Shropshire Star

From Bishop’s Castle to Digbeth: Stark contrast in the six best places to live

One is a rural bolthole at the foot of the Shropshire Hills. The other a gritty neighbourhood in the midst of the sprawling West Midlands.

Gritty Digbeth, left, and independent Bishop’s Castle

Both were today named in a new report that claims to list the six best places to live in the region.

Bishop’s Castle and Digbeth join the like of Great Malvern, Market Harborough and Melbourne, in Derbyshire.

The best of the lot? According to judges, Leamington Spa in Warwickshire is the place to be if you really want to be happy.

Bishop's Castle

Bishop’s Castle in south Shropshire is praised for having an “independent streak”. It is that, the judges say, that sets it apart from other similar towns in the region. They were also taken with the historic Three Tuns Brewery which has been churning out refreshment since the 17th century.

Helen Davies, the editor of Best Places to Live 2023, said: “The steep high street is bursting with interest – nowhere more than at the wonderful Poetry Pharmacy, that offers verse in capsule form.

“Leisure and arts centres, good schools and the country’s oldest brewery and a lively pub scene are additional attractions.”


Digbeth, Stirchley, has been described as Birmingham’s equivalent of London’s Shoreditch. It will win no prices for beauty, but is bustling with places to eat, drink and be merry, and boasts a strong community. Ms Davies pointed out Birmingham’s rapid improvement work, thanks to new tram routes and new buildings.

She adds: “The city has a reputation as the most exciting city for food in the UK. Stirchley offers value in its unflashy terraced houses, a good local primary and excellent transport and a high street bursting with interesting places to eat and drink, from the artisan bakery Loaf, stylish and delicious Eat Vietnam and Couch, a friendly neighbourhood bar that also serves serious cocktails.

“Digbeth continues to impress. Its tangle of canals, old railway arches and industrial warehouses, all decorated with extravagant street art, is an evocative backdrop to one of the country’s most exciting live/work/play districts.”

The Sunday Times list is a big deal, offering those that are included some much-needed publicity and one-up on their neighbours.

The judges praised the West Midlands winner Leamington Spa for its graceful Regency whitewash and ironwork, tree-lined avenues and historic façades, its golf and rugby clubs, outstanding schools and the café and co-working spaces.

Ms Davies said: “It combines period charm with very modern innovation. It’s a major hub for digital industries and its high-tech credentials are about to get a power-up from the launch of a new Creative Quarter. It also has beautiful, well tended parks, excellent transport links, good schools and a town centre combining useful chains and interesting independent shops.”

While we all know the West Midlands is a great place to live, only six towns from our region form part of the 72 UK locations on the list.

Ms Davies said she accepted it only scratches the surface, adding: “When times are tough, where we live matters more than ever. Attractive surroundings, good neighbours and a comfortable home are the best defences when the stresses of modern life seem overwhelming.”

“Our guide is a celebration of towns, cities and villages that are each a fantastic place to live in 2023.”

This year’s guide – the 11th – features more new entries than ever before. The judges visited all the locations and assessed factors from schools to transport, broadband speeds to culture, as well as access to green spaces and the health of the high street.

Pick of the judges – and why they made their choice

Winner – Leamington Spa: “Beautiful, well tended parks, excellent transport links, good schools and a town centre with a combination of useful chains and interesting independent shops and cafes.”

Digbeth, Stirchley, Birmingham: “Digbeth continues to impress. Its tangle of canals, old railway arches and industrial warehouses, all decorated with extravagant street art, is an evocative backdrop”

Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire: “There’s an appealing independent streak that sets Bishop’s Castle apart from its neighbours in the lovely Shropshire Hills.”

Great Malvern, Worcestershire: “The dramatic views from the Malvern Hills would be reason enough to live here, but this former spa town impresses in many different ways.”

Market Harborough Leicestershire: “With so many beautiful old buildings, it is hard to avoid history in Market Harborough, but it is a town with plenty of modern, practical attractions on offer too.”

Melbourne, Derbyshire: “This attractive old town combines beautiful Georgian houses, and also boasts great access to the countryside. It is a location that is handy for east access to all the great cities of the Midlands.”