Where to find the UK’s best Christmas shopping Part 2

Welcome back to our two-part series on finding the UK’s best Christmas shopping destinations. Last time we covered Oxford Street and Westfield Stratford City in London, The Trafford Centre in Manchester, the Bull Ring in Birmingham and Princes Street Edinburgh.

All are fantastic shopping destinations with holiday cottages close by. They are perfect for last minute gift buying or enjoying a festive shopping expedition with family. That’s why we love them. So without further ado, here are the final five of the UK’s best Christmas shopping.

Bluewater – Kent

Bluewater is one of the UK’s largest shopping centres and it’s all indoors. If it’s cold and wet outside, it’s the perfect antidote to the winter blues. The mixture of shopping, undercover, cafes, restaurants, cinema and seasonal exhibitions make Bluewater a great place for catching up with Christmas shopping or spending the day.

The Quays – Newry

The Quays in Newry, Northern Ireland is one of the region’s largest shopping destinations and is one of the newest too. Built just outside Newry, The Quays has all the big names and some smaller ones too. There is also a cinema, food, cafes and lifestyle venues spread liberally around the centre too.

The Shambles – York

The Shambles in York is a fantastic place to visit for itself let alone for Christmas Shopping. Like much of the old city, The Shambles is Medieval, at least 500 years old and as pretty as a picture. The narrow streets can be a challenge in crowds, but the place is such a delight that you can quickly forgive it.

St David’s Dewi Sant – Cardiff

St David’s Dewi Sant in Cardiff is the Welsh flagship shopping destination. It’s wide open spaces, lots of parking, variety of shops and seasonal highlight make it one of the UK’s best Christmas shopping. With over 200 different stores, there really is something here for everyone!


The newly revamped Bristol city centre is quickly becoming one of the must-visit shopping destinations in the country. With no one particular centre or street as a highlight, the entire city is great for shopping, eating, drinking a coffee and watching the world go by. It’s also easy to get around and has a lovely quayside area too!

Those are what we here at holidaycottages.net regard as the top ten UK’s best Christmas shopping destinations. We have a wide selection of top class holiday cottages near to each of these locations, so if you’re looking for inspiration, you’re in luck!

Where to find the UK’s best Christmas shopping

It’s December and a little over three weeks to go until the big day. For many of us that means spending weekends searching for gifts, late nights surfing the internet and hoping the items can be delivered in time and panicking in case we’re not ready for the day itself.

For others, Christmas is a time to relax, enjoy the festivities and spend time with family. In order to help all our customers become the latter instead of the former, holidaycottatges.net has put together this list of the UK’s best Christmas shopping.

This two-part post will highlight ten towns and cities that have the variety of shops you need, Christmas markets for you to enjoy and the festive decorations and events going on that make shopping a bit less of a chore.

Oxford Street – London

Oxford Street is probably the most famous shopping street in Europe, if not the world. With that in mind, the Borough of London goes to great lengths to make sure it feels festive and always has something going on. Oxford Street also has a huge range of shops, from individuals to chain stores and department stores. If you can’t find it here, you won’t find it anywhere!

Westfield Stratford City – London

Staying in London for a moment, Westfield Stratford City is the third largest shopping centre in the UK. That makes it prime territory for Christmas shopping and for a day out hitting the shops. It gets busy this time of year, but if you need to buy gifts, this is an excellent place to do it.

The Trafford Centre – Manchester

The Trafford Centre is the North’s most famous shopping centre and one of the largest. It’s bigger than Westfield Stratford City and has just about every shop you can think of. There are also displays, exhibitions, a food court and a whole lot more to make your shopping trip more enjoyable.

Bull Ring – Birmingham

Birmingham’s Bull Ring is a great piece of modern architecture and a great place to shop. Not only is it home to one of the best Selfridges outside of London, it also has one of the best Christmas markets anywhere, it’s all pedestrianized and surrounded by bars, cafes and restaurants.

Princes Street – Edinburgh

Princes Street in Edinburgh is great for shopping at any time of year, but it and the Royal Mile really come alive around Christmas and New Year. Famous for its New Year’s Eve celebrations, it’s also a great place for shopping with stores, the Christmas market and lots going on.

