People are leaving London in their droves – more than a third of a million residents moved out of the city last year. Rather than washing their hands of this world-class city, most are keeping it on their doorstep, so they can live the rural dream with a dose of urban excitement whenever they choose. This is made possible by the abundance of attractive villages and market towns that adorn the verdant tapestry that is the home counties – those slices of idyllic Middle England that lie on the fringes of London just outside the M25.
So, where are all these people going to find a slower, more sustainable lifestyle, space to roam (and for kids to play), fresh air to breathe – and cheaper property prices of course? Let us take you on a journey around five of the best areas outside of London.
The best areas to live near London
1. St. Albans (Hertfordshire)
This perennial favourite with those who have led the London exodus is located just 21 miles from the heart of the capital in Hertfordshire. Its city status – that’s right, it has its very own cathedral – ensures it ticks all the commuter boxes: classy restaurants, artisan cafés, a lively arts scene, a diverse housing stock, excellent schools and leafy countryside. And it’s easy to see why this famous commuter city is so easily accessible: on an average weekday, 218 trains whisk passengers from St Albans City to St Pancras International in just 20 minutes and Farringdon in 25 minutes.
2. Dorking (Surrey)
Photo credit: https://visitdorking.com/
When it comes to the best places to live around London, Dorking is near the top of every list. Nestled at the foot of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this pretty green patch personifies the easy life. The nostalgic market town’s jumble of bow-fronted antique shops and Georgian-style bollards are overlooked by Box Hill: a popular tourist attraction courtesy of its place in literary history – it’s the site of the famous picnic in Jane Austen’s Emma – and striking natural beauty. Is it well connected? Very! Trains: from Dorking station to London Victoria (1 hour) and Waterloo (51‑56 mins).
3. Royal Tunbridge Wells (Kent)
Talking of the best places to live outside London; here’s a classy location with the royal seal of approval? It’s easy to see why Queen Victoria loved this Kent gem so much, which has managed to retain much of its period charm. When you’re not enjoying the smart boutiques and stylish restaurants that line the attractive High Street and Georgian Pantiles, you’ll be exploring the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it’s located in – all of which is just a 45-minute train ride from central London.
4. Guilford (Surrey)
Guilford isn’t just one of the best places to live near London; it regularly makes the top 10 best places to live in the UK. In fact, Surrey’s county town has topped The Times list more than once in recent years thanks to over-achieving schools; substantial, mainly early 20th-century houses; fast trains to London Waterloo (37 minutes); and its reputation as a shopaholic’s dream, along what is one of the loveliest high streets in the land – with its mix of medieval, Georgian and modern buildings.
5. Harpenden (Hertfordshire)
Popular with London commuters, Harpenden has a village vibe with all the amenities of a vibrant, well-connected town – trains to St Pancras International take just 30 minutes. Throw in plenty of green open space and a charming semi-rural character, and it’s easy to see why this is one of the best areas to live outside London. Stylish Victorian and Edwardian family homes are complemented by well-designed new-builds – many of which are just a stroll from the station. Harpenden’s exceptional state schools are another a key ingredient when it comes to London leavers appetite for the town.