Successive lockdowns may have highlighted the importance of our local shops during the darkest of pandemic days, but they also reminded us how much we missed our local markets. With an incredibly long history – some of the royal charters under which they were set up date back to early medieval times – these markets have long been integral to the character of many of our most attractive towns. 

Whatever the season, market day is an excellent time to visit – although around autumn and the harvest, the food is often at its best. And while parking may not always be easy, you will get a real feel for what makes each town different, whether it’s the seasonal produce, handmade crafts or the local specialities available at the pop-up cafés and food stalls.

Not only that, but markets bring a vibrancy, colour and bustle to our town centres that we once took for granted. So here are 10 of Britain’s best – a great excuse to liven up a short break or make the most of a day away from the beach. 

Wetherby, Yorkshire

Isn’t it just a gateway to the rest of Yorkshire?

Maybe, but it’s a neat and pretty gateway that comes alive with traders on Thursdays, with stalls along the stone arcades of The Shambles and around the town hall. An artisan market is held on the second Sunday of the month, and on the last Sunday is the farmers’ market.




Stay at Wood Hall when you visit the artisan market on the second Sunday of the month, or the farmers’ market on the last


Credit: Wood Hall Hotel & Spa, Wetherby

Can you buy Yorkshire puddings?

Sadly not, as they are best fresh out of the oven, but if you’re after carbs, look for Ashley, the “bread lady”, who sells doughnuts filled with locally made jam from a trailer behind Wetherby Town Hall. Independent shops in the town centre include butcher Appleton’s, where you can get hearty steak pies, fishmonger Tarbett’s and the Market Place Deli, for local cheeses such as Yorkshire Blue and Hawes Wensleydale.

Best base?

Wood Hall Hotel near Wetherby is a fine Georgian mansion on the River Wharfe; double rooms from £116 (01642 706606; handpickedhotels.co.uk). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see yorkshire.com plus our guide to the best hotels in Yorkshire.

Hay-on-Wye, Powys

It will be a book market, I suppose?

Hay is famous for its bookshops, but every Thursday all manner of stalls set up in Memorial Square, the open-sided Cheese and Butter markets and around the Clock Tower. After stocking up, you might want to head in to the Brecon Beacons National Park to work up an appetite for supper.




Hay is famous for its bookshops, but every Thursday all manner of stalls set up in Memorial Square


Credit: Hye on Wye market

Any standout stalls?

Don’t miss “Jason The Socks”. His stall, on the main square, is a great place to pick up Welsh wool blankets as well as cosy walking socks. Other highlights include 100% Hay, which sells organic fruit and veg alongside eggs and kimchi in the Cheese Market, and baker Alex Gooch’s stall by the Clock Tower, which offers bread, cakes and vegan goodies. 

Best base?

The Swan at Hay, a listed Georgian hotel on Church Street, is one of the oldest buildings in town; double rooms from £115 (01497 821188; swanathay.co.uk). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see hay-on-wye.co.uk plus our guide to the best hotels in Powys.

Bakewell, Derbyshire 

The peak of markets?

Maybe. Bakewell certainly has a claim to be the capital of the Peak District. The Monday market sees more than 160 traders fill Market Street and Granby Road, selling everything from clothes and shoes to handmade soaps and jewellery. Stalls vary from week to week, but you can be sure of finding places to buy the eponymous puddings. If you miss market day, you can stock up at the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop on the Square (bakewellpuddingshop.co.uk), which also has a restaurant and courtyard café.




Don’t leave Bakewell without picking up the original, the best Bakewell tart


Credit: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

I thought Bakewell was a tart…

Definitely pudding. Invented in the 1800s with a puff pastry base spread with jam and filled with an eggy, almond paste filling. The tart was developed as a variant in the 20th century.

Best base?

The Peacock at Rowsley is a smart country house on the Haddon Estate; double rooms from £150 (01629 733518; thepeacockatrowsley.com). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see visitpeakdistrict.com plus our guide to the best hotels in the Peak District.

Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire 

So it’s a town for shoppers as well as hoorays and rowers? 

Absolutely. On a Thursday morning, head for Hart Street, which runs from the bridge into Market Place, for the Charter Market, which has been going strong since 1269. Alongside fresh produce you will find Panama hats and rugs – riverside picnic, anyone? While there, pop into the family-owned butcher Machin (gabrielmachin.co.uk), where locals stock up on home-smoked meats.




Be sure to stay or stop by Crockers Henley, a swish restaurant with equally swish rooms


Credit: Matthew Bishop Photography

How about weekends?

There’s a farmers’ market on the second Saturday and fifth Sunday (if there is one), and also the fourth Thursday of the month, selling local specialities, including Chiltern lamb, fudge and pies. 

Best base?

Crockers Henley, at 20 Market Place, is a swish restaurant with equally swish rooms; double rooms from £150 (01491 529837; henley.crockersuk.com). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see visit-henley.com plus our guide to the best hotels in Henley-on-Thames.

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Another centuries-old market?

Indeed. It was granted a charter to trade by King John in 1202. The town is home to St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the ruined Benedictine abbey where King Edmund was buried in 903. Wednesdays and Saturdays see up to 80 stalls selling fresh produce and plants in the Buttermarket and along Cornhill. 




The town is home to St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the ruined Benedictine abbey where King Edmund was buried in 903


Credit: chrisdorney/Getty

And long-established stalls, too?

