Now, I don’t need any excuse to go a wandering, but the idea of antiques spread shoulder deep over several acres outside and under canvas? Well I’d just about push the smoking estate onto the car ferry. Just a short commute across the channel lies a world of antique fairs that with one or two exceptional annual events is largely unimaginable here in Ireland. With the proximity of Europe brought closer by the Channel Tunnel, many of the UK fairs are now plumped up by a large contingent of Continental sellers. The frequency of many fairs has also increased the enthusiasm of amateur collectors and antique retailers from all over the world seeking prize pieces for wealthy clients and stocking their shops.
Here are the top venues worthy of a dedicated trip or a fly-by when you’re over in England in the next few months pretending to do something else. Going on the off-peak days rather than ‘trade day’ can save you as much as 75% on the entry fee, but this puts you a day behind the truly, madly, deeply obsessed bargain hounds. Allow an entire day to get around a larger fair, and don’t ignore the boot-sale division. The briskest trade will be in the early hours, so get to the venue when the gates open — this could mean 7am.
If you’re planning a trip to London, integrate a visit to the magnificent setting of the Alexandra Palace in May. This fair is renowned for its offering of 20th Century collectables from jewels of Art Deco to 1980s funk. Set in 196 acres of parkland, you can reach the fair via a stroll through the park from Alexandra Palace Tube line. lNext fair May 11. Entry £6 (€7.30).Tel: 00-44-1263 888111. Website: nelsonevents.co.uk
Ardingly International Antiques and Collectors Fair, South of England Showground. Tuesday and Wednesday, up to seven times a year. Note this venue’s close proximity to Gatwick Airport. One hour by car from London, it’s has a lovely rural feel with lots to see of lovely Sussex when you’re finished your day’s rooting. l Next fair 16th April. Entry: Tuesday 9am to 5pm £20 (€24). Wednesday 8am to 4pm £5. (€6). Tuesday ticket allows entry on Wednesday also. Tel: 00-44-1636 702326. Website: www.iacf.co.uk/ardingly
Every two months, the 200 acres of Lincolnshire Show Grounds in the Peak District are taken over by the Lincolnshire Antiques and Home show with a giddy array of over 2,000 stalls heaving with goods and there’s more than purely old and worthy on show. The clue is in the name. This is a diverse show, likely to offer up as much interior goodies as vintage lovelies.
lNext fair March 31 to April 1. If you miss the fairs but are in the area, there’s a new Sunday Antiques Market with an admission price of just £2.
Tel: 00-44-1298 27493. Website: www.asfairs.com
The Malvern Hills are known for their beauty and tranquillity, but things get pretty lively down at the Three Counties Showground. A great tangle of everything from mid-century ceramics to European pieces and everything in-between, though an internationally famous venue, Malvern has a strong local flavour to enjoy if you’re in or around Worcestershire. There’s a good size flea fair on Apri 21, with an antiques and collectors fair on June 29. Avoid June 13-15 which is a smaller tented event immersed in the larger Three Counties Agricultural Show. lSundays or bank holiday Mondays, up to 10 times a year. Entry £3 (€3.64). 00-44-1636 67653. Website: www.b2bevents.info
With 3,000 plus stands, Newark is listed among Patricia Schultz’s 1000 Places to See Before You Die: a Traveller Life List. Counted by many as the king of fairs and certainly considered Europe’s largest.
* Next fair April 3-4. Entry £20 (€24) Thursday, £5 (€6) Friday. Tel: 00-44-1636 702326. Website: www.iacf.co.uk/newark
For a comprehensive list of fairs visit www.antiques-atlas.com.