Bakewell and Melbourne among 'best towns in Britain'
BAKEWELL has been declared the second best town in Britain by The Times newspaper.
Journalists at the paper compiled a list of the top 30 towns and said that only Arundel, in West Sussex, was an improvement on Bakewell.
They were also highly impressed with Melbourne, which secured 15th place in the chart.
It means Derbyshire joins Wiltshire and Buckinghamshire in having two towns represented in the top-30 list.
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On Monday, the Times published its “top 30 best villages in Britain” list – but Derbyshire was surprisingly overlooked. The county was also excluded from yesterday’s “top 30 coolest places in Britain” list.
The Times is expected to publish lists in three more categories over the next three days.
Here is the top 30 towns list:
1 Arundel, West Sussex
Why is it so great? It has a castle and a cathedral and is on the edge of the South Downs National Park, so it is easy to think Arundel might be staid. It’s not: it has a burgeoning coffee-culture vibe with excellent restaurants and bars — and hardly any chain stores.
Who lives here? Neil Moore of estate agent Guy Leonard says most people are Brighton and London commuters, retirees seeking a funkier town than Worthing and parents attracted by good schools.
House prices: Prize properties are Georgian town houses in Maltravers and Tarrant Streets (up to £1.5 million). Look also at Victorian homes and new housing at the edge of town (from £250,000).
2 Bakewell, Derbyshire
Why is it so great? It has a pudding named after it, so what’s not to love? Bakewell is beautiful in its own right and is surrounded by the Peak District — some of our best walking country. Stone buildings, riverside walks and cute shops attract visitors, as does nearby Chatsworth House.
Who lives here? Residents are mainly locals, second-home owners, retirees and commuters to Sheffield and Derby.
House prices: A 1930s family home costs about £500,000 but you can find two-bedroom period cottages for less than £200,000; the average property price is £356,966.
3 Cranbrook, Kent
Why is it so great? An achingly pretty market town dotted with clapboard houses and windmills.
Who lives here? Cranbrook School, a well-regarded co-ed grammar, is near by so you’ll find ambitious parents; there are plenty of commuters as Charing Cross is an hour away from nearby Staplehurst.
House prices: Large family houses sell for £780,000, two-bedroom town-centre cottages from £250,000.
4 Keswick, Cumbria
Why is it so great? The Lake District National Park has a string of high-quality market towns but Keswick is the one to watch. It has a great stock of period homes and its jazz, beer and literary festivals give it a buzz.
Who lives here? A lively atmosphere attracts a more boho type of retiree.
House prices: Most of the town’s large Victorian houses have been converted into guesthouses — turn yours back into a home or run it as a business. Pick up a six-bedroom house for less than £500,000 or a two or three-bedroom character cottage for £250,000. The average property price is £290,517.
5 Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Why is it so great? This town is sometimes described as Britain’s answer to Beverly Hills because of its high-profile residents. If this doesn’t put you off then its homes, hewn from honey-coloured stone, are to die for. The town is peaceful and picturesque. Facilities include London-standard pubs and restaurants.
Who lives here? David and Samantha Cameron, and Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud live near the town. Otherwise it’s a mix of locals and weekending Londoners, although the area is increasingly coming on to the radar of wealthy international buyers who already have a home in the capital.
House prices: The average property price is £247,506, although expect to pay £2 million-plusfor a smart manor.
6 Alnwick, Northumberland
Why is it so great? It’s little surprise that Alnwick (say Annick) has made this list. The town has it all: period properties, cobbled streets and old pubs. It’s also near the Northumberland National Park and the wild northeast coast. Its Norman castle, which overlooks the town, was the setting for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.
Who lives here? Locals tend to be born and bred or urban refugees from Newcastle upon Tyne.
House prices: The average is £189,799 and for this you’ll get an adorable stone-built Georgian cottage in the centre, well inside the lower stamp duty bracket.
7 Saffron Walden, Essex
Why is it so great? This medieval market town has an old-fashioned charm. Its wonky, timber-framed town centre cottages are delectable, the march of the chain store has been largely repelled and there are plenty of tea shops and pretty pubs.
Who lives here? Cambridge commuters and, increasingly, London office workers; downsizers who wouldn’t have the faintest idea what a vajazzle might be.
House prices: The average is £339,302, but it’s double that for a large family home or barn conversion (about £750,000).
8 Hay-on-Wye, Powys
Why is it so great? Literary connections aside, Hay ticks all the boxes. It is a riverside town within a national park and close to the Black Mountains. There is a ruined Norman castle to explore, and most of the year the town is quiet and peaceful. All that changes for ten crazy days in May/June, however, when the Hay Festival draws writers and bibliophiles from all over the world.
Who lives here? An eclectic mix of countryside-lovers and literary types.
House prices: The average price is £289,205. Choose between chocolate-box cottages for less than £350,000 and character cottages for £125,000. Just don’t show off your Kindle to this old-school lot.
