We’ve gathered together some of the UK’s biggest and most popular markets, all of which can be easily visited by coach. So, where’s first on your list?
Britain’s markets have formed the backbone of the country since the Middle Ages. People gathering to trade formed the towns and cities that we see today and luckily for us, some of those original markets are still going strong. Visiting a traditional market not only supports the local community but also makes for the perfect day out perfect for people watching, sampling new food and drink, and buying interesting, locally- made products that you simply couldn’t find anywhere else.
The countryside towns of Britain often retain that original marketplace feel, where you can almost feel yourself stepping back in time. Match that with beautiful rural scenery and you’ve got the makings of a great day out. Wyre’s markets are brilliantly set up for group travel, with several drop-off points and designated parking at Fleetwood. The area’s council is very proud of the fact that there’s a local market for almost every day of the week. The stalls of Fleetwood bring in the crowds on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to peruse the mixture of household goods, clothing and foodstuffs. Why not take a stroll along the prom and dip your weary toes in the sea afterwards?
Also in Lancashire, Bury Market has been the centre of this thriving town for over five hundred years. A fantastic wet weather market, most of the 370 stalls are under cover and there is also a more informal space for casual sellers in Market Parade. Flogging everything from footwear to household items and jewellery, this is a bargain-hunters paradise. It’s also big on food, with the Meat and Fish Hall forming the centrepiece to the market. The best days to visit are Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Nearby is the lovely Burrs Country Park – perfect for a spot of relaxation – as well as the East Lancs Steam Railway and the Fusilier Museum. As you would expect from the winner of Most Coach Friendly Shopping Attraction 2011, there’s free coach parking, a passenger drop-off facility and a new resting room for drivers.
Abergavenny is a very pretty little town which holds its well-visited market every Tuesday, one of the major markets in Wales, with around 200 stalls filling indoor and outdoor positions to showcase a wide range of wares. Coaches can drop off and park at the bus station just around the corner. The town is surrounded by the gorgeous rural scenery of the Brecon Beacons National Park and if you have time, it might be worth stopping to visit Caerphilly Castle, which offers discounts for group bookings.
FIT FOR FOODIES
London’s Borough Market is the undisputed queen of the UK’s gourmet food markets. Historic and bursting with modern influences (ostrich egg omelette, anyone?), farmers have regularly set up stall here since the Romans first built London Bridge. Nestled under the arches, you’ll find lots of delicious food and drink to sample, eat and take home, from marshmallow and liquorice to wheatgrass shots, pies and cured meats. It is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Coach parking is available nearby on Southwark Street and just off Tooley Street.
In the north, Edinburgh’s Farmers’ Market takes the crown. This is the biggest market in Scotland from which shoppers can gaze up at the city’s beautiful castle: a dramatic setting. It’s open every Saturday with over 50 stalls. The real treats are the local specialities such as Arran cheese, salmon and heather honey, as well as the more unusual foods reared and produced in the area, such as water buffalo and fruit wines. It’s not just food and drink on offer though; visitors will also find stalls selling local wool and knitwear, cosmetics and leather goods. Coaches can drop off and pick up passengers a short walk away in Waterloo Place with parking available on Regent Road or in one of the city’s designated coach parks.
The award for the UK’s biggest farmers’ market goes, however, to Winchester’s fantastic offering. Everything sold on site must be grown within 10 miles of the Hampshire borders. It’s allegedly a favourite hunting ground for chef Rick Stein, and sells plants, shrubs and trees alongside food and drink. It runs on the second and last Sunday of the month from 0900 until 1400hrs. Coaches can set down and pick up nearby on the Broadway or Sussex Street, with parking available at Worthy Lane near the train station. If you’re thinking of heading that way in the autumn, why not time your trip to coincide with the Winchester Cathedral Harvest Festival? Held across the first weekend of October, there’s not just food stalls but entertainment such as falconry displays, horse drawn carts and tractor rides.
Exploring market stalls is an unbeatable way of soaking the flavour and atmosphere of a city. You’ll hear accents, the local turn of phrase, and find locally produced items to take home. Don’t let travelling in a large group put you off visiting some of the fantastic city markets around the country. Most are highly accessible and have waiting points convenient for the market places.
Leicester Market offers something a little different with its strong multicultural flavour. Not many realise it’s the largest covered market in the whole of Europe and its influences reach far beyond the continent, with traders from 25 countries and 300 stalls. As well as local and exotic fare for sale the brand new food hall, you’ll find clothing, restaurants, coffee shops and a huge haberdashery within its limits. The indoor market is open from Tuesday until Saturday and the first Thursday of every month is the fantastic farmers’ market. Plus, for one Sunday each May, the Summer Food & Drink Festival takes over the market, welcoming 20,000 visitors through the doors for a food lover’s celebration with live music and entertainment.
In Bristol, St Nicholas’ Market has been going strong since 1743. The surrounding Georgian architecture of the Glass Arcade lends this particular market a unique character and atmosphere. The normal market runs Monday to Saturday. GTW suggests stopping by on a Friday or Saturday when The Nails Market joins the party with traders selling a wide range of gift items such as artworks, jewellery and vintage clothing. Although St Nicholas is right in the centre of the city, coach drop- off points are available a few streets away, on either King Street or Colston Street, with coach parking at Cabot Circus just five minutes away. The ancient city of Durham has held markets since Norman and Saxon times. Now, the indoor stalls are housed within a beautiful cast iron-roofed market hall built in the 1600s. Perfect for a rainy day, the fifty or so stalls sell all manner of items, with favourites including lace, traditional sweets, fossils, children’s clothing and even Turkish lamps! Locals love the old- fashioned tobacconist. There are lots of other things worth seeing in the city once you’re finished. The interior of the cathedral is definitely worth a visit. Coaches can pick up and drop off passengers just up the road on Freeman’s Place and there is plenty of parking available around the city.
A Little Market History
Towns grew up around trading centres. From medieval times, the right to hold a market was given only by the Crown, often to Lords and monasteries. By Elizabethan times, markets were commonly run by a corporation, sometimes by a particular guild of merchants. As market towns developed, buildings were created and by the 1700’s, grand corn exchanges – such as those in Leeds and Bristol – added some architectural glamour to proceedings. Covered markets, housed within specially constructed buildings, formed the first covered markets. The first of these was Liverpool’s St. John’s Market in 1822.
Traditional British Market Wares
BURY’S BLACK PUDDING
These blood sausages are made to a traditional recipe that is over 100 years old. They are sold in supermarkets all over the country, but you can buy them straight from the source at Bury’s Open Market.
SARIS, LEICESTER MARKET
Feast your eyes on the stalls and shops selling traditional Indian saris in Leicester Market and you’ll be transported to another world. Buy them to wear for a special occasion or to make into cushion covers.
KIRKGATE’S WHOLE LAMB
The butchers of Leeds Kirkgate Market take their work very seriously and are always keen to offer a service the supermarkets don’t. Where else could you buy a whole lamb, have it prepared, dressed and packed for the freezer in front of your eyes?
STROUD BREWERY ALES
Choose from a range of organic and vegan bottled ales made using hops grown in the Cotswolds. They sell at Stroud Farmers Market on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month.