The best markets to visit in the South West
Whether you want to soak up the atmosphere of your favourite town and stroll amongst the craft stalls sipping on a refreshing tipple, or you want to stock up on fresh produce ready for supper, markets can be a treasure trove full of wonderful things.
The South West is famed for its rich farming heritage and culinary offerings including cream teas, pasties, cider and freshly landed seafood, all of which can be found at the area’s regular or festive markets. For this article, we asked bloggers to tell us all about their favourite markets in the South West as well as why it is important to support independent traders.
Helston Farmers’ Market
Helston Farmers’ Market trades on the first Saturday of each month, except for January, and hosts more than 40 local producers selling the finest quality produce.
As well as allowing local traders the opportunity to sell their products directly to the public, the market also helps to raise public awareness of the issues involving locally produced food, sustainable farming and land management.
Roz from The Unplugged Parent told us why she enjoys visiting Helston Farmers’ Market: “It has nearby free parking which is brilliant as it means you can spend more money on tasty treats. The market has different producers who sell their wares from within a 20-mile radius, meaning that food miles are low. There is honestly something for everyone, food, drinks, crafts and a nice atmosphere too! The market has been a brilliant thing for Helston and it is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2019.”
If you visit the market you can expect to find items including locally reared Ruby beef, Davidstow cheddar, leek and potato pies, apple juices and even treats made especially for dogs. Roz went on to tell us what she recommends buying: “The flowers from Gorse and Thorn are particularly special, with locally grown flowers and foliage, plus they are always wrapped really nicely in brown paper. At this time of year, it is a great place to pick up a truly stunning Christmas wreath if you just don't get around to making your own.
“Cornwall's Chocolate Cove is a highlight for my kids, and we also like to see what adult beverages are on offer from Curio Spirits. I like seeing the stalls from people who are selling hand-knitted clothing for children, with proceeds often going to charity. The craftsmanship that has gone into creating some of these lovely items of clothing, so traditional, I just love them and cannot resist buying them for my 7-month-old.”
Low food miles and being able to trace where produce has come from is another reason why Roz believes it is important to support independent and local traders: “The high street is changing, the internet and out of town shopping centres have seen to that, but there is something reassuringly traditional about browsing a market and seeing, smelling and touching your items before purchasing. I also love the chat, you meet some really interesting people and hear some great stories - it is a risk to start up your own business and I am naturally a risk-averse person so I find it very inspiring to see people who have taken the leap.”
Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market
Exeter’s Christmas Market has been running for seven years on the Cathedral Green. The magnificent cathedral provides the perfect backdrop for exhibitors selling high-quality crafts and tasty cuisine.
Whether your taste buds are enticed by the smells of freshly made street food, or you want to stock up on presents, Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market is something special, according to Latoyah from Sugar Pink Food: “This is one of the busiest markets in the South West, it is full of fresh produce and delicious food and drink. It is magical at this time of year, with pretty lights and traditional wooden huts. I love to try out all the different cuisines, from a traditional hog roast roll to French crêpes and vegan food.”
Research commissioned by Exeter Cathedral has shown that the city’s Christmas market brought in £33 million of revenue to the city in 2018 and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. The website states: “The figure is made up from the accommodation, shopping, transport and eating out costs of those who visit the market and the city during the four weeks the market is open, in the run-up to Christmas.
“Researchers also explored the number of new visitors the market brings to Exeter. They found that an estimated 225,000 people came to Exeter solely because of the Christmas market in 2018. The estimated economic impact to the city of these unique visitors is worth £23.5 million, researchers calculate.”
Expect to see a host of Bavarian-style stalls decorated with twinkling lights as well as a bustling atmosphere. From freshly made paella to wood-fired pizza and wine infused with chocolate, you are sure to find food to satisfy your appetite while you shop. Other items on offer include handmade jewellery, driftwood art and glass curiosities.
Latoyah went on to tell us why she thinks it is important to support traders like the ones found at Exeter Christmas Market: “The majority of the traders at the market are local producers who have raised their meat locally, produce everything by hand, and cook it all fresh to order. This means the environmental impact is far less, and you can enjoy your purchases safe in the knowledge that you are supporting local farmers and traders.”
Truro Farmers’ Market
A friendly welcome is guaranteed from the traders at Truro Farmers’ Market as you make your way around the famous white and green striped stalls.
Visit the city on Wednesdays and Saturdays to indulge in the smells of freshly baked bread, smoked fish and the mouth-watering cakes the market offers. Expect to see Cornish businesses such as Cornish Barkery, Tregassow Asparagus, and Kernow Churros selling their products as well as art and craft producers such as Exquisite Cottage Creations and Kernow Signs selling their keepsakes.
