This article explores the effect of perceptions of rural life upon the subsequent actions of counterurbanisers and the resulting impact for rural economic development in the contrasting counties of Cornwall and Northumberland. Perceptions of a high quality of life attract migrants to remote rural areas yet these areas also have high rates of economic deprivation. In-migration can stimulate rural development but in this article we hypothesise that the effectiveness of counterurbanisers as catalysts for economic development depends upon their attitudes towards the receiving community. If rural represents a slow pace of life and a step away from the pressures of modern, urban, lifestyles, counterurbanisers are unlikely to bring the dynamism to rural communities. By contrast, counterurbanisers that understand and engage with the local community are better placed to introduce new forms of human and social capital and provide valuable connections beyond the local area. Building on more endogenous development approaches, a greater understanding of the integration and economic activity of counterurbanisers can guide rural policies and highlight the significance of external representations for peripheral rural areas.