Those are just five of the top ten places to find the UK’s best Christmas shopping. If you’re planning a shopping expedition or are having a winter weekend away in one of our holiday cottages, all of these make a great day out.

Join us next time for the final five UK’s best Christmas shopping destinations!

Holidaycottages.net’s top five UK winter walks

Winter is about more than just Christmas and New Year. It offers more than just an opportunity to wrap up in a blanket with a hot cup of tea. Tackled right, winter is a great time of year for getting out and about and seeing our country in a whole new light.

As long as you have the right clothes, there’s no reason why a wonderful winter walk shouldn’t be a highlight of your year.

Hadrian’s Wall -Northumberland

Hadrian’s Wall is spectacular all year round, but in the winter it really is something special. Spanning Northumberland and Cumbria, the wall is 84 miles long and most of it is very accessible. It offers some amazing views of moorland, country, wood and field. It’s a great place to walk, especially in winter and especially if you’re wrapped up warm!

Wastwater – Lake District

Wastwater is our favourite of all the lakes in the Lake District. It’s much quieter during winter and the scenery can be much more dramatic. Get the weather right and you could be in for some jaw dropping scenery and some amazing walking. Surrounded by mountain peaks, wooded hills and verdant green countryside, this has to be one of the best places to walk in the world.

Dartmoor – Devon

If you like your winter walks desolate and beautiful, Dartmoor is the place to come. You can walk the majority of the moor as long as you’re properly equipped but there are also structured walks out of Princetown and Postbridge. After your walk you have Exeter in one direction, Plymouth in another an Tavistock in yet another. It’s a great part of the country to walk.

Wild Atlantic Way – Ireland

No list of winter walks would be complete without mentioning what is undoubtedly the best walk in Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way stretches across the entirety of Ireland’s west coast and takes in some truly astonishing scenery. Add in that legendary Irish hospitality, some lovely towns and villages, as well as some fantastic holiday cottages and you have an amazing package.

Richmond Park – London

Richmond Park is one of many parks in London, but it’s definitely one of the best. Containing acres of ancient woodland, parkland, wildlife and even fallow deer, this is a true oasis in the city. Walk along to King Henry’s Mound and get a fantastic view of the city skyline, including the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral.

Those are our top five winter walks in the UK. There’s something there for everyone and a walk to delight the senses. Each has at least a couple of hour wonderful holiday cottages nearby too, which is even more reason to try them!

The top 10 UK city destinations for a Christmas break

If you’re looking to get away for Christmas and don’t want to spend hours and hours and hundreds of pounds chasing the sun, this is the post for you. We have scoured the UK for cities that have gone the extra mile to make Christmas that little more special. Here’s what we found.


Edinburgh is one of the best cities in the UK for Christmas and was featured in our Best Christmas Markets article last week. It’s a city that embraces everything to do with the holidays and has lights, special events, lots of child-friendly activities and shops to spend your money.

As Christmas holiday destinations go, it’s hard to beat. We also have a few holiday cottages around the city too!


Durham is another city that knows how to do Christmas. Nice at any time of year, Durham offers shopping, Santa, a Christmas market, carol singing, a lantern procession, the Polar Express and more during December. That makes it prime Christmas real estate for all the family!


Cardiff is a great place all year round, but especially at Christmas. Cardiff Castle already featured in our Best Christmas light displays in the UK article and this time the rest of the city wants in on the action. The Winter Wonderland makes a welcome return this year, with ice skating, ice bar and more. The city centre is lit up, there’s a Christmas market too.

Cardiff is a great city to do Christmas is and we have some lovely holiday cottages nearby.


York does Christmas exceptionally well and it isn’t all Dickensian either. While there is a lot of old England on display, there is plenty of contemporary Christmas too. There are medieval markets, Santa displays, carols, the Festive Fayre, street displays, lights, shops, food and a whole lot going on throughout December.


The historic city of Bath is like going back in time. The amazing Georgian architecture, narrow streets and old buildings all make a lovely atmosphere that’s only enhanced by Christmas. Bath Christmas Market is a particular highlight, as are all the lights, the ice rink in Victoria Park and carol singing around the city.


Leeds is already renowned for having a lively, vibrant city centre and Christmas brings out the best in that. There is usually a Christmas market, regular visits from Santa and maybe his reindeer. The shopping is also excellent, the city is lit up throughout and there is a real festive atmosphere that’ infectious.

