Town centre Christmas shopping in Lancashire

Lord Street.

Lord Street Southport looking festive in the snow - Credit: John Cocks

It has been said that Covid and the internet have killed the high street, but a visit to any of these locations will prove that reports of its death are greatly exaggerated. Lancashire is blessed with a wealth of wonderful shops and businesses, so get your festive shopping off to the best possible start by visiting these Christmas towns.

LANCASTER 

Lancaster has every kind, style and size of shop crammed into a relatively small pedestrianised city centre with wide streets and lots of interesting alleys and byways. There are tiny boutiques, big name high street stores and a great range of other shops selling gifts, homewares and pretty much everything else it’s possible to buy in a shop, as well as regular markets on the car-free streets. There are two covered shopping arcades – St Nic’s and Marketgate – and in recent years the surrounding streets have seen a surge in the number of small independent businesses run by people from the city, which means you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a brilliant choice of gifts for even the hardest people to buy for.  

Lancaster Brewery will host a three-day Christmas Market from November 19-21 which will be an opportunity to meet Santa, and to pick up some great gifts. 

The city is bursting with places serving quality food and drink, and there’s a thriving arts scene, too, with exhibitions and events throughout the year, so there’s plenty to keep you busy once you’ve completed your Christmas shopping. Check the listings at the galleries, the university and the Grand Theatre and don’t miss the Christmas show at the Dukes Theatre – it's Beauty and the Beast this year and is sure to get everyone in a festive mood. 

TWO NEARBY:

Morecambe is undergoing a resurgence and its range of shops, boutiques and galleries is well worth a visit. 

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Carnforth is one of Lancashire hidden gems and deserves more attention and visitors than it receives. Expect independent stores and a friendly welcome. 

PRESTON 

Fishergate, Preston

Shoppers on Fishergate in Preston - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

City centre Christmas shopping can be a bustling and stressful affair, but in many ways Preston - made a city almost 20 years ago – still feels like a town. Unlike the sprawling metropolises you’ll find an hour-or-so down the road, it has a comparatively compact centre, with most of the shops along Fishergate, Friargate and the streets that lead off them. But being on a more manageable scale doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of choice: there are all the big name stores you’d expect and plenty of independent shops too. 

The impressive new Market Hall – given a £4m glass and timber-clad steel revamp a couple of years ago – has a huge range of stalls, but is gaining a reputation as a foodie’s paradise; ideal for gifts, and for re-charging a weary shopper. There’s also the St George’s and Fishergate shopping centres, and the Victorian Miller Arcade which offers something a little different.  

The city’s iconic bus station and the railway station are both close to the shops and Preston’s food scene is improving all the time, with new restaurants and bars raising the standard and old favourites continuing to impress. And if the shopping streets are busy, you can escape in the crowds in the lovely parks and green spaces around the city centre. 

TWO NEARBY:  

Penwortham stands just over the bridge to the south of the city and offers independent shops, cafes. 

Garstang, to the north of the city, has a charming range of small boutiques and delightful shops. 

LONGRIDGE 

The sun shining along Berry Lane

Most of the shops in Longridge are along Berry Lane - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

Longridge is a compact town in the heart of Lancashire, offering a good range of shops, making shopping here a relaxing experience. The majority of shops are independent and include galleries, antique shops, boutiques and florists. 

And scores of local businesses, artisans and producers will be taking part in the annual Longridge Does Christmas event, from 6-9pm on November 25. The evening – which will also include refreshments and entertainment – will offer a wealth of festive gift ideas, and is locally famous for its warm and friendly atmosphere. 

And that warmth and friendliness extends beyond Christmas and throughout the year in the stone-built shops which line Berry Lane and the surrounding streets. A day’s shopping wouldn’t be complete without somewhere to have a leisurely lunch and there is plenty of choice in Longridge with a great range of tea rooms, coffee shops, micro bars and pubs. 

BLACKBURN 

Charles Dickens gave one of his last public readings in Lancashire at the Exchange Assembly Rooms in Blackburn in April 1869. And although his audience then may not have been feeling especially festive, the author credited more than any other with creating the image of the Victorian Christmas treated them to a passage from A Christmas Carol.  

And you’ll find none of the spirit of Scrooge in the town this Christmas. Instead, you’ll find a winning mixture of high street stores and independent shops lining wide pedestrianised streets. And weary shoppers will appreciate the range of cafes and bars around the town – there are nine cafes in the market alone.  

