Somerset Christmas shopping: Five tips for finding quirky and unique gifts
The mere mention of Christmas shopping can send a shiver down the spine of anyone who dreads battling their way through a crowded city centre, battling with thousands of customers all jostling to get to the tills first.
However, shopping for gifts doesn't have to be stressful - it can even help get you into the festive spirit if you find the right places.Instead of hitting the High Street, or browsing the internet for ideas, why not visit one of Somerset's many Christmas markets?
Rather than doing battle in one of the national High Street chains, consider the option of searching local crafts and produce - you'll be surprised how many quirky and unique gifts you'll be able to find.
To help with your Christmas spirit, there's also no shortage of mulled wine, mince pies and other festive treats to really get you in the mood.If you're looking for suggestions, consider one of our five Christmas market picks…
1) The annual Bath Christmas Market has become a tourist attraction in its own right, bringing thousands of visitors to the city hunting for festive gifts. Running from November 24 to December 11, the area between Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths is turned into what organisers call 'a Christmas shopper's haven'.
More than 100 wooden chalets become home to stalls selling everything from gifts and decorations to food and drink items. The market is open at 10am each morning (11am on Sundays) and closes any time between 6pm and 9pm. Visit www.bathchristmasmarket.co.uk for any specific day's opening times.
2) The Charity Christmas Gift Fair held at Wincanton Racecourse is now in its eighth year, and raises money for Help for Heroes. The fair offers hundreds of unique festive gift ideas that you won't find on the High Street, and it's held in a giant marquee so you don't have to worry about the weather.
This year's spectacular takes place on Wednesday, November 30, from 10am to 4pm. It costs £3 to get in, and there are refreshments available all day at a café.
3) The annual Taunton Christmas Market will celebrate its tenth year at Hestercombe Gardens, Cheddon Fitzpaine. It offers a fine selection of stalls boasting unique hand-made gifts and treats, plus plenty of mulled wine and festive food for everyone to enjoy.
The market will take place this year on the weekend of November 19 and 20, from 10am. Entry is £3 for adults, with under-16s allowed in for free.
4) The Rotary Club of Minehead hosts its annual Charity Christmas Fair at West Somerset Community College on Saturday, November 19, from 10.30am to 4pm. Stalls, competitions and refreshments will be on hand, all while college students provide background music to get you in the festive mood.
5) The Christmas Collection is one of Ilminster's festive traditions, and this year's fair at Ilminster Arts Centre's Meeting House will be as popular as ever. It gets under way on Monday, November 28, and runs all the way up to Friday, December 23… so there's no excuse not to pay a visit and find that gift idea you've been looking for.
It's open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am to 2.30pm on Saturdays. Entry is free. There will be a grand selection of crafts on display, and local photographer Ian Lynes will be exhibiting his popular framed pictures, which will be for sale at affordable prices.