Where to live: Country retreats

With the celebrity pull of the Cotswolds and Norfolk's new royal neighbours, are we really setting up home where the heart is or falling for the stars?

by 11 September 2014

Trawling through Facebook the other evening, I stumbled across a post from an old friend from my days in Dubai, and now fellow mummy, who shared a link to The Telegraph's 'Britain's Top 20 places to raise a family'. I couldn't resist a click and peek, and lo and behold my humble Cheltenham was top of the list.

Now I don't claim to live in Cheltenham, but it is just twenty minutes from my rural abode and my bite of the urban cookie. And when you live in the heart of the Cotswolds, twenty minutes by car is just around the corner and anything with more than a post office, metropolitan bliss.

Every country road's a catwalk for Kate Moss. Pictured here in the Cotswolds village of Southrop, where she owns a property with husband Jamie Hince.The stunning Regency Spa town of Cheltenham is where I go for culinary treats, weekday jazz and cocktails, to catch a movie with friends and for a style soaked stroll around the bustling Montpellier (the heart of the 'nice' part of town). I am a culture vulture for its gorgeous architecture, leafy promenades, and Michelin starred restaurants, boutique shops and not to mention its music and arts festivals. And for the little ones, well it is easy to see why it ranks at number one with excellent schools, low crime rates, plenty of green spaces and of course no end of the ubiquitous mummy and baby hangouts. You can't move on the streets for Bugaboos and Cath Kidston changing bags and watch out for Kate Moss and Lily Allen and clan.

Coming in at number two on the list, is North Norfolk – a family haven with both sea and the countryside to boast. But I cannot help but wonder if it's rather well known royal inhabitants have anything to do with its increased recent popularity and recent rise in property prices? Norfolk is home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's country retreat, Anmer Hall on the Queen's Sandringham Estate, where Prince George and his soon to be baby brother or sister will spend much of their childhood. Other famous Norfolk homeowners include Amanda Holden, Stephen Fry and Bill Bryson.


Italy's Lake Como, where George Clooney and fiancé Amal Alamuddin are set to marry later this month, has also seen a similar rise in popularity. Since George bought his lakeside Villa Oleandra in Laglio back in 2002, property prices in the area have increased considerably (George's villa is said to have risen from £5 million to £20 million). It has become a pull now for not only the rich and famous; yes Richard Branson reportedly has a house here too, but for everyday homeowners and families.

But do we really think that by living down the road from George Clooney or Will and Kate, that we might somehow acquire their lifestyle, become Facebook friends and have their children over for tea? I once had Sunday lunch on a table next to Liz Hurley in my local pub, but we didn't exactly exchange numbers and share a bottle of wine by the log fire. Yes I might one day rub shoulders with Lily Allen on the school run, but the closest my boy will get to being called King, is in the Christmas nativity.

For me, it is not whom we live near that matters, but what we all share around us. And with the recent findings that we are more stressed at home than at work, choosing where we make our home is more important than ever. I hear Cheltenham is rather nice...

Read More: LUXOS' Guide to The Cotswolds, where to cook, eat, sleep, read and more

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