Market town is best of British

Clr Alan Symmonds, Mayor of Alnwick ( left) and Giles Ingram, executive director of Northumberland Tourism with the Countryfile Magazine award.
Clr Alan Symmonds, Mayor of Alnwick ( left) and Giles Ingram, executive director of Northumberland Tourism with the Countryfile Magazine award.

IT was voted the best place to live, has the best shopping street in Britain and now Alnwick has been crowned the best market town in the country.

The ‘Northumberland gem’ won the hearts of readers of the BBC’s Countryfile magazine in its inaugural awards which celebrate the British countryside.

And it completes Alnwick’s hat-trick of accolades.

In 2002, Country Life magazine described it as the most ‘picturesque market town in Northumberland and the best place to live in Britain’.

Then the town’s Bondgate Within took the title of Britain’s Best Shopping Street in the Google Street View awards in June this year, which highlighted its wealth of independent shops.

And now this.

Alnwick was among a 15-strong shortlist chosen by Lonely Planet Magazine and the winners were announced in Countryfile’s September issue, published yesterday.

Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle said: “It is wonderful news, there’s not going to be room in the council’s trophy cabinet for all these awards.

“It shows that Alnwick really is on the up. It is a superb place to come and live, shop, work and visit.

“What a year it has been so far for us.

“The quality of life and the community in Alnwick takes some beating.”

Alan Symmonds, Mayor of Alnwick, welcomed the achievement but said he wasn’t surprised.

“It is what I have been saying since my wife and I chose to retire here 12 years ago,” he said.

“Alnwick is a fantastic place in which to live, it appeals to both residents and visitors and it has a lot to offer.

“All you have to do is look at all the activities that visitors can undertake here and in the surrounding areas.

“We are in the middle of some absolutely marvellous historic buildings as well. I am never surprised that we win these prestigious awards. I think they are well-deserved.

“I think there is also a tremendously strong community spirit here.”

He also said that the recognition Alnwick has received, coupled with new stores opening, shows that the town is on the up.

The Duchess of Northumberland said: “This award is another great accolade for the town and raises the profile of Alnwick not only as a great place to live and work but also an exciting place to visit.

“2011 has been another amazing year for Alnwick, with the highlight for many people being the visit in June by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

“There is so much to look forward to in 2012, including the celebrations for the overnight stay of the Olympic torch and the Queen’s diamond jubilee.”

Bruce Hewison, chairman of Alnwick Tourism Association, said: “I think it is absolutely brilliant for the town. It is another feather in the town’s cap.

“Alnwick is definitely on the up. There are a lot of new shops in and around the town and properties are being improved – it shows that there is definitely room for optimism.”

And Carlo Biagioni, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade (ACT), also welcomed the award and said the group has had a big influence on improving Alnwick’s prospects.

“This award just goes to show how well we are doing,” he said.

“It is just one accolade after the other. It shows it is a really good town and reflects the beautiful area we live in.”

Philip Angier, chairman of Alnwick Markets, said: “Alnwick’s picturesque Market Place is right at the heart of the town, which makes a perfect

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venue for our weekly markets, the farmers’ market and our annual food and music festivals.

“Our traders value the support of both townsfolk and tourists.

“It’s great news to learn that our market town has been awarded this accolade.”

Three other Northumberland hotspots were also recognised in the awards.

Hadrian’s Wall which runs for 84 miles from Wallsend to Cumbria was voted as Britain’s greatest walking trail in the awards while Belsay came second in the finest garden category.

And Northumberland National Park came third in the favourite national park.

Giles Ingram, chief executive of Northumberland Tourism said: “We’re not at all surprised that BBC Countryfile readers around the UK have voted for attractions in Northumberland.

“New and returning visitors alike are always delighted by the wide range of experiences on offer in the county – lead by gems such as Alnwick with its cobbled streets, traditional coaching inns and the magnificent Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Garden, and Hadrian’s Wall where visitors can walk along what was the northern frontier of the Roman Empire, enjoying spectacular scenery, great local food and a warm welcome.”

The north Northumberland coast was also successful in the August issue of the magazine.

A walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh was highlighted as one of ‘Your 50 Great Escapes’.

The article describes both the landmarks and nature that can be seen on this ‘exhilarating stretch of coastline’ and points out the Craster Seafood Restaurant and Rooftops guest-house in Alnwick as perfect places to eat and sleep.