These are just some of the cities that do Christmas well. Each has a little different on offer, making them truly unique. We also have holiday cottages within a short drive of all of them, making them an ideal destination for your last minute shopping or as a day out!

The best Christmas light displays in the UK right now

There are many elements that make any Christmas a good one. Family, friends, happiness, relaxation, time away from work, the culture of Christmas and seeing everyone embracing the holiday season are just a few.

If you’re enjoying a winter weekend away in one of our lovely holiday cottages, why not see a Christmas light display near to where you are? They are one of the highlights of the season for us and we enjoy them every single year. If you’re close to any of these, they are well worth a visit!

Mousehole, Cornwall

The quaintly named Mousehole in Cornwall has the reputation pf being the best Christmas light display in the country. With thousands of lights strung throughout the village and across the harbour, this light show may not be the biggest, but it’s certainly the best. It has England written all over it, in the history, the culture, the displays and the pies!

Kew Gardens, London

A visit to Kew Gardens is a must for anyone at any time, but Christmas offers something special. The main building is decked out in lights, the lake is lit and a one mile trail throughout the gardens is lit. There are also light sculptures, giant snowflakes and the Tunnel of Lights too. Well worth a visit!

Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury

We have featured Westonbirt Arboretum on holidaycottages.net before and probably will do again. Not only is it a national treasure, it also always has something going on. The annual Christmas light show is just one of them. The trees are lit, a mile-long trail is lit, Father Christmas comes to visit, fairies haunt the woods and choirs bring Christmas to everyone. It’s lovely.

Regent Street, London

No list of awesome Christmas lights would be complete without mentioning Regent Street in London. The city does Christmas well, but this street does it better than most. The long shopping street is lit from above with lights, each shop window is full of Christmas displays and Hamleys Christmas display should never be missed, whatever your age.

Cardiff Castle, Cardiff

Cardiff Castle is another destination we like visiting at any time of year, but Christmas is especially appealing. The castle itself is lit up at night, the town centre has its own light show and there are always things going on, late night shopping and the usual Christmassy things.

Those are just five Christmas light shows being held around the country this December. If you’re staying in one of our holiday cottages and are looking for something to do while you’re there, these are definitely worth a visit!

Five must-see Christmas markets

If you’re enjoying a winter break in a holiday cottage somewhere in the UK, spending an afternoon and some money at a Christmas market is a good use of your time. As holidaycottages.net has holiday rentals spread across the country, we thought we would put together a quick list of five must-see Christmas markets.

You’ll have to move fast though, as some of these will be happening in a day or two!


Birmingham’s Frankfurt market is a regular visitor to Centenary Square. It’s a market full of German-style market chalets selling everything from food, leatherworks, gifts, crafts and more. Much of what’s on offer can be very good indeed. There is also an ice rink, separate craft market and lots more going on over Christmas.


Lincoln also has a German market that runs each Christmas. It starts December 4th and runs for four days. Held in Castle Square, this market has over 200 stalls selling craft, arts, gifts, artisan foods and more. A funfair runs beside the market for the entire period and live music and performances are held each evening.


The historic city of Bath is well worth a visit at any time of year, but especially Christmas. Set next to Bath Abbey and the baths themselves, this Christmas market runs for 11 days in December. The stalls sell local food, crafts, art, gifts, unusual items and all sorts of interesting things. There is also plenty of entertainment on offer throughout.


Edinburgh does festivals in style and Christmas is no exception. The Edinburgh Christmas Market is definitely one to see if you’re staying in the area. There are actually three, that are full of arts, crafts, food and drink as well as German gifts, entertainments, ice rink and Highland fayre.


German markets are great, but a Victorian Christmas is very English. That’s what’s happening in Gloucester. Their “A Very Victorian Christmas” market features local producers selling food, drink, art, craft and more. There are also period entertainers in Dickensian costumer, life entertainers, sideshows, fairground rides, a pop-up tavern and more.

Those are just five of the many Christmas markets being held throughout the UK in December. If you’re enjoying one of our holiday cottages near any of these, we recommend them wholeheartedly!

