It has some of the fastest train links into central London, has outstanding market towns, garden cities, picture villages, and miles and miles of ancient woodland and open countryside to explore.
And Hertfordshire is also a surprisingly affordable option for buyers considering a move out of London. According to the latest UK house price index the average sale price in Hertfordshire stands at £457,000, up 1.7 per cent in the last year and about the same price as a starter flat in the capital.
Hertfordshire is one of the largest and most varied of the home counties, covering a sprawling 634,366 square miles.
To help you choose the perfect spot, Homes & Property has curated a guide to the highlights of the county with up to the minute price data from estate agent Hamptons.
Value for money: Hertford
With an average sale price of £510,000, Hertford is the place to go if your priority is getting plenty of bang for your buck without compromising on lifestyle. An average house in the town sells for £613,000, while flats trade at an average £303,000. Prices are up 1.2 per cent over the past year, seven per cent since before the pandemic, and 53 per cent in the past decade.
Families flock to the area for its particularly high performing state senior schools.
Hartham Common provides the green space and on sunny days wild swimmers head to Hertford Lock for a dip at the point where the rivers Lea and Beane merge.
The town centre has an interesting mix of vintage stores, independent fashion shops, gastropubs, bars and cafes, and there is music (heavy on tribute bands) and comedy at the Corn Exchange. Lussmans Sustainable Kitchen regularly rates amongst the best restaurants in the country, with a menu ranging from pork schnitzel to halibut with Norfolk brown shrimps.
The town has always been a hit with commuters because trains to King’s Cross take about 40 minutes. It also offers travellers choice, with services to Moorgate or Liverpool Street both taking less than an hour.
Property is equally varied. You could blow the budget on a seven-figure country pile on the outskirts or opt for a smart period house in the town centre. There are period flats too, and several new, and new-ish developments if you prefer modern.
Most like London: St Albans
With its 24-minute commute to St Pancras International, St Albans is about as close as you can get to leaving London without really leaving.
Its smart city centre will also make fans of London’s urban villages a feel right at home — George Street, close to the cathedral, is full of gastropubs and coffee shops — a hedonist breakfast at Street Café (chorizo sausage, halloumi, roasted tomato, smashed avocado, poached eggs and toast) will set you up for anything.
Across St Albans there is a really good mix of independent and upscale chain restaurants, with outposts of The Ivy, Cote and Bills.
Add in the beautiful Verulamium Park, evocative cobbled streets, an open air theatre, a thriving street market (and an excellent monthly vintage market, eat your heart out Hackney Flea Market), and an independent cinema and it’s no surprise that recent research found that one in seven St Albans buyers arrive from London.
On the downside, all of this fabulousness doesn’t come cheap and beyond the gorgeous townhouses and cottages in the city centre there are swathes of disappointingly dull 20th century housing on the outskirts. The average property price stands at £682,000, up 1.6 per cent in the past year. St Albans has been a popular choice during the pandemic and prices are up 17 per cent since 2019 as a result. Since 2013 prices have jumped an impressive 66 per cent.
Least like London: Much Hadham
Its cobbled high street lined with Georgian and Tudor buildings helps give this good looking village its character. Peaceful and light on traffic, there is a pub, The Bull Inn, and a general store up the road in Hadham Cross, and a village primary school with a “good” Ofsted report.
Locals have to make their own fun, which they do with a surprisingly wide range of clubs and groups: a badminton club, photographic society, drama group, yoga lessons, and an art class at the village hall. Summer events include an open gardens weekend, and an artisan fair at the village hall.
The lush local countryside is littered with golf courses, the walking and cycling opportunities are great, and trains from Bishop’s Stortford, six miles to the east, will get you to Liverpool Street in around 40 minutes.
The village is too small to generate accurate house price data. The most expensive homes, detached and with land on the village fringes, run into seven figures. But you could pick up a period three-bedroom house for around £550,000 to £600,000. Flats are a rarity in the village, but there are a few maisonettes priced at just over £200,000.
Best connected: Aldbury
Even if you’ve never visited this gorgeous village just outside Tring, it may well look familiar thanks to appearances in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason plus multiple episodes of Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse.
It has everything you might expect from a traditional English village, from its duck pond to its smart pub, shop, and school. And it is just up the road from the National Trust-owned Ashridge Estate, 5,000 acres of woodlands, common and downlands where you can ahh over the wild deer and admire the spring bluebells.
All this bucolic charm is surprisingly accessible too — you expect towns to have decent links, but well-connected villages are a real rarity. In Aldbury’s case the nearest station is at Tring (a mile and a half away, and there is a bus service) and trains to Euston take from 35 minutes. The M1 is up the road for longer journeys.
Although the average price in the village stands at £511,000, up 42 per cent since 2013, expect to pay around £1.2 million to £1.5 million for a dreamy period house with substantial gardens. Alternatively, you could pick up a cute two-bedroom cottage for around £450,000.
Family friendly: Berkhamsted
The key driving force behind family moves is education, and Berkhamsted ticks that box in a big way with an outstanding range of, well, outstanding schools. Two of its primary schools hold top marks from Ofsted, and the rest are all rated “good” by the schools’ watchdog.
For older pupils the town’s Ashlyns School is also rated good, and Chesham Grammar School (outstanding) is available to those who pass the 11-plus.
Berkhamsted’s town centre is vibrant, full of independent cafes like Fred & Ginger and Café Make Believe, housed in a repurposed London bus and exceptionally kid friendly with story time and after school dinner specials. For the grown-ups there are bars and restaurants, lots of interiors’ shops for home inspiration, and the lovely art deco Rex cinema.
There is also a leisure centre, plus tennis courts and an elite tennis centre if you believe you have the next Emma Raducanu on your hands, and a skatepark in Canal Fields.
Trains to Euston take around half an hour.
Its setting on the fringes of the Chiltern Hill means that it is perfect for outdoor pursuits, or you could just stroll down the Grand Union Canal and settle down for a drink in a beer garden overlooking the water.
House prices in the town have jumped 60 per cent in the past decade, to an average of £733,000. But there are signs of a softening of prices this year, particularly for flats, which sell for an average of just over £350,000.