9 Hitchin, Hertfordshire
Why is it so great? It tends to be overshadowed by St Albans but Hitchin has a lot going for it. It may not be as boutiquey but it does have a pretty town centre with an affluent feel. There are excellent single-sex schools, state and private, and property is a fifth cheaper than St Albans. Plenty of pubs and restaurants and the Chiltern Hills are close by.
Who lives here? Swift trains to London make Hitchin prime commuter territory for young parents and first-time buyers.
House prices: Families aspire to a Victorian or Edwardian semi in the Highbury area (starting at £650,000); the average is £278,172.
10 Marlborough, Wiltshire
Why is it so great? As a schoolgirl, the Duchess of Cambridge would spend her lunch shopping with friends in the town’s many boutiques and independent shops. The Marlborough Downs are on the doorstep.
Who lives here? Locals include actors Zoë Wanamaker and Nigel Havers, says Ruth Wilkinson of Chesterton Humberts; a fair few relocating Londoners.
House prices: The smartest streets are behind the High Street in an area known as the Golden Triangle. A home here costs £800,000-plus.
11 Clitheroe, Lancashire
Why is it so great? The town has plenty of foodie shops, as well as a jazz and food festival and the Clitheroe Grand Prix, a gruelling cycle race, says Joy Didsbury of Fine & Country. Walk up to Clitheroe Castle for breathtaking views of Longridge Fell.
Who lives here? A locals’ town; incomers say natives are friendly.
House prices: Great value: pick up a dreamy farmhouse with land for £800,000 or a listed town-centre cottage for less than £150,000.
12 Liskeard, Cornwall
Why is it so great? An antidote to glitzy Rock and free of drunken teens on their first solo holiday. Its granite houses are honest and charming — and extremely affordable. Local schools perform well. The town is on the edge of Bodmin Moor and an easy hop from the coast.
Who lives here? Locals, many of them farmers. Incomers may struggle to shake off the “grockle” tag for a generation or two.
House prices: Buy a delightful farmhouse for £500,000 or a town-centre cottage for under £200,000; the average is £181,039.
13 Grantham, Lincolnshire
Why is it so great? Once home to a famous grocer’s daughter; Baroness Thatcher’s former school, Grantham Girls’, is still a huge draw. The centre has grand buildings and good shops. A quiet, affluent feel.
Who lives here? Parents of brainy girls and Nottingham and London commuters, says Stephen Binder of Fine & Country.
House prices: Villas on Manthorpe Road are prized. A substantial family house with a big garden can be yours for £450,000.
14 Tetbury, Gloucestershire
Why is it so great? A showpiece that has won so many “England in Bloom” medals it has probably lost count. The centre is a foodie heaven and includes the Highgrove Shop (Prince Charles’s estate is up the road); plenty of antique shops and independent businesses.
Who lives here? City types in search of a life change. If you can’t give up work just yet, Paddington is 80 minutes from nearby Kemble.
House prices: A neo-classical new-build is £800,000. One-bedroom flats start at £120,000.
15 Melbourne, Derbyshire
Why is it so great? This Georgian town is the dream location for many people from Derby and Loughborough. There’s a great community spirit, a town band and a local history research group as well as sports clubs. Good restaurants and cafés.
Who lives here? Affluent commuters and retirees who don’t want to get bored.
House prices: Victorian villas cost £750,000 and Georgian town houses are £500,000.
16 Dorking, Surrey
Why is it so great? It is 40 minutes from both London and the coast. Schools are popular and this is no dull commuter town: there’s a good programme of cultural events, a cinema, good shops and the lovely Box Hill on the doorstep.
Who lives here? Commuters with families rub shoulders with downsizers from the rest of Surrey.
House prices: The town has lots of Victorian homes. Emma O’Neill of Haart recommends Rothes Road and Wathen Road (birthplace of Laurence Olivier), where homes cost about £450,000. The town’s average price is £361,600.
17 Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Why is it so great? If you have a townie’s fear of living beyond the Tube, head to Amersham, at the end of the Metropolitan Line. Old Amersham is pretty with top-end boutiques to browse and lovely pubs such as the King’s Arms. Amersham on the Hill is nearer the station and draws a younger crowd.
Who lives here? Rich City types buy in Old Amersham while young professionals head to the Hill.
House prices: A brick-and-slate cottage in Old Amersham costs £350,000 or splurge £2.5 million on a period manor house.
18 Uppingham, Rutland
Why is it so great? This is a hidden jewel. The centre has stacks of antique shops and galleries, tea rooms and inns. Uppingham’s claim to fame is the public school. There is plenty to do, including windsurfing on Rutland Water and a theatre.
Who lives here? Commuters from Leicester and Peterborough, as well as retirees.
House prices: Alasdair Dunne of Fisher German rates High Street East, with cottages from £125,000.
19 Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
Why is it so great? Costly but just half an hour by train from Marylebone, Beaconsfield is the former home of Enid Blyton. Lloyds TSB bank named it as the most expensive market town in England. Grammar schools are good, and the high street has lots of chichi shops.
