Ollie not jolly - best Christmas markets
Honestly, that Oliver Cromwell. Not content with puritan spoilsportedness and general dour-facedness, he only went and banned Christmas in the 1640s. Now, while we’d be all for banning certain parts of the festive season, namely the Iceland and Asda Christmas ads, we wouldn’t go as far as the po-faced ones in taking the banhammer to the entire hols because of too much ‘dicing and carding, eating and drinking, banqueting and feasting’. Mainly because this sounds like the perfect tinselly time.
Luckily Charles II, aka the King of Bling, saw sense and overturned the bans on all things Christmassy after the Restoration, but we still think it’s our Christmas duty to go to as many markets and do as much banqueting and feasting as possible, just to keep the country’s Yuletide traditions alive.
So we’re doing a big tsk to Cromwell, a big huzzah to Charlie Two, and getting ready to eat, drink, be merry and drink at Christmas markets in the UK. Here are a few to start off at:
Exeter Cathedral only started its Christmas market last year, so we think it would be nice to show our support by going along and eating our way around the food, craft and gift stalls. The market started on 21 November and runs until 19 December at Cathedral Green in the heart of Exeter city centre.
Stay: Exeter gluttons are spoilt for choice with four top Devon sites within easy drive of the market, all open during December. Closest is Cofton Country Holidays, which has an indoor pool with massage jets and hydrotherapy bubble loungers, sauna, steam room, gym and five stuffed to the gills fishing lakes. The Ashburn, a three-bedroom holiday home sleeping up to six, is available from £136.50 for three nights until the week before Christmas (with champagne and flowers as optional extras). An electric pitch for three nights starts at £40.50.
There are also insulated shepherd’s huts to be had at Dartmoor Shepherds Huts, Newton Abbot, from £59 a night sleeping up to four. Campfires are allowed. Quarry Pods at Dunsdown Farm on the Devon/Cornwall border has heated and double-glazed camping pod and family camping pods with their own private loo and shower from £60-80 a night. Camping pods sleep two and the family pods sleep up to four.
The Frankfurt Christmas Market has been running for twelve years in Birmingham city centre and is now the biggest Christmas market in the country (Birmingham has been twinned with Frankfurt for the past forty years). The market has over 190 stalls including a Craft Fair, to pick up hand-made toys, jewellery and other crafty bits and bobs, and sup on Gluhwein (German mulled wine).
Stay: Get two markets with one, er, stone with a stay at Tiny Wooden House in Warwickshire, only half an hour's drive from Birmingham but also close to the smaller market at Stratford-upon-Avon for roasted chestnuts, carol singers and brandy-laced hot chocolate. The two-bedroom wooden lodge at this site sleeps up to five people and has a stoep outside and a wood-fired hot tub. Bliss. The lodge starts from £100 a night.
Running from 5 - 8 December, the Christmas market as part of Padstow Christmas Festival has been hailed as one of the top ten ‘Delightfully Different Christmas Markets in Europe’ by Lonely Planet and now sees around 30,000 visitora over its four days. Revellers can sample festive heaps of tasty produce 'from Christmas puds and steaming curry', buy their Christmas pressies and watch top chefs demonstrating their skills.
Stay: We have a few cosy wooden walls options nearby for that weekend: Ruthfern Valley Holidays eight miles away at Bodmin has camping pods sleeping up to four from £27.50 a night; a wooden wigwam with built-in beds, also sleeping four, from £31.50 (10% off until 22 December), and a two-bedroom lodge available for seven nights from £175.50, sleeping up to six. Also at Bude, Atlantic Surf Pods has lush luxury pods with underfloor heating and private external wetroom from £69; while Penbugle Farm at nearby Liskeard has availability on its heated wooden wigwams from £40.
To really get into the Christmas spirit after your market visit, have a look at our Food Glorious Food guide to winter scoffing, our adults-only Christmas breaks and our guide to Christmas lodge and caravan holidays, where you can cook your own turkey if you’re so inclined and continue on the merriment. Charlie Two would expect nothing less.
First published Dec 2012; updated Nov 2013.