Few seasons are better suited to visiting an English market town than summer. With the sun warming the buildings’ old stones, the hubbub of unhurried visitors echoing along the pavements and the promise of hunting down a bargain in a newly discovered shop, the country’s regional towns are at their most vibrant. Even more so if you time your visit for market day, and wander among rows of canopied stalls choosing from posh sausage rolls, homemade jams, just-picked veg and melt-the-second-they’re-scooped ice-creams.

Malton is no exception. Roughly halfway between York and Scarborough, this thriving Yorkshire market town has long drawn walkers with its easy access to the North York Moors. More recently, however, it’s gained a reputation as a foodie hub, thanks to a booming artisan producer scene and an annual summer food festival so successful it’s been dubbed the gastronomic Glastonbury. That might be over-egging the Yorkshire pudding slightly but the Malton Food Lovers Festival’s recipe of modern local produce (think craft gin made with Yorkshire rhubarb) gently sprinkled with buzzy food names and chef demos now draws crowds of 40,000.

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This year’s event has, sensibly, been shifted from May to August. Before then, time a trip for July to coincide with live music at the town’s Meadowfest music festival. Or make the most of heritage attractions opening up over May and June and spend a day exploring the Second World War-themed Camp Eden museum, set within a former POW camp on the edge of town (don’t miss the homemade scones at the vintage-style cafe on site).

The Market Place’s historic buildings house a diverting collection of galleries, cafes, delis and independent shops. Visit Malton

Where to shop in Malton

Tallboy Interiors

Run with enthusiasm by interior designer Matt Dixon, Tallboy Interiors relocated from Leeds to Malton’s Grade II-listed Saville House in 2020. A few doors down from No 4 Saville Street (another popular antiques store), the business has both a local following and a growing Instagram one thanks to Matt’s careful sourcing of furniture, art and accessories from private house collections and French antiques markets.

Greyhound Antiques

If Tallboy Interiors is like walking into an elegant furniture gallery, Greyhound Antiques is more like peeking into granny’s carefully collated parlour. The fun is in the diversity of its stock – you never know what you might find among the decorative antiques, vintage furniture, china and glass, from inlaid mahogany tables to ladderback chairs, Edwardian brass fenders and 1920s watercolours.

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Bowley & Jackson

Opened in Malton in 2004 (and now with a second outlet in nearby Helmsley), interiors store Bowley & Jackson specialises in stylish, vintage-inspired furniture and homewares from Belgium, France and Scandinavia. Both stores were revamped during the most recent lockdown but, while the shops’ backdrops might be modified, customers can expect the same focus on timeless, elegant furnishings (think toile de Jouy fabrics, wicker garden tables and Danish dinner candles).

Hare & Wilde

The husband-and-wife team behind interiors store Hare & Wilde began renovating period houses before opening a shop specialising in pieces from small British and global brands. Beyond what are arguably the prettiest windows in town you’ll find brushes by Iris Hantverk, Darjeeling and tea rose candles from the Botanical Candle Co in Dorset and flatweave rugs handwoven in India (rugs area particular area of expertise).

The Shambles

Between the Market Place and the Cattle Market is The Shambles, a lane lined with timber-canopied, 19th-century shop fronts. Here you’ll find a raft of small independent stores, from antiques dealers to ethical gift shops. Make a beeline for Gale & Temple and select from woven/silk scarves and jewellery as well as tote bags made from vintage-style fabrics, candles and ceramics made by Yorkshire craftspeople.

The Grade I-listed gardens at Castle Howard. stanciuc / Getty Images

What to do in Malton

Castle Howard

Castle Howard is one of the most iconic stately homes in England, known both for its vast scale and for its starring screen roles (it was the backdrop to both adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and, more recently, appeared in Bridgerton). Home to the Howard family for over 300 years, it was designed in the Baroque style by John Vanbrugh (with Hawksmoor’s help) and, while still a private residence, opens to the public.

Scampston Walled Garden

Designed by Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, Scampston Walled Garden lies within the 18th-century walls of Scampston Hall’s original kitchen garden (derelict by the time the present owners called in Oudolf’s help 20 years ago). It’s a clever, 21st-century counterpoint to the surrounding Capability Brown-designed parkland. Tickets to the walled garden include access to the parkland and hall gardens; group tours of the Regency-era Scampston Hall can be added on.

The restored Victorian conservatory looks out over Scampston Walled Garden. Jason Ingram

Where to eat in Malton

The New Malton

Winning a Michelin Plate in this year’s food guide, The New Malton gastropub lives up to that commendation. Awarded to restaurants which use ‘fresh ingredients, carefully prepared’ to provide ‘a good meal’, that’s exactly what you’ll find at this unshowy, 18th-century dining pub. Take a seat at one of its wooden tables and order smoked salmon rillette with homemade soda bread, or free-range panko- crumb chicken in a brioche bun with thyme mayonnaise.

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The Bluebird Bakery

Part of the Talbot Yard Food Court (also home to a butcher, gelato-maker, coffee roaster, patisserie and gin distillery), The Bluebird Bakery is a Malton institution. Now operating shops in York and Leeds, too, the original Malton branch is mission control. Known for its sourdough loaves (the seven-seeder, made with sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and more is legendary) but, like the brand, the range has expanded; the Earl Grey teacakes and spinach rolls are also well worth the trip.

Just-baked sourdough loaves at The Bluebird Bakery. Esme Mai Photography

Where to stay in Malton

The Talbot Hotel

The Talbot Hotel is a 17th- century coaching inn brought, notably, into the 21st century by hip hoteliers Georgie and Sam Pearman. Now under new management, bedrooms remain smart and fun with chintz curtains cascading behind teal velvet sofas and candy-striped headboards softening bold moss-coloured walls. Whether wolfing fillet of cod with cauliflower purée in the restaurant or fish and chips in the bar, the focus is firmly on Yorkshire produce.

Yew Tree Cottage

As chocolate-box cottages go Yew Tree Cottage in Westow, 10 minutes’ drive from Malton, is more at the truffle end of the spectrum than the Malteser. Beside its three bedrooms there’s a thoughtfully stocked kitchen, a separate dining room and a sitting room with woodburning stove. For guests interested in history, there’s an ancient well in the garden (covered with a grate) and a suit of armour in the dining room.

Don’t miss…

The Marathon Du Malton in September. Inspired by the French Marathon du Médoc, participants on the 10k course either run the route uninterrupted, or graze their way around food and drink stops along the way.

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