Who lives here? Yummy mummies work from home while their husbands work in the City.
House prices: £1 million will buy you a modern family house; average property price: £846,284.
20 Bungay, Suffolk
Why is it so great? Set in a meander of the River Waveney, Bungay is a tranquil and historic town. Lots of walking, cycling and fishing and there is a theatre. The Norfolk Broads are near enough for day trips.
Who lives here? Nigel Steele of Jackson-Stops & Staff says it’s still a farming community but it is popular with Norwich commuters.
House prices: Most property is Georgian and Victorian, especially Upper Olland Street and The Staithe, costing up to £1 million. The average price is £173,714.
21 Lewes, East Sussex
Why is it so great? William Morris called it “a box of toys under a great amphitheatre of chalk hills”, and its good looks are undeniable. On November 5, it has Britain’s largest fireworks display.
Who lives here? Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Glyndebourne Opera House is near by).
House prices: Fraser Brooks of Rowland Gorringe tips Rotten Row and Gundreda Road (from £400,000).
22 Downham Market, Norfolk
Why is it so great? On the edge of the Fens, this town offers history (King Charles I hid here) and value for money. Nigel Steele of Jackson-Stops & Staff says prices are up to a quarter lower than better-known parts of the county. Good rail links to King’s Lynn, Cambridge and London.
Who lives here? Stephen Fry lives near by. Lots of retirees from the Home Counties.
House prices: Phil MacDonald of Abbotts says bungalows cost from £125,000. There is Victorian property in Park Lane and Ryston End; the average price is £153,093.
23 Kingsbridge, Devon
Why is it so great? Kingsbridge is less costly than nearby Salcombe. The big draws are good schools, cafés and pubs, and coastal walks. Hannah Edge of Strutt & Parker says there’s an all-year buzz.
Who lives here? Retired folk and families wanting a small-town vibe.
House prices: Julia Pollard of Marchand Petit says take a look at Fore Street for its mix of shops (with flats above) and back-lane cottages. Average price is £232,249.
24 Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
Why is it so great? Known as the capital of the Fens, Wisbech (say it whizz-beach) is an impressive Georgian town. Its people are creative: it is home to the Angles Theatre and an operatic society. One downside is that there’s no railway station.
Who lives here? Locals and people from London and Essex seeking a life-changing move.
House prices: David Cummings of Spicer McColl says to look at North Brink where family homes are £500,000. Elsewhere, pick up a family house for under £200,000.
25 Bridport, Dorset
Why is it so great? This is a market town with chutzpah; the street market hums with activity, and Bridport’s independent retailers are holding up strongly.
Who lives here? The town has an alternative feel and the musicians P. J. Harvey and Billy Bragg live here. You can commute to Exeter, but why do it? — Bridport has lots of start-up firms.
House prices: Ashley Rawlings of Jackson-Stops & Staff says a smart Georgian townhouse with four bedrooms costs up to £650,000; average price £250,600.
26 Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire
Why is it so great? Why is this town so little known? Its high street is crammed with boutiques, quality restaurants and gastropubs and there are great links to Birmingham and London.
Who lives here? Well-to-do retirees who like its walkability and young aspirational families who are stimulating a boom in coffee shops and smart bars.
House prices: Justine Borman of John Shepherd says a listed cottage will cost from £250,000. There are upmarket neo-Georgian homes being built. Look on the outskirts for detached houses with country views.
27 Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
Why is it so great? Bradford’s ancient stone bridge is postcard-pretty and there is a patchwork of historic buildings. The Shambles is full of quirky shops. Some tremendous pubs.
Who lives here? Locals tend to be born and bred. Many work in nearby Bath and Bristol.
House prices: A period family house costs up to £400,000 or pick up a two-bedroom starter stone cottage for less than £250,000. The average property price is £301,999.
28 Altrincham, Greater Manchester
Why is it so great? An historic town resisting being swallowed by Manchester. Some timber-framed buildings, a theatre and cinema. Shopping suffers from being too near to the Trafford Centre.
Who lives here? Altrincham is prime territory for City types who want a peaceful way of life.
House prices: A high number of flats push the average price down to £287,061, but you’ll pay £1.5 million for a gated mansion.
29 Axbridge, Somerset
Why is it so great? A Saxon stronghold against the Vikings, today Axbridge supports plenty of specialist shops and busy cafés. Volunteers have re-opened a 32-seat Art Deco cinema, complete with “snogging sofa”.
Who lives here? Locals today are less Saxon fighters and more yummy mummies.
House prices: Georgian houses cost about £500,000 but cosy town-centre cottages are a smidge under £200,000.
30 Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Why is it so great? Country vet author James Herriot was born here and this pulls in tourists. Close to the North York Moors, it is also a magnet for outdoorsey types. There’s a medieval cobbled square and nearby Sowerby has a cinema and swimming pool.
Who lives here? Mostly locals and retirees from York.
House prices: Terraces cost £150,000 but horsey types can buy a manor house with a few acres for £600,000.