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Top 10 Best British Towns to Enjoy the Expat Life without Leaving the UK

If you want to get a taste of the expat life without leaving the UK, you could take a trip to the places around our country which offer a similar lifestyle and setting to popular global expat destinations.

beach Bay, St Ives, Cornwall
Property advice
Posted 05 August 2021
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Top 10 Best British Towns to Enjoy the Expat Life without Leaving the UK

If you want to get a taste of the expat life without leaving the UK, you could take a trip to the places around our country which offer a similar lifestyle and setting to popular global expat destinations. To help with this, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 best British towns for you to visit and enjoy like an expat.
Manor House, Stroud, Gloucestershire

#10 – Stroud, Gloucestershire

Situated in the famous Five Valleys, this picturesque market town is well worth a visit. Not only does it border the Cotswolds, it also has plenty of character with its red brick properties and stunning surroundings. Moreover, it was recently voted as The Sunday Times’ best place to live in the UK for 2021.  

Take a look at our retirement properties near Stroud


Other attractions

There’s no shortage of things to do in Stroud either, from Woodchester Park (a National Trust Manor House) to its Sunday markets, the Thames and Severn Canal and top dining experiences at highly rated Italian restaurants like Amalfi and Sorrento. 

Why it's ideal for expats

Thanks to its plethora of rural walks, natural sights and green spaces, during the warmer summer months you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the south of France or the Italian countryside – rather than the South West.

Beverley Minster, East Yorkshire

#9 – Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire

Beverley is another popular market town which is affectionately known as ‘the jewel of the East Riding’ by its residents. On top of the high-end amenities and bustling high streets, it’s also famed for its stunning array of historical buildings, including its Minster – a towering church that showcases the best in gothic architecture, dating back to the 13th century.  

Discover the retirement properties we have near Beverley


Other attractions

Alongside the history, there are plenty of other attractions to find in Beverley. Whether it’s Michelin Guide dining at restaurants like Whites, a stroll and a round of golf on the glorious Westwood or a few drinks at one of over 50 different pubs you can find dotted around the streets. 

Why it’s ideal for expats

From the Minster to the town’s Georgian and Medieval quarters, Beverley’s bounty of ancient attractions is reminiscent of what you might find in old German towns and cities.

Epping Forest, Essex

#8 – Epping, Essex

Epping is another Sunday Times-rated market town which is arguably best known for its close proximity to Epping Forest and its 6,000 acres of ancient woodland. It’s not just the natural surroundings that makes Epping so appealing though, it’s also a gateway to London and offers easy commuting should you want to travel in and out of the capital. 

Browse our retirement properties for sale near Epping.

Other attractions

Keen golfers will be able to enjoy the stunning Epping Golf Course, while those of you who like eating out can find plenty of award-winning and top-rated eateries such as Haywards, Roza Epping and the ‘best Indian restaurant in Epping’, the Indian Ocean. 

Why it’s ideal for expats

Thanks to its namesake forest, Epping is another example of a location where the countryside backdrop – or more specifically, woodland – gives the impression or feel of a foreign land. In this instance, the forests of Eastern Europe or Scandinavia. 

Cliffside Castle, Chepstow, Monmouthshire

#7 – Chepstow, Monmouthshire

While Chepstow’s famous racecourse might be what it’s best known for, this Welsh border town has an array of tourist attractions – in particular its impressive, cliffside castle, industrial history and its iconic bridge over the River Wye.  

Find retirement properties for sale in and around Chepstow.

Other attractions

Beyond its most famous attractions you can also visit places like the Chepstow Museum, Lancaut Nature Reserve and make the most of delectable British cuisine at popular restaurants like The Olway Inn and the rural Woodlands Tavern. 

Why it’s ideal for expats

The mix of influences on Chepstow’s old and new architecture creates a real European aesthetic to the town. As such, it’s another place where you may feel like you’re somewhere else – for instance, the castle evokes the hillside burgs of Bavaria. 

Frome, Somerset

#6 – Frome, Somerset

Situated in eastern Somerset, Frome is a quaint little market town that has a winning mix of history and modernity. Its hilly high streets come laced with buildings dating back hundreds of years, yet despite the cobbled streets and the Old Town Walls, you’ll typically find all your favourite shops, bars and restaurants. As such, its nightlife is pleasing, vibrant and inviting.  

Have a look at the retirement properties for sale with McCarthy Stone near Frome

Other attractions

The first Sunday of every month also sees the exciting Frome Independent Market being held, this has stalls featuring everything from crafts to culinary delights. Equally, you can get guided tours of Frome where you can uncover even more fantastic sights and sounds – ideal for a day out with family or friends. 

why it's ideal for expats

If you were to visit during the summer when the evenings are a bit warmer, the bustling streets and historical settings bring about the impression of similar locations on the continent in places like Spain and southern France. 

Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire

#5 – Stamford, Lincolnshire

Stamford claims to be one of the county’s best and most complete stone towns, with over 500 listed buildings to be found. This, alongside this Georgian market town’s wide variety of historical sites and top amenities, make it a great place to live and visit – so it’s not surprising it’s another location to have once topped The Sunday Times’ best towns list. 

