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These idiosyncratic stores have all the answers for that annual quandary: ‘what gift should I buy?’
Winning tip: Magical emporium, Bridport, Dorset
Ink & Page is a magical emporium, the brainchild of artist Kim Squirrell and her bookbinder husband David. Behind the exquisite early Victorian frontage, with its delicate gothic ironwork, is a treasure trove of handstitched notebooks and sketchbooks, letterpress cards and prints. Alongside the beautiful stationery made in the first-floor workshop, there’s a selection of work by local craftspeople, from ceramicists to textile artists. Ink & Page is a celebration of the handwritten, handprinted and handcrafted – a go-to place for a thoughtful gift and the perfect slow shopping experience.
Christmas is in this shop’s DNA, Cambridge
Bene’t Street is known for the Eagle pub, where Crick and Watson announced their DNA research breakthrough in 1953. The street is also home to Podarok, a delightful gift shop. Small but packed with eye-catching items, the shop’s name is Russian for gift, reflecting the birthplace of the original owner. From rainbow-hued bicycle spoke reflectors, to handbags in classic book designs, to earrings shaped as red squirrels, there’s a quality gift for a range of tastes and budgets – particularly for those attracted to a bit of quirk.
Remarkable and recycled, Corbridge, Northumberland
I love the philosophy as much as the eclectic selection of homeware and gifts sold by RE, in its cavernous shop in Bishops Yard. The ethos centres on REmarkable, REcycled, REscued and REstored, and its quirky range includes leaf garlands made from salvaged telephone directories, and toasting forks from Northumberland blacksmiths. RE sources stock from local craftspeople and from all over the world: it supplies many Fairtrade items, ensuring that goods are ethically produced.
Feat of clay, Rye, East Sussex
Rye Pottery is a beautiful shop that has been producing charming handmade and hand-painted ceramics since 1869. From unique kitchen tiles to charming Sussex Pigs, there is so much here to take in and appreciate. The hand-thrown “little red clay” vases are so stylish and timeless they would make the perfect gift for any stoneware lover. The shop intertwines Sussex history with pottery based on 1066 and the Bayeux tapestry. It also offers personalised gifts so you can really find something unique this Christmas.
Wares from the Wirral, Merseyside
Concept Corner is an independent gift shop in New Brighton selling handmade items from local artists. It is a welcoming space that supports and grows local talent. From raw crystals, hug-in-a-box tokens or vegan soaps there is always something new and something I love. Its scarves, candles, paintings and jewellery make great gifts. Many items are illustrated with depictions of the local area and as it is situated close to the River Mersey, there is an emphasis on nautical themes. A vegan baker is often in residence at the weekend – perfect for refuelling after browsing.
Treats from Italy, St Albans
Buongiorno Italia deli has been in St Albans for more than 40 years and the owner, Tony, knows almost every customer by name. At Christmas, it’s stacked from floor to ceiling with panettone (with fruit) and pandoro (without fruit) in every imaginable flavour, like a pile of presents. The deli counter is full of cheeses, cured meats and cannoli (crispy tubes filled with pistachio or chocolate), but at this time of year, six sizes of hampers are lined up on the bench in front, packed with prosecco, pasta and panforte. And there are plenty of miniature pre-mixed bottles of Aperol spritz or limoncello if you need any extra Christmas spirit!
Guardian Travel readers' tips
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Christmas casts its spell, Ironbridge, Shropshire
The Little Christmas Shop of Ironbridge is a great place to head to for decorations. Most are reasonably priced, starting at about £3. Set in a beautiful location overlooking the world’s oldest major cast iron bridge (opened in 1781) the place looks lovely as it gets dark.
The art of Paignton, Devon
Lollipops and Roses in Paignton Devon is an art and craft shop filled with the most delightful bits and bobs. You’re surrounded with so many beautiful handmade crafts you won’t know where to look first. Pebble art, jewellery, picture frames, upcycled gifts and more this shop is an Aladdin’s Cave for people who adore nice things. Step inside: the magical gifts created here will warm your heart.
Cloud cuckoo land, North Yorkshire
Cloud Cuckoo is as enticing from the outside as it is within, and is an unashamedly girly place to browse. As well as home furnishings and hand-painted furniture, owner Kimberley stocks a tasteful selection of elegant gifts made by local craftspeople. They are reasonably priced and include beautiful soy wax melts, silver bracelets cleverly packaged for a range of occasions, and “perfect pouches” crafted from vegan leather.
Heathen heaven, Glastonbury
Goddess Temple Gifts is a picturesque and idiosyncratic shop, perfect for gifts you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a haven for artists to sell their fabulous goddess creations in myriad different shapes and forms. My favourite seasonal gift in 2021 is a 100% natural hand-blended incense, infused with sacred intent to bring the energy of the Lady of Avalon into your home space. It comes in a beautiful glass pot for £6.50 for 25g.