Ormskirk is an historic market town with a fascinating and varied past. Today it has a thriving band of independent shops, restaurants and galleries and no shortage of tasty treats, from its famous gingerbread to crisps and Michelin star restaurants

Perhaps most famous for its gingerbread, Ormskirk is now a diverse melting pot for innovative food producers and flavour lovers. Potatoes grown in Rufford are turned into mouth-watering crisps by the Fiddler family, who have been farming here since 1950. They are believed to be the only grower in the country to use exclusively their own potatoes to make crisps. ‘Fiddler’s Lancashire Crisps’ showcase some of the area’s most distinctive ingredients like Lancashire cheese, Lancashire sauce, and Ellsey’s Lancashire malt vinegar.

Great British Life: The annual Ormskirk Gingerbread Festival recorded footfall of 32,000 this yearThe annual Ormskirk Gingerbread Festival recorded footfall of 32,000 this year

Butcher Farrell’s Meat Emporium, based at nearby Owd Barn in Bispham recently won Best New Butcher in the UK and uses Instagram to show off unique cuts and meal inspiration. From the shop, Jonny and the team supply some of the area’s top local restaurants as well as delivering to customers across the length and breadth of the country.

Esteemed Chef Tim Allen is one such customer, and his Ormskirk restaurant Sō-lō achieved its first Michelin star in March this year. Sō-lō is an understated luxury dining experience, the informal atmosphere allows diners to relax and enjoy watching the culinary theatre unfold in the open kitchen.

Sō-lō joins Moor Hall on a hotlist of Ormskirk restaurants not to be missed. Moor Hall holds two Michelin Stars, a Michelin Green Star, and five AA Rosettes.

Great British Life: Ormskirk mural in bustling Bramley's cafe (c) Kirsty ThompsonOrmskirk mural in bustling Bramley's cafe (c) Kirsty Thompson

For those with simpler tastes, or seeking a quick weekday lunch – Bramley’s Cafe has been an Ormskirk institution for the past 20 years. This friendly cafe and coffee shop is split over two floors and provides everything from tea and cakes to hearty wholesome lunches. It’s tucked off the main street in one of Ormskirk’s characterful walkways, Church Walks Arcade.

Church Walks is home to a number of other independent businesses too, such as Freddie and Charlotte’s Childrenswear with its boutique baby clothes and sweet sailor suits, Chapple Clothing Alterations and Repairs, and newly opened interiors shop Cathy’s Vintage Home.

Great British Life: Ormskirk has more than its fair share of independent shops (c) Kirsty ThompsonOrmskirk has more than its fair share of independent shops (c) Kirsty Thompson

It’s no surprise that Cathy’s shop looks beautiful from every angle; she was a visual merchandiser before opening the store earlier this year and has an eye for style. She’s looking forward to being part of Ormskirk’s Christmas shopping scene for the first time: ‘I’m really enjoying having the shop and the freedom of running my own business having worked for other people for so long. Everyone has been very welcoming and I think Ormskirk’s a great shopping destination. I’m looking forward to seeing what Christmas holds and examining how buying trends have fluctuated over my first full year.’

In addition to Ormskirk’s diverse high street, the number of retailers in the town swells by a further 100 every Thursday and Saturday thanks to the long-standing market. Set in the pedestrianised streets around the clock tower, Ormskirk market can trace its history all the way back to 1286 when it was granted a Royal Charter by King Edward I.

Keep an eye out for speciality markets throughout the year, such as the semi-regular continental and vintage markets and the Gingerbread Festival.

Great British Life: Ormskirk's indoor market hall has recently been given a new lease of life (c) Kirsty ThompsonOrmskirk's indoor market hall has recently been given a new lease of life (c) Kirsty Thompson

Ormskirk’s indoor market hall has recently been given a new lease of life as an immersive social space with six independent kitchens. There are retro games, live music and everyone’s welcome – even the dog.

Ormskirk is steeped in history and heritage. Even its name is thought to have come from the Vikings (starting out as a variation of Orm’s Church). There are historic attractions in abundance, including Rufford Old Hall - a Tudor building home to 500 years of Hesketh family history.

Nearby Lathom Park has a striking history: Originally a medieval wooden hall, Lathom House was rebuilt - castellated and complete with moat - in 1495, but was razed to the ground during the English Civil War. In 1720 the estate was purchased by Sir Thomas Bootle and a large mansion was built on the site of the original house. In 1914, the third Earl of Lathom was advised by his Guardian the Earl of Derby to hire out the estate to the War Office to build a Remount Depot.

300,000 horses came to Lathom Park from overseas. They were imported to Liverpool and brought by rail to Ormskirk. There is now an 8.5 circular War Horse Walk starting at the station, where you can follow in the footsteps of the horses and mules that were brought here to be trained for the cavalry or to pull gun carriages. The Remount Depot closed in 1919, but at its height had employed 1000s of men of all trades who lived and worked onsite. A war horse memorial was unveiled at the park gates in 2019.

Great British Life: Architect Giacomo Leoni designed the mansion at Lathom Park which was demolished 200 years laterArchitect Giacomo Leoni designed the mansion at Lathom Park which was demolished 200 years later

The House was sold for £100 in 1925 and demolished by dynamite that same year.

The Ormskirk Heritage Trail is packed with such historical facts, with a guided walk scheduled for September 10. Walk leader Dot Broady-Hawkes says: ‘This walk leaves at 1pm from the town’s clock tower as part of the Heritage Open Days Festival. We will cover the wealth of history in the town, from the vicar who has a crater named after him on the moon and the actress who appeared on Broadway with Katherine Hepburn, to the solicitor who was awarded the highest civilian honour by the king of Belgium in WW1. Plus the local Grocer’s son who was lost on the Titanic and the Ormskirk shopkeeper who survived the Charge of the Light Brigade as one of the 600.’

For walkers and wildlife lovers, there’s plenty to enjoy in and around Ormskirk, including Gorse Hill Nature Reserve, Mere Sands Wood, and Martin Mere Wetland Centre – currently collaborating with the UK’s best loved illustrator Quentin Blake on ‘Drawn to Water.’

Great British Life: Drawn to Water: Quentin Blake at Martin MereDrawn to Water: Quentin Blake at Martin Mere

However, if you’re less of an outdoor explorer and more an indoor relaxer – there are plenty of friendly cafes and cocktail bars where you can sit back and sample Ormskirk’s charm at your leisure.