Orkney Scotland’s best place to live, says survey

It’S windy and wet with long, dark nights in the depths of winter, but the island community of Orkney has been named the best place to live in Scotland – followed closely by its northerly neighbour, Shetland.

Residents of Orkney capital Kirkwall and the rest of the islands enjoy a finer quality of life than mainland neighbours. Picture: Donald Macleod

The annual Quality of Life Survey from the Halifax bank found Orkney excels in a range of criteria including residents’ health and life expectancy, crime rate, weather, employment, school results and personal wellbeing.

Orcadians polled as among the happiest in the UK, with an average rating of 8.01 out of ten, compared to a UK average of 7.3.

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Only 15 of Scotland’s 32 council areas made the list of the top 250 local authority regions in which to live in Britain – with Glasgow city a notable absence.

Overall, Orkney was ranked 50th best place to live in Britain, with the top spot taken by the leafy Hampshire district of Hart for the third year in a row.

Steven Heddle, convener of Orkney Council, said: “It’s pleasing to see Orkney identified as having the best quality of life in Scotland, and that is a testament both to our environment and also to the people who live here.

“Orcadians combine a strong and traditional sense of community with a forward-thinking, can-do attitude that makes this a very special place to live and work.”

In the UK-wide report, some areas of Scotland performed far better than the national average for criteria such as housing and education.

A full 100 per cent of homes surveyed in East Ayrshire have central heating, compared to the national average of 96 per cent.

Primary school class sizes are smallest in Scotland, boasting seven of the ten local authority districts with the smallest primary school classes. The Western Isles has the lowest in the UK with 16 compared to a national average of 25.9.

The Western Isles also takes the top spot for lowest population density, with just nine people per square kilometre, compared to a UK average of 253. At the other end of the scale, the most populated areas per square kilometre are all in London, with a high of 14,203 per square kilometre in Islington.

“A good number of local authorities in Scotland have improved their position in the last year,” said Halifax economist Martin Ellis.

“The old adage of ‘health, wealth and happiness’ is the traditional measure of a good quality of life, and this appears to be the case in Scotland, with many adults rating themselves above the UK average in terms of happiness and believing what they do in life is worthwhile.

“The Orkney and Shetland Islands were the two top areas in Scotland. These districts reported strong results across many of the measures used, including health, employment, good school results and low crime rates.”

However, broadband was not a high-ranking factor in remote and island communities, with just half of Orkney and Shetland households having access to superfast download speeds.


Jim Baikie 
Comic artist Baikie worked on publications such as Look-In, where he illustrated adaptations of The Monkees and Star Trek – although he is best known for collaborating with Alan Moore on Skizz for 2000AD, a spin on ET.

Peter Maxwell Davies

Although not born on Orkney, composer Maxwell Davies, who holds the honour Master of the Queen’s Music, made the island his home in the 1970s. He often premieres work at the St Magnus arts festival, held on Orkney, which he founded.

George Mackay Brown 
The Scottish poet, author and dramatist is considered one of the greatest Scottish poets of the 20th century. Born on Orkney in 1921, much of his work was, as Seamus Heaney said, seen ‘through the eyes of an Orkney needle’.

William Balfour Baikie 
Explorer, naturalist and philologist Baikie was born on Orkney in 1824 and 30 years later began an exploration of Africa as surgeon to a government-backed expedition. He later opened up the navigation of the Niger, made roads, and established a community near the river which became the city of Lokoja.

Edwin Muir

A well-known poet and translator, Muir was born on Orkney and moved to Glasgow aged 14, something he would later regard as a movement from ‘Eden to Hell’. The motif of Orkney as an Eden dominated much of his work.