Escape to the country? The top 10 UK property searches in 2021

It was the year that millions of urban dwellers plotted – or daydreamed about – a move to a more isolated location, with a small Scottish island, remote Cumbrian villages and the Isle of Man all featuring in a list of homebuyer search hotspots for 2021.

The pandemic has prompted many people to look at quitting their homes in the town or city and relocating somewhere with more open space or more room for working from home.

Rhos-on-Sea, a small seaside town in north Wales near Colwyn Bay, topped property website Rightmove’s list of the 10 most popular hotspots, all of which are either villages or located near the sea.

The village of Chadlington, Oxfordshire.
The village of Chadlington, Oxfordshire. Photograph: Sam Frost

However, the site also found that during the final months of 2021, London snatched back its crown as the most searched-for major area – suggesting that, as lockdowns lifted and restrictions eased, many would-be homebuyers underwent a reality check.

Sandwiched between Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, Rhos-on-Sea is popular with daytrippers, with a population of less than 8,000. Searches for properties in the town were up 858% on 2020.

In fourth was the village of Breage in deepest Cornwall, located a few miles from Helston and 20 miles from Land’s End.

In fifth place on the list was the Isle of Man, with its “favourable tax regime” and low crime rate. Unlike other offshore jurisdictions, there is no limit on buying or renting property on the island.

Colourful 1930s houses at The Headlands in Thorpeness, Suffolk.
Colourful 1930s homes at The Headlands in Thorpeness, Suffolk. Photograph: Mark Sunderland Photography/Alamy

In sixth and 10th place were villages in Cumbria: Frizington, situated a few miles from the Lake District national park, and Allonby, which boasts a long sandy beach and views across the Solway Firth to the mountains of southern Scotland.

The town of Huntly in Aberdeenshire, just under an hour’s drive north-west of Aberdeen, was in seventh place, and in eighth was Millport, the only town on Cumbrae, off the Ayrshire coast, which has been dubbed “Scotland’s most accessible island”.

The seaside village of Thorpeness in Suffolk came in ninth place.

Millport beach on Cumbrae.
Millport beach on Cumbrae. Photograph: JHB Photography/Alamy

Perhaps a little more familiar to many were the second- and third-placed hotspots. Hove in East Sussex, just to the west of Brighton, saw home searches up 680% on 2020, while in third came the village of Chadlington in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds – the epicentre of broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson’s foray into agriculture, as depicted in his Amazon Prime reality show, Clarkson’s Farm.

In terms of major areas, London is historically the most searched-for location on Rightmove; however, in January and February 2021, and then from May until September, Cornwall led the way. But after that, London took the top spot again and kept it.

Rightmove said these findings reflected “changed buyer preferences” in 2021, when more people looked for homes near coastal areas as they spent time working from home, while the return of London to the top of searches later in the year highlights its returning popularity.


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