Blessed with sea air and splendid views, the south coast has long been a popular relocation spot for families, downsizers and retirees. And after lockdown, many expect the trend will only strengthen.
‘Lockdown appears to have inspired buyers to seriously consider the fantastic lifestyle and change in pace that can be achieved by living by the coast,’ says Nick Leeming, chairman of the estate agents Jackson Stops.
‘Since the housing market unlocked in mid-May, our branches in the area are experiencing an increase in demand from those looking to relocate from city areas,’ he says. ‘The expectation is that this will continue throughout the summer.’
If you’re tempted to go south, here are seven hotspots that might work for you:
A much-loved port town on the west bank of the River Torridge, Bideford’s history stretches back to the eighth century, when it formed part of the territory of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex. With its 15th century bridge straddling the river itself, the market town is still full of old world charm.
The Christian socialist thinker Charles Kingsley lived here in the mid 19th century, with the nearby seaside resort of Westward Ho! – the only place in Britain with a punctuation mark in its name – taking its name from a novel he wrote here.
The town is close to the start of the Tarka Trail – the largest traffic-free cycle route in Britain – and is within an easy drive of Exmoor National Park.
Whilst prices here already carry a premium thanks to the town’s long-standing ties with the yachting community, it’s not hard to see what all the fuss is about. Lymington has a lively, well-stocked high street, a beautiful marina and all the joys of the New Forest on its doorstep – from wild ponies to cycle trails. You can reach London on the train from nearby Brockenhurst in 1 hour 39 minutes.
Average house price: £468,202
Try this two-bed apartment with views across to the Isle of Wight
Or this period property, complete with its own bell tower.
With prices in Brighton not far off London, it’s worth casting your net further out to nearby seaside towns. Traditionally a favourite retirement spot, Hastings is now drawing increasing numbers of families who have moved out of the capital in search of sea air and more space. Also worth a look is Seaford – an understated, lesser known gem with dramatic white cliffs nestled between Eastbourne and Brighton.
Average house price in old town: £235,581
5-bed Victorian villa near Seaford: £650,000
3-bed character terrace in Hastings old town: £585,000
Set in the heart of the English riviera, Torquay enjoys nationwide fame for its stunning beaches, mild climate and genteel Victorian style.
Leaving aside its tourism pull, the seaside town is also on the up property-wise, thanks partly to a new wave of foodie-oriented restaurants that have finally banished the old Fawlty Towers reputation.
While locals aren’t ashamed of Torquay’s sitcom notoriety, they tend to be much keener on the town’s other claim to fame: as the home of Britain’s most famous mystery writer.
If you haven’t already, take the chance to walk the Agatha Christie Mile which takes you through the jazz-era sights known to the queen of mystery.
A small harbour resort known best to surfers (who say it’s home to some of the region’s most ferocious tides), Portreath is an idyllic seaside village perfect for anyone looking for a spot of solitude.
Whilst not overly commercialised, the village has a healthy tourism economy, and a selection of hotels, cafes and pubs. The cliffs – which offer some of the most envied views in Cornwall – are treasured by locals and visitors alike as the perfect location for a brisk evening walk.
The local area has four academy schools, one of which is regarded as ‘outstanding’ (the Community and Hospital Education Service – or CHES – academy).
Another beach resort and heritage town (let’s face it – the south coast is full of them), Swanage in Dorset is famous as the home of the eponymous rail network which connects the town by steam train to the beautiful Purbeck countryside.
Though no longer connected to the national network (a sore point for residents), there is a passionate local campaign to have the link reinstated. Swanage town boasts a beautiful white sand beach, pubs, bistros, independent butchers and shops, as well as two local markets. Compared to Purbeck honeypots like Lulworth Cove and Studland, it is still reasonably priced. It has a faded seaside charm that makes it ripe for reinvention.
As one of the lesser known charms of the Jurassic Coast, it’s a good option for young families or those on a tighter budget.
Once one of the busiest and most cosmopolitan places in Dark Ages Britain, Tintagel is known best these days for its association with King Arthur.
While it’s still disputed how much of the legends are true (Tintagel is often falsely cited as the birthplace of Arthur), there’s no denying the town boasts more ancient history than many respected museums, not least the breathtaking ruins of Tintagel Castle.
Blessed with old world charm, the town is the perfect relocation spot for anyone who values a bit of eccentricity. It’s also home to Camelot Castle: the subject of one of the most memorable Spectator restaurant reviews from last year.
Known for its striking red cliffs and elegant regency architecture, Sidmouth was once described by John Betjeman as ‘a town still caught in timeless charm’.
Regularly commended by Britain in Bloom, Sidmouth is home to two beaches, the second of which – Jacob’s Ladder – forms one of the south coast’s longest stretches of rock pools at times of low tide.
Regarded as a haven for retirees, the town scores consistently highly for quality of life. Being on the mainland end of the Jurassic Coast (not far from Exeter), you’re not entirely cut off from the rest of England: Bristol, the capital of the south west, is only a two hour (!) drive away.
The culture capital of the south coast, St Ives boasts an entire gallery – part of the Tate family no less – to exhibit the work of artists living in or linked to the area, of which there are many, past and present.
By local standards it’s also supremely well connected, having a railway station linked to the famous Paddington to Penzance route.
The beaches are largely considered the cream of the crop, frequently drawing well-heeled international visitors. There is one downside though: sharks. Several times in recent history, there have been reported sightings of great whites, leading to the closure of the beaches.
Still, that shouldn’t affect property values too much…