to go! It had 45.1 crimes per 1,000 people, while England and Wales had a whopping 102.8.
Within England, the lowest rate was in North Yorkshire, at 47.5/ 1,000 people. London was at 82.9, while the highest rate was Cleveland, in north east England, at 109.7.
So moving to Scotland or North Yorkshire might offer you and your family the greatest security from criminal activity. Of course, you’ll still need to protect your vehicle – Insurance Factory arranges expat car insurance to keep you covered.

Best for low car crime rates

Like most motorists, you probably treasure your car as your own personal space. So if your vehicle is targeted by vandals or thieves, it’s not just an inconvenience – it’s a huge shock.
According to data analysis from Ixplor, the areas where that’s least likely to happen in England are, in order, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Cheshire and Norfolk – largely rural counties. So park your car here, and you stand an excellent chance of returning to find it unscathed.
While only one motorist in 146 becomes a victim of car crime in North Yorkshire, it’s a different story in the big cities. The City of London is the hotspot, with one in 36 motorists affected, followed by Greater London, the West Midlands, Bedfordshire, and Manchester.
Having your car targeted by criminals is certainly not the welcome home you want. But with expat car insurance, you should soon be on the road again.


Best for road safety

Now, perhaps you are going to be doing a lot of driving once you move back to Britain? In that case, top of your priority list might be road safety.
The UK actually has the second safest roads in Europe, behind Sweden, with 28 deaths per million inhabitants. Between 2012 and 2019, there were an average of 1,850 deaths per year on the UK’s roads.
According to the most recent report from the Road Safety Foundation, the West Midlands and the East of England had the lowest serious or fatal crash rate in England in 2021/22.
But of course, some roads are safer than others! So before you begin house hunting, why not make sure that the area you’re considering is not an accident blackspot? This Crash Map allows you to see recent incidents.
And it goes without saying that wherever you live, you’ll need insurance. Contact us to find expat car insurance deals to suit you and your budget.

Best for low flood risks

Now, maybe you’re returning home to the UK after a few stressful years living in an area prone to natural disasters. You want a nice, relaxing life from now on.
You can live in the UK without fear of volcanoes, earthquakes (well, maybe just little ones) and so on. But our rainy climate and island location does mean we’re at risk of flooding. And with climate change looming, that’s likely to get worse.

So if you fear flooding, where should you choose to live?

HomeEdit determined which areas had the biggest flood risks (based on percentage of homes considered at a medium or high level of risk). Its analysis suggests that the lowest risk is in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Many areas of London also qualify as relatively safe.
Of course, flood risks are very localised, and depend on factors such as proximity to river banks or coasts. You also need to consider surface water or urban flash flooding, which is more common in built-up areas.
So you should use the government’s service to check the long-term flood risk of any home you’re considering purchasing.

Best for overall safety

Crime, accidents, flooding – it’s almost like we’re trying to put you off returning to the UK! In fact, this is a comparatively safe country in which to live. But where scores best for overall safety?
HomeEdit has drawn up an index based on data concerning crime rates, flooding, the number of buildings within 2km of a fire station and the same for a hospital, and street light maintenance.
And the overall winner is (drum roll please)… Manchester! Yes, the northern city may have a gritty reputation, but in fact scores highly on the HomeEdit index.
Close behind is the East Riding of Yorkshire. Birmingham, Coventry, Bristol and Cornwall all scored well too, and in London, Barnet and Croydon came out on top.
The least safe? Harlow in Essex, and Wyre Forest in Worcestershire.
If these findings surprise you, maybe it’s time to get out there and explore the UK for yourself – it might have changed since you left. Contact us for your expat car insurance.

