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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 13:50 GMT
The UK Love Map
Valentine's Day is the romantic highpoint of the year, but whether you are in a relationship, married, co-habiting with children or divorced could largely depend on where you live in Britain.

1: Outer Hebrides - highest ratio of single men to women
2: Cookstown - most people in first marriages
3: Gretna Green - marriage hotspot
4: Blackpool - most divorced people
5: Manchester - most single people
6: Hull - most babies born out of wedlock
7: Norwich - most cohabiting couples, without kids
8: Brighton - Britain's gay capital
Britain's North-South divide has long been seen as an economic partition but according to research, romantic fortunes could also be determined by where people live in the country.

Statistically, single men searching for unattached women would be best to focus their efforts on the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. But they'd also better have deep pockets.

Not only is the royal borough one of the wealthiest in the country, it also has the highest ratio of single women to single men.

Several hundred miles away, in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, the reverse is true - single men outnumber unspoken-for women by three to one on the islands of Lewis and Harris.

The findings are the basis for the UK Love Map, to be shown on BBC Three this week, and combine data from the latest Census, an online poll and interviews with experts.

The research reveals a host of other love trends specific to parts of the UK. For example, Blackpool has the highest number of divorced people in the country, while the London suburb of Harrow claims the lowest.

Blackpool's status as Britain's divorce capital - 12.3% of residents are divorcees - is thought to be the result of several factors overlapping. Seaside resorts are said to hold great appeal for divorcees because they're viewed as places to start a new life.

The programme makers also suggest the town's high numbers of guesthouses and B&Bs means a lot of married couples spending all day and night together in a fast-paced, hectic environment. The result could test even the strongest of bonds.

Divorce is clearly less of an issue in Hull, since this is home to the largest number of unmarried couples with children. Fifty-three percent of babies born in the Humberside town are born out of wedlock.

Victorian values

The reason, according to the programme makers, owes a lot to history. Co-habiting couples were commonplace in working-class Britain before the advent of Victorian values in the 19th Century.

Tying the knot in a civil partnership or 'gay marriage' in Brighton
Tying the knot in a civil partnership or 'gay marriage' in Brighton
Those values have relaxed in recent years, but Hull might have been influenced by its maritime status. Once the biggest fishing port in the world, and with the men frequently away at sea, the city apparently developed a matriarchal society.

When the men returned from sea, experts suggest they'd spend their money, meet women and be gone in a few days, often leaving pregnant women behind. Instead of being shunned, single pregnant women were supported by the community and marriage was less of a status symbol.

Someway down the east coast, Norwich claims the highest number of cohabiting couples without children.

For those who do choose to tie the knot, Gretna Green in Scotland is by far the most popular venue. It hosted some 5,500 weddings last year, which far outstrips the town's population of just 3,000.

Gretna Green's status as Britain's top wedding location dates back to the 18th Century when laws were passed which forced couples under 21 to gain parental consent. Gretna's more liberal policy, of allowing anyone over 16, to get hitched with no further questions asked drew lovebirds from far and wide.

Flamboyant and anonymous

Such considerations are of little concern to many Mancunians. Manchester is home to the largest proportion of single people in the country - with 71% of its population unattached.

Why? One suggestion focuses on the city's bid to revitalise its centre in the 1990s. The council authorised the building of small flats on disused industrial sites and singletons - both gay and straight - came flooding in. Fifteen years ago, only 1,000 people lived in the centre of Manchester. Today, it's approximately 15,000.

Despite Manchester's reputation as a gay hotspot, Brighton in East Sussex, is unquestionable Britain's gay capital, according to the UK Love Map. The city's flamboyant history, which owes much to the influence of the Prince Regent, coupled with the anonymity and tolerance of a seaside resort, helped foster Brighton's reputation as a home for homosexuals in less tolerant times.

Finally, those seeking a stable, long-lasting marriage, should set their sights on Cookstown in Northern Ireland, which boasts the lowest divorce rate in the UK. Its large Catholic population and strong community ties play an important part, say the programme consultants.

The UK Love Map is broadcast on Wednesday, 15 February, at 2100 GMT on BBC Three.



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