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Ollie not jolly - best Christmas markets

Christmas market stall A big tsk to Oliver Cromwell, we say, as we take our autumn look at the best Christmas markets around the landand overseas for 2014.

Not content with puritan spoilsportedness and general dour-facedness, the Cromwellian one only went and banned Christmas in the 1640s.

Now, while we’d be all for banning certain parts of the festive season, namely overhyped John Lewis ads and non-drinkers invading the pubs for Christmas parties, 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 each year 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 a big huzzah to Charlie Two, and let's get ready to eat, drink, be merry and drink at the best Christmas markets in the UK and France:

Exeter

Exeter Cathedral only started its Christmas market in 2012, so we think it would be nice to show our support for a youngster by going along and eating our way around the food, craft and gift stalls. The 2014 market starts on 20 November and runs until 20 December at Cathedral Green in the heart of Exeter city centre.

Stay:

Exeter gluttons are spoilt for choice with Devon sites within easy drive of the market and open during December. Award-winning Lady's Mile Holiday Park a mile from the award-winning beach at Dawlish Warren is nine miles from Exeter and has three-bedroom holiday homes available throughout November and December from £360 for seven nights, sleeping up to six on a Saturday to Saturday stay. And we're ringing the bargain alert bell for the two-bedroom holiday homes at Seaton's Branscombe Airfield and Camping , available throughout the market from £75 for three nights - spectacular views to the coast for free.

If you're rolling up in yor own caravan or motorhome, the hardstanding electric pitches at Castle Brake Holiday Park just outside Exeter are most excellent - and have 10% off until 28 November for early bird marketeers, starting from £12.60 a night.

Campsites in Exeter

Campsites in Devon

Birmingham

Tiny Wooden House The Frankfurt Christmas Market has been running for 13 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). It runs from 13 November - 22 December and 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). We like 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 and 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, barbecue and wood-fired hot tub outside. Bliss. The lodge starts from £250 for two-night stays from Mondays and Wednesdays, until 17 December.

At Wootton Park five miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, fully-equipped camping pods sleeping two adults and two children are available throughout November and December from £72 a night - breakfast is included in the 500 year old farmhouse through the garden.

Campsites in Warwickshire

Campsites in Central England

Padstow

Running from 4 - 7 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’, now seeing around 30,000 visitors and 110 local producers. 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. Look out for the floating Christmas lights display at Padstow harbour - if this doesn't make you feel at least a little Christmassy, truly, you have no soul.

Stay :

A wigwam at Ruthern Valley Holidays We have cosy wooden walls nearby for that weekend: Ruthfern Valley Holidays eight miles away at Bodmin has wooden wigwams with built-in beds, kettle, fridge and microwave; they're available the weekend of the market from £35 a night (and before, and after: make a week of it).

On Padstow's dootstep with a path running directly from the park to the town, Padstow Holiday Park 's two-bedroom caravans sleeping up to four are available for seven-night Friday to Friday stays during November and December from £220.

Campsites in Cornwall

La France

The French, they know how to have a good time. (Which is why we like them so much.) So you'll probably find a marché de noël (French Christmas market, don't you know) in many towns: details on some here .

But we say go to Lille, the biggest Christmas market in northern France, hundreds of years old and popular with British holidaymakers who hop over on the Eurostar. Over 50 stalls will be here from 19 November - 30 December with their wares alongside concerts, Santa and a funfair with Ferris wheel. A FERRIS WHEEL.

Stay:

Lodge at Camping le Voljoly Absolutely fabulous Camping le Valjoly an hour and a half away from Lille in Nord-Pas-de-Calais is in a lakeside and forest setting 15 minutes from watery sports, horse-riding, treetop adventure trails, swimming pools, spa and sauna - all part of the Valjoly resort and nature reserve, which also has a natural ice rink and evening entertainment galore including music nights. Ooh la la - we did say it was absolutely fabulous...

The campsite has one and two-bedroom lodges until the New Year from €186/£146 - €226/£178 for two nights, sleeping four to six. It's also - blessed Noël! - offering lodge breaks over Christmas at 50% off three to seven-night stays from 20 December to 5 January, from un paltry €118 for three nights. CHRISTMAS AT 50% OFF.

Campsites in Nord-Pas-de-Calais

Campsites in France

To really get into the Christmas spirit after your market visit, have a look at our Food Glorious Foo d 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 December 2012; updated October 2014

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