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10 of Britain’s best market towns for a weekend break

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Alamy</span>
Photograph: Alamy

Aberaeron, Ceredigion

Famous for the brightly coloured Georgian houses that line the town’s pretty quay, Aberaeron has become something of a foodie hub in recent years, with the Cellar Restaurant voted the best in Wales in 2019. Days are best spent on the water: choose from dolphin-spotting trips, boat tours of Cardigan Bay or even a RIB safari. On dry land, hire a bike to cycle the 3km former railway line to the mansion and pretty walled garden at Llanerchaeron. Base yourself at the Harbourmaster, a 13-room boutique hotel with a restaurant focusing on local Welsh produce.
• Doubles from £260 B&B, harbour-master.com

Malton, North Yorkshire

Yorkshire’s gastro capital is a bustling market town with foodie shops selling everything from locally made gelato to beer, cheese and even macaron. There’s plenty of opportunity to get involved. Book a cookery class at the Cook’s Place, blend your own gin at the Rare Bird Gin school or join a Malton Food Tour. Stay at the stylish Talbot, an imposing 17th-century coaching inn that also offers a splendid afternoon tea.
• Doubles from £110 B&B, talbotmalton.co.uk

Buxton, Derbyshire

Famed for its spa waters, Buxton is an elegant mix of Georgian and Victorian architecture, with a lively bar and cafe culture, and an Edwardian opera house that also hosts theatre, dance and comedy nights. Take a picnic to the Pavilion gardens and spend an hour browsing in the wonderful Scriveners Books. The big news has been the £50m restoration of the Buxton Crescent; a gorgeous Georgian hotel and world-class spa.
• Doubles from £185 B&B, ensanahotels.com

Chichester, Sussex

Pretty as a picture: Chichester, Sussex.
Pretty as a picture: Chichester. Photograph: Paul Weston/Alamy

A chic county town near the coast, Chichester is ideal for an arty weekend, with its renowned theatre and Pallant House Gallery. The city is also rich in history, with Roman walls and a museum built on the remains of a Roman bathhouse. Nearby Bosham is a lovely place to visit; hop on the ferry from Chichester harbour and stop for tea at Wendys Café. Stay at Chichester Harbour Hotel & Spa in the heart of town.
• Doubles from £157.50 B&B, harbourhotels.co.uk

Oban, Argyll & Bute

Tucked away on Scotland’s west coast, Oban makes the perfect base for exploring the region’s islands and beaches. The town is dotted with craft shops and food producers: try Made in Argyll for fabrics, ceramics and artworks, or foodie treats at Taste of Argyll, and visit Oban Distillery to taste its single malt. Get out on the water with a trip to Mull and Iona, or visit Kerrera, an island with a ruined castle. Stay at Oban Manor, which has glorious views over the bay.
• Doubles from £185 B&B, obanmanorhouse.com

Lavenham, Suffolk

Half Timbered houses in Lavenham Suffolk
Half-timbered houses in Lavenham.
Photograph: Alamy

One of the best-preserved medieval towns in the UK, its narrow streets are dotted with timber-framed houses. A prosperous wool town in the 15th and 16th centuries, it has a bohemian feel, with art galleries, antique shops and knitwear designers. Dip into the Guildhall for more on its past, or stroll out into the surrounding countryside. Foodies should book into the Great House, an award-winning restaurant with rooms offering French cuisine in a restored medieval building.
• Doubles from £105, greathouse.co.uk

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

English idyll: Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
English idyll: Cirencester. Photograph: Shaun A Daley/Alamy

Often referred to as the capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester is a lively market town filled with stalls every Monday and Friday, selling everything from antiques to clothes and local produce. Pack up a picnic for a stroll through Cirencester park – 3,000 acres of geometrically designed grounds, or visit the Cotswold Water Park to try wakeboarding, SUP or just pottering around in a kayak. Bed down at No 12, a stylish B&B in a Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse, with four rooms and a great line in breakfasts.
Doubles from £130 B&B, no12cirencester.co.uk

Ludlow, Shropshire

Ludlow and the Clee Hills beyond.
Ludlow and the Clee Hills beyond. Photograph: Richard Hayman/Getty Images

Dominated by its 11th-century castle and famous as one of England’s premier foodie hubs, Ludlow is the perfect weekend-break package, with walking and cycling trails stretching out from the town. Pick up award-winning sausages at DW Wall, or indulge in a box of treats from the Chocolate Gourmet. Stay at the Clive Arms, a Georgian building within walking distance of Ludlow Racecourse.
• Doubles from £100 room-only, theclive.co.uk

Crickhowell, Powys

&#x002018;A great base for exploring the Brecon Beacons&#x002019;: Crickhowell, Powys.
‘A great base for exploring the Brecon Beacons’: Crickhowell. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Surrounded by the imposing Black Mountains, Crickhowell makes a great base for exploring the Brecon Beacons. Pack up a picnic with goodies from MT Cashell and follow the well-marked trails up the Sugar Loaf or Skirrid mountains. For something gentler, nearby Llangorse Lake offers kayaking, SUP and pedalos. Stay at the Bear, a 15th-century coaching inn with rooms that mix traditional features with contemporary styling, and a restaurant serving hearty Welsh dishes.
• Doubles from £129 B&B, bearhotel.co.uk

Marlborough, Wiltshire

Sunrise in Savernake Forest, near Marlborough.
Sunrise in Savernake Forest, near Marlborough. Photograph: Wolstenholme Images/Alamy

A charming market town dotted with historic buildings, including the Merchant’s House – one of the finest 17th-century homes open to visitors – and St Peter’s Church, which offers fantastic views of the Cotswolds from the top of the tower. Spend mornings browsing market stalls, then head out for walks in the nearby Savernake Forest, or along the waymarked trails that lead from the town into the North Wessex AONB. Stay at the Marlborough, a restored 15th-century inn with five rooms, set on the town’s buzzy high street.
Doubles from £60 B&B, themarlboroughgroup.co.uk

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