London is magnetic these days. Many families who would have traditionally migrated to the countryside in search of a better lifestyle are lingering in the capital. However, relocating to the regions now offers the opportunity to get a lot more value for your money (the price differential with London is wider than ever), and doesn’t necessarily mean having to give up on theatres, cafes and shops. Here are five places that offer families the best of town and country.
The only town on the list, Cheltenham is more vibrant than many cities, with excellent schools (Cheltenhams Ladies’ College, Dean Close and Cheltenham College), shops and restaurants (including the two-Michelin-starred Le Champignon Sauvage), and a busy events calendar. ‘The festivals (horse racing, jazz and literature), together with the extensive selection of places to eat and shops, make it a very cosmopolitan town in which to live,’ says Julian Archard of Savills. All this comes wrapped up in the graceful, stucco-fronted package of Cheltenham’s Regency houses, which makes the spa town ‘an attractive alternative to Oxford’, according to Property Vision’s Edward Sugden.
Pros It’s the perfect place for a family to live-and has the Cotswolds on its doorstep
Cons It’s too far from London (just over two hours by train into Paddington) to make
commuting a viable option
Average price for a prime four-bedroom town house £651,700
Best locations Montpellier, Charlton Park, Lansdown Crescent
The majestic gates, half-timbered buildings and rivers flowing through lush public gardens are merely a teaser. Salisbury has a much stronger ace up its sleeve-the Cathedral, soaring above the Close’s lawns and the water meadows beyond, was named Britain’s best view in a Country Life competition in 2002. This Wiltshire city also offers small, characterful shops and good schools, including Godolphin and Leaden Hall.
Pros Unbeatable green spaces and graceful architecture
Cons You’ll struggle to buy there: there’s very little on the market. And it’s not great for commuters (11⁄2 hours into London Waterloo)
Average price for a prime four-bedroom town house £667,297
Best location Cathedral Close
Homegrown and international buyers alike are flocking to Oxford, and with good reason, says Mr Sugden. ‘It’s a cultural city with masses of history, beautiful buildings and some of the best schools in the country, especially Summer Fields and The Dragon.’ There’s also the famous covered market and shops galore.
Pros An extraordinary mix of dreaming spires, wonderful walks and boutique stores, all within commuting distance of London (about one hour to Paddington)
Cons It’s the most expensive of the urban centres listed here. And if culture isn’t your thing, you may feel slightly out of place
Average price for a prime four-bedroom town house £903,267
Best locations Park Town, Norham Manor and Crick Road
Bath has it all: breathtakingly beautiful Georgian crescents, quirky shops, theatres, dozens of museums and art galleries, Roman heritage and echoes of Jane Austen-not to mention excellent schools, such as St Stephen’s, Kingswood and Royal High. ‘Bath really does offer buyers the perfect combination of urban lifestyle and country living,’ explains Charlie Taylor of Knight Frank.
Pros Bath has been popular since it was founded by the Romans. And although the season may not be as bustling as it was in the Georgian era, you still have access to a packed calendar of music, film, art, theatre and great rugby on The Rec
Cons Not a place for curmud-geons and the demophobic-it gets jolly and packed at Christmas and in the summer. And commuting into London, although technically possible, requires stamina (11⁄2 hours to Paddington)
Average price for a prime four-bedroom town house £795,037
Best locations The Georgian crescents-Lansdown, Royal and The Circus, among others
The schools alone are reason enough to move to Winchester. Pilgrims’ is an excellent prep school, St Swithun’s is consistently at the top of the league tables and Winchester College has a 630-year reputation for academic excellence. But England’s former capital offers even more to families, from the extraordinary beauty of the Cathedral to the many cinemas and restaurants (especially The Black Rat).
Pros The Itchen, Test and Bourne are right on the doorstep. And for those who aren’t so keen on fishing, there’s a vibrant atmosphere, a cafe culture that rivals Vienna’s, and it’s all just over an hour’s train journey to Waterloo
Cons Parking is a nightmare. ‘You constantly seem to be walking uphill, either from or to your car,’ says buying agent Charles Birtles
Average price for a prime four-bedroom town house £733,275
Best locations Around the Cathedral and St Cross
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