September, and harvest festival time in the shires (at the time of writing). But there’s an all year round harvest festival to be enjoyed all over the UK in the form of Farmers’ Markets. If you’ve yet to visit one, put aside your next trip to Tesco and head for your local farmer’s market. As well as providing deliciously tasty, organic and locally grown foods, shopping at one is a great way to support the local economy and a healthier lifestyle. You’ll find the majority of the produce originated from within a few miles of the market, rather than having been flown and driven hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. What’s more, the stallholders themselves will often suggest delicious ways to prepare and cook their wares.
There’s probably a farmers’ market near you – go visit. But why not incorporate a trip to a market within a short break at a holiday cottage, creating a real culinary break without having to spend a fortune in restaurants. Check out our favourite farmers’ markets in the UK. For each one, we suggest a local holiday cottage with an appropriately kitted out kitchen perfect for creating a feast from the results of your foraging.
1. Stroud Farmers’' Market, Gloucestershire
Where: In the Cornhill Market Place and surrounding streets.
When: Every Saturday, 9am–2pm
Why: Voted the best Farmers’ Market in the UK for the second time in 2013, it's been featured on many a celebrity chef programme including Rick Stein and the Hairy Bikers. The website lists foods in season and seasonal recipes to go with them. It also provides links to all the regular attendees, so you can check out what’s in store before you leave home.
We like: Godsell's Artisan Cheeses. Check out the ‘3 Virgins Cheshire cheese’ or the ‘Hooded Monk Cheddar and chilli’.
2. Cheltenham Farmers’' Market, Gloucestershire
Where: Long Gardens Promenade
When: 2nd and last Friday of each month. 9.00am – 2.00pm
Why: The Cotswold Life Magazine reckons this is the best farmers’ market in the county (and they should probably know). This bustling market nestles in the heart of this Regency town offering wares brought in from tiny out of the way Cotswold villages. Expect to find the occasional entertainer and, being Cheltenham, the occasional art and craft stall within the vibrant market mix.
We like: The Veggie Deli. Their veggie chorizo and their butter bean stew almost have their own fan clubs.
3. Winchester Farmers’ Market, Hampshire
Where: Middle Brook Street and Middle Brook Street Car Park
When: 2nd and last Sunday in the month. 9.00am-2.00pm
Why: Apparently a big favourite of Rick Stein, and no wonder; with more than 90 regular stalls, it’s one of the largest farmers’ markets in the UK with every thing from hog roasts and ostrich burgers to organic soaps and goats milk. Even so, the rules are that all produce on display must have been sourced from within 10 miles of Winchester. Luckily there’s nothing in the rules that says how far afield you can eat it. The Guardian recently awarded it their ‘Best in Country’ status.
We like: Blackmoor Game. Purveyors of every kind of game birds and animals from venison to wood pigeon. All their birds have either been caught in the wild or reared as free range. Go for their gold award winning venison and leek sausages.
Where to stay. We recommend Inglewood, a delightful cottage located at the gateway to the New Forest.
4. Edinburgh Farmers’ Market
Where: Nestling in the lee of Edinburgh Castle on the Castle Terrace.
When: Every Saturday. 9.00am – 2.00pm
Why: Over 55 stalls every week including lobster (when in season), ducks eggs, Scottish oatcakes, cider, chocolate and porridge. On the first Saturday in the month there are slow food cooking demonstrations. The website lists all the regular producers as well as recipes (go for the Wild Boar and Boufrage).
We like: The Stoats Porridge Bar. The world’s first porridge bar. If you thought porridge was only good with salt or syrup, then think again. Try it flavoured with white chocolate and hazelnut or blueberry and cranberry.
Where to stay: Linlithgow. We recommend Williamscraig Cottages. Beautifully stylish 4-bedroom cottages with 4-poster beds and hot tubs some 40 minutes from the city centre. Great for doubling up with a golf trip or jet skiing on Loch Lomond to work up an appetite.
5. Wye Farmers’' Market, Kent
Where: On the Green in the pretty village of Wye at the foot of the North Downs between Ashford and Canterbury.
When: 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month. 9.00am – 12.00pm
Why: Passionate local producers create a virtual larder on The Green, jam-packed with produce harvested from the ‘Garden of England’. The website lists all the regular producers including the distance their produce will have travelled to get there.
We like: Handmade by Henry, which sells individually handcrafted chocolates made from different types of chocolate and natural ingredients and no artificial additive or enhancers. Chocolate as it should be! Also, Perry Court Farm which makes fruit juices from over 100 varieties of traditional English apples. They also make Apple Crisps, a guilt free way way to keep the munchies at bay if you want to relax and enjoy the frequent street entertainments that are a part of this market.
Where To Stay: Camber Sands. We recommend The Salty Dog - a delightful family-friendly Kent coastal cottage
6. Harrogate Farmers’ Market
Where: Cambridge Street, Harrogate
When: 2nd Thursday in the month. 9.00am – 2.00pm
Why: If you really do need an excuse to visit this historic spa town with its parks, gardens, tempting tea rooms and cafes, then the 40 plus stalls offering a huge selection of locally produced meats, pies, vegetables, herbs, cheeses and honey at Harrogate’s Farmers’ market must be it. It may sound incongruous, but the array of splendid produce also includes locally sourced ostrich and buffalo meat!
We like: Tomkinsons Bakery, a small family run bakery, creators of a range of high quality artisan breads. It’s all terrifically tasty no-nonsense bread – the kind you take home, cut a slice and experience an irresistible desire to devour the whole loaf there and then. One usually succumbs.
Where to stay: Harrogate. We recommend Hookstone House. A large Yorkshire Dales holiday cottage in Darley.
7. Bath Farmers’ Market
Where: Green Park, Bath – the old Somerset & Dorset Railway terminus.
When: Every Saturday. 8.30am – 1.30pm.
Why: The first farmers’’ market in the UK, established in 1997. All produce is sold directly by the people who produce it and has to originate from within 40 miles of Bath. The range of stalls is huge with a fair sprinkling of award winning pies, cheeses, teas, breads, sauces, sausages and patisseries.
We like: Two cheese traders: Firstly, the Bath Soft Cheese Co, which produces a range of award winning soft cheeses. Go for the ‘Wyfe of Bath’ – a succulent, nutty and creamy semi-hard cheese. Secondly, and for a hard cheese, purchase a tasty truckle of the mature own-brand Cheddar from Worthy Farm. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Worthy Farm is the home of Glastonbury Festival.
Where to stay: Bath. We recommend Marmaduke House, a large luxury Bath holiday cottage.