Britain’s best market towns

Hannah Sweetnam explores some of Britain's historic and unique market towns


Ludlow, Shropshire
Perched on the cliffside overlooking the River Teme is the town of Ludlow. The 900-year-old Norman planned town has a great reputation for food and drink, and it is home to the UK’s first, and now the biggest, food festival. The town is twinned with La Ferte-Mace in Normandy, France; San Pietro in Cariano, Italy; and Narbeth in Pembrokeshire; and it is just 30 minutes from the famous Severn Valley Railway.
Skipton, North Yorkshire
Skipton lies in the Aire Gap, between the limestone dales of the north and grit stone moors of the south. Sitting just outside of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the town is known as the Gateway to the Dales. Originating from the Saxon word for sheep, the town was settled by farmers in the seventh century and built out from the nearby castle around the market, which is held four days a week.
Burnham Market, Norfolk
This coastline market town boasts stunning beaches, coastal walks and a traditional village atmosphere. The town is home to more than 30 independent and specialist shops, ranging from garden accessories to beauty salons. Plus, it’s just a 20-minute drive to Morston where Beans Boat Trips will take you to see the seals and seabirds in their natural environment at Blakeney Point.
Hexham, Northumberland
Hexham rests alongside the River Tyne. The Market Square, 12th-century abbey and 14th-century town gaol make the town a great centre for Hadrian’s Wall explorers. Hexham Abbey originated as a monastery, founded by Saint Wilfred in AD 674 of which the Saxon crypt and apse remain, while an Augustine priory replaced the abbey.
Camelford, Cornwall
Camelford rests on the outskirts of Bodmin Moor. According to Cornish legend, King Arthur and the fortress of Camelot now lie within the foundations of the ancient market town. The town has carefully avoided using the legend to attract tourists and remains a well-situated spot for walking enthusiasts. However, the Arthurian Centre is an interesting visit should you want to clue up on the Knights of the Round Table.