The Alternative Christmas Shopping Guide (And Excuse For a Cheeky Weekend Away)

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When it comes to cheeky weekends away, I don’t take much persuading. And, with Christmas round the corner and the UK being full of gorgeous places to visit, what better time to combine a few days break with a bit of Christmas shopping!

If the thought of crowded city centres and jostling through another jam-packed tourist market leaves you cold, it’s time to embark on an alternative Christmas shopping experience.

And thanks to our buddies at we can all embrace the festive season with twinkling lights, independent boutiques, intimate artisan markets and locally produced treats by exploring some of the UK’s hidden shopping gems for a pre-Christmas break.

 Stow on the Wold, Cotswolds

Winding lanes, honey coloured buildings and ancient pubs with roaring fires – the Cotswolds provides some of the most magical surroundings for a pre-Christmas shopping break. Stow on The Wold is one of the area’s most famous towns and hosts some of its best shopping with impressive townhouses and quaint cottages holding a huge range of independent boutiques, galleries and antiques shops – particularly around The Square. You’ll find cosy pubs and restaurants to eat well and warm up by the fire after you’ve stocked up on gifts – and you’re only ten minutes’ drive from the famous Daylesford Organic in Kingham, where you’ll find homewares, cookshop, garden shop and spa alongside the farm shop.

Stay: Wyck Hill House Hotel & Spa 4* A grand country house just outside Stow on the Wold, this hotel is full of all the charm and character you’d expect from the Cotswolds at Christmas – cosy drawing rooms decked out with garlands, roaring open fires and breathtaking views. Rooms from £95

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Bermondsey Sq hotel - bedroom (1)

Bermondsey Sq hotel



Ever popular, Christmas in London is pretty much a must, but if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind finds (and to avoid the worst of the crowds and), venture away from retail strongholds like Oxford Street and head to one of the many festive markets that pop up around the capital. From 30 November – 3 January, try London Bridge’s Christmas By The River, where wooden chalets will play host to more than 40 independent traders selling bespoke handmade gifts. Surrounded by twinkling lights and some of the best views of the city and river Thames, it’s a pretty special place to get into the Christmas spirit. And you’re a mere 5 minutes’ stroll from the famous Borough Market – the perfect place to stock up on stocking fillers for foodies.

Stay: Bermondsey Square Hotel, 4* A short walk from the river and London Bridge, views from the hotel capture the skyline in all its festive illumination. South of the river, you get more for your money and are also in the heart of up and coming Bermondsey with its design studios and independent shops. The lounge serves delicious gourmet homemade cakes as a perfect post-shopping treat. Rooms from £116.10

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 Ludlow, Shropshire

As one of the UK’s foodie hotspots, Shropshire’s medieval market town of Ludlow scores pretty highly in the Christmas stakes too. Its annual Medieval Christmas Fayre, hosted at the Castle from 26 – 27 November, the fayre features more than 100 stalls selling an impressive range of locally produced gifts, food and drinks for you to stock up on. With carolling, falconry shows, puppetry and swordplay, there are plenty of festive goings on to keep you entertained besides the shopping, while a trip into Ludlow’s town centre will uncover side streets filled with independent boutiques for one-of-a-kind finds – as well as plenty of esteemed dining destinations to take you into the evening.

Stay: Old Downton Lodge 5* It doesn’t get much cosier than this. Take a seat in the lounge and watch the crackling fire in the log burner with a hot drink or tipple and someone might start up a carol on the piano. Then retreat to the warmth of your bedroom – they’re filled with details like luxurious fabrics, oak four poster beds, original wood beams and antique furniture. Rooms from £175

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King Street Townhouse


Hundreds of thousands of people head to Manchester’s famous Christmas markets each year, but if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten track, take a detour to the city’s Northern Quarter. Known for its independent shops, bars and restaurants, you’ll find plenty of gift inspiration – from books and one-off prints to homewares, fashion and homemade chocolates. On Sunday 11 December the area will play host to the monthly Makers Market where stalls feature food, drinks, and artisan gifts. This year will also see the city’s iconic London Road Fire House, a Grade II listed building, transformed into a winter shopping and socialising space, complete with courtyard ice rink, art gallery, food stalls and a number of stalls from local designer-makers.

Stay: King Street Townhouse, 4* A boutique hotel that’s big on character, the King Street Town House’s infinity pool and terrace look out over the city’s clock tower and Town Hall – decked out in sparkling Christmas lights. Or grab a spot in one of the mezzanine lounge’s armchairs to warm up by the fireplace. Rooms from £216

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 Padstow, Cornwall

There’s something fairly magical about Christmas by the coast – away from the hustle and bustle of the city, with pretty seaside harbours and plenty of fresh, crisp air. For guaranteed local craftsmanship head to Truro’s made in Cornwall Christmas Fair from 26 – 30 November where more than 100 artisans will have their wares on offer. Or for foodies looking for seaside charm, the annual Padstow Christmas Festival, 4 – 7 December, is not to be missed. With some of the region’s finest food and drink on offer, you’ll be able to pick up gifts for foodie friends and pick up handmade toys as well as picking up handmade toys and more whilst strolling past twinkling lights hung above the charming harbour’s fishing boats. Food demonstrations also take place.


Stay: The Old Custom House 4* You can see Christmas lights dance on the sea from this boutique spot close to the harbour. It’s an intimate place to call home for a couple of days, filled with wood, leather, candle light and luxury touches that take on a festive edge in December. Rooms from £115

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Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh

When it comes to putting on a festive knees-up you’d expect Scotland to pull out all the stops. With the castle providing an impressive backdrop, a seasonal chill in the air and mazes of winding lanes, Edinburgh makes for one of the UK’s most atmospheric Christmas shopping getaways. You’ll find all the big hitters around Princes Street, but for something more unique, head to the Old Town and Grassmarket areas. Set underneath Edinburgh castle, this area is made up of winding, narrow streets that come alive under Christmas lights and house a wide range of boutiques and independent shops. Make sure you wander Victoria Street while you’re there – said to have inspired J K Rowling’s Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books.

Stay: G&V Royal Mile Hotel, 5* In the heart of the Old Town and just a few minutes away from Edinburgh Castle, the city is right on your doorstep, in all its festive glory. Interiors are flambuoyant, colourful and modern – expect their take on Christmas to match. Rooms from £143.20

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katyThe Alternative Christmas Shopping Guide (And Excuse For a Cheeky Weekend Away)

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