As you’d expect, the town centre cathedral is at the heart of Blackburn’s Christmas celebrations but events will be taking place around the town, notably at King George’s Hall, which is marking its centenary this year, and where the panto is Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. 

The Christmas lights switch on in Blackburn will happen on November 27 and the tenth Festival of Light will take place on December 18 and will feature a lantern parade, entertainment, music and food as well as a firework show and animations projected onto buildings around the town centre. 

LYTHAM 

Christmas lights on Clifton Square

The Christmas tree in Clifton Square, Lytham - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

There can be few more pleasant places for a shopping trip than Lytham. The wide tree-lined main street is lined mainly with small independent shops and you’ll find many more on the adjoining roads and in petite covered arcades. 

Victoria Wood once joked that it was the place for women of a certain age to go when they need a pastel-coloured twin set, but if it did once have a slightly old-fashioned air, that has been well and truly blown away in recent years. 

The town is home to a delightful range of contemporary clothing boutiques, homeware stores and classy gift shops which appeal to shoppers of all ages. 

One of Lytham’s landmark shops is Stringer’s, an independent, family-run department store which first opened its doors in 1852. The current owner’s grandfather took over the business in the 1950s and it has developed and evolved over the years. Today they have two sites in Lytham – there is a homewares department in the Booths store at the other end of the town. 

The Lytham Booths also contains the newly-opened Gallery wine bar, which has added to the town’s reputation as a food and drink destination. There are scores of cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs around the town, and more seem to be opening all the time, so there is no chance of you going hungry or thirsty here. 

If you need to work up an appetite, or walk off a big lunch, take a stroll along the prom. On a clear day, the views from the path by the Ribble estuary take in Winter Hill, Southport, the wind farm off Liverpool and the hills of north Wales. 

And once you’ve toured the shops, finished your Christmas shopping, taken the air and enjoyed the hospitality, see a show at the Lowther Pavilion Theatre - Sleeping Beauty will be sure to complete your festive day out. It’s on from December 6-30. 

The Lytham Christmas lights switch on will take place on November 20. The railway station and pay and display car parks are close to the shops, and there is also free on-street parking available. 

TWO NEARBY:

St Annes is just a couple of miles along the coast and has some great independent shops on St Annes Road West and the streets leading off it  

Kirkham is often over-looked as a shopping destination but has a compact town centre filled with interesting shops 

CLITHEROE 

View from Clitheroe Castle

Clitheroe is a lovely place to do your Christmas shopping - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

Festive food 

The ancient market town of Clitheroe is a perfect place to pick up Christmas gifts, food and drink from some of the Ribble Valley’s best independent shops and suppliers. Award-winning Byrnes Wine Shop is famous for its impressive cellar, with moire than 1,500 unusual vintages from all over the world. Cowman’s Famous Sausage Shop sells more than 75 types of banger – including excellent festive varieties, and pigs in blankets – while the Exchange Coffee Company stocks more than 35 coffees and 60 specialist teas. 

Winter walks 

We’re spoilt for choice for beautiful winter walks around Clitheroe, from Cross Hill nature reserve to the Rubble Valley Sculpture Trail. Venture further afield from Brungerley Bridge via West Bradford Bridge to Grindleton Bridge on a cool crisp day. Or, staying in town, the castle is a great walk in itself, and is open Friday-Tuesday from November to February. Climb to the top for panoramic views across the valley. Or, to stroll and learn, Top Hat Tours offers group walking tours around the town, and further afield too. Simon Entwistle, dressed in his authentic Victorian costume, takes his tours around haunted ginnels, cobbled street and burial grounds, telling the area’s history in gruesome detail. His Dickensian Christmas talks are always popular, too. 

Something special  

There are festive events at venues across the town this year. At Holmes Mill, they have Christmas markets running from November 26-December 5, with live music, hog roasts, mulled wine and cider, plus artisan producers selling their wares. 

The Grand’s annual panto is back, with The Snow Queen of Frozen Clitheroe Castle, with two performances of the fun-filled festive silliness on December 5. 

Look out too for festive favourite the Clitheroe Young Farmers’ Club annual Christmas Tractor Run, which raises funds for good causes etc h year - and even ran virtually last year when the pandemic took the group’s meetings online.  

The Christmas lights scheme in the town centre is organised by the Town Council and the Decorative Clitheroe Committee. Other highlight include the traditional crib dedication service in early December. 

