COUNTY Durham and North Yorkshire have some of the best places to live in the country.

Whether it's brilliant Barnard Castle, marvellous Masham or spectacular Skipton, the region fits the bill, according to the Sunday Times' 101 Best Places to Live in Great Britain.

The survey judged communities on appealing properties, nearness to nature, cultural attractions, good schools, great shops and transport links.

As well as The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle was lauded for its speciality stores, restaurants, bars and tearooms, however, it was noted that the nearest train station was half an hour away in Darlington.

The town's mayor, Councillor Frank Harrison said it was “wonderful recognition” for Barnard Castle.

“It has recognised how beautiful and historic the town is and also the great range of interesting and independent shops. We have got one of the top museums here and, of course, the castle.

“It's great news for people who live here and for attracting people to visit us.”

Tony Woods, chairman of the Barney Guild – the town's traders association – said he was pleased the mix of independent stores had been highlighted.

“The shops are not the same as you find everywhere else. The stores are a good selling point, but the real gem is the surrounding countryside.”

Elsewhere, Richmond's “lovely buildings and thriving town centre” all set in “gorgeous countryside” earned it a place on the list.

Mayor Coun Stuart Parsons joked that the Sunday Times had got it wrong - “Richmond is the only place to live.”

He added: “Firstly, the people make it special. There is an incredible level of community spirit.

“Secondly, we have one of the oldest castles, an amazing market place, brilliant schools and lots of open space.”

Masham, according to the survey “is not much more than a village set around a cobbled square,” but it has everything going for it, from a GP's surgery and bank to a butcher, baker, primary school and two breweries.

Skipton is a fab place for families, York needs no introduction and Harrogate is “arguably the poshest place noth of the M25.”

Northumberland is represented in the 101 Best Places to Live by Alnwick, Hexham and Ponteland, while Gosforth, on Tyneside, also makes the list.

Overall, the Sunday Times rates Stamford, in Lincolnshire, as the top spot, followed by Kendal, in the Lake District, Wye, in Kent, and Thornbury, in Gloucestershire.