Just imagine your dream holiday. Perhaps you prefer somewhere quiet with a few local attractions and plenty of stories to bring to life. Or maybe you want a bustling hotspot close to the countryside and coast.
Either way, you don’t need to travel too far from home as the UK boasts hundreds of market towns – each with its own character and charm. And, if you’re wondering what makes a market town, the official definition of it is a town of a fair size that hosts a regular market.
Here, we round up 10 of our favourite historic market towns in the UK so all that’s left for you to do is to choose one off the list.
Best for: Nature admirers
A pretty riverside town, Wareham dates back to Saxon times. Visitors flock here for its traditional Dorset appeal, but it’s much quieter than some of the other favoured hotspots. Some of the most popular local attractions include walks along the Jurassic Coast, fossil hunting, exploration along the Purbeck Hills, and a trip to Blue Pool Nature Reserve – a rain-filled pit that changes colour.
Of course, a game of wildlife bingo is a must, and some of the most spotted creatures include sika deer and rare green sand lizards. You can also take a boat or kayak out on the River Frome in search of beavers, salmon and white-clawed crayfish. Other family attractions in Wareham include Corfe Castle and Swanage Railway – a great way to see the best of the landscape from the comfort of a steam train.
Best for: Food lovers
Often described as one of the finest historic towns in England, Ludlow in Shropshire sits very close to the border of Wales. Home to mediaeval buildings and cobbled streets, it’s easy to fill your days here with tours around Ludlow Castle and walks along the beautiful River Teme.
That’s not all, though as Ludlow is fast becoming a foodie’s paradise thanks to market stalls and award-winning establishments focusing their attention on local produce. From cafes to michelin-starred restaurants, you certainly won’t go hungry. Some of Ludlow’s eateries even date back to the Norman era.
Best for: Couples
Nestled in the Essex countryside, a trip to Saffron Walden is ideal for couples – whether you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate an occasion or have a night free from the kids. For starters, Jamie Oliver’s parent’s 16th-century pub, The Cricketers, is just a short drive away. What better place for a date night?!
The next day, after a lazy breakfast in bed, there are plenty of things to do in the local area. Peruse the mediaeval streets and shops, head to Audley End House and Gardens – one of England’s grandest mansions, release your inner big kid at the Turf Maze and marvel at the Fry Art Gallery – a free exhibition showing works from some of the world’s most renowned artists.
Where? Peak District
Best for: Walkers, amblers and cyclists
Glossop might not spring to mind when you first think of the Peak District but it definitely deserves its place on the list alongside the likes of Bakewell, Matlock and Buxton. For starters, you only have to look at pictures of it to see how beautiful it really is. Once there, you can spend your days exploring the Dark Peak’s walking and cycling trails, including the Pennine Bridleway.
After a day out in the countryside, you might be looking for somewhere cosy to enjoy a good pint and a hearty meal – and Glossop’s pub scene won’t disappoint. Many are even housed in former cotton mills.
Where? West Yorkshire
Best for: Families
Family staycations are great but they also take a lot of planning. After all, it’s likely that you’ve got a lot of personalities to please. Yorkshire’s Wetherby has just the thing though.
Boasting plenty of independent shops, cafes and restaurants as well as Jubilee Gardens, Grade-II listed buildings, a monthly farmers’ market and an old-school cinema, there’s plenty to do and see. It’s also within easy reach of North Yorkshire’s Harrogate, York and Leeds if you fancy exploring a little further afield. A local cycle track along a disused railway takes you all the way to the 14th century Spofforth Castle too.
Where? West Lothian
Best for: Groups of friends
Sure, a trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow might be top of your list for a celebration but, just 30 minutes on the train sits Scotland’s Linlithgow – a picturesque town that’s home to historical attractions, beautiful walking spots and a gin distillery!
A walk along the Linlithgow canal is a great place to blow away the cobwebs, Linlithgow Royal Palace houses plenty of royal secrets and Beecraigs Country Park is the place for boozy picnics and afternoon strolls. Linlithgow Distillery, which is definitely worth a visit, even offers tours, gin cruises and gin trains. Yep, you read that right.
Best for: Older teenagers
Voted the best place to live in the North West, Altrincham is one of England’s most vibrant market towns. First up, there’s the well-known weekly market, Altrincham Market, housed in a Victorian building from 1879 and boasts several independent shops and restaurants. Then there’s the town centre which has all the high street shops you might expect and a bustling atmosphere that can’t be replicated.
Days here can be split up with shopping trips, dinners at award-winning eateries and even a show at the Altrincham Garrick Theatre. Plus, Peak District National Park is just 9 miles away if you are looking for something else.
Best for: Those with dogs
Epping might be made famous from The Only Way is Essex, but there is plenty more to this beautiful market town than a vibrant nightlife scene and lots of pubs and restaurants. The area is steeped in history and character and is just a short tube ride into Central London.
Epping Forest also attracts all ages including those with dogs in search of large open spaces. It’s not just ideal for walking and hiking, though, as there are plenty of activities that can be enjoyed along the banks of the river and high up in the dense landscapes. Think fishing, mountain biking, and even horse riding. Once done, you’re sure to find a spot at one of the local gastropubs for a drink and some food too. Many are even dog-friendly!
Best for: Cultural enthusiasts
Ideally located in Kent, and close to London, Sevenoaks is a great base if you want to explore some of the UK’s best-loved attractions in the city centre. But, a day spent around the historic market town is also worth it. You’ll find several National Trust properties here, including Emmetts Garden, Ightam Mote, and Knole.
With lots of stories to bring to life for all ages, outdoor lovers will also be pleased to hear that Sevenoaks is on the edge of Kent Down AONB. Knole Park is also home to an outdoor seating area and deer park – which will certainly be a day to remember.
Best for: Young kids
The UK is home to some incredible coastal resorts, but if you find popular places like Cornwall and Devon a little too expensive or struggle to find available accommodation, the North East’s Northumberland has an alternative. Traditionally a shipbuilding border town, today Berwick-upon-Tweed is home to impressive town walls, independent shops and many places to eat.
Plus, cross the River Tweed, and you’ll find Spittal Beach – a traditional Victorian beach resort complete with a lighthouse, promenade, children’s splash park and lots of fish and chips! After a day of splashing around, why not set off on an exploration? Get the kids in their pushchairs and head along the Northumberland Coastal Path with views of Holy Island. After a few minutes, the kids are guaranteed to be asleep and you could even look for a pub on-route to enjoy a drink.
Of course, a trip to one of the UK’s market towns deserves a night in some luxury accommodation. And, we’ve got you covered when it comes to holiday rentals that tick all the boxes. Choose from family homes and party pads to romantic boltholes and contemporary abodes with one thing in common – you get your own private hot tub. Check out our range of hot tub properties today and start planning your next trip to remember.
What are the most popular market towns in England to visit?
- Bath – famous for its Georgian architecture and Roman baths
- Chester – a historic Roman city with a well-preserved medieval street plan and walls
- Stratford-upon-Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare and home to many historic buildings and attractions
- Skipton – a charming town in the Yorkshire Dales with a medieval castle and bustling market
- Ludlow – a medieval town in the Welsh Marches known for its castle, food and arts scene
- Tavistock – a picturesque market town in Devon with a rich history and vibrant cultural scene
- Abergavenny – a market town in Wales known for its food festival and surrounding scenic countryside
- Alnwick – a market town in Northumberland with a medieval castle and beautiful gardens
- Buxton – a Georgian spa town in the Peak District known for its architecture and natural beauty
- Beverley – a historic market town in East Yorkshire with a famous Minster and beautiful medieval buildings.