We have sumptuous holiday cottages available close to Birmingham, Lincoln, Bath, Edinburgh and Gloucester. If you haven’t booked already, why not book today? We have some great places at some unbelievable prices!

Fantastic days out in Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire is a county with a lot going on. Often overlooked by its higher profile neighbours, it is well worth a visit. Holidaycottages.net has a wide selection of holiday rentals throughout the area, making it a great place for a family break.

If you’re staying, or planning to stay in one of our Bedfordshire holiday cottages, here are a few things to keep the family amused while you’re here.

Whipsnade Zoo

Whipsnade Zoo is owned and run by the Zoological Society of London. The zoo is well maintained, the animals well cared for and a lot of investment goes into welfare and the enclosures. It’s not a cheap day out by any means, but it’s clear to see that money goes back into the zoo. Overall, there is a lot to see and do here, making it a great day out for all the family.

The Shuttleworth Collection

The Shuttleworth Collection is one of the finest collections of vintage aircraft in the world. It also includes the Swiss Garden with acres of landscaped grounds, 13 listed buildings and woodlands. Both together make for a very good day out, even if you’re only mildly interested in aviation history.

Stockwood Discovery Centre

Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton is a museum covering many ages of history and gardens. Unusually, it’s also free to enter, making it a great day out for the family. The museum has everything from old coins to carriages while the gardens are a haven for flora and fauna, insects and more.

Birds of Prey Centre

The Birds of Prey Centre in Wistead is an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent birds. The centre is well run, the animals look well cared for and the people here seem to take welfare very seriously indeed. They offer experience days, exhibitions, special events and a whole lot more.

Wrest Park

Wrest Park in Silsoe is an English Heritage property that really is gardeners heaven. It’s 90 acres of park, garden, lake and buildings spread around woodland and grounds. The park also includes a bath house and manor house and has audio tours, picnics and more on offer.

Dunstable Downs

The little known Dunstable Downs near Whipsnade is a lovely part of the country. The downs of course are open country, but much of it is managed by the National Trust. They provide car parking, café, visitor centre, structured walks and more. There are quite a few trails going for miles in all directions, ideal for working up an appetite!

Those are just a few days out you could enjoy while staying in one of our Bedfordshire holiday cottages. Each offers something a little different while also providing a great day out for all the family. Just what holidays are all about!

Holiday cottage holidays in Norfolk

Holiday cottage holidays in NorfolkIf you’re currently enjoying, or planning to enjoy a holiday cottage holiday in Norfolk, firstly, we’re jealous. Second, you might want some inspiration for a few things to do while you’re there.

Holidaycottages.net manages over a hundred holiday cottages in and around the East Anglian county of Norfolk, so we have a good idea of what’s on throughout the year. Here are just a few ideas for a great day our for all the family.

Happisburgh Owl Barn

The clue really is in the title with the Happisburgh Owl Barn. Based near Happisburgh, north of Great Yarmouth, this venue is an excellent place to see owls up close and personal. You can even handle and fly them for a small extra cost. The barn is also a smallholding, so there are other small animals to play with too.

Hippodrome Circus

The Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth is an excellent, family-friendly circus near the seafront. Set back from the Promenade, this is an old fashioned circus that is still relevant, entertaining and funny. It’s also one of the few circus left with a water ring that is usually used to close the show.

East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden near Norwich is an open garden run by a couple who are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about what they are doing. They built the garden from scratch and turned it into an oasis of calm and tranquillity with surprises at every turn. If you fancy a relaxing day out while enjoying one of our Norfolk holiday cottages, this could be perfect!

RAF Air Defence Radar Museum

The RAF Air Defence Radar Museum near Horning, Norfolk, is one for the military enthusiast. Located near to a still working air defence centre, the museum celebrates the entire history of radar and air defence. It’s well laid out with lots of explanatory notes and the staff are very knowledgeable and helpful. A nice way to spend an afternoon.

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral in the centre of Norwich is a Norman building that dates back to 1096. It’s an excellent building set in acres of grounds in the city and well worth a visit. Volunteers are always there to offer help, guidance and talk you through the history and it’s only a short walk from the shops.

Blickling Estate

The Blickling Estate near Blickling is a complete country estate with red brick mansion house, working farms, small industries, cottages and more. It was also where Anne Boleyn was born. It’s a place full of rural charm and history and makes for a great day out for all the family.

