It’s grim up north, isn’t it?

It’s grim up north, isn’t it?

author: Sarah Neate

By Sarah Neate


‘It’s grim up north’ – how many times have you heard that phrase? Lots we bet, but how true is it?

Is it really grim up north, or is it just something that people who don’t live there think? Let’s have a look at the evidence provided by, who asked residents all over the UK last year what they think about 12 key areas of happiness for the Happy at Home index – the results might surprise you!

What does the Happy at Home index say?

Well, it reveals that it’s really not that grim up north. In fact, it’s much grimmer down south, with all of the 10 worst places to live in situated within the greater London area. The number one spot is taken by East London, with Ilford, Croydon, East Central London, Twickenham, Enfield, North London, Harrow, South East London and West London, filling up the other ten spots.  So, it seems like it’s those from down south have it much grimmer than us up north. We say ‘us’, because we’re located in the wonderfully cosmopolitan city of Manchester – a true northern gem. Not that it makes us in any way biased. No, we’re just stating the facts and we love our southern neighbours!

Up north there are currently six, (yes six!) of the top ten places to live in the UK within our borders. These include the number one spot, which is the beautiful town of Harrogate. That’s followed by Inverness in second place, Stockport in fourth place and Falkirk in fifth. Hull occupies position seven, with Preston following on behind in place number eight.

What’s it based on?

The survey isn’t just focussed on one factor that makes it a happy place to live – there are twelve different factors taken into consideration. The factors are décor, space, wellbeing, investment pride, value, contentment, safety, recreation and neighbourliness. The number one place to live in the UK, Harrogate, came top for three of these key areas – safety, recreation and neighbourliness. So feeling safe, having fun things to do and a sense of community seem to be important factors for making a place popular to live in. It seems northern towns have these in bucket loads, as well as pride and great feeling of wellbeing too – good job northerners!

Why do people think it’s grim up north?

So, what is it that gives people a negative impression of the north? We bet the weather has something to do with it! Think about Manchester and what comes to mind? Rain, by any chance? And, that’d be right as the North West for instance is wetter and windier than other places in the country because of the topography – a fancy word for hills and other things that will affect where clouds drop their rain and so on. And, there’s no doubting that it’s slightly warmer in the south and there’s less rain. So, that’s one reason. What else?

The jobs situation in the north is historically known for could be another big factor in how it’s viewed. The image of northern mining or mill towns becoming deserted as manufacturing moved away doesn’t help with the ‘grim’ image.

And, it is a fact most of the big theatrical and sporting and events, like the Olympics, take place in the south, which must add to their impression that nothing happens in the north.

Does it really matter?

These surveys aren’t the be all and end all, but if you’re thinking of moving to a new area, you’re probably going to do a lot of research around it, and this is the kind of stuff you might look at to get a better understanding of your potential new hometown. However, these days it’s easy to find out what an area is like in other ways too. You can check crime figures, read reviews of local businesses, check the quality of the schools and health services in the area from league tables, so this survey is another one you can add to the list. 

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Sarah Neate

By Sarah Neate

It’s grim up north, isn’t it? It’s grim up north, isn’t it?