Images L-R: Newark Castle © Visit Nottinghamshire; Newmarket Racecourse © VisitSuffolk.co.uk; a selection of antiques.
A particular pleasure of staying at a Pride of Britain hotel is the sense of timeless glamour that comes from relaxing in distinctive period splendour. So why not take some of that ambience home by combining your stay with vintage treasure hunting at the antique markets that brighten autumn and winter around the country. Here are five within easy striking distance of a Pride of Britain gem.
The Heart of England town of Newark hosts the largest antique fair in Europe six times a year at the vast Newark and Nottinghamshire Showground (next event: 6-7 December). With over 2500 dealers offering a dizzying array of retro covetable items, you’re bound to find something to take home here, whether your passion is Scandi chairs or vintage toys.
Buyers come from around the world for Newark’s antique extravaganzas, but you can roll up after a 30-mile drive from Stapleford Park – a magnificent 17th century stately house hotel set in 500 acres of Capability Brown parkland, lake and woods.
While it has acquired a particular reputation for European decorative items, the antiques fair at Ardingly in West Sussex hawks everything from grand furniture to delicate ceramics. Held six times a year (next event: 15-16 January) at the South of England Showground and featuring up to 1700 stalls, the midweek timing of the fair lets you hunt for period gems without weekend crowds.
Add luxurious historic lustre to a midweek getaway in the beguiling setting of the South Downs National Park with a room at Ockendon Manor, an idyllic Elizabethan manor just a few minutes’ drive away in Cuckfield.
The Suffolk town of Newmarket oozes race horse pedigree, with many of England’s finest thoroughbreds working out from premier stables dotting this corner of East Anglia. So, it’s fitting that Newmarket’s lovely racecourse also regularly hosts the characterful Newmarket Racecourse Antique and 20th Century Fair (next event: 18 November) where over 200 outdoor and indoor stands include specialist sections for Art Deco, stamps, medals, cards and coins.
Keep some money back for a room at the antique timbered The Swan in the picture-perfect Tudor wool town of Lavenham 25 miles away. Or stay right by some illustrious stables at Bedford Lodge, set in three acres of secluded gardens in Newmarket itself.
A stay at Dunstane House adds characterful distinction to a stay in Scotland’s ever tempting capital – a 16-bedroom boutique hotel carved from an 1860s Victorian townhouse that takes cues from both the Neoclassical style of the surrounding streets and its owners’ Orcadian roots.
It’s a perfect base to visit the regular Edinburgh Antiques, Vintage and Collectors Fair (next event: 24-25 November) at the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston. As Scotland’s largest antiques event, expect up to 300 dealers – and as an entirely indoor fair you can browse without worrying about any inclement Caledonian weather.
5. Newton Abbot
Race courses provide the setting for several of Britain’s most attractive antiques markets (see Newmarket) and one of the prettiest is at Newton Abbot, perched on the banks of Devon’s River Teign. Held most months (next event: 24 November), there are usually around 40 indoor dealers and up to 30 outdoors (weather permitting).
The perfect complement to a West Country antiques wander is just 15 miles away at the epic Bovey Castle – modern glamour mixed with historic panache amid the rugged splendour of Dartmoor.
Article written by Norman Miller