8 Unique Christmas Shopping Experiences

Edinburgh at Xmas: a vibrant yet traditional festive experience

Christmas shopping – those who love it will tell you nothing could spoil the feeling of finding the perfect gift for someone you love. Hate it and you’ll no doubt be put off by the bustling crowds and stress. Whatever your feelings towards it, we’ve come up with some shopping destination alternatives to the multitude of high streets and malls that’ll leave even the biggest shopping Grinch feeling merry and in the festive spirit.

  1. The Shambles, York

Take a step back in time this year and visit the historic city of York for a Christmas shopping experience coupled with culture and sightseeing. While the city has plenty of fantastic places to grab your gifts, the highlight has to be The Shambles, a road so old that it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror in 1086. Strolling down the narrow, charming cobbled road beneath beautiful, timber-framed buildings, you’ll find vintage boutiques, delicious chocolatiers and unique gifts. Voted ‘Britain’s Most Picturesque Street’ in 2010; it’s possible in some places to touch both sides of the streets with your arms outstretched.

  1. Llandeilo, Wales

While Cardiff and Swansea might be your usual destinations of choice for Christmas shopping in Wales, head out of the cities for more relaxing shopping. With a multitude of market towns in Wales you’re spoilt for choice. One of our favourites is the colourful town of Llandeilo, a chic Christmas shopping destination without a high-street shop in sight. Winding streets host many one off items from designer fashion, bespoke home furnishings and furniture, local crafts, produce and antiques. Right on the edge of the magnificent Brecon Beacons National Park, this is the perfect place to do a spot of Christmas shopping and get away from it all. Who said Christmas shopping had to be stressful?

  1. Carnaby Street, London
Christmas Decoration in London

Carnaby Street: An out of this world experience for festive shoppers

With such an array of diverse and fantastic shopping in the country’s capital, it can be difficult to know where to start. Stumble into a winter shopping wonderland and visit Harrods for a Christmas experience you’ll never forget or try the hip markets in Shoreditch and haggle with aspiring designers for one off fashion finds. Our top tip for London though is Carnaby Street in Soho, a shopping haven with independent boutiques and fashion retailers as well as bigger global brands and fantastic restaurants. You can get all of your festive shopping done here and have plenty of fun doing it!

  1. Northern Quarter, Manchester

If you like your Christmas shopping to come with a quirky twist then a trip to Manchester’s Northern Quarter certainly delivers. A hotbed of creative talents, independent retailers, record shops, cafes, restaurants and bars ensures the Northern Quarter has a charm that echoes Manchester’s illustrious musical and artistic history. A must see is the famous Affleck’s Palace with fashion retailers and outlets over four floors. If the chill of winter is getting too much then grab a drink or a bite to eat in one of the Northern Quarter’s fantastic bars or restaurants. If the shopping hasn’t tired you out then stick around a little longer to enjoy the vibrant nightlife on offer.

  1. Salisbury, Wiltshire

Recently voted by Lonely Planet as ‘One of the World’s Top 10 Cities to visit in 2015′, get there early for a quintessentially English Christmas shopping experience. There are hundreds of shops and, while Salisbury is famous for its local and independent traders, there are plenty of high street offerings as well. This medieval city is easy to get around making shopping a delight rather than a chore. Also included in the top 10 were Vienna, Toronto and Milan, so Salisbury is rubbing shoulders with some truly stunning places. A visit to Stonehenge is a must for any Salisbury trip (but don’t expect to find any shops there!)

  1. The Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Only a short walk from the popular Royal Mile, soak up the vibrant and medieval atmosphere at Edinburgh’s Grassmarket for a specialist shopping experience. Over 90% of the shops here are independent and locally run, and there’s year round entertainment and events to brighten up the day for even the most reluctant Christmas shopper. Eat and drink traditional Scottish and locally sourced produce whilst you enjoy spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle that towers above.

  1. The Lanes, Brighton

Enjoy another side of Brighton in the winter

You might want to leave your bathing gear behind for this seaside trip, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit this beautiful seaside town in winter. The Lanes are packed full of wonderful antique and jewellery shops nestled alongside contemporary and designer boutique fashion retailers, restaurants and eccentric cafes. If you have a sweet-tooth then pop into the famous Choccywoccydoodah and grab some deliciously indulgent stocking fillers. If you’ve still got some energy left at the end of the day then head to Brighton Pier for a fun-filled way to round off the day with rides, arcades and attractions.

  1. Christmas Markets

We’re cheating here but we can’t single out just one Christmas market. Combining food, drink and shopping, we think they create a fantastic festive experience that’ll get you in a marvellously merry mood. View our countdown of the 11 Best Christmas Markets in the UK for inspiration.

