The islands, 10 miles north of the Scottish mainland, and comprising an archipelago of 70 islands, topped the Scottish listings of Halifax’s Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey.
The study of 50 rural locations throughout Britain takes into account residents’ health and life expectancy, crime rates, weather, employment, school results, broadband access and personal wellbeing.
Orkney, with a population of approximately 21,350, had the highest average rating for life satisfaction in Britain – scoring 8.2 out of 10, compared with the average of 7.5. The islands also had the lowest burglary rate per 10,000 people followed by the Western Isles (5.4), and North Norfolk (7.3).
Overall, Orkney came in 21st place, up three places from last year’s survey. Shetland came in at number 40, also up three places, while Aberdeenshire was listed in 49th position.
Rutland in the East Midlands came top of the league, followed by Chiltern in south-east England and Uttlesford in Essex.
The Western Isles and Highlands takes the top spot for lowest population density, with just nine people per square kilometre, compared to a national average of 264.
At the other end of the scale, the most populated rural areas per square kilometre are Thanet on the east Kent coast (1,323) and Arun in West Sussex (692).
Jonathan Edwards, duty manager at the Kirkwall Hotel in Orkney, moved to the islands 11 years ago from Edinburgh. He and his wife Katherine have three children – Joshua, five, Eleanor, three and Rowena, two.
He said: “People in Orkney are really very friendly and make you very welcome. It’s a great place to live; everything is so close at hand; you only have to walk a mile and you’re out in the country and we’re near lots of beautiful beaches with great water. You don’t have to lock your door because people look out for each other – it’s a country thing.”
“Apart from shopping-wise being a bit limited, and the wind, it’s a great place to live.”
Primary school class sizes were shown to be smallest in Scotland with the Western Isles having the lowest in the UK with 17 compared to a national average of 26.4. The top 50 rural places to live in Britain are again dominated by the south east with fourteen districts found in this region, followed by the east of England which claims ten of the top 50 spots.
The healthiest district is the Isles of Scilly with 97 per cent or more households rating themselves in good or fairly good health.
That is followed by Chiltern, South Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Aberdeenshire (all 96.8 per cent).
Southern areas tend to receive higher ratings for weekly earnings, the weather, health and life expectancy. Northern areas score well on education in terms of grades and smaller class sizes, lower house prices and lower traffic flows and overcrowding.
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