Before 2020, moving out of the big smoke was not an option if you wanted to keep your city job.
But hybrid working has opened up many more options for anyone thinking of moving outside London, as a fast commute is no longer a priority when not done every day.
Whether you fancy a move to the coast or country, love a bit of history or scenic views, these are the places to put on your radar.
Anyone in any doubt about this city’s historic significance should remember that it includes a Unesco World Heritage site, which comprises the 1,400 year old cathedral where St Thomas a Becket was murdered in 1170, St Martin’s, the oldest church in England and the ruins of the Abbey of St Augustine.
These ancient buildings are the backdrop to a thriving 21st century city with arts, culture, great shopping and three grammar schools.
Canterbury at a glance
Average house price: £363,939
Average rent: £1,237
Nearest station: Canterbury East or West
Journey time: from 53 minutes to
St Pancras International Monthly flexi season ticket: £465.90
This diverse and inclusive coastal city is a favourite with London leavers wanting bracing sea air, a better work/life balance and shopping, clubbing and culture on tap. The Lanes – a warren of narrow streets crammed with quirky, indie shops and eateries – are delightful, the nightlife is legendary and the annual Pride festival is the biggest in the UK.
When you fancy peace and quiet, there’s eight miles of beaches to explore, plus the South Downs on the doorstep. Fun-loving King George IV was responsible for creating the opulent Royal Pavilion, and the homes in the Regency squares and crescents which followed in its wake are highly sought after, though you’ll pay a premium to live there.
Popular neighbourhoods include Hanover, Kempton and Seven Dials, which is close to the station, within walking distance of the seafront and quieter than the Lanes. Families like the more spacious houses in Preston Park, and up-and-coming Lewes Road is good value.
Brighton at a glance
Average house price: £455,186
Average rent: £2,042 pcm
Nearest station: Brighton
Journey time: from one hour to Victoria
Monthly flexi season ticket: £375.70
A place of two halves, a modern town centre and a mile to the east, the historic and largely unspoilt Old Town, packed with atmospheric pubs, winding alleys (called twittens), antique shops, boutiques and restaurants.
This is where incomers tend to gravitate to, attracted by the bohemian lifestyle, characterful buildings and culture. Hastings Contemporary Gallery – formerly the Jerwood – overlooks the town’s distinctive black net huts on the beach and focuses on modern British art, and there’s a 125-year old town museum and art gallery.
Arts-based festivals take place throughout the year, and the Opus Theatre hosts classical concerts, opera, dance and literary events. The best views are from the top of West Hill, high above the Old Town, and on a clear day you can see across the English Channel to France. It’s a steep climb to the top, but you can get there by taking the Victorian funicular railway instead.
Hastings at a glance
Average house price: £346,719
Average rent: £1,072 pcm
Nearest station: Hastings
Journey time: from 1 hour 22 mins to London Bridge
Monthly flexi season ticket: £419.30
Such is the beauty of Oxford’s university buildings that Victorian poet Matthew Arnold was inspired to call it ‘the city of dreaming spires’ – a description that’s stuck.
Renowned for centuries for academic excellence as well as its architecture – and more recently, for Inspector Morse – it’s rich in arts and culture and offers excellent schools, shops, restaurants and riverside pubs, and a wide variety of Victorian houses.
The downside is that property prices are high, particularly in fashionable Jericho and North Oxford, though they drop outside the ring road.
Oxford at a glance
Average house price: £565,854
Average rent: £2,352
Nearest station: Oxford
Journey time: From 49 minutes to Paddington
Monthly flexi season ticket: £442
The UK’s most easterly city used to feel out on a limb, but faster Great Anglia services introduced in 2019 have brought it in reach of occasional commuters. Living here is a joy for history buffs, being the country’s most complete medieval city with more churches from that period than anywhere outside London.
A walkable size, it also boasts a Norman castle and cathedral, cobbled lanes and many other beautiful old buildings. There’s a busy music, arts and cultural scene – Norwich is a Unesco City of Literature – and a full calendar of festivals and events. Shoppers have plenty of independent stores, including department store Jarrolds, alongside high street names, and a large outdoor market that’s been trading for over 900 years.
For open space, locals head to Easton Park and Mousehold Heath, or to Wroxham, a 15-minute drive, at the start of the Norfolk Broads. The Golden Triangle, south east of the centre, the best address and contains Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian terraces. Those after a new-build should go north east to Sprowston.
Norwich at a glance
Average house price: £303,423
Average rent: £1,324 pcm
Nearest station: Norwich
Journey time: 90 mins to Liverpool Street
Monthly flexi season ticket: £708.20
Characterised by rolling hills and honey-coloured cottages, The Cotswolds covers 800 square miles spread across five counties – Gloucestershire, Worcestershire Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.
This vast area has thriving market towns, off-the-beaten-track villages, 3,000 miles of footpaths and a host of celebrity residents including the Beckhams in Chipping Norton, and Kate Moss in Little Faringdon. Each location has its own identity and some have quirky traditions, such as cheese-rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester.
You’ll find antiques and artisan food shops in towns like Moreton-in-Marsh (above), while Alex James’s farm in Kingham hosts the Big Feastival food and music festival every August. If schooling is a priority, Chipping Campden is home to one of the south-west’s top performing state secondaries.
The Cotswolds at a glance
Average house price (Moreton in Marsh): £ 513,474
Average rent: £1,040 pcm
Nearest station: Moreton in Marsh
Journey time: From 1 hour 27 mins to Paddington
Monthly flexi season ticket: £589.60
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