UK CHRISTMAS MARKETS 2018
It's normally around this time that I blog a list of the UK's best Christmas Markets, so readers can plan their trips to set off their festive celebrations and warm up with a mug of mulled wine and a spot of Christmas shopping. The usual markets are taking place in most of our major cities, including my own - Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market, but here are a few that don't always get the mention that they deserve.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London - 22 November to 6 January
Market stalls are just part of the attraction here and you need to book in advance to get a place at Bar Ice, where everything from the glasses to the chairs are carved from ice. Then head for The Fire Pit for a warming winter cocktail. Check out the giant Bavarian beer hall for a litre of the best German brew. In addition to the usual food of sausages, waffles and doughnuts, you can also taste more adventurous dishes such as salmon fillets grilled on wooden planks.
Leeds Castle, Kent - 24/25 November, 1/2 December, 15/16 December
A wonderful fairy tale setting, Kent Castle's historical backdrop, complete with moat, provides a stunning venue for a Christmas market. The picturesque market town will have a reindeer stable,a large Victorian carousel and a big wheel - just take a spin or two! Visitors also get access to the castle if they buy tickets on line and if you really want to indulge yourself, then book the deluxe three-in-one afternoon tea, accommodation and Christmas market package.
Winchester Cathedral - 17 November to 20 December
The best market for medieval architecture and local produce, Hampshire's county town more than lives up to it's reputation as England's Christmas capital. The cathedral market is a riot of festive food and gift stalls and organisers ensure that local businesses benefit by rotating the traders each year, keeping a strong emphasis on British artisan goods and produce. This is the perfect place to buy that unusual Christmas gift. The nativity scene and ice ink add a traditional feel to the whole experience, as do the old-fashioned costermonger carts selling roasted chestnuts.
Belfast City Hall - 17 November to 22 December
Here you will you find continental experience with a twist - think German, French, Belgium and Italian food stocked alongside local produce and artisan gifts . Try the sugar-dusted poffertjes - Dutch pancakes, or the Spanish paella or German bratwurst fresh from the grill. Swill it all down with a pint of Guinness at Lavery's Beer Tent while listening to live music.
George Square and St Enoch Square, Glasgow - 25 November to 23 December
A traditional carousel sits below a gigantic Christmas tree and sparking lights create a thoroughly festive vibe at St George Square, while St Enoch Square offers a wide selection of food, drink and gifts. In addition to the usual array of continental eateries, beer and mulled wine, stalls selling everything from noodles and arepas to local dishes such as haggis, neeps and tatties. You might even find a deep-fried Mars bar!
Give that overseas Christmas Market trip a miss this year and support our own UK festive venues.