Discover luxury living at our retirement properties near Stamford in Lincolnshire.

other attractions

Stamford has plenty of other attractions as well, from taking in a show at the popular Corn Exchange theatre, to enjoying some culture at the Burghley House and Park estate and even fine dining in the Exeter Arms. 

Why it's ideal for expats

Stamford is another one of those UK towns where there’s a distinct European feel, mainly down to the old stone buildings that have a decidedly French chateau look about them. However, what sets it apart is that you also get spoilt for choice with places to eat, drink and shop – in other words, it’s a bit like being on a foreign holiday but with all your creature comforts.

beach Bay, St Ives, Cornwall

#4 – St. Ives, Cornwall

Arguably one of the South West’s best destinations, this coastal town is incredibly popular and comes with lots to do, beyond just its glorious beaches and seaside views. Its own tourist board calls it the ‘art capital of the world’ and this is thanks to its abundance of talented artists who call the town home. 

Discover the retirement properties we have for sale near St. Ives

Other Attractions

It’s not just about beaches though, you can head inland to the St. Ives railway, which many consider to be one of the most scenic in the country, where you can walk or take a journey via train to the bay. There’s also the stunning and famous Tate art gallery, which even includes one of the town’s best restaurants.  

Why it's ideal for expats

The obvious connection to feeling like you’re enjoying the sun and sand in somewhere further afield is quite clear with St. Ives. However, it also offers you the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle and soak up some culture – evocative of life on the Mediterranean. 

Castle Ruins, St Andrews, Scotland

#3 – St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland

Whether it’s the famous golf course, world-renowned university or quaint coastal charm, St. Andrews is most certainly one of the UK’s best towns. It also has a rich history just waiting for you to explore, with highlights including ancient castle ruins, the West Port and the old Cathedral grounds. 

Discover  retirement properties for sale in Scotland with McCarthy Stone.

Other attractions

Its rugged coastline is another big draw for residents and tourists alike, offering impressive natural views, wildlife and much more. The stunning, unspoilt beaches are equally well worth a visit and if you’re a keen golfer, you can of course make the most of one of the world’s best courses. 

Why it's ideal for expats

While the weather might not match the typical beach climes of our European counterparts, there’s no denying that the setting and the aesthetics bring to mind similar historical coastal towns in places like Croatia, Slovenia and northern Italy.

Port Portmeirion, Wales

#2 – Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales

Portmeirion may not strictly be a ‘town’ – it’s more a village – but it’s definitely a fantastic place to visit and call home if you’re looking to live like an expat. Modelled on an Italian village, this Welsh tourist hotspot is brimming with European charm, attractions and beautiful views. 

Discover the retirement properties we have for sale around Wales.

Other attractions

The stylish and colourful architecture is one of the most popular aspects of Portmeirion and is a must-see for visitors and residents alike. Further to this there are still plenty of shops and places to eat and drink, including the iconic Hotel Portmeirion – a Grade II listed former Victorian villa. 

why it's ideal for expats

Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’ Italian Riviera-inspired design of the buildings in Portmeirion, mixed with the white, sandy beaches on the Dwyryd Estuary certainly make you feel as if you’ve been transported to an equivalent location on Italy’s coastline. However, there’s more to Portmeirion than this, it’s also peaceful, tranquil and the perfect place in which to escape – which is often a key goal for expats. 

Bournemouth Pier

#1 – Bournemouth, Dorset

Bournemouth is regularly selected as the UK’s best seaside town or destination, and with so much to offer it’s not hard to see why. Whether it’s the above average sunshine and warmer weather you can get on the Dorset coast, the award-winning sandy beaches or simply the high quality of life it’s famed for providing, Bournemouth is definitely a top destination for would-be expats. 

Take a look here to see our retirement properties near Bournemouth.

Other attractions

It’s not just the coastal elements though, there’s still lots to see and do in Bournemouth. A few examples include the three impressive Grade I listed churches and the two historic piers, the wealth of amenities in the town centre – including a number of highly rated restaurants that offer cuisine from around the world – and the superb transport options to get you to nearby local landmarks and sites. 

why it's ideal for expats

The beautiful beaches, mixed with the town’s recognition as an excellent seaside retreat and the better-than-average weather, makes Bournemouth one of the closest equivalents you could get as an expat to an overseas coastal location.  

Looking to retire? McCarthy Stone can help

While this list of the best British towns may give you a flavour of expat life, you may also want to make the move to these or similar locations permanently. In addition, if you’re considering where you might spend your retirement, we have luxury retirement properties available to buy and rent in many of the UK’s top towns and cities. 

If you’d like to get a better idea of just what’s available around the UK, you can browse our country, coastal and inner city location pages to find the right development in the right area for you. 

If you’re undecided about where to look, take a look at all of our available retirement properties and don’t hesitate to get in touch with local sales teams if you’d like to learn more.
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