With their lively communities, picture-perfect houses and cheery farmer’s markets, there’s no surprise that market towns are often described as the happiest places to live. For families moving from the town to the country, market towns tick every box, offering country life with the added benefits of shops, café culture and good transport links on the doorstep.
Written by Wesley Muchimwe | 28th February 2019
Michael Graham’s guide to market towns
Here’s our guide to some of the most sought-after market towns in the Michael Graham region:
Olney, Buckinghamshire: Situated between Milton Keynes and Bedford, this Georgian market town was named in the latest Sunday Times list of the best locations to live in the South East. From jobs, schools and broadband speed to culture, community spirit and shops, this pretty market town was seen to have it all. Honey-coloured stone houses are a feature of Olney and its surrounding villages, and the county as a whole is a walker’s paradise - much of Buckinghamshire is included in the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Ampthill, Bedfordshire: In 1219 King Henry III granted a charter for Ampthill to hold a weekly Thursday market, making 2019 the market’s 800th anniversary. With great transport links and amenities including pubs, restaurants, a Waitrose, a solicitors, estate agents, hairdressers and a bookshop all in the town, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Ampthill is one of the more expensive places to buy a house in Bedfordshire. Dunstable is another market town in the county that has become popular with buyers recently after the government’s decision last year to invest over £6 million into revitalising the town’s high street.
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire: Twenty miles from Cambridge, this bustling historic market town has excellent road and rail links to London. There are many listed buildings dotted around the town centre, several of which have links with Oliver Cromwell who was born and brought up in Huntingdon. The town has a good variety of shops and plenty of green spaces including a small park with a maze and traditional bandstand. The poet William Cowper lived in Huntingdon - he also lived in Olney – and his prose was doubtlessly inspired by the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Hitchin, Hertfordshire: Named one of the happiest places to live in the UK in 2017, this medieval market town holds the largest traditional open air market in the home counties. The buzzing town centre also has a wealth of independent cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Transport links are excellent -Hitchin railway station is on the Great Northern Line and journeys to London and Cambridge both take around 30 minutes. If you’re a collector of air miles, Hitchin is about 9 miles from Luton Airport with a direct bus service linking the two. Hitchin hosts an annual Arts and Music Festival in July and keeps old English traditions alive with an annual Duck Race during Hitchin Festival.
Market Harborough, Leicestershire: One of 359 market towns in the country, Market Harborough regularly ranks as one of the top ten locations to live in the Midlands. The historic market town is surrounded by beautiful countryside and is just an hour by train away from London making it a popular choice with commuters. The town has a vibrant and attractive centre with a butcher, a baker and a fishmonger, a thriving indoor market and plenty of individual boutiques. The high street also has a White Stuff, a Joules (the town was the birthplace of the clothing company after all) and a Waitrose.
Oundle, Northamptonshire: A market town located on the River Nene, Oundle is famous for its Georgian streets and impressive limestone buildings. The historic town has many other plus points too: a wide selection of independent and mainstream shops and restaurants and state and private schooling so good that many families move here for that reason alone. It’s also fair to say that Oundle is second to none where markets are concerned. Since 972AD the town has held a weekly market and on the monthly farmer’s market offers all manner of local produce from Wobbly Bottom Farm goat’s cheese to specialty sausages.
Oxfordshire: If you’ve ever watched the ITV detective series Midsomer Murders you may well recognise the quaint market towns of Burford, Chipping Norton, Thame and Watlington. Well served with shops and everyday amenities, all these market towns have three major pluses: a fast commute into the city; fantastic schools; and within five minutes you can be surrounded by beautiful open countryside and breathtaking views of rolling hills.
Southam, Warwickshire: Set on the River Stowe, Southam is a thriving market town and designated conservation area full of Tudor and 17th century buildings. Located seven miles from Leamington Spa and ten miles from Rugby, the town has a lively community with plenty of shops, cafes, pubs and regular markets, as well as good transport links to lots of major city centres. Beyond the town lies the beautiful Warwickshire countryside with its picture-perfect villages and canal waterways.
Do you think market towns offer the best of both worlds? We’d love to know your thoughts and for Michael Graham homes to buy or to rent in market towns, have a look at our website which includes the three houses below.
Node Park, Hitchin Road, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, SG4 8TH
Hoppers Hill House
17 Dartmouth Road, Olney, Buckinghamshire, MK46 4EH