The best places to retire in the UK

Deciding where to live during your retirement is an incredibly personal choice and one that determines how you will make the most of your post-work years. You may be asking, do I want to live near family or friends? Should you live near a city or town, or find a home nestled in the beautiful countryside?

Written by

Sheila Frampton

How to decide where to live in retirement 

Your list of the best places to retire will be entirely personal – it could be that you would love a retirement home in the heart of the glorious English countryside or close to the sea on the Welsh coast.  

Of course, your personal circumstances have a bearing on your top retirement locations, you may want – or need – to be within easy reach of family and friends and, if you’re no longer driving, you’ll need to be near shops, services and local transport links. 

Would you prefer single-storey living, a terraced house or a townhouse? Are you single or living with a spouse or partner?  

The best places to live for retired, single females in the UK may be different from the best retirement location for a couple.  

Beginning the search for the perfect retirement property

When you’ve decided to make a move, whether or not you’re retiring, it’s useful to note down your needs and wants – and also to do some research on the pros and cons of the various areas you may like to move to.   

  • Create a list of your favourite areas.
  • Create a list of your needs in terms of the property, your lifestyle and your hobbies – for example, if you’re keen on the gym or keeping fit, add that to your list. If you play golf, you might want to live somewhere with fabulous golf courses.
  • Write down exactly what you want in a new home – including the number of bedrooms, whether you want outside space – a terrace, balcony or private garden and parking.
  • Do some research on the areas you’re interested in but might not know very well – check what kind of facilities you’ll have on hand – from clubs and societies to theatres and cinemas.
  • Things to think about in the area you’re considering include:
    • The cost of restaurants
    • The cost of public transport
    • The cost of household utilities
    • Leisure activity expenses

Once you know all the facts, you’ll be better placed to look for the best places to retire. 
At Beechcroft, we invest a great deal of time and effort in our search for the perfect places to build our retirement developments.  The following are just some of our top retirement locations.

We have rounded up some of our favourite locations to retire in the UK, you can click on the options below to jump to that location.

Four over 55's enjoying a drink on a terrace.

Best places to retire in England

Where to Retire in Kent

The ‘Garden of England’ is a great place to retire, offering everything from beautiful countryside, a long stretch of coastline, rich historical heritage and a contemporary, cultural scene. Kent offers great rail services and easy travel to the continent either by ferry or the channel tunnel. Living in Kent, you’ll never be short of things to do and see. 

The county is full of castles, cathedrals and historic houses and miles of downland, ancient woodlands, commons, marshlands, hop gardens and orchards. You’ll be able to head to the coast and walk along the cliff paths, soaking up the scenery or relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. 

Royal Tunbridge Wells is one of the most popular destinations for retirees. 

Tunbridge Wells is famed for its glorious parks and commons. In the heart of town, Calverley Grounds is a lovely place to enjoy a coffee, listen to live music or skate on the winter ice rink – or there’s Grosvenor and Hilbert Park with lakes, grottoes and winding walks. In the heart of town, The Pantiles is home to over 70 chic stores, art galleries, cafes, restaurants and bars and the town also has a branch of Fenwick’s along with Hoopers Department Store. 

  • The award-winning Victoria Place shopping centre is the destination for a spot of retail therapy. According to the Times (www.times.co.uk – 5 June 2022) Royal Tunbridge Wells is set to become the retirement capital of the UK because it feels safe, rural and is not as fast paced as London.

Best Places to Retire In Oxfordshire 

Oxfordshire is a glorious county; part of the county falls within the Cotswolds and who wouldn’t enjoy living in the Cotswolds?  

Oxfordshire has acres of open countryside to explore, with footpaths and bridleways leading through ancient woodlands, wildflower meadows and rolling hills. There’s plenty of culture –with Oxford’s museums shops, restaurants, museums and galleries. The area has a wealth of history. Blenheim Palace is just one of many historic houses. Road and rail connections are good – with the M40 running through the county. The website www.goodmove.org has a few suggestions for good retirement locations within Oxfordshire but the following are our favourites.

