“Have yourself a merry little Christmas” and take the pain out of present shopping by making your way to the Christmas Markets on Sligo Food Trail. It’s the very best choice you could make this festive season to avoid city crowds and find attractive, handmade gifts quickly and easily. Add in the bonuses of contributing directly to the local economy, meeting the maker and cutting down on the carbon footprint, and it’s clear that Christmas shopping in local markets really is a gift.

Sligo is one of the best places in the country to find really great Christmas markets, and there are lots of them – four regular markets and several pop up Christmas ones too. All have a fabulous selection of handmade crafts, local and organic produce and great hot food too. Each has its own character and if you plan carefully you can fit a few in over a busy weekend.

Strandhill People’s Market
This weekly market (Sundays 11am-4pm) adds in two Friday night markets for Christmas shoppers on Friday 13th and Friday 20th December from 4pm-8pm. Santa arrives by Coastguard Helicopter on Sunday 1st December to kick off the festive activities.

Everything happens in the unusual location of Hangar 1 at Sligo Airport which will be packed to bursting with stalls of all sorts. Preserves, chutneys, apple juice and gift baskets from Murson Farm. Delicious home baking from Blacksheep Bakery. Handmade Christmas decorations and bespoke wooden gifts from Nutjob Design. And more, so much more. Keep up to date with their Facebook page.

Rathcormack Artisan Food & Craft Market
Every Saturday from 10am-3pm this quaint market runs in Branley’s Yard just five minutes from Sligo Town on the N15. At Christmas it transforms into a festive wonderland with twinkling lights and tasteful decorations everywhere. Dreamers, strollers and browsers are all welcome.

Cheeses and breads compete for space with fresh fish, cheeses and preserves from the good folks of Murson Farm. Crafters stalls spill over with gorgeous knitted clothes hats, felted bags, scarves and winter wear as well as handmade gifts like elves, reindeer and penguins and Christmas decorations. Jewellery and quirky fairy houses jostle for space with hand carved stone and slate gifts, handmade soaps and wood crafts. All the artists and crafters are there to meet and chat with. The tantalising aroma of fresh roasted coffee and hot food like seafood potato croquettes drifts around. At the markets, shopping becomes an experience, never a chore. For news and updates visit their Facebook page here.

Cliffoney Country Market
On the first and third Sundays of every month from 11-1pm this lovely Country Market takes place in Cliffoney Village Hall.  Every week there’s a live traditional music session featuring local musicians and leading up to Christmas that will be something very special and seasonal. Cliffoney is well known as a great spot to find excellent home baking, locally produced jams, honey, eggs and plants as well as handmade gifts. Enjoy a cup of tea or a bowl of delicious soup and a chat. Keep up to date here.

Sligo Farmers’ Market
The Sligo IT car park is the unlikely location for this cracking farmers’ market which takes place every Saturday from 9am-1pm. You’ll find the best of organic produce and food as well as tasty hot food, a great selection of cheeses and excellent baking. Everyone brings out their best for the festive season and the fabulous flowers and seasonal wreaths just can’t be matched. See their Facebook page for more details.

Beltra Country Market
Saturday is market day in Beltra Hall between Ballisodare and Dromore West. Their Christmas Fair takes place on Saturday 7th December (10am-2pm) and it’s going to be really special. Santa himself is making an appearance, but not until 12.30 giving you a chance to get the shopping done first. Better still there’s a kid’s Christmas cupcake decorating workshop at 11am to keep everyone happy while they’re waiting.

Christmas music is with West Sligo Singers and with the promise of gifts, crafts, Christmas baking and treats as well as hot mulled apple juice and fresh crepes, it sounds like there’s nowhere better to be on the first Saturday in December. For more details visit their Facebook page here.