Rachel Bustin told us why she loves to visit Truro Farmers’ Market: “It's fantastic to support local farmers and small businesses and often the quality of the goods is so much better than your supermarket. Other benefits are fewer food miles, less packaging, plus you are putting money back into your local community.
“Truro Farmer's Market has a wonderful friendly bunch of traders set up twice a week on. You can buy fantastic fresh vegetables, fish, bakery goods, Cornish Sea Salt, gifts, and my absolute favourite stall, Food of the Gods where you can get the most amazing raw chocolate.”
Bath Christmas Market
The award-winning Bath Christmas Market is back for 2019 and will be open during December. Visitors will be amazed by the 150 chalet-stalls spread out across Bath’s quaint Georgian streets.
From homeware and personalised gifts to unique Christmas tree decorates, and mouth-watering cuisine, there will be plenty of stalls to peruse as Kerri from Diagonal Stripes explains: “When visiting the market you're surrounded by beautiful views of Bath's Georgian streets. It has won many awards, and rightly so, it's magical! What is also so great about this market is that so many of the products are locally sourced and made by local suppliers. I think it really adds that extra sentiment when gifting an item made locally.”
Grab a succulent burger, or delicious hog roast, sweet caramelised nuts or aromatic warm mulled wine to help keep you toasty whilst browsing all the items on offer. You will be kept entertained by music and performances throughout your time at the market thanks to offerings from the City of Bath Brass Band, stilt performers and Jamma De Samba.
Kerri went on to explain why people should be encouraged to support markets: “I think it's wonderful to support independent traders at Christmas and any time of the year! I can only imagine how much work goes into events like these, the products on sale are often handmade individually so you know how much time and effort would've gone into them. To know that you're supporting an individual or a family to hit smaller milestones, help children, fund their homes etc is really rewarding.”
Howard from Jermyn Street Journal is also a fan of Bath Christmas Market: “It's an award-winning market with twinkling chalets spread across Bath’s picturesque streets, it’s the perfect place to do a spot of Christmas shopping. The organisers always carefully select the very best local craft makers and designers, who will all be showcasing their unique, high-quality artisan gifts. I highly recommended the food produce too.
“It's important to support local markets as you’re spending will boost the local economy and help build communities. Market traders will often sell unique, quirky, one-off gifts. By shopping at markets you'll be supporting entrepreneurs rather than big corporations. One of my favourite aspects of shopping at markets is human interaction and, on many occasions, you can try before you buy which I love as it adds to the theatre of shopping.”
Totnes Good Food Sunday Market
The Totnes Good Food Sunday Market is held on the third Sunday of each month and boasts fantastic food and craft stalls.
More than 60 traders travel across the South West to set up shop at the market offering some of the finest food, drink and handmade items: “If you love local and regional food, why not pay us a monthly visit? Come early, to talk food, taste food and buy food at the Totnes Good Food Sunday Market.”
Salisbury Christmas Fayre
Visitors can experience the mesmerising and twinkling lights as well as the tastes and sounds of the festive fayre in the 18th Century Guildhall Square from throughout November and December.
Set in the heart of the Cathedral City, Salisbury Christmas Fayre promises to exhibit a plethora of stalls offering homemade arts and crafts, street food and gifts as Merith from Merith’s Miscellany explains: “I love this fayre, it has a huge variety of products, including wonderful locally-produced items, such as Wiltshire chillies and Dorset gin.
“Stalls are housed in traditional wooden chalets and beautifully decorated for Christmas. Not only can you find excellent gifts and treats, but there is also delicious festive food and drink, plus a great program of live music and entertainment. Warm-up with mulled wine or cider, plus hot chocolate and other treats for younger ones. Sing along with the carol singings, or bop along to live bands. There are festive events in and around the market all through the festive season, including a nutcracker trail and an all-weather ice rink.”
Salisbury also hosts a twice-weekly Charter Market as Merith further explains: “This has been running since 1227 and is the perfect place to shop. With locally produced meat and vegetables, home-baked bread, plus anything else you could want to buy.
“Salisbury has a wealth of history, one of the finest cathedrals in Europe, and is a great base for exploring beautiful Wiltshire, including the famous Stonehenge! It has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and a lovely sense of community.”
Whether you want to indulge in festive delights of a Christmas fayre, or simply visit a farmers market you are sure to come away with bags full of products to fill your car to the brim. Before setting off to visit a market, or any long journey, it is worth booking your car into a specialist for a service. Have a look at our Ford dealership locator to find out where your nearest Ford specialist is and make sure your car is road-ready.