Belshill in Strathclyde is the UK?s top property hotspot, according to new figures from the Halifax.

Prices in the Scottish town have outperformed the rest of the country, increasing by 46% since the first quarter of 2004.

However, as with all of the hotspots in Halifax?s top ten, the average property price in Belshill, which now stands at £105,698, is well below the UK national average of £162,840.

All 10 towns recording the largest price increases over the last 12 months are outside southern England, with four in Scotland, and three in Wales.

With a rise of 35%, the Highlands in Scotland have seen the largest price growth over the last year at a county level, followed by County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Powys in Wales. Just six English counties, all northern, appear in the top twenty.

The UK?s worst performing county over the past year was County Down, which recorded 2% growth, followed by East Sussex, Oxfordshire, Dorset and Hertfordshire, which all recorded rises of 5%, Halifax said.

The figures highlight the significant north/south divide in house price performance over the past year, and the narrowing gap between prices in London and the rest of the country. The average price in London is now less than twice that in the North, compared with almost three times in 2002.

Commenting on the figures, Martin Ellis, Chief Economist of the Halifax, said: ?It has been areas in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and northern England that have recorded the most buoyant housing market conditions over the past year. As a result, the north/south divide has narrowed to its smallest for seven years.?

He added: ?Despite some spectacular increases in house prices in some parts of the UK over the past 12 months, the market has slowed in most areas during the past six months or so. We expect this trend to continue over the coming months, with prices slowing most markedly outside southern England as the recent rapid rises in house prices and the increase in interest rates since late 2003 constrain demand.?