What will you buy for your home on your holidays?

It seems that more of us are taking our summer breaks in Britain. If you're doing the same – and have an eye for style – you can pick up some brilliant finds for your home away from the beaten track.

Trish Lorenz
Friday 12 August 2011 00:00 BST

Forget airport queues and euro blues; in 2011 the only holiday to take is one that's close to home. According to a travel survey by market research firm BDRC Continental, 48 per cent of us are considering a main holiday in the UK this year. That compares with 39 per cent last year and 29 per cent in 2009.

The survey also shows that while Britons initially chose to holiday locally for economic reasons, we're now choosing UK based breaks "because of the enjoyable locations".

If you're wracking your brain trying to name those enjoyable locations, then worry not, for we're here to help. We've chosen four destinations specifically for the design enthusiast. They're all slightly off the beaten path and offer not just a quintessential Englishness but also design shops, galleries and markets to feed your shopping habit.

We can guarantee the beer will be warm and the weather chilly, while the design on offer will be as inspiring as any Mediterranean sea view.

Ulverston, Lake District

Ulverston is a small, market town with a conservation shopping area that harks back to pre-war.

Getting to the place is an absolute pleasure, with the train journey from Lancaster encompassing views of two bays as well as the mountains in the distance.

Craft workers thrive in the old alleyways and tall warehouses in the centre of town. The Junk Room (72 Market Street, no website) is great for vintage finds and there is also a cobbler, upholsterer, haberdashers and even a grandfather clock store.

If your tastes run more to the contemporary side, then pay a visit to The Shop Floor (60 Market St, www.theshopfloorproject.com), which opened earlier this month. Formerly an online-only boutique, you can now browse the store for promising young designers; Abigail Brown's Threadbare birds (from £180) and Alice Pattullo's exclusive, limited-edition prints (£45) are two reasons to visit.

Once you're loaded up on design, there's plenty more to see.

"Our neighbours include a rather wonderful tea garden and coffee house, a stylish clothes boutique, herbalists, book shop and an irresistible Russian chocolate shop selling the best sour cherry nougat we've ever tasted," says Shop Floor owner Samantha Allan.

Or drive a mile or so out of the town to 12th century Conishead Priory, now a Buddhist centre with a café and walk through its gardens down to the beach.

"Jumping Jenny, our favourite cafe, is 10 miles further, situated in the former home of John Ruskin with an amazing view over Lake Coniston," says Allan.

Redruth, Cornwall

Think of Cornwall and you probably envision rugged cliffs, surf beaches and pretty thatched villages. Well, Redruth is nothing like that. Firmly in the heartland of post-industrial Cornwall, it's a former tin-mining town with a striking high street of Edwardian-era architecture and a seam of poverty running through it.

"It's not beautiful in the sense you normally associate with Cornwall but it has its own attractions," Jane Sutherland, director of the local arts organisation Creative Skills, says.

Not least of these is the design hub Krowji (www.krowji.co.uk), a former Victorian grammar school that's been converted to studios and is now home to a vibrant creative community of more than 50 designers.

Among them is the award-winning lighting and furniture designer Tom Raffield. "Krowji is a good place to explore," he says. "It's mainly workshops but members of the public are always welcome. And while it all looks fairly rough round the edges, this is the place to find the best work."

Along with Raffield, pay a visit to textile designer Helen Rogers, furniture designers Alternature and illustrator Esther Connon. And if you're peckish, the on-site café, The Melting Pot (www.themeltingpotcafe.co.uk), is recommended.

Whitstable, Kent

Perhaps most famous for its oysters, Whitstable also does a nice line in contemporary design, vintage shops and ever-changing seaside light.

Who needs Spanish beaches when you can have Whitstable, says Mary Claire Smith, owner of local design store, Frank (pictured right).

"I love the wild pebbly beach, great walks, wide range of restaurants and independent shops," she says.

Harbour Street, with its traditional shop fronts and uneven roofs is the prettiest, and Frank (65 Harbour Street, www.franksworks.eu) is a good place to start your tour. Frank focuses on British art and craft, with a quirky and original selection, encompassing everything from lighting and textiles to books and stationery. Keep an eye out for Vicky Hageman's hand-thrown ceramics (from £13.50 for a tea bowl) or pick up one of Clare Halifax's hand-made screen prints with views of Whitstable (£280, right, inset).

On Oxford Street, Valentines (www.valentines-vintage.com), sells mid-century modern furniture and vintage clothes and Whitstable Interiors (www.whitstableinteriors.com) specialises in bespoke pieces of furniture made using reclaimed materials and traditional methods.

There's no shortage of eating options in the town either, from the famous but tiny Wheelers Oyster Bar (01227 273 311, no website) to the Michelin-starred The Sportsman (www.thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk). Eat and shop at Sundae Sundae (www.sundaesundae.co.uk), which specialises in homemade ice creams and also sells a range of vintage seaside ephemera. Or try the David Brown Delicatessen for hot and cold meals cooked in-house and home-made breads and cakes.


This has to be on the list for design aficionados, especially if ceramics are your thing. Known as the "world capital of ceramics", the city is a pottery lover's dream. There are three top-class museums including the City Museum, the Wedgwood Museum and Etruria Industrial Museum, where you can discover how they put the bone in bone china (see www.visitstoke.co.uk for more). Or pay a visit to the Emma Bridgewater factory for tours (www.emmabridgewater.co.uk) and watch skilled craftsmen at work.

And there are more than 25 pottery factory shops in the city, including Royal Doulton, Portmeirion, Denby, Poole and Royal Stafford, along with contemporary brands such as Jamie Oliver (find details for all at www.visitstoke.co.uk).

"It's a fascinating place but it is an industrial city and it's not for the fainthearted," says designer Emma Bridgewater. "It has amazing Victorian architecture, especially for the post-industrial enthusiast."

Stoke-on Trent-is also at the heart of what she calls "the British tradition of making". Triumph, Aston Martin, fashion designer John Smedley and Brinton Carpet all have factories in the region.

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