North Berwick named as the best place to live in Scotland

THE East Lothian town of North Berwick has been named the best place to live in Scotland.

The accolade has been awarded by judges on behalf of The Sunday Times newspaper.

North Berwick tops a list of eight, including Bearsden, near Glasgow, and Melrose, in the Scottish Borders.

Among the judging criteria were schools, air quality, transport, broadband speeds, culture, green spaces and the ‘health’ of the high street.

Also among the eight are Broughty Ferry, Tayside; Dennistoun, Glasgow; Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross; the Isle of Eigg, Inner Hebrides; and Portobello, Edinburgh.

The Sunday Times Best Places to Live in Britain covers the following nations and regions: North and Northeast England, Midlands, Northern Ireland, Southeast England, Wales, Southwest England, East England, London, Scotland and Northwest England.

Stroud, in Gloucestershire, was named as the Best Place to Live in Britain.

In more detail:

North Berwick

The judges said maybe it’s the energy radiating from North Berwick Law, a 300 million year-old volcanic plug that stands brooding over the town, or the profusion of yoga teachers practising downward-facing dogs at the Barefoot Sanctuary event space near Milsey Bay beach. 

Either way, there’s no denying the spiritual aura of North Berwick, an elegant seaside resort that has been luring jaded urbanites from Edinburgh – only 30 minutes away – and beyond for decades. 

Never more so than during the pandemic, when locals working from home have been able to wander the shoreline or simply gaze out to the gannet-speckled Bass Rock in their lunch hour.

North Berwick High School is considered one of the best secondaries in the country. In The Times Scottish school league table 2020 it is rated 13th out of 343 schools for pupils achieving five or more Highers, but its success is about so much more than academic achievement.

Students have a keen sense of social justice: in January, they spent a night sleeping rough to raise money for Social Bite, the homelessness charity. The school prioritises pupils’ mental health, and in February staff launched a new wellbeing microsite.

This altruistic attitude is contagious. During the first lockdown, many shops piloted home-delivery services – including Rock & Bird, a craft store on the high street, which dropped paint off to locals taking up artistic hobbies.

On the food front, the Big Blu, a retro pizza van, delivers once a week, and there is no shortage of stellar coffee shops, such as Zanzibar, Steampunk Coffee Roasters and Bostock Bakery; the latter winning a following for its sourdough and pastries.

Average house price: £355,000

Average rental: £1,200 pcm

Bearsden

The judges said this premier suburb of Glasgow has shown it has more strings to its bow than big houses, good exam results and a 20-minute train journey to the city centre.

The surrounding countryside has been a godsend during lockdown, whether it’s walking the dog in the Kilpatrick Hills or riding a bike around picturesque Kilmardinny Loch.

Average house price: £272,500

Average rental: £895 pcm

Broughty Ferry

The judges said this genteel suburb of Dundee is an ideal spot to enjoy nature while remaining close to the buzz of the nearby city and its impressively revamped waterfront. 

What Broughty Ferry has over its regenerated sister is untouched and glorious nature. A golden sandy beach, coastal paths up to Arbroath and a thriving watersports scene are a big part of life in ‘the Ferry’. The beach forms part of the River Tay’s estuary, with open views out to the North Sea.

Average house price: £215,000

Average rental: £895 pcm

Dennistoun

The judges said this up-and-coming corner of the East End of Glasgow combines a youthful edge with a respect for the city’s tradition. 

Alexandra Park is the beating heart of the area, meeting place for a menagerie of dogs and their walkers, with a wild stretch where you can feel as if you’re not in the city at all (as long as you can ignore the hum of cars on the M8 Motorway). 

Dennistoun’s cultural cachet exploded last year when Time Out magazine declared it the eighth-coolest neighbourhood in the world.

Average house price: £147,000

Average rental: £750 pcm

Dunkeld

The judges said a good deli, bakery, vintage shop, art gallery and cookware store indicate a high street that’s a ‘cut above’.

Dunkeld’s park benches must be the most strategically-located in Scotland. To sit on one, overlooking the mighty River Tay and its Escher-esque bridge by Thomas Telford, is to forget the world over the water. 

Come autumn, the trees on the riverbanks turn bonfire colours. In winter, the river looks so flinty it could cut through butter.

A cheddar and kimchi toastie from Scotland’s hippest rural bakery, just a short stroll away, completes the scene.

Average house price: £360,000

Average rental: £1,780 pcm

Eigg, Inner Hebrides

The judges said this tiny island isn’t just a great escape from everyday life, it’s also home to a thrillingly creative, pioneering community. 

One of the Small Isles, with the Ardnamurchan peninsula to the south and Skye to the north, what Eigg lacks in size (it measures just 12 sq km, with about 100 souls) it makes up for in hilly peaks, crystalline waters, bone-white beaches – and radical ideas.

In 1997, it was subject to a community buyout; self-sufficiency runs through the veins of residents.

They were behind the creation of a trail-blazing renewable grid that uses solar, wind and hydro power, meaning the island now runs on its own electricity.

Average house price: data not available

Average rental: data not available

Melrose

The judges said a burgeoning food scene is an exciting addition to the country charm of this most appealing town in the Scottish Borders. 

Here, ‘the good life’ is well within reach of Edinburgh via car or the Borders train. 

Melrose residents tend to be retirement age or coming up to it, which adds to the fulfilled, laid-back vibe.

Don’t miss bagels from Apples for Jam, a minimalist coffee shop on the high street whose takeaway offerings are targeted at walkers returning from a yomp in the hills.

Average house price: £199,950

Average rental: £575 pcm

Portobello

The judges said fresh sea air, a sandy beach, a friendly community and wonderful bookshop make this their new favourite berth in the Scottish capital.

In 2018, a former tackle shop on the high street was transformed into an independent bookshop.

Its opening marked a sea change for the district, which had been slowly changing from a commuter suburb to a destination in its own right since the early 2000s, when Edinburgh’s house price growth began its lift-off and Portobello became a more affordable option.

Average house price: £242,995

Average rental: £800 pcm

Pictured: Towards North Berwick harbour, from the west

Picture credit: PlaceDesignScotland

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