Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide: Yorkshire fares well ... but the coast doesn't

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Yorkshire has had one of its most prolific years ever in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide - boasting the regional winner for the north of England and six other entries.

After a year like no other in which we recalibrated our relationship with place and community, the annual guide's writers have responded to shifting priorities when selecting their list of desirable neighbourhoods, towns and villages.

As editor Tim Palmer admits, 'it hasn't been a great year for cities' - but instead, the focus has switched to local high streets, accessible countryside and social interaction.

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The writers honed in on places where people work together to improve their area, thriving independent businesses and even quirks such as lidos.


The new criteria means that the spa town of Ilkley - previously dismissed as a quiet retirement community best known for its Michelin-starred restaurant The Box Tree - has been named the best place to live in the north, having been absent from the guide since 2013.

There are four new entries from Yorkshire - Easingwold, Todmorden, Masham and Slaithwaite - as well as a return for the Leeds suburb of Chapel Allerton and past winner York.

But the Yorkshire coast is a notable absentee, and Tim admits he is still struggling to find the perfect seaside spot to feature. The forerunner is Saltburn.

"It's a proper old resort town that isn't grim in winter.

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"Whitby is not really a residents' town any more, and Staithes is lovely but full of second homes.

"I have hopes for Scarborough, but places like Bridlington and Withernsea are a way off yet."

Ilkley's ascendancy encapsulates how an area's assets are being viewed through a different lens since the pandemic. Previously, a Michelin-starred eatery would ignite the writers' interests - but in 2020 came the realisation that a good local pub, deli or cafe is far more important. The Box Tree lost its star in 2018 and was put up for sale, but the town's food and drink scene has thrived rather than declined.

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Tim's team have also paid far more attention to West Yorkshire rather than North this year, mainly due to superior transport links and the fact that several of the region's tourist honeypots, including both National Parks, suffered from anti-social behaviour and environmental damage during the post-lockdown summer as they experienced unprecedented pressure from visitors.

"We're very excited for Yorkshire this year and the pandemic has given us a different focus. We looked at three key factors - countryside, community and convenience, If your only pleasure in life is being able to go for a daily walk, you want to make sure it's a good one. Community is more important than ever now. People want shops that deliver, and neighbours who are nice to each other and respect the rules. They don't want to have to get in their car to go somewhere any more. They want choice to be within easy reach.

"Small towns have suddenly become the best places to live. They're big enough to have everything, but small enough for people to still feel connected. West Yorkshire had suddenly risen to the top of the list in a way it never has before. Places like Slaithwaite and Todmorden give you a great choice of things to do - both have links to Leeds and Manchester, and the rail network is far more extensive in the west.

"The National Parks have had their troubles in the last year, so we've not included any honeypots this time as they are losing their appeal. But in Yorkshire there is fantastic scenery everywhere, you are never far away from it."

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Since the furore over tree felling died down, Sheffield has appeared in the guide, but the general mood shift away from cities means it has not been included this year.

Tim also likes Hull, which was included in its City of Culture year in 2017, and would like it evolve to return.

"If you're young and creative, it's good value and as good a place as anywhere in the country to be. I also like Beverley."

You can read the guide in full HERE.