The ten most charming shops in Britain


Tanners Wine Merchants, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Situated on the historic Wyle Cop, Tanners & Co was established in 1842. It’s a maze of passages and cellars filled with pictures and mementos of more than 150 years in the wine trade. Today, James Tanner is the fourth generation of the family to run the business from its beautiful Dickensian premises. Wine was originally imported in barrels and decanted in the extensive cellars, and the present-day range of 1,200-plus wines is the result of research by a team of independent buyers through 22 countries

Selling point: Tanners rightly boasts about its range of carefully selected artisan wines, but it’s particularly proud that its claret has been supplied by the same French négociant for more than 100 years

(01743 234500;

Paxton & Whitfield


Paxton & Whitfield, Bath, Avon

The Queen’s Jermyn Street cheesemonger can trace its origins back to 1797, and opened this store in Bath 20 years ago. Located a civilised stroll from Royal Crescent and Queen’s Square, the aroma as you enter the store is marvellous and the range on offer daunting-some 120 British and foreign cheeses. Great cheese is a living thing, and the store has its own maturing rooms so you can be sure that every cheese is in perfect condition

Selling point: The award-winning Little Wallop goat’s cheese, washed in cider brandy and wrapped in vine leaves, produced by Juliet Harbutt and Alex James

(01225 466403;


Bettys, Harrogate, North Yorkshire


This is one of Yorkshire’s pre-eminent institutions. The ground-floor tea room is a sea of Lloyd Loom chairs and marble tables; upstairs, the Imperial Suite is the most peaceful spot to relax over afternoon tea, overlooking the open space of Harrogate’s Stray. The business was founded in 1919 by a Swiss émigré chocolatier on the simple premise that everything they served was to be ‘fresh and dainty’. Today, all the cakes are made in Bettys’ own craft bakery and the passion of the founder is clearly evident in both the food and the ambience

Selling point: ‘Traditional afternoon tea’ served on a three-tier silver stand with sandwiches, scones and jam and a light éclair, washed down with bright, golden, single-estate Darjeeling

(01423 814070;




Bill’s Produce Store, Lewes, East Sussex

Sometimes, you just have to walk through the door of a shop to know that you’ve found something original and amazing. Here, the freshest vegetables are displayed in an extraordinary mixture of old colanders and baskets; the shelves are a riot of colour and groaning with own-label jams and marmalades. The overall effect is amazing. Since Bill Collison first opened his store, it has expanded and now has an excellent cafe. Bill’s is a true original, and the staff are as good as any you’ll find in a top London restaurant attentive, alert and energetic

Selling point: Pick up a copy of the Viva Lewes magazine, to which Bill is a regular contributor with thoughts and recipes that will give you some insight into his passion

(01273 476918;




Orvis, Stockbridge, Hampshire

The Orvis tradition for producing high-quality fishing tackle goes back to the formation of the company in Manchester, Vermont, USA, where Charles Orvis learnt to fish on the banks of the Batten-kill. This was the first UK Orvis store, opened in October 1985-the company now also boasts
a UK fly-fishing school following the purchase of the fishing rights to a number of beats on the Test. The store soon outgrew the first tiny premises and now there are two, one dedicated to ladies’
fashions, the other to fishing and shooting equipment

Selling point: The Ginger Beer beat on the Test

(01264 811019;

Valvona & Crolla



Valvona & Crolla, Edinburgh

I can feel my Italian roots calling when I smell the fine Parmesan and salami here. This treasure trove was opened by the Contini family in 1934, and has won so many plaudits and awards, it almost needs no introduction-Clarissa Dickson Wright has described it as her second home. In summer, plan a picnic with small servings of meats and cheeses, fresh tomatoes, a loaf of its award-winning Pain de Campagne and a bottle of Montepulciano or Prosecco.

Selling point: The small restaurant at the back selling traditional Italian food

(0131-556 6066;

James Barber



James Barber, Otley, West Yorkshire

Approaching the modern shop front, you get no inkling of the heritage and history of this smoking and pipe emporium. In the 1860s, Joseph Barber set off for Kentucky, where he built up a tobacco business that, at its height, was sending 80 tons back to Britain. His factory in Otley processed the tobacco to be sold in twists around the north of England. Now, the business is run by James Barber, who started at the age of 11, when he opened up the shop and swept the floor for his father. His youngest daughter is visiting Cuba soon, so the future of this historic business looks in safe hands. In 2007, after 140 years trading from a tiny store in the high street, the business moved to its bright, contemporary new home

Selling point: In addition to a well-stocked humidor, Mr Barber carries a bigger range of pipes than any other store in Britain and 200-plus different pipe tobaccos

(01943 462603;




Morelli’s,Broadstairs, Kent

Nestling high above the beach at this traditional seaside resort is a delightful ice-cream parlour. Guiseppi Morelli came to Britain in 1907 and started selling ice cream from a bicycle and then a van. The iconic store opened in 1932, selling 20 flavours of gelato, and it’s changed very little-inside, you’ll find Formica tables and an original soda fountain. Bibi Morelli, the fifth generation of the family to run the business, told me that the secret of their success is making gelato with full-cream milk, rather than ice cream with cream

Selling point: White chocolate and ginger, or a flamboyant and unashamedly theatrical creation that comes complete with an umbrella and a tree-climbing monkey

(01843 862500;

Andy Race1



Andy Race, Mallaig, Invernessshire

For a magical experience, take the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to the fishing village of Mallaig, crossing the ‘Harry Potter’ viaduct. Fishmonger Andy Race moved to Mallaig in the 1970s and set up a small business supplying wet fish to hotels. He started smoking fish in the 1990s and told me how he was one of the first to stop dyeing his fish. He selects only the best locally sourced fish and uses smokers he developed himself in a slow process that takes up to three days

Selling point: Andy’s mail-order smoked salmon-you’ll never be able to go back to the anaemic and luridly coloured fish in supermarkets

(01687 462626;



Potters of Buxton, Derbyshire

This classic department store in the Derbyshire spa town of Buxton would give shop critic Mary Portas a coronary, and that’s one of the reasons I love it. It’s like walking into a different period in history. John Nuttall, the owner, makes it clear that a lot of thought has gone into keeping Potters
traditional, and the store is packed from floor to ceiling with an alluring range of clothing and homewares-Mr Nuttall told me that many of his customers save up and do a whole year’s shopping in one go

Selling point: A proper handwritten receipt

(01298 23113;