The UK’s Top 10 Oldies Radio Stations: A Trip Down Memory Lane

While the music world constantly evolves, you can rely on the best UK oldies radio stations to provide a fantastic nostalgia fix.

In the UK, oldies stations don’t just focus on playing classical songs for a more senior demographic. They allow everyone to tune into the last few decades’ most famous and powerful songs.

Depending on the station you choose, you can find everything from custom playlists curated for a specific decade or genre to a variety of unique programs and hosted segments.

The question is, where should you start searching if you’re looking for the best collection of oldies music?

Today, we list some of the UK landscape’s most popular and highly renowned oldies stations to start your musical trip down memory lane.

The Best Oldies Stations in the UK: Our Top 10 Picks

The oldies radio format might not be as popular as the adult contemporary or top 40 hit radio setup in UK stations, but it’s still a prevalent option.

Available across FM, AM, and even digital channels, oldies stations appeal to thousands of listeners weekly in regions across the UK.

Although opinions of which stations are the best will likely vary based on your musical tastes and preferences for specific hosts, we’ve chosen our list to appeal to a range of listeners.

Here are some of the most popular options worth exploring in 2023 and beyond.

1. Gold

Close up of old radio interface
Gold plays plenty of oldies to take you back.

Owned by the Global corporation, Gold is a collection of oldies stations in the UK, formed by the merger of the Classic Gold and Capital Gold networks in 2007.

The new station relaunched in 2014 as a partially automated service with a handful of live programs.

Although the Gold Station has changed quite a bit, it has an incredible history in the UK landscape. Original presenters on the stations that formed the new network included some of the world’s most reputable hosts, such as Tony Blackburn and Kenny Everett.

Today, the network broadcasts to a massive combined weekly audience of around 1.7 million people across the United Kingdom, with AM and DAB frequency options.

The diverse playlists on the channel feature songs from virtually every genre and artist.

Frequency: AM: 945 kHz, 1548 kHz, 1458 kHz, 1557 kHz, 999 kHz

Website: Gold

2. Smooth Radio

Another network of music stations focusing on the soft adult contemporary and oldies radio format, Smooth is also owned by the Global corporation.

The network launched in 2014, replacing the national version of the same channel. Each FM station within the network broadcasts local breakfast shows, with networked shows also simulcast from London.

Despite focusing on a niche musical genre, Smooth boasts a huge weekly listenership of around 5.2 million people.

Programming jumps between soft adult hits and classic songs from various genres, with regular program segments from famous hosts.

Some of the most notable presenters on Smooth’s lineup over the years include Myleene Klass, Kirsty Gallacher, Jenni Falconer, and Angie Greaves.

Frequency: FM: 97.2 MHz–107.7 MHz, AM: 603 kHz–1557 kHz

Website: Smooth Radio

3. Heart

First launched in 1994, Heart is a popular British radio network and a brand consisting of 13 stations managed by Global throughout the UK.

The Heart radio stations collectively reach around 8.8 million listeners, making the network the third most popular in the UK, just after BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4.

Heart stations play various songs, from soft adult contemporary music to recent hits and classic oldies.

However, Heart also manages a collection of spin-off stations focusing on specific decades throughout music history.

Heart 70s, launched in 2019, focuses on playlists from the 70s. Heart 80s and 90s offer playlists from their respective genres, generally in a digital format.

Major presenters across the network have included Toby Anstis, Emma Bunton, and Mark Wright.

Frequency: FM: 106.2 MHz (London) and various frequencies throughout the UK

Website: Heart

4. Absolute Radio

Boxy radio against a scratched wall
Absolute Radio Network has 5.3 million listeners who tune in to hear songs from the ’10s through the ’90s.

Owned and operated by the Bauer organization, the Absolute Radio Network is a collection of 10 stations throughout the United Kingdom.

Most stations in the network are decade themed, with options ranging from the ’10s and ’20s to the ’00s, ’90s, and ’80s. The network also has a dedicated station for classic rock hits.

Absolute Radio has a massive following throughout the United Kingdom, with a combined weekly audience of around 5.3 million listeners.

Most stations use a split playlist solution, combining musical tracks with featured programming.

Some of the most popular shows broadcast across the network include The Jason Manford Show and The Frank Skinner Show. There are also thematic shows on each channel.

Frequency: Absolute Radio DAB: 11D, With various frequencies for each station.

Website: Absolute Radio

5. Virgin Radio UK

Virgin Radio UK might be best known as a hot adult contemporary station. Still, it and its sister stations also frequently produce playlists featuring oldies throughout the decades.

The network of stations in the United Kingdom runs primarily in the DAB world for digital listeners.

