Congleton is a small market town situated in South Cheshire. Despite being only a twenty minute drive from my home town, it is a town that I rarely visit but every time I do visit, I wonder why I don't go there more often as it's quite an attractive town with a good balance between independent shops and brand names.
The main heart of the town centres around a traditional High Street. As seems typical of market towns in the North West, the bulk of the shops are either small independent traders or chain shops of the cheaper end of the market. Being a cheapskate myself, I quite like having the opportunity to browse around stores like Ethel Austin, Peacocks and B & M's, another 'cheap' store that has taken over the site of the former Woolworths in the town. There are a few small independent retailers that our family enjoy visiting. My husband particularly likes 'Mr Simms', a traditional-style sweet shops selling all your childhood favourites in old-fashioned glass sweet jars. There are also numerous charity shops which the rest of the family dislike but I love a good rummage in the book section.
On our most recent visit we ended up eating at one of the local pubs, The Maskery, on Swan Bank which is just off the High Street. Typical pub grub, this was a reasonable place for a family meal, with average kids menu and highchairs all available. What I did notice was the outdoor smoking area which had some coverage and, although obviously separate from the rest of the pub, was screened with glass so that it almost appeared to be a room and not just some grotty outside space. On other occasions, we've eaten at the Wetherspoons pub next door which, again, served fairly average but reasonably priced pub grub. If you just want a hot drink and a nice cake or a pasty 'Bread & Basil' is a friendly little deli selling a great selection of snacks to eat in or takeaway. My personal favourite is the lovely custom-made milkshake sellers, 