Yesterday, we visited Hoghton Tower, near Preston, for the annual Merchant of Hoghton Festive Market. I have had in my diary for ages so we were really looking forward to it. The event was very popular. We arrived at about 10.30am and joined the queue of be-wellied and wrapped up crowds all making their way by car and on foot up the hill towards the fortified manor house.
This is what Lancashire life at Christmas is all about, particularly for us having only been resident in the county for a year or so. The air smelled of roasting meats and the landscape all around was dusted with the remains of last week's snow. Simply magical.
We wove our way amongst the many stalls dotted along the path up to the house. I really liked the Ballard Designs stall which was overflowing with beautiful home furnishings made from warm and cosy woollens, linens and heavy cottons matched with leather and ribbon all set up on gorgeous fat hay bales. I definitely look forward to watching out for their website when it goes live.
Inside the barn, we found the beautifully-packaged and friendly Pleasington Catering stall and their range of hot dishes including Salmon & Smoked Haddock Crumble, Shepherd's Pie and Aubergine Parmesan; all freshly prepared for the day. Finally, we narrowed the choice down to the Salmon and Smoked Haddock (which we had for supper last night by the way and it was delicious!)
We also picked up some great big loin chops of lamb for our Christmas dinner from Rossendale-based butchers J. & R. Holt (01706 212296) who are not currently online but who cover a many, many regional farmer's markets and will return to Hoghton Tower at the next Merchant market in the new year.
Finally, we finished our trip off with a visit to Hoghton Tower's gift shop. Set out in a former stable complete with cheerfully painted stalls and is a treasure trove of really lovely gifts for the home, souvenirs and traditional wooden toys. This was where we finally found our daughter's Christmas present and a few more souvenirs for family and friends we will be visiting round the country in the next few weeks.
It was a lovely day trip out for our family and a great opportunity to discover a little bit more about our new home. Sadly, the queue for a very popular Santa's grotto proved too much for our very grumpy baby but we figure we'll just have to get their earlier next year. The next Merchant of Hoghton Farmer's Market will take place on 15th January 2012 from 10am - 2pm and it costs £1.00 per car admission. We will no doubt be returning then. We highly recommend it.