One of the happiest places to live in the country for the last four years in a row, according to a national survey, Harrogate has also been named the best place to live in the North by The Sunday Times. Ruth Campbell talks to five people who have moved here from London to start up or relocate their businesses, while enjoying a better quality of life

The tributes keep rolling in for a North Yorkshire town which boasts top quality restaurants, great schools and beautiful parks and gardens. One of the happiest places to live in the country for the last four years in a row, according to a national survey, Harrogate has also been named the best place to live in the North by The Sunday Times. Ruth Campbell talks to five people who have moved here from London in order to start up or relocate their businesses, while enjoying a better quality of life

Lifestyle blogger Kathryn Sharman

Former fashion journalist and magazine editor Kathryn left London in 2005 to move north to Leeds, before settling back in her home town of Harrogate in 2009. Having turned to freelance writing after having three children, she launched her successful lifestyle blog Kat got the Cream shortly after arriving in the North Yorkshire spa town.

After living in London for a decade, Kathryn and her husband were drawn to Harrogate: “I found it frustrating not being able to afford a place of my own. I guess I missed the green grass of home too. I wanted my children to experience the same beautiful environment and friendly community I enjoyed. Plus Harrogate has some amazing shops, bars and restaurants now and feels quite metropolitan so you’re not missing out on that side of things. Harrogate has it all.”

Kathryn has worked for fashion, interiors and lifestyle brands, including Boden, John Lewis, Cath Kidston, White Stuff and Laura Ashley, creating sponsored content both for her blog and their websites and social media. It wasn’t hard to establish herself online from Harrogate. “Harrogate and Yorkshire are areas that hold a lot of interest and affection for many people in the rest of the country and I like to share that with my audience,” says Kathryn.

Travelling to the capital for press events and meetings can be expensive and time-consuming and occasionally she feels she misses out on opportunities because she’s not in London. “But that’s what phone, email and Skype are for, and I can be in Kings Cross in a couple of hours,” she says. “There are plenty of brands and agencies in York, Leeds and Manchester, which I liaise with too.” Kathryn particularly likes the beautiful countryside here, as well as the good schools, community events and café culture. “I’ve found the career that works for me at last,” she says.

Children’s toy and homewares site founder Naomi Clarke

Former investment bank recruitment manager Naomi launched her children’s toy and homeware site in December 2014, after having her second daughter. Having relocated from Australia to St Albans, just a 20 minute train journey from London, she and her husband Robin needed somewhere bigger as their family expanded. “We couldn’t afford to buy the house we lived in in London, never mind the one we aspired to live in,” she says.

Naomi moved north to Harrogate on her own with their daughters, while Robin travelled back and forth while aiming to relocate his recruitment business from London to Leeds. Originally from Scarborough, Naomi was particularly attracted by Harrogate’s good schools. “We visited several times and instantly knew we liked it,” she says. “The local people have so much time for you and Harrogate also has beautiful period properties and an ever-growing shopping centre, just minutes from the countryside.”

She invested her £5,000 savings in setting up her new website. “I love interiors so wanted to create a site for mums and dads with tasteful, creative and playful toys for the home,” she says. With customers dotted around the world, Naomi says her long-term aim is to grow her product range.

Florist Lucy MacNicoll

Creative florist Lucy MacNicoll relocated her thriving business from south London to Harrogate in 2010 to be closer to family. Originally from Yorkshire, Lucy, who uses to work in the West End, and her husband Gary, from Scotland, felt Harrogate was the perfect place. “We wanted to bring our children up here. It’s a gorgeous small town,” she says.

Mother to Finlay, eight, and Fraser, initially, she was working from home, which was a challenge. “We had to build up the business to justify renting a space,” she says. But within a couple of months, she was taking bookings for weddings. “Being a small town, word spreads quickly.”

Having won the Wedding Florist of the Year Award at the 2016 Wedding Industry Awards, she now employs four other members of staff and has expanded to open a floral boutique. Her core customers, brides-to-be in their twenties and thirties, come from all over the country. “We’re now able to increase bookings and take on bigger jobs,” says Lucy.

She does miss the creative buzz of London, which she still visits once a month, but loves being based in Harrogate. “We have the best of both worlds, based in town but with a ten-minute drive to rambling countryside. We have a lovely, friendly client base and a vast choice of beautiful local wedding venues.

PR and brand consultancy owner Jo Mackie

Jo Mackie moved to Harrogate last spring, after founding her PR and brand consultancy the year before. Having grown up in Yorkshire, she and her husband decided they wanted to leave London for Harrogate. For work, all she needed was a phone, a computer and a good wifi connection.

“A lot of family and friends live here and my husband really likes Yorkshire,” she says. “We also saw it as a great place to start a family one day, given the wonderful countryside, parks, schools and cultural events. But it took us a while to find a house and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice - the property market here moves much more quickly than we expected.”

A former in-house PR manager for a major childrenswear retailer, she went freelance to get her business off the ground and now represents interiors, children’s and baby brands, as well as a number of lifestyle retailers. “I feel like I now have the best of both worlds and can enjoy the beauty of Yorkshire and the buzz of London simultaneously,” she says. “I have clients based all over the UK – Bath, Tunbridge Wells, Brighton, Cardiff and Manchester, as well as London.

“We have a better balance living here, and don’t have to drive miles to find green space,” says Jo. “Having the Dales and Moors on our doorstep is such a privilege, yet I can still pop to the Hoxton North café in town for my ‘flat white’ fix!”

Photographer Mark Harrison

Photographer Mark Harrison and wife Gillian moved back to Harrogate last year after 17 years in London. “After all the bustle it felt like time to chill out a bit,“ he says. The couple, who have a young son, Milo, swapped their two-bed flat in Walthamstow, east London, for a detached house in the genteel North Yorkshire spa town. Having grown up here, Mark has friends and family in the area, and loves the town and all it has to offer.

Gillian soon got a job as an executive assistant for a location company but for Mark, relocating his photography and videography business was like starting again. “If you’re in the media industry and outside London people soon forget about you, so I had to work hard at creating and meeting new clients,” he says. He works for hotels, interior designer and PR companies and has qualified as a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle pilot in order to do more aerial photography.

Mark has no regrets about moving back here. “Harrogate is a beautiful, clean town with amazing public spaces and good shops,” he says. “There are great transport links, with London only two hours away. But most of all it's the people and the countryside I love. My life is much more relaxed now. There is less stress and traffic and days off are a great mix of family, friends and countryside.”