Alongside the standard Virgin Radio UK channel, listeners can access Virgin Radio Anthems for a more focused collection of old hits and Virgin Radio 80s Plus UK. There’s also a Chilled Virgin Radio station for laid-back tunes.

Each radio station has its variety of playlists and shows to share. However, many stations include simulcast programs like The Chris Evans Breakfast Show.

Virgin Radio has also produced temporary radio stations, like Virgin Radio Pride for the LGTBTQ+ community.

Frequency: DAB and digital-only

Website: Virgin Radio

6. Scala Radio

Known to most as a classic radio station, Scala Radio was launched in 2019 and belongs to the Bauer Radio group.

The station broadcasts nationally through DAB using the Sound Digital Multiplex and online through apps and websites.

Though the station’s primary focus is classical music, the playlists vary between 70 percent popular classic songs, otherwise known as oldies, and 30 percent new, surprising music.

Scala also offers more speech-based programming than most contemporary British radio stations.

Presenters within the network have included various radio and television personalities, such as Jamie Crick, Angellica Bell, and even Anthea Turner at one point.

Frequency: DAB: 11A

Website: Scala Radio

7. Magic Radio

First launched in 1990 as Melody FM, Magic Radio is a top-rated UK oldies station with an extensive history.

Owned and operated by Bauer, the station is available on FM wavelengths in London and via digital radio stations nationwide.

The station primarily plays soft adult contemporary classics from well-known artists like Whitney Houston, Elton John, and Madonna.

As of 2023, the station broadcasts to a regular weekly audience of around 4.1 million people, giving it a market share of about five percent.

Magic also runs a variety of sister stations, such as Magic Soul, Magic Chilled, and Mellow Magic.

Presenters throughout the decades have included Lynn Parsons, Ronan Keating, and Emma B. The station broadcasts regular daily shows alongside musical playlists.

Frequency: FM: 105.4 MHz (London)

Website: Magic Radio

8. Greatest Hits Radio

Hand adjusting black AM radio playing oldies against a floral wallpaper
Greatest Hits Radio will give you a taste for days gone by with its oldies selection.

Representing a network of radio stations throughout the UK, Greatest Hits Radio is a classic hits or oldies network owned by Bauer.

The network launched in 2015 and now features 18 local and regional stations, operating over 50 FM and DAB licenses across Wales, Scotland, and England.

Primarily, the programming on the GHR network includes playlists brimming with popular hits from across the decades and programs designed by local and international presenters.

All of Bauer’s newsrooms in the UK also air local and national bulletins every hour from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

At weekends, bespoke networked news bulletins air during the afternoon throughout the region.

The network also features content from notable presenters, such as Ken Bruce, Richard Allinson, Mark Goodier, and Martin Kemp.

Frequency: Over 50 frequencies nationwide

Website: Greatest Hits

9. BBC Radio 2

One of the most diverse radio stations on this list, BBC Radio 2, is far more than an oldies station.

It currently stands as the most popular national station in the UK, with over 15 million listeners every week. Since launching in 1967, the station broadcasts a variety of content, boasting one of the widest selections on the airwaves.

The playlists on the channel cover everything from classical music and oldies to countries, mainstream pop, jazz, folk, rock, and gospel.

Additionally, this station is home to various specialist music programs covering specific decades and genres.

BBC Radio 2 has an incredible history and lineup of well-known presenters. Some hosts include Michael Ball, Tony Blackburn, Sara Cox, Angel Griffin, and Vernon Kay.

Frequency: FM: 88.1- 90.2 MHz

Website: BBC Radio 2

10. Pirate FM

Not to be confused with the pirate radio phenomenon in the early years of British radio, Pirate FM is a local radio station in Cornwall, England.

Though it reaches a smaller audience of about 138,000 listeners per week, it’s a popular local choice for oldies and classic hits.

Forming part of the wider Hits Radio network, Pirate FM is unique for its locally produced playlist, which features no network programming.

The station even featured a breakfast presenter who originally started on Radio Caroline, Roger Day.

Alongside classic hits and oldies, Pirate FM also broadcasts shows featuring the latest top hits in the region and syndicated chart shows.

Pirate FM also offers a news service, with bulletins broadcasted region-wide hourly.

Frequency: FM: 102.2 MHz and 102.7 MHz

Website: Pirate FM

The Top UK Oldies Radio Stations

The enduring success of oldies radio stations throughout the UK shows how the best music can stand the test of time.

No matter how musical tastes and genres change, there will always be a place in the hearts of audiophiles for classic hits.

The 10 stations and networks above give you plenty of options, whether looking for a nationwide broadcast or something more local.

Happy listening!

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