BURNLEY 

Festive food 

This year the festivities are back, with a series of events to spread cheer throughout the season. Christmas cabins will take up residence from December 5 until Christmas Eve, packed with all sorts of festive treats and goodies to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. 

Winter walks 

As the weather gets chillier, there’s a lovely walk around Towneley Park, passing by the hall, to the panopticon, and the Singing Ringing Tree, which rewards you with beautiful views of the surrounding area. 

Or, slightly further out, set off from Padiham Town Hall, and pass by the grounds of Gawthorpe Hall and onto Hagg Wood, before crossing the River Calder and heading home again. 

Something special 

Celebrations will get underway on November 20, with the light switch-on, children’s funfair and Christmas trail. Throughout Charter Walk and the wider town centre there will be a number of roaming Christmas-themed acts to entertain shoppers. 

Burnley Market will also host a Christmas show in the afternoon with music and entertainment for the whole family. 

In the weeks that follow, there will be static trails, experiences and roaming acts to complement a Christmas artisan market on December 4. 

Don’t miss super seasonal shopping nearby in Nelson and Barrowford, too and Boundary Mill at Colne is a great place to pick up fashion, homewares and gifts.  

READ MORE: Christmas shopping in the city - Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, York and Derby

SOUTHPORT 

Festive food 

Leave the big city and high street stores behind and explore Southport's brilliant range of independent traders on boulevards and inside arcades this Christmas. 

A great day out for food and drink lovers, Southport has a cafe culture, so be sure to stop for tea and cake in one of the coffee shops that line Lord Street and the surrounding roads. Or, stop for something more substantial, with an array of delicious lunch and dinner options, from restaurants inspired by world cuisine. 

For something more casual, few things are lovelier than fish, chips and a cup of tea on the pier, even on a chilly winter day. 

Winter walks 

Lord Street's wrought iron canopies give the road a Parisian chic. Stop in and browse in the excellent range of shops along the way, exploring both high street chains and independent designer shops. 

Wesley Street, behind Chapel Street, has a good range of colourful independent shop windows along a bunting-lined street. 

Go for a stroll and pick up children’s clothes and traditional sweets, or call into the independent bookshop or traditional butchers and support local small businesses. 

Or, to really blow the cobwebs away, have a walk out onto the beach, or along the pier. The 1,000 metre long structure is the second-longest in the country, with magnificent views across the Lancashire coast, across to Wirral and to Wales on a clear day.  

If all the walking gets too much, hop onto the pier tram for an easier ride back to town.
 
Nearby

Formby, Ainsdale, Ormskirk and Birkdale are all lovely days out during the festive period, with a wealth of independent shops amongst bars and restaurants. Similarly, Churchtown twinkles with festivity as the thatched roof cottages are lit up in the run-up to Christmas. 

Another great stop for those looking to support independent beaches is Wayfarers Shopping Arcade in Southport, which will be lit by thousands of twinkly lights this Christmas. 

They will be running craft fairs and markets on November 27 and December 4, as well as a Santa experience and grotto, open from November 4. 

BOLTON 

Festive food 

From street food stalls to fancy restaurants, there’s somewhere for every palate in Bolton. For festive fare, there’s check out Festival Hall at The Albert Halls, where they’ll host another handmade market. 

Bolton Handmade Christmas Market will show off the best handmade craft and artisan food stalls, with live music throughout the day. The event will take place on Saturday November 20. 

For those calling into Bolton Garden Centre in the run-up to the big day, look out for the new Christmas food ranges, part of a series of Christmas pop-ups open now. 

Winter walks 

Bolton’s stunning countryside comes into its own in the autumn and winter months, with superb moorland scenery set amidst miles of countryside and lakes. Head out to Barrow Bridge, Smithills Hall, Moses Gate Country Park, Queens Park, Hall I’th Wood and Smithills Open Farm, and that’s before you get to Rivington, and its two faces. Within the town itself, Queens Park is celebrating its Green Flag Award, and is a perfect place for a stroll. 

Something special 

Sleeping Beauty is coming to Victoria Hall this Christmas. Promoter Twirly Productions is promising 'the pantomime of your dreams with lavish costumes, sensational singing, dazzling dance routines and laugh out loud comedy’. Tickets start from £5. 

READ MORE: The best Christmas markets and fairs in and around Lancashire