There’s nothing better than a Christmas Fayre to get you into a festive mood, and they seem to be growing in popularity with more and more popping up over the country. We usually visit a small local one however this time decided to try out the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre, which in the last couple of years has grown from a small Christmas market to a large-scale event across the whole town.
Location: Bury St. Edmunds
Dates: Late November each year
Audience: Family friendly, pet-friendly
Getting there: Town centre parking, park and ride, local train station
Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre is no doubt the biggest Christmas Fayre I’ve ever attended, with stalls going right the way from the town centre to the bottom of Abbey Gardens. Generally it was fairly easy to work out a route in which you could visit each of the stalls without too much repetition, although of course this did amount to a lot of walking, given that the sections were quite spaced out (we were walking around for about four hours in total, which my feet did not thank me for!).
The crowds were massive as well -although it was wonderful to see such a good turnout it did make it fairly difficult to navigate the fayre, and there was a lot of waiting around trying to get to the front of the stalls to actually look at their products (not the organisers’ fault – just a bit of barging and not letting people through when it would have been helpful, for example).
There was a really good range of different traders, mostly local, with a lovely selection of products. Foodies in particular will appreciate the amount of cheese, meat, alcohol, and other food/drink stalls available, with many interesting products available that aren’t so easy to find in supermarkets, such as some beautiful red deer and elk sausages that I got to sample at one of the several meat stalls dotted around the town. Many of the food and drink stalls offered free samples of their products, which was great to test out the more unusual products before taking them home.
Other stalls included beautiful handmade jewellery, artisan decor such as needle felted paintings and decoupaged bottles and shells, and even some more quirky ideas such as a canine bakery and a mushroom stall that sold “grow your own oyster mushrooms” kits.
Although there were lots of Christmas-themed stalls one thing I really struggled to buy was a really original Christmas bauble for our tree, which is a tradition that we have everytime we visit a Christmas Fayre (previous baubles have included a tree slice with a deer silhouette printed onto it and a hand-painted gourd). Although there were quite a few stalls selling baubles as part of their range, there just wasn’t anything really unique. We did manage to buy a traditional fruit piece for the tree, but it was a bit of a shame that nothing really stood out to us for something that you’d assume lots of people would buy at a Christmas Fayre.
One of the main reasons I love Christmas Fayres is that you get to eat great food while you’re there, and the Bury St. Edmunds Christmas Fayre certainly didn’t disappoint in this department. No fayre is complete without German food on offer and we took advantage of this to have Bratwurst and Currywurst for lunch which is a family favourite. There were loads of German food stalls placed across the town, making it easy to find lunch wherever you were, and these also often sold Gluhwein and beer/cider as well.
We also walked past lots of chestnut and caramelised almond stalls – I’m not a fan of chestnuts really, but I just had to try the hot caramelised almonds. Despite not looking particularly appetising they were really nice, with a gorgeous sweet flavour and crunchy texture.
The town’s multitude of cafés were open which was great for coffee options, and we stopped into Really Rather Good when we first arrived for hot drinks and cake before making our way around the stalls. This was lovely to be able to experience a local Bury business at the same time, and I really enjoyed my Turkish delight hot chocolate and macaroon.
Entertainment was also really good around the Christmas Fayre, with music playing throughout the day from various choirs and musicians on the main stage. We did witness one street singer, but it would have been nice to have some more music spread out around the town to keep the festive feeling going – the market covers so much floor space that the main area can’t be heard from the other different parts very well.
Entertainment was primarily focused around kids with loads of rides at the bottom on Abbey Gardens (adults could ride on some of these as well, such as the bumper cars). We saw some festive animals whilst walking – donkeys and reindeer – and Santa was present on the previous days but not whilst we were there as we had gone on a Sunday. (I was able to live without seeing him, though). There were also quite a few stalls where you could win prizes which really added to the fun, and I felt the fayre had been really well-designed as a family day out.
The other nice thing about the fayre is that its location means there was loads of local entertainment on offer too, like exploring the ancient buildings of the town, such St. Edmundsbury Cathedral which offered carol singing services, and Moyses Hall Museum. Bury has always struck me as the sort of town where you can easily imagine what it would have been like in times long ago, and it’s a great venue for anyone interested in historical attractions.
Abbey Gardens is also a lovely place to have a wander around and we enjoyed looking at the various different features – our favourite was the rather random public aviary on one side, where we got to view finches, budgies, parakeets, and even a stunning golden pheasant (couldn’t get a good photo as it had its head stuck in a bowl of food, but it really was beautiful).
There were about a million and one things I would have bought during the day but we sadly needed to keep within a sensible budget – we still bought some lovely things though. The plan was to buy some Christmas presents for people ahead of the game, however this of course did not happen and we just bought stuff for ourselves instead (oops). Sometimes you have to indulge though… Especially when faced with loads of beautiful artisan products!
On the food and drink side of things we got a few great buys – a cheese I’d never seen before, pesto cheese from Wobbly Bottom Farm, and a really tasty chicken tikka masala sauce kit from The Twisted Curry Co. We also got a miniature bottle of pear drop gin liquer from Retro Shots who do all sorts of sweet-themed gin flavours from Parma Violet to Fruit Salad.
As for non-food items, we bought a lovely hanging tree decoration made out of dried fruits and cinnamon sticks, which has a gorgeous festive scent (and I’m looking forward to filling our living room with that). I also bought a beautifully-made wool mat from a business who make products solely out of sheep’s wool, which I think will make for lovely decor in future product photography shots.
Paul’s parents bought some lovely pieces, including a set of two pale ales and a drinking glass from St. Botolphs Brewery, two cheeses also from Wobbly Bottom Farm (goat cheese and chilli cheddar), five flavours of the most wonderful fudge (and I don’t even like fudge usually, so that’s saying something) from Yum Yum Tree Fudge – original, Belgian white chocolate, run and raisin, sea salted caramel, and English rose – plus two small decoupaged glass vases and the most beautiful necklace which features a real leaf skeleton encased in silver.
With its beautiful historic buildings and thriving town centre, Bury St. Edmunds is a great location for a Christmas Market and certainly stands out against the others in the area for sheer volume of activities and traders. Not one for those that dislike crowds, I’d say, however if you’re happy to put up with large throes of people then this is an excellent fayre to attend and you’re sure to have a great day.
Where is the best Christmas Fayre that you’ve ever been to? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin!
You can read some of my other Suffolk-based reviews here: