5 Best places to retire in the UK

View of Buttermere from Honister Pass in the Lake District
View of Buttermere from Honister Pass

The subject of retirement has been cropping up with alarming regularity of late. Maybe it’s because we’re both now in our 40s and starting to notice the sudden onset of wrinkles and the odd grey hair. Or perhaps it’s because Hubbie’s job means he’ll be able to lay down his tools a lot earlier than most and when it comes to planning ahead, we always say there’s no time like the present.

As youngsters we always thought retirement for us would mean sailing a yacht around the world – despite not having an ounce of sailing competence between us. Or renting out our house and hot-footing it to Asia where we’d bounce across the steppes of Mongolia in a campervan stocked up with provisions for several years. The dreams of wanabee nomads have slowly faded over the years and having travelled extensively, we’ve come to realise that one of our favourite parts of exploring the world is actually coming home again. To our own private little pad, where we can regroup, restock and rediscover all the things we appreciate about having a home base.

Digital Nomad - working in a campervan with a laptop - remote working

What we thought retirement might look like

Which is why when we discuss retirement plans now, it’s more along the lines of setting up a small holding on the wild coast of northern Scotland, or finding a quiet rural plot in the Welsh borderlands and learning how to rear pigs. Yet there’s just one problem. I hate mud. And am not too keen on animals either despite loving the countryside, so maybe that old-age idyll isn’t that realistic.

We’ve recently come across an article on the most popular retirement towns in the UK and it got us thinking. Where do we really want to live out our golden years? Do we honestly want to hide away out in the sticks, or would being based in a small town with all its amenities and community be a better option. Decisions, decisions!

We’ve narrowed down our choices and although we’ll no doubt change our minds in the lead up to retirement, at least we now feel we’re on the right track!

Best Places to Retire to in the UK

Ambleside, Lake District

This charming Lakeland town is one of the favourites mentioned in the article, and we’re inclined to agree. We spent many years living in the southern Lake District before moving up north, and always agreed it would be a great place to retire. The sense of community in Ambleside is strong, with plenty of local events as well as a thriving arts and cultural scene. Then of course there’s the glorious scenery and mountains right on the doorstep for days when you fancy going hiking.

Kentmere Valley in the Lake District

Walking in the southern Lake District is a highlight

As it’s a popular tourist town as well, there are lots of international restaurants and a great cinema, so there’s always something to do. You do need a car though, as buses aren’t that frequent and the nearest train station is 25 minutes south in Kendal.

Penzance, Cornwall

We’ve spent many a holiday down in Cornwall, always swinging by Penzance for a mooch round the shops and a pasty on the waterfront. The town makes a great base for exploring the wider area, as well as having all the amenities you could ever want. You can get there by train, which is always a bonus as age creeps up and travelling by car isn’t always an option, and the public transport network in this neck of the woods is pretty decent.

Cadgwith Cove, Cornwall

Pretty fishing villages on the nearby Lizard Peninsula

There are heaps of interesting things to do in Cornwall, whether you’re local or just visiting. Just along the coast are beautiful harbour villages like Mousehole, which is a lovely spot for a seaside stroll and fish and chips on the pier. In the other direction the Lizard Peninsula is a world away from the bustle of town, with hidden beaches, windswept cliffs and lots of coastal walks to enjoy. It’s a fair distance from the rest of the UK, but that is perhaps its greatest charm.

Melrose, Scottish Borders

Further north, in the rural borderlands of southern Scotland, Melrose is a delightful town nestled in the shadow of the Eildon Hills. There are lots of hiking trails for when you want a bit of fresh air, as well as riverside walks and ruined castles to explore. Literary lovers will enjoy making pilgrimages to Abbotsford House, the former home of Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott.
Jedburgh Abbey - things to do in the Scottish Borders

Jedburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders

There’s the Borders Abbeys Way to enjoy too, a multi-day circular walk that takes in the four great abbeys of the region – Melrose, Kelso, Jedburgh and Dryburgh. The culinary scene here is incredible too, with a huge focus on locally sourced, organic produce and lots of farm shops to treat yourself during the week.

Bamburgh, Northumberland

This beautiful Northumberland town on the north east coast of England is a real gem. In summer it is a popular spot for tourists, but out of season the locals have it mostly all to themselves. The architecture is quaint, there are tea shops and pubs to frequent, and of course the imposing castle is ever-present. The highlight is the long sandy beach that sweeps along the coast almost as far as the eye can see, which is perfect for dog walks, kite flying and sheltered picnics hidden away in the dunes.

Large castle on top of rocky mound

The imposing Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh isn’t far from other glorious Northumberland locations, such as Alnwick with its famous gardens, and Lindisfarne Island which can only be accessed across the causeway when the tide is low. This part of the coast doesn’t get as busy as down south, which makes it the perfect spot for retirement.

Exmoor, Somerset

If you’re looking for rural and wild, with a strong community when you want it, then Exmoor is a great choice. The moors and river valleys of the national park are superb places for hiking, biking and horse riding, with so much choice you’d never have to cover the same tracks twice during the course of a year. Up on the coast there are quaint National Trust villages like Selworthy, and castles if you fancy a day out. You’re not far from the famous Valley of the Rocks if you like coastal adventures, and the buzzing towns of Lynton and Lynmouth for bobbing boats and tea shops.

Harbour at Lynmouth

Boats bobbing in the harbour at Lynmouth

Whether you opt for a tiny hamlet hidden away on the moors, or a larger settlement on the fringe, access to the wider area is good and you’ll never be bored here.

Have you decided where you want to retire yet? Let us know in the comments. 

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