‘Women in Waves’ takes to the sea in Sussex

We had a great time at Surf Life Saving Great Britain’s  ‘Women in Waves’ event last Saturday (14 June). Approximately 50 people turned out to take to the water off Brighton Beach and learn some valuable lessons in surf safety – in fact the only person who appeared to be missing was the sun!

Undeterred, the participants joined in, had fun and learned some valuable lessons about being safe in the sea in the process. Thanks to Surf Life Saving Great Britain and everyone who came down!

Surf Life Saving Great Britain is a charity of over 6,000 volunteers who aim to make beaches safer and more enjoyable. You can find more info on their website and also register for the following events:  Saturday 28th June 2014 at Blyth Dave Stephenson Centre, South Beach Blyth from 10 – 4pm and Saturday 12th July 2014 at Perranporth Beach from 10-3.30pm.

Hope to see you there!

Autumn City Breaks

Lincoln’s stunning cathedral

The final months of the year are a time of promise when our towns and cities take on a magical flavour in the lead up to Christmas. This is a time for pampering, keeping warm and spending time with those people who make life special. Not surprising then that city breaks are a popular in the autumn months, whether it might be to pick up those perfect gifts, meet up with friends and family or simply to indulge in some of the most stunning urban settings in the country, we have some great ideas for getting away this Autumn. Typically when considering a city break many will instinctively think of London, Edinburgh or York, but we are going to look at some of the more provincial, but great options for a fantastic city break in Britain.

Lincoln

The Gothic cathedral is the centrepiece of this ancient city that oozes charm and appeal. The historic legacy has left its mark on the city leaving an architectural gem typified by the delightfully vibrant Bailgate quarter. Set in the immediate backdrop to the atmospheric cathedral, Bailgate has a fantastic array of shops and eateries creating a great buzz in the historic heart of the city. Castle Square is the venue for frequent markets offering artistic wares and fresh local farm produce.  For inquisitive visitors there is the Norman Castle to explore and tangible links to the city’s Roman past remain with landmarks such as the 3rd century Newport Arch providing fascinating links to the past. Make Lincoln next on your ‘to do’ list.

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Truro

The principle city in Cornwall, Truro is one of the smallest and cleanest cities in the United Kingdom. The cityscape is wrapped in a bowl shape around the imposing Cathedral and estuary which lit up in the evening is quite spectacular. Truro’s central location in the county means that Cornwall’s spectacular north and south coasts are a short fifteen minute drive in either direction. The compact cobbled city centre offers a fantastic range of modern restaurants and bars. Despite its small size Truro offers the usual range of popular shopping chains alongside quaint and quirky outlets that make this the most popular shopping destination in Cornwall. With the added spice of Christmas markets in the weeks preceding Christmas, Truro is one of the South West’s premier city break choices.

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Norwich

Set against the backdrop of delightful rural market towns and villages, Norwich is the cultural hub of Norfolk and the gateway to the world famous Broads. There is an energy about the thriving art scene in Norwich. The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is a wonderful addition to the Norwich arts scene; this modern venue plays host to art exhibitions throughout the year. The city’s castle and cathedral are also prominent attractions amongst visitors to Norwich and with a wide selection of restaurants and bars, this a city with a bustling mix of nightlife venues. If you prefer a more sedate pace of life the city’s rivers link to the Norfolk Broads, an inland waterway system that extends across the county to the East coast, home to a diverse range of wildlife. At the heart of East Anglia, Norwich has a lot to offer on a city break this Autumn.

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Brighton

With very convenient travel links from London, Brighton is traditionally a very popular city break by the sea. With all the accoutrements of a modern city but with the added allure of being by the coast, it is not surprising that for many of us Brighton is the city break destination of choice.  The expansive marina is a vibrant centre with and exciting range of restaurants to suit all palates. Brighton is renowned for its social scene, offering quaint eateries and bars in and amongst ‘The Lanes’ whilst the cities numerous lively nightclubs provide plenty of options for those intent on enjoying a party. The compact city centre means that many of  Brighton’s attractions are all within a short distance, the distinctive Royal Pavilion, world famous Brighton Pier and Sealife Centre are amongst the most popular. Why not combine your next city break with a trip to the Sussex coast?

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Bath

Perhaps the quintessential city break destination throughout the ages, the beautiful Georgian city of Bath is the gateway to the South West. Designated a city 450 years ago, Bath has been a magnet for tourists for centuries. Ever since Roman times people have been drawn to Bath to ‘take the waters’ in the mineral rich spas. The Roman Baths form part of a world heritage site, with a temple built around a natural hot spring for people to enjoy the reputed benefit of the waters therein. The distinctive Georgian architecture adds to the aesthetic appeal of a city blessed with delightful parks and gardens set against some of the most important buildings in the country. It is easy to imagine the world of  Jane Austen, who lived in the city and was so entranced that she set both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey in Bath. Today Bath remains a popular and engaging resort with the usual selection of great bars and restaurants that you would expect from a first class city destination.

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