Best for community spirit

Data is all very well, but sometimes you just want to go with your gut instinct. You’re more interested in where it feels right for you and your family than in the latest statistics, which are always open to different interpretations.
Maybe what you’re after is a community spirit? In that case, take a good look at Stroud in the Cotswolds: named the Best Place to Live 2021 by The Sunday Times.
Stroud is a former industrial town that’s now a truly lovely place to live. It’s got good schools, a great farmers’ market, and a friendly atmosphere. It’s even got a railway station, with trains to London taking around 1.5 hours. But why would you leave, when you’ve got all those surrounding hills to explore?
To make the most of living in the Cotswolds, you’ll need your own set of wheels. Get a quote from Insurance Factory for your expat car insurance.
The Sunday Times list is a great place to look for inspiration, with 78 places in total where you might consider putting down roots. It includes places you might never have heard of: for example, the town of Magherafelt, described as “thrusting ahead as one of the fastest rising locations in Northern Ireland”.
Or take a look at the regional winners: Woodbridge, Teddington, Stamford, Ilkley, Holywood, Altrincham, North Berwick, Surrey Hills, Frome, and Usk. All of them have got loads going for them – but are they right for you?

Best for good health

Perhaps you’re returning to the UK for health reasons. In that case, you might wish to take a look at Zoopla’s recent round-up of the healthiest places to live in the UK.
Again, it depends on which factors are important to you. If you’re going by life expectancy, then it’s different for men and women. The only place to feature in the top five for both is Kensington and Chelsea in London, which is in pole position for men and at number four for women (Chiltern in Buckinghamshire wins for the ladies). You’ll need £2.2 million to buy an average home in Kensington and Chelsea, but chances are that you’ll be able to enjoy it well into your 80s!
If what you’re seeking is clean air, then look to Scotland’s Isle of Skye. You’ll need that great air quality when you’re trekking up the Cuillin mountains! Other places for breathing in lungfuls of fresh air are Aberystwyth in Wales, St Ives in Cornwall, Allendale Town in Northumberland, and Malvern in Worcestershire.
Zoopla’s guide also examines amenities, healthy high streets, and prevalence of smokers. Take a look  – you might be about to discover your healthy new home town!

Best places by the sea

What if you’ve been living in a landlocked country for years, and crave a bracing stroll along a British coast? You’re spoilt for choice in our island nation, so let’s take a closer look at The Sunday Times’ recommendations.
At the top of its list is the Welsh town of Aberdyfi, in Gwynedd. Situated on an estuary, where the southern Snowdonia mountains meet the sea, this gorgeous village offers you all the sailing, walking and just gazing opportunities you could wish for.
Amble in Northumberland, Burnham Overy Staithe in Norfolk, Dornoch in the Scottish Highlands, and Heswall in Merseyside round out the top five.
We can’t think of anything more lovely than taking a round-Britain coastal trip to visit all these stunning places and many, many more. Make sure you’ve got your expat car insurance in place before you set off.

Best for being happy

This is the ultimate goal, right?
Property website Rightmove surveyed 21,000 people, asking them to rank where they live on 10 ‘happiness factors’. It used these findings to compile its list of the 20 happiest places to live in Great Britain, reported by consumer champions Which?
Hexham in Northumberland came out top. With its historic buildings, independent shops, bustling market and proximity to both the vibrant city of Newcastle and the stunning countryside around Hadrian’s Wall, it’s easy to see why.
Londoners will be unsurprised to learn that Richmond-on-Thames took the silver trophy. It’s like a village in the capital – and if you take a walk in its huge park, you could think you’re in the heart of the countryside. That kind of lifestyle is not within everyone’s budget, though: average property prices here are over £1 million.
In Wales, the happiest place was the former spa town of Llandrindod Wells, while in Scotland, it’s Stirling. They’re both attractive, liveable places where you and your family could well be very content indeed – and, with average property prices under £200,000, they won’t break the bank.
So which factors matter most to you and your loved ones? Have you got your eye on a particular location, or are you still keeping an open mind?

Contact Insurance Factory today

Decisions, decisions. It’s never easy making a choice when there are so many factors to consider.
That’s why the Insurance Factory likes to make things simpler for you. We search our panel of trusted providers to find you expat car insurance policies that suit your requirements and your budget.
We’ve got over 20 years’ experience in arranging vehicle insurance, gaining a Trustpilot score of 4.8. We can offer flexible payment solutions, including the option to pay by monthly instalments.
Contact us today for a quote, and start settling back into life in the UK. Welcome home!

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.