Those are just a few of the hundreds of ways to spend a day in East Anglia. If you’re staying in one of our lovely holiday cottages in Norfolk, there’s something here for everyone. We hope you enjoy your stay!

Great days out in Suffolk

Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation MuseumSuffolk is often portrayed as a sleepy county full of rural beauty and slow paced life. For the most part, that’s accurate. However, there’s more going on that ploughing the fields!

Holidaycottages.net has hundreds of quality holiday cottages in this lovely county. Some are next to towns, some are in quaint villages. Others are deep in the countryside and away from everything. Whatever kind of break you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.

If you want something to fill your day while you’re staying in Suffolk, here are just a few things you can do.

Abbey Gardens

Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds offers a comfortable stroll in historic surroundings in the heart of the town. Located on the site of an ancient abbey, the gardens are well tended, varied and signposted with helpful information that add value to the experience. If you’re in the town and want to spend time somewhere peaceful, this is where you come.

New Wolsey Theatre

The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich is a charitable organisation that not only puts on a great show, they also promote inclusive learning, performance art and more. Shows range from Shakespeare to Eric and Ernie and include everything in-between. There’s always something going on here.


Minsmere is an RSPB site located in Westleton near Saxmundham. It’s a fantastic mix of coastline, woodland, wetland and countryside that offers much more than just bird watching. There is a lot of life here and all of it is there for you to see. There are hides ranged around for the patient and paths that circle the entire reserve for those who just want a walk. It’s a calm day out for all.

Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum

The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum in Flixton is run completely by volunteers and their passion for their subject is clear to see. With a range of aircraft, artefacts and exhibits from the world wars, as well as backstories, personal histories and knowledgeable staff, there’s a lot to see here.

Landguard Fort

Landguard Fort in Felixstowe is a relic from a bygone era that guards the north bank of the river Orwell. It dates back to 1543 and has protected the Suffolk coastline in various guises ever since. It’s an interesting place full of history, maritime significance and interesting exhibits.

Those are just five attractions in a county full of them. It’s always hard to single out individual attractions from a cast of hundreds, but these are the best we could find. We have hundreds of holiday cottages in Suffolk, so you’re never far away from a great day out here!

Where to go and what to do in Essex

Colchester ZooWhatever your opinion on the portrayal of the people of Essex, the county itself is lovely. It’s chock full of picturesque countryside, miles of lovely coastline, lots of history and lots of things to do. It’s a real mix, with London at one end and Constable country at the other. That makes for a great short stay.

If you’re enjoying one of our holiday cottages in Essex, here are several things you can do while you’re here.

Imperial Bird of Prey Academy

The Imperial Bird of Prey Academy in Billericay is an ideal opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most impressive predators. These birds of prey balance deadliness with beauty and are a joy to behold. Watch exhibitions and demonstrations or buy some one on one time with the birds and their handlers.

Combined Military Services Museum

The Combined Military Services Museum celebrates a long and interesting military history from all three services. It is an outstanding museum with many quality displays and exhibits. The staff are knowledgeable, the displays well laid out and the entire museum experience is one to remember.

Made by You Pottery

Made by You Pottery is a small pottery studio in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend. Here you learn how pottery is made and finished. You also get to decorate your own pottery with the help of the expert staff. Decorating is harder than it looks, but anyone can master it after an afternoon here!

Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo is one of the best of its kind and somewhere that will easily entertain the whole family. Plan to spend the entire day here as it’s a big place with lots to see. Over 270 species of animals of all shapes and sizes in comfortable looking enclosures, demonstrations, talks and of course, feeding times. It’s all here and all worth seeing.

West Cliff Theatre

West Cliff Theatre in Clacton-on-Sea is a local highlight that shoots well above its weight. With a wide range of local, national and international talent appearing there all the time, it’s a great place to take in some culture while you’re in deepest Essex. The building itself is nice too, but the sheer range of performances are what makes it stand out.

There is a lot to see and do in Essex and it isn’t all about fake tan and nails. It’s a fascinating county with a lot to offer and is an ideal sport to a family break. That’s why we have a number of holiday cottages spread across the entire area. Wherever you want to go, whatever you want to see, we have a cottage nearby. Check out the interactive map to find yours!