Altrincham, Cheshire

Discover why Altrincham was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.

Stroud, Gloucestershire

This bustling suburb set out its stall — quite literally — in Manchester’s southern sprawl. In 1290, Edward I created a royal charter, allowing the town to hold a weekly market, yet not so long ago it was the worst high street in Britain.

The recent rejuvenation of the market has transformed a posh but dead dormitory suburb into a sociable place for the affluent families who prize Alty’s table-topping schools (three selective secondaries in the top five in the Northwest, according to The Sunday Times Parent Power guide) and its proximity to central Manchester — 35 minutes on the tram. 

It’s a particular sort of market drawing a particular sort of crowd. There’s not a plastic bowl of cut-price fruit to be seen. Instead, depending on the day, it’s all local produce, arts, crafts and vintage stuff, perfect for a browse followed by orecchiette with meaty ragu at Sugo (£14.50), or glorious steak and eggs (£18.80) in the convivial Market Hall.

Fashionable young families tuck into pizzas and tacos, couples explore stalls piled high with plants, crafts and local foods, often with a designer dog in tow, pugs and something-a-poos (it may be Trafford, but this is Cheshire at heart, after all).

If you want the shortest possible stagger home after an evening of revelry at the market, the smartest options are the seven-figure Victorian whoppers on Regent and Groby roads. Many have been converted into flats, which can fetch more than £400,000 for two bedrooms.

Alty’s other trump card is its variety of great green spaces. Regular visits to the glorious gardens and deer park of Dunham Massey are worth a National Trust membership fee alone. Stamford Park, lovingly cared for by its volunteer Friends, and the paths by the River Bollin are ideal for dogs and sociable meeting places for their owners.

Motorways, trains and planes are all within easy reach, there’s an Everyman cinema and excellent sporting facilities — an ice rink, a soon-to-be-upgraded leisure centre, golf club and, in Altrincham FC, a football club that’s keen to be part of the community — and you’ve got a recipe for serious suburban bliss. 

High Street

The main thoroughfare is busy with shoppers. It has had a bullish rebrand as “the Stamford Quarter” and is about to get another shot in the arm with plans approved to convert the empty Rackhams department store into shops, workspaces and restaurants. The market is the star, and on most days of the week there’s no need to look elsewhere for fresh produce.

There are good things elsewhere too: Asgard, a new Hong Kong grocer; designer homewares and more at Idaho; Moroccan homewares at So Marrakech; and, at the other end of the scale, train-set paraphernalia at Waltons Models. Plenty of national chains too: Waterstones, H&M and Monsoon, and every supermarket you can think of. There’s a Wilko and a Timpson, and loads more. 

Most of the best eating-out action takes place in or around the market (see also the Con Club, for mighty steaks, and Porta for tapas). Local favourites elsewhere include the Little Deli Company — coffee stop of choice after a visit to Stamford Park — and the Oxford Road Diner for bao buns, burritos and burgers.

Connections

The tram will get you to Deansgate in the centre of Manchester in 25 minutes and you’d be unlucky to not get a seat. There are trains to Manchester Piccadilly (from 25 minutes) and Chester (from 1 hour). It’s about a 15-minute drive to Manchester airport and the M6. There are plans for the bus network to be brought back under local control. Cyclists can follow the canal towpath along Bridgewater Way to Media City in Salford and to the city centre. 

Broadband

Northern parts such as Broadheath have access to Virgin Media, but otherwise its superfast services with a limited amount of full-fibre from Openreach.

Schools

Some of the best in the land, with three selective secondaries in the top five in the Northwest, according to Parent Power. Altrincham Grammar School for Girls (full Ofsted inspection 2008; national rank eighth in Parent Power) and Altrincham Grammar School for Boys (2007) and Loreto Grammar School (2008) for girls are rated outstanding by Ofsted. Bowden Church School ranks 35th= in Parent Power. The non-selective Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College (2013) is also outstanding, and Altrincham College (2017) and Wellington School (2017) are good. There are more than 15 Ofsted-outstanding primaries within three miles of the town. 

Best Address

Money no object? Head south to Hale, Hale Barns or Bowdon, where in 1878 it was noted that the area was “studded with handsome villas and mansions” with more than half of the residents owning their own business. Today, residents are more likely to be fancily paid footballers. More affordable terraced houses can be found on the leafy streets near Stamford Park or the Downs, from £450,000. 

Property prices

Average house price: £531,000 
Growth since 2020: 10% 
Source: Halifax using Land Registry data

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Prices are correct as of April 2022.

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