If you’re looking to stock up on foodie treats for Christmas, this is the place to come. Ludlow has long been known as a gastro-hub, with specialist producers dotted along the high street and market place. Visit the Mousetrap Cheese Shop, Harp Lane Deli and the Chocolate Gourmet for festive eats, or browse around Bodenhams, which sells clothes in a quirky, 600-year-old building. The Silver Pear and At Home Ludlow are both filled with brilliant gifts, from homewares to scarves and jewellery, and the newly opened Kin Rooms, located above Kin Kitchen, is a chic, central place to stay (two-night breaks from £220 self-catering, kinludlowrooms.co.uk).
Lewes, East Sussex
Pack plenty of tote bags for a stroll down Lewes’s historic High Street and surrounding lanes, where multi-floor antiques emporiums share space with artisan cheesemongers, jewellers, ceramicists and small boutiques selling organic clothing and one-off designs. Pop into the Sussex Guild shop, home to over 30 designers and makers, and stop for lunch at town’s foodie hub, Riverside, with its independent shops and buzzy brasserie and café. Stay at Blue Door Barns, a rustic retreat just outside town (doubles from £120 room-only, bluedoorbarns.com).
Most famous for world-class fishing on offer at the nearby River Test, Stockbridge also has a delightful high street, dotted with small, independently owned shops. Pick up pots and plants at the Garden Inn, chocolate treats at Mokaya Cocoa and clothing at Cleverly Wrapped, then reward yourself with a nip of something warming at Isla’s Spirits Bar, sister to the neighbouring Little Whisky Shop. Stay at the Grosvenor, an elegantly revamped boutique hotel right on the high street (doubles from £149 B&B, thegrosvenorstockbridge.com).
The 15th-century High Street – and the lattice of roads that run off it – is dotted with independent shops and retailers, offering everything from ceramics and homewares to handmade shoes, jewellery and childrenswear. Dip into the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen for fantastic one-off gifts and stock up on foodie treats at the open market (Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9am to 3pm), or visit Cadeaux & Co for unusual gift ideas. Stay in the Crown at Wells, a charming inn dating back to 1450, set on the Market Square with 15 cosy bedrooms (doubles from £105 B&B, crownatwells.co.uk).
A jumble of Tudor buildings, historic merchants’ houses and Georgian mansions creates a charming backdrop to an array of independent stores and boutiques, scattered along one of the country’s widest high streets. Pick up foodie treats at Eversfield Organic, shop for elegant Christmas gifts at the Merchant’s House or designer dresses and accessories at Willow & Wolf and refuel with sinfully good cake and coffee at Bunce’s. Stay at the Marlborough, a buzzy gastropub with rooms in the heart of town (doubles from £60 B&B, themarlboroughgroup.co.uk).
Pair blustery strolls along Cardigan’s two glorious beaches with a gentle shopping spree on the town’s High Street, lined with independent cafés, craft shops and galleries. Pick up surfing-themed gifts, handmade jewellery or artworks by local painters at the Corn Exchange Gallery, or browse the Guildhall Market, home to more than 50 traders (currently dotted around town as the Market Hall is under restoration). Add in a visit to the 11th-century Cardigan Castle and stay in one of the nine comfy rooms at the Llety Teifi Guesthouse (doubles from £75 room-only, lletyteifi-guesthouse.co.uk).
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
Famous for its bohemian vibe, Hebden is a hotbed of independent designers, artists and craftspeople, making the town ideal for an early Christmas shopping trip. Find unusual homewares from around the world in Broug’s, browse the shelves in the Book Case or pick up eco-friendly, fairtrade gifts at Spirals. The Antiques Centre, housed in the former Police Station, is the perfect place to while away an hour before lunch at Coin, which specialises in small plates and sharing platters. Stay at the Hebden Townhouse, a slick B&B with 12 rooms (doubles from £125 B&B, hebdentownhouse.co.uk).
Broadway’s wide, picturesque High Street is lined with classic Cotswold houses built of warm, honey-coloured stone, many of which are home to independent shops, cafés and galleries. Lovers of vintage clothes and accessories should visit Betty & Violet, then browse the contemporary jewellery, bags and scarves on offer at Wild at Heart. Catesbys offers elegant homewares and artworks, while Table Manners is the place to find culinary-themed Christmas gifts. Pause for lunch or tea and cake at the Market Pantry and stay at the Broadway Hotel, a traditional inn set on the village green (doubles from £123 B&B, broadway-hotel.co.uk).
St Ives, Cornwall
Winter is a great time to visit St Ives, when the long, narrow High Street is free of tourist crowds and the pace slows to allow gentle browsing around the town’s many art galleries and boutiques. This is the perfect place for unusual Christmas presents – handmade jewellery from Kirsty Bridgewater, homewares and wellness treats at Onda or sea-themed gifts at Cream of Cornwall, where everything is sourced from local craftspeople and artisans. Stay at No 4 St Ives, a grand Victorian house with wonderful sea views from many of the rooms (doubles from £110 B&B, no4stives.com).
Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway
Famous as Scotland’s National Book Town, this is the place to browse for literary gifts, with a clutch of second-hand bookshops, including Foggie Toddle, which specialises in books and toys for children. Combine browsing with a potter around the Wigtown Emporium, filled with antiques and vintage pictures and photos, and a visit to the Craigard Gallery, which exhibits paintings, prints and ceramics by both established and emerging artists. Stay at Hillcrest House, a charming B&B with six comfortable rooms (doubles from £88 B&B, hillcrest-wigtown.co.uk).