Interested in finding out more about this historic county? We recently wrote a blog on why you should consider retiring to Oxfordshire.

Burford 

Burford is an ideal retirement location if you love living in a small town with a wonderful sense of community.  Once voted the sixth best place to live in Europe, Burford nestles in the Cotswold Hills with views over the Windrush Valley.  The High Street is lined with ancient houses, shops and traditional pubs.  The town’s collection of independent shops include a bakery, butcher’s, delicatessen, supermarket, chemist and post office and the well-known Cotswold Cheese Company.

A photo of a hill and old houses in Burford, Oxfordshire
A memorial pillar in Watlington, Oxfordshire

Watlington

Watlington is popular with retirees because of its delightful independent shops and regular markets.   The traditional butcher supplies high quality meats, pies and delicious ready-made meals and there are shops selling specialist cheeses, freshly baked breads, artisan chocolates and fine wines. There’s a post office counter in the local Co-op, a pharmacy and several hair and beauty salons. 

For a day’s retail therapy, you can head to Oxford, home to the Westgate Shopping Centre, High Wycombe with its busy High Street and Eden Centre or to Bicester Village Designer Outlet.

Wallingford

There are plenty of opportunities to get out and about in the fresh air with water sports at Dorchester Sailing Club and Wallingford Rowing Club. The 26-acre sports park on the edge of town is home to rugby, hockey, football, skittles, archery, squash, tennis and petanque. Less than three miles away, The Springs Golf Club is reputedly one of Oxfordshire’s finest – and most scenic – courses. During the summer months, the heated outdoor pool is open at Riverside Park and if you’re out for a leisurely walk, you can stroll along the Thames Path to Benson Lock. The Corn Exchange Theatre and cinema, overlooking the Market Square, run by volunteers, offers a full programme of drama, music and musicals and the latest cinema releases. The local branch of the U3A has a monthly programme of events. Of course, the town has everything you need – including a branch of Waitrose and four markets.

Wallingford on festival day
The fountain at Hampton Court Palace
 

Best Places to Retire in Surrey 

Surrey is a wonderful county with pretty villages and architectural gems set amidst beautiful countryside. The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 25% of the county, adjoining the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the east and the South Downs National Park in the south west. This county offers a fantastic network of footpaths including the North Downs Way. Numerous attractions include Denbies Wine Estate in the Surrey Hills, Hampton Court Palace, Brooklands Museum, near Weybridge and Painshill Park, Cobham. There are plenty of pretty villages to explore, such as Shere with its 12th century church, gift shops and galleries. Guildford, the county town, has a good array of shops, theatres and cinemas and plenty of places to eat and drink. 

Godalming

Godalming is a delightful, historic market town with swift, regular rail links to London and the South Coast. The town includes five conservation areas in town along with 350 listed buildings and is surrounded by beautiful countryside which stretches beyond the water meadows on the banks of the River Wey. 

Reigate

Described by the ‘Sunday Times’ in 2019 as ‘arty, sporty and packed with places to eat; a reassuringly affluent town just 40 minutes from Victoria,’ Reigate is a lively retirement location. You’ll never be bored living here and you’re sure to have plenty of shops and services on hand. In the town centre, there’s a post office, library, banks and building societies, and pharmacies and a collection of independent stores and High Street retailers. If you’re shopping for groceries, there’s a selection of butchers, bakeries, delis and wine shops in Reigate, along with an M&S Simply Food store and a Morrisons supermarket.

Both Godalming and Reigate were even featured in SurreyLive's article on the top places to live in the county.

Best Places to Retire in Sussex: Chichester

 

Chichester Cathedral


One of our favourite retirement locations is Chichester in West Sussex. 