They don’t quite go back to King John, but long-standing favourites include New-Bury Fruit Company, famous for its fruit and veg, which can be found near Moyse’s Hall museum, and Hazel Nurseries, which has sold plants and cut flowers at the market for more than 40 years.

Best base?

The Northgate Hotel is a small, contemporary retreat near Abbey Gardens; double rooms from £120 (01284 339604; thenorthgate.com). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see visit-burystedmunds.co.uk plus our guide to the best hotels in Suffolk.

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Heart of the Cotswolds? How quaint

Yes, but it also has a whiff of authenticity. Or maybe that’s the Gloucester cheese on sale at Libbie Gardner’s Hania Cheeses. She sells at Stroud’s Friday and Saturday Shambles Market by St Laurence Church on the pedestrianised High Street. Other go-to stalls are Howlett’s for honey from local hives and the independent Golden Sheep coffee stall for a freshly-roasted brew.




Treat yourself to local honey, coffee from independent roasters and cider and cheese made in the area at Stroud Farmers’ Market


Credit: Nick Turner/Alamy

Isn’t there a farmers market, too?

Local producers come to Cornhill every Saturday. Look out for cider from Day’s Cottage made from locally grown Morgan Sweet and Foxwhelp apples.

Best base?

Stonehouse Court Hotel is a peaceful, 36-room manor house just outside Stroud; double rooms from £80 (01453 794950; stonehousecourt.co.uk). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see visitthecotswolds.org.uk plus our guide to the best hotels in the Cotswolds.

Keswick, Cumbria

Lakes, mountains… and markets?

Yes, and you can be sure of picking up a Cumbrian sausage or two. Try Keswick’s pedestrianised market Saturday (year-round) and Thursday (February to December). It stretches from Market Square, beyond the 19th-century Moot Hall, down to Bank Street. Low Howgill makes great sausages and pies, while Sally Kidman’s Derwent Frames stall offers souvenir Lake District prints.




Keswick Market stretches from Market Square, beyond the 19th-century Moot Hall, down to Bank Street


Credit: Mark Williamson

That’s enough shopping – I want to stretch my legs

You are in the right place. Derwentwater is a short stroll from the market place, with quiet footpaths along its shores.

Best base?

Inn on the Square Hotel is in the town centre with rooms overlooking Market Square; double rooms from £120 (0800 840 1247; innonthesquare.co.uk). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see visitcumbria.com plus our guide to the best hotels in the Lake District.

Ludlow, Shropshire

Is this one more regular?

Absolutely. Almost every day. More than 40 stalls fill Castle Street every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday throughout the year. On top of that, there’s an antiques and collectors fair on the first and third Sunday of the month, plus the “Local to Ludlow” market every second and fourth Thursday where goods on sale – from cider to skin products – must be produced within 30 miles of the town.




More than 40 stalls fill Castle Street every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday throughout the year


Credit: David Williams

So I’ll shop until I drop?

Don’t worry; there’s plenty more to see. Have a look around Ludlow’s atmospheric castle ruins or potter along the bosky banks of the River Teme.

Best base? 

Dinham Hall has rooms with views of the castle; double rooms from £125 (01584 876464; dinhamhall.com). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see ludlow.org.uk plus our guide to the best hotels in Shropshire.

St Andrews, Fife

A market in St Andrews? Will I need a caddie?

Well, there are plenty about. The world’s capital of golf is full of visitors in checked trousers, as well as more than its fair share of university students. There are plenty of shoppers, too. If you time your visit right, you’ll catch St Andrews Farmers’ Market, which is set up in Argyll Street car park on the first Saturday of every month.




Time your visit right to catch St Andrews Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month


Credit: JByard/Getty

Any top tips for local produce?

Follow the plume of smoke that marks out Iain R Spink’s stall selling Original Smokies from Arbroath: whole haddock and (less traditionally) trout are wood-smoked over a barrel at the market to eat on site. Honey from Perthshire’s Cloverlea Apiaries and town-brewed beers from the St Andrews Brewing Company are also sold here – stock up on the latter’s Scottish oatmeal stout.

Best base? 

Hotel Du Vin St Andrews is a stylish hotel overlooking the first tee of the Old Course; double rooms from £140 (0330 016 0390; hotelduvin.com). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see visitscotland.com plus our pick of the best hotels in St Andrews.

Swaffham, Norfolk

Ah, the location for Stephen Fry’s Kingdom series – but I didn’t notice a market?

Swaffham – half an hour from Norfolk’s coast – is one giant market place. But the big square around its Buttercross rotunda only really comes to life on Saturday mornings with stalls including fishmonger GR Bunning & Co, which sells its own smoked fish. Try Norfolk cheeses at Son of Christie and homemade jams from Peggy’s Little Products, a popular market newcomer.




Half an hour from Norfolk’s coast, Swaffham is one giant market place


Credit: whitemay/Getty

Anything else?

Yes – the auction is the main attraction. At 11am a bell rings and it’s eBay in real life. Anything from an antique mangle to a second-hand lawnmowers, goes under the hammer.

Best base?

Strattons Hotel, a quirky 14-room townhouse, can be found near the Market Place; double rooms from £155 (01760 723845; strattonshotel.com). Read the full review here. For more information and inspiration, see visitnorfolk.co.uk plus our Norfolk guide and pick of the best hotels in Norfolk.

Market times are generally 9am to mid-afternoon and room prices include breakfast, unless otherwise stated

Source: bing.com

By bomber

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