The Saturday Daily Telegraph's property section had an article on the Top 10 Country Towns (and listed the top 50) in the UK.
"Small market towns are becoming increasingly desireable, as much for their natural beauty as for their shops and schools. Caroline McGhie seeks out the best, and finds Arundel the jewel in the crown".
Well no doubt she did. To get the list of 50 the Telegraph canvassed more than 100 estate agents and picked the brains of "experts" around the country. They referenced architectural historian Alec Clifton-Taylor's three landmark books on English Towns to whittle it down to the top 10. Does that explain the fact that no Scottish or Welsh towns make the top 10?
The criteria is, to be fair, one I would agree with
"What are our criteria? They have to have been shaped by history, dominated by a castle, abbey or a spectacular natural backdrop. Each has to be master of its own outstanding landscape, a place where specialist shops have not been obliterated by chain stores. It has to have a handsome church or market square that serves as a focal point. It may tinkle with money, smart frock shops and foodie specialists, and be a place where sports clubs and poetry groups thrive. Although it may have a large supermarket, it will be self-sufficient in banks, doctors and local stores. It will be padded with pretty Georgian or Victorian houses - a neatly wrapped package to delight the eye."
The Top 10 in Alphabetical order are
Arundel - West Sussex
Burnham Market - Norfolk
Bury St Edmunds - Suffolk
Great Malvern - Worcestershire
Hexham - Northumberland
Ludlow - Shropshire
Moreton-in-Marsh - Gloucestershire
Richmond - Yorkshire
Stamford - Lincolnshire
Totnes - Devon
I have visited 9 of the 10 (Really must go to Richmond one day).
One of the things that puzzles me is what is a Small Market Town. Bury St Edmunds is considerably bigger than say Burnham Market. Bunhham Market is really a large village. Bury St Edmunds feels considerably more substantial. Within the top 50 is St Albans which though nice wouldn't make my list. Far too big to be called small for a start (population over 60000).
Looking at the wider list there are some interesting facts. Yorkshire and Lincolnshire is a massive area but the 3 Yorkshire Towns (Pateley Bridge, Helmsley and Ricmond) are in the North and the one in Lincolnshire (Stamford) in the extreme south of the two counties. Unsurprisingly there are no Cornish towns. Cornwalls beauty lies in its coast. Surprisingly to me not one Cheshire town made the list.
One of the problems with popular towns is that often the locals are priced out. Burnham Market is often referred to as Islington Sur La Mer. If I'm honest I'd prefer Holt and Aylsham (both of which made the top 50).
Two Scottish towns made the top 50 (Kelso and Aberfeldy) and one Welsh (Ruthin)
My own much maligned county of Essex supplied two towns to the list Saffron Walden and Thaxted.
Oh booked a second holiday with Dad. We're going to Dartington near Totnes (see list above). I was in the area last year so I will try to find new places to visit so as not to be repetitve.