The Times newspaper described Chichester ‘as coastal, cultural and chilled – a glorious city that offers great year-round entertainment.’ Chichester’s Georgian streets are wide and elegant and between the north, south, west and east streets are interesting lanes that bear witness to the town’s long history. The medieval cathedral is charming – it’s worth wandering through the cloisters and soaking up the atmosphere. There’s plenty of green space with Priory Park encircled by city walls that date back from Roman times and Oaklands Park, adjacent to Chichester’s famous Festival Theatre. There are lots of places to eat and drink in the town centre and some simply wonderful traditional pubs in the surrounding countryside. Chichester is home to Goodwood House where the Earl of March hosts the annual Festival of Speed, which attracts top racing drivers from the UK. 

The annual Goodwood Revival held at the nearby Goodwood racetrack is an unmissable event – you can watch cars from every era racing (many of them are driven by celebrities). Goodwood is also home to one of the country’s most scenic racing courses, home to ‘Glorious Goodwood.’ 

The countryside around Chichester is beautiful – head out to Singleton to the Weald and Downland Living Museum an open-air museum, set in 40 acres of countryside. Here a wealth of historic rural buildings have been reconstructed, telling the stories of those who have lived and worked in them for centuries. West Dean Gardens are amongst some of the finest restored gardens open to the public today. At West Dean College, set within the gardens, it’s possible to take a course in art and design, contemporary crafts or creative writing.  

History abounds – Fishbourne Roman Palace & Gardens offers a fascinating insight into life in Roman Britain. Bosham, just along the A27, is an historic village – but if you visit, make sure not to park your car on the foreshore – the delightful Anchor Bleu pub displays photographs of cars caught by the swiftly rising tide – after all this is where Canute reputedly told the waves to go back. Canute’s daughter is believed to be buried in the ancient church.  

Bosham has an excellent sailing club – just one of 14 in the Chichester Harbour area. From here you can sail or motor into the Solent and the English Channel. For a relaxing day out on the beach, head to West Wittering or, if you have grandchildren to nearby Bognor Regis, home to Butlins and a variety of entertainments. Nature lovers will, no doubt, seek out the peace of Pagham Nature Reserve or Kingley Vale.

Best places to retire in Wales

Whilst Bangor tops some people's charts for retirement locations in Wales, boasting a low cost and living and low crime rates, our favourite retirement location would be Anglesey. It might be wet and windy at times but, because it’s an island, you don’t tend to have too much snow and ice to contend with.

 

Amlwch

Amlwch is located on the north coast of Anglesey and is the most northerly town in Wales – it’s incredibly beautiful and has lots to offer – particularly if you enjoy golf, fishing, walking or immersing yourself in nature. There are plenty of local shops and bars and a Friday market but one of the main attractions are the beautiful beaches. There are five beaches around Amlwch as well as a leisure centre with pool, sports centre and squash courts.  

A lighthouse on Anglesey
A photo of Beaumarais Castle on Anglesey

Beaumaris 

Beaumaris is another charming town – set on the south-eastern corner of Anglesey. It is a lively place with beautiful Georgian architecture, pretty pastel houses, trendy design shops and a castle built in the 13th century but never entirely finished. There’s a great range of restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and craft shops. On warm days, there’s nothing nicer than a stroll along the seafront or the long sandy beach – pausing to sample the ice cream sold on the Victorian pier. From the seaward side of the town, there are some magnificent views over the Menai Straits toward the mountains of Snowdonia.

Best Places to Retire in Scotland 

A derelict castle in St Andrews, Scotland


St Andrews, ‘the home of golf’ is one of the best places to retire in Scotland in our opinion.

Just north of Edinburgh on Scotland’s eastern coast, St Andrews offers the best of town, country and coast. This is a town with so many attractions including the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral and Castle, a lovely beach and one of the world’s most famous golf courses. In fact, there are a lot of golf courses in the area. St Andrews has a relaxed atmosphere; golfers walk through town with clubs over their shoulders on their way for a drink. Students and professors from the famous university add an energetic, youthful air to the town. Beyond the abbey is the fishing port and then, beyond that, the sandy beaches. The town has a good range of shops of all types, several performance venues including the Byre Theatre and plenty of restaurants. The bus network is excellent – and if you’re heading on holiday, Edinburgh International Airport is only about an hour away.

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