If you’re not a fan of mulled wine and jingling bells, you’re probably better off fleeing the country come December. Even those food festivals and farmers markets that don’t sell themselves as festive events tend to come draped with tinsel and trimmed with holly. Fortunately here at olive towers we love a bit of Christmas cheer. Here are eight of our favourite food festivals taking place across the UK in December.
Salisbury Christmas Market
Over 75 pretty chalets sit in front of Salisbury’s stately Guildhall, selling artisan goods from fudge to stollen. There’s a hefty European influence among the food stalls here, so expect German bratwurst and gluhwein, seasonal French crepes and – courtesy of local streetfood outfit Soviet Kitchen – tender pork kebabs or deep-fried Lithuanian rye bread sticks. For foodie stocking fillers, some of the more homegrown products on sale include Wiltshire Chilli Farm’s peppy sauces, Red Robin Pantry’s frangipane mince pies and Rose Cottage’s rosehip and rhubarb gin liqueur. For extra magic, time your visit to coincide with the Christmas lantern parade on 3 December.
24 November – 18 December
York St Nicholas Christmas Festival
The Shambles provides an atmospheric backdrop for a market majoring on Yorkshire produce such as local charcuterie and Botton Creamerie cheddar. Snack on roasted chestnuts as you meander through the city’s higgledy-piggledy streets, and don’t forget to stop off at Thor’s Scandi-style tipi on Parliament Street for hot chocolate and Christmas cocktails. If you fancy something more substantial, there will be locally produced sausages and burgers from Supreme Sausages and The Cattle Shed, and smokehouse classics from Smokin’ Blues – including Texas beef brisket, smoked cajun chicken and slow-smoked pulled pork with spiced cider gravy. Here are our favourite restaurants and cafes in York to visit while you are there.
17 November – 23 December
Winchester Christmas Market
This year is the 10th anniversary of this Christmas market, beside Winchester’s stunning cathedral, so expect proceedings to feel extra festive. Over 100 wooden chalets showcase the best of British arts, crafts, and, of course, food – stave off hunger while you browse with a cheese and sourdough toastie from the Gourmet Grilled Cheese Company or a hot salt beef sandwich from The Salt House. It’s also great present-hunting territory. Look out for one-off cream jugs and olive bowls from Selborne Pottery, bread and pizza boards from Board & Bread and farmhouse cheeses from Neals Yard Dairy. Have a go on the ice rink, join a Christmas carol service or visit on 1 December to catch the annual lantern procession. Stay at Hannah’s B&B and make a weekend out of it!
18 November – 20 December
The Winter Fair
Setting up stall in Ardingley, West Sussex, on 3 & 4 December this celebration of the coldest season should warm your festive cockles. Run in conjunction with the South of England Agricultural Society, the big attraction here is a market featuring over 100 food and drink producers, many of whom are from the local area. Street Food trucks and stalls will also be part of the festivities. This year’s vendors have yet to be announced but some of the most popular last year included Fine & Scandi’s hot dogs, Bocaface’s patatas bravas, Sussex Lamb’s burgers and winter cocktails from the Bug Bar).
3 – 4 December
Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Festival
Hot on the heels of the town’s main September food festival this annual festive food fair is a seasonal must-do for dedicated food lovers. Taking place on 11 December, expect over 90 producers selling cheeses, meats, drinks and cakes. Add in Christmas recipe demos, carol singing, family-friendly food classes and a seasonal cocktails workshops and you have a recipe for the perfect pre-Crimbo food festival.
One of two Foodies Festivals taking place this season (the other is at the Truman Brewery in London) the Edinburgh version includes an impressive line-up of guest chefs demonstrating techniques and ingredients (don’t overdo it in the Champagne Ski Bar beforehand if you want to make the most of their advice). In addition, an artisan Christmas market, with over 150 producers, means your culinary stocking fillers should be all sewn up by the time you leave. And, with a street food courtyard to graze your way through between events, there’s no danger of going hungry. If you do have extra room, make your way to the designated Pudding Hall, where you’ll find dessert and pudding specialists from across the land and beyond.
25 – 27 November
Padstow Christmas Festival
For gourmet gifts a little more exciting than a bottom-of-the-stocking satsuma, Padstow is a safe bet. Alongside a wider Christmas festival that includes demos by Nathan Outlaw, Mitch Tonks and Rick Stein – plus fireworks and carols – the small Cornish town plays host to a festive food market from 1 to 4 December. Art and craft are also represented but this is essentially one for foodies: graze on everything from steak and Cornish Blue pasties to Cornish honey marshmallows, local dukkah mixes and Devonshire Christmas puddings.
1 – 4 December
Bath Christmas Market
Bath boasts one of England’s prettiest Christmas markets, the gentle glow of its chalets spilling out around the city’s floodlit abbey. And while its stalls offer something for everyone, from Speckled Wood’s delicate wooden snowflake decorations to Bibico’s chic but sustainable clothing, foodies are especially well catered for. For fuelling up as you shop there’s delicious mulled cider from Honey’s Midford Cider, waffles from the Bath Waffle Company and and pulled pork buns from The Great Stone Baker (or head to The Lodge on nearby Stall Street for sit-down drinks and street food in ski chalet-style surroundings). While, for gifts to take home, choose from the likes of Electric Bear’s local craft beers, Seven Hills chocolate and hampers from Taste of Bath. Another reason to do your Christmas shopping here? As Christmas markets go Bath’s one has one of the highest proportions of local, independently-owned businesses. Here are some other wintery things to do in Bath
24 November – 11 December