There are lots of factors to consider when moving to a new area. While practical aspects understandably come first, places with beautiful scenery are always near the top of a property wish list. But where are the most picturesque places to live in the UK and USA?
Living in a picturesque area can bring benefits to our mental well-being, but where are the prettiest places to settle down?
To find out, we’ve analysed each local authority area in England and each US state on factors such as national parks and beauty spots.
If this has inspired you to make a move yourself, be sure to properly compare mortgages to secure the correct deal for your needs.
After analysing each local authority area, two were actually tied for first place. The first is North Norfolk, in East Anglia.
The area was amongst the top-ranking places for each of the factors analysed, particularly for its national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
North Norfolk is renowned for its coastline, with miles of wonderful beaches and small seaside towns and villages. Further inland the area is also home to rolling countryside and pretty market towns.
Tied with North Norfolk is Torridge, located in the north of Devon. Like North Norfolk, Torridge scored well across the board. It’s also in the bottom 10 nationally when it comes to fly-tipping incidents.
This is another part of the country known for its rugged coastline, particularly along the South West Coast Path.
The North Devon Coast AONB falls partially within the district, with a varied landscape of wild cliffs and waterfalls and calm sandy beaches.
Another Devon area comes in third place, meaning that each of the top three picturesque areas are located in the South.
West Devon is in the top five local authorities when it comes to national parks and AONBs, with 3.56 per 100,000 people.
This is because, despite being a small area, it contains most of Dartmoor and also the Tamar Valley.
Alongside the country’s national parks, there are 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which are some of the most picturesque places in the country.
There are just nine local areas that fall within three of these areas. When normalised against the population, two are tied with 5.58 per 100,000 people.
Eden, in Cumbria, falls within the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines. Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, also falls within the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines, as well as Nidderdale.
While it's about as far away from greenery as anywhere in the country, the City of London excels when it comes to beautiful historic buildings.
The Square Mile has 616 listed buildings in total, more per capita than anywhere else in the country.
Some of the most well-known listed buildings include St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Exchange and Mansion House.
Green space is vital when looking for somewhere to live, but in some of the more built-up areas, it can be hard to come by.
That’s not the case in Rutland though, where there are over 4.8 million square metres of parks within 1,000m.
Rutland is the smallest county in England with just two towns. It centres around Rutland Water, a large reservoir that is also an important nature reserve.
No matter an area’s green space and natural beauty, it can very quickly be let down by litter and waste in the streets.
The area with the fewest fly-tipping incidents is Oadby and Wigston in Leicestershire. The area has just 0.2 incidents per 1,000 people, which is far fewer than anywhere else in the country.
In the USA, it’s Florida that ranks as the most picturesque of the 50 states. The Sunshine State is home to three national parks, placing it fourth nationally when land area is taken into account.
It’s also amongst the states with the most wildlife species, with 134 in total (78.68 per 100,000km2).
The tropical weather of Florida is one of its biggest assets, as are its gorgeous beaches. But it's also home to unique ecosystems like the tropical wilderness of the Everglades and has its own coral reef too.
In second place is the country’s most populated state, California. Cali came in third place for two factors, its number of national parks and number of forests per 100,000 km2.
It’s an incredibly diverse state, containing everything from beaches to mountains and forests to deserts.
Some of the natural highlights of the Golden State include the Sierra Nevada mountains, Mojave Desert, and Sequoia National Park.
Hawaii stands out amongst US states with its very distinct scenery, given that it’s located 2,000 miles from the mainland, in the Pacific Ocean.
Hawaii actually tops the rankings for three separate factors: its national parks, wildlife species and Instagram posts, although it lacks any national forests.
Made up completely of islands, you’re never far from a beach in Hawaii, which is also home to a number of volcanoes and other peaks.
The US is home to some beautiful and varied national parks, but the state that has the most per square kilometre is Hawaii.
While the state is actually only home to two such parks, it’s also amongst the smallest states in terms of landmass, which is why it ranks so highly.
The state’s two national parks are Haleakalā, on the island of Maui, and the Hawaii Volcanoes, on Hawai’i Island (Big Island).
As well as its national parks, the US is home to thousands of state parks. The state that proportionally has the most state parks is Connecticut, with 445.78 per 100,000 km2.
The Constitution State is amongst the country’s smallest, but packs a lot of state parks into its modest area. Some of the most well-known are Hammonasset Beach, Devil’s Hopyard and Rocky Neck.
In terms of forests, Idaho is the place to be, with 5.54 national forests per 100,000 square kilometres.
Idaho’s forests span the central part of the state and into the Idaho Panhandle, with the Forest Service holding about 38% of the state’s land.
The Salmon-Challis National Forest, which is one of the largest national forests outside of Alaska, and home to the state’s largest mountain, Borah Peak, can be found here.
When it comes to wildlife species to spot, Hawaii is the runaway winner, with 1,674.14 per 100,000 square kilometres.
Being situated so far from the mainland USA, Hawaii has a very different set of flora and fauna than the other states.
Notable examples include marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and the Hawaiian Monk Seal, as well as sea turtles and many types of seabird.
Hawaii is also seemingly the most photogenic state, as it’s by far the one that gets posted about the most on Instagram.
The state has been tagged in over 39 million posts in total, and around 27.5 million per million people.
According to our research, the majority of the most picturesque places in England are located in the south of the country.
Two places were tied in first place, Torridge and North Norfolk, both coming out as the most picturesque places overall.
The location of your property definitely affects property value in England, just as it does anywhere else. There’s a reason the slogan “location, location, location” exists among estate agents!
This can most clearly be seen when we look at the disparity in house prices. As of June 2022, the average property value in London is £537,920. However, in the North East, it’s just £157,924.
That means that in this instance there’s a difference of just under £380,000 in terms of property value, depending on location.
There are lots of things that determine whether a location will make a property more or less valuable.
Some of them may be more practical things, such as whether they’re close to transport links or good schools.
However, the property’s value may also be affected by whether it’s located somewhere with a nice view, or perhaps with a south-facing garden.
Like in the UK, the location of a property has a big effect on its value in the US. For example, homes in cities where there isn’t much land for development, such as San Francisco and New York, tend to be more expensive.
As is the case elsewhere, factors such as how accessible, close to amenities and picturesque the property’s location is will be important too.
Each local authority in England, plus each US state, was analysed on the following factors, with each place given a normalised score out of 10 for each factor before an average of these scores was taken.
Fly-tipping incidents in England (sourced from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ fly-tipping incidents and actions taken in England).
Number of listed buildings according to Historic England
Average combined size of parks within 1,000m according to the Office for National Statistics’ access to gardens and public green space in Great Britain data.
Each of the above was calculated per 100,000 people using the Office for National Statistics’ estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The average house price in each local authority was sourced from HM Land Registry’s UK House Price Index.
Natural beauty - the most national parks listed on the National Park Society per 100,000 sq km
Number of wildlife species present according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s ECOS per 100,000 sq km
Number of Instagram posts that mention each state using hashtags per million people
Number of state parks according to State Parks per 100,000 sq km
Number of national forests according to the US Forest Service per 100,000 sq km
The average house price in each state was sourced from Zillow.
Considering moving to a new area? Whether you're looking to move for culture, beautiful surroundings, school or work, check out our guides below to provide inspiration and tips on where might be right for you.
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