“Orkney is the best place, the poet, Edwin Muir, once observed. “Happy are they who never leave it.”
Now, the archipelago prized for its breathtaking landscapes and archaeological treasures can expect a rush of enquiries from prospective new residents after being crowned as the best place to live in the UK.
Having been named the runner up in the Bank of Scotland’s quality of life survey for the past two years, Orkney has finally taken the top spot. High employment levels, low crime rate, strong exam results, smaller primary school class sizes and good health and happiness scores helped propel Orkney to number one on the survey, according to Halifax.
In a sign of the unique attractions of island life, the only other Scottish entry in the top 50 places across the UK was Shetland, which came in 39th place. Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles were named as the top three places in Scotland, the same as the year before.
Those places ranked bottom of the Scottish list – Glasgow, Inverclyde, and North Lanarkshire – was also unchanged. The annual survey looks at a range of data covering the labour market, the housing market, the environment, education, health, personal wellbeing and leisure to rank the areas with the best quality of life.
In naming Orkney as the place to beat, the survey pointed to the fact the average house price stands at just £173,349, which is 5.2 times the average annual pre-tax local income, compared with the national average ratio of 7.3.
It also boasts the highest employment rate with nearly nine in ten (88 per cent) 16 to 64 year-olds in work and weekly average earnings of £671.
Ricky Diggins, network director for the Bank of Scotland, said: “Orcadians will be thrilled to learn that not only is their home the best place to live in Scotland, it’s now taken the crown for the whole of the UK.
“With Shetland and Eilean Siar coming second and third in Scotland, it’s a clean sweep of the podium places for these island communities. He added: “Their more remote locations may not appeal to everyone but with benefits including high employment, low crime rates, smaller class sizes and more affordable housing, people around the country will now be dreaming of a life spent on the isles.”
At a UK level, Richmondshire in North Yorkshire took second place, followed by Rutland in the East Midlands, Hambleton in North Yorkshire and Eden in Cumbria in fifth place. There were just two areas of London – Westminster and Richmond-upon-Thames – to the make top 50 UK places, with the bank pointing out that areas outside the capital benefited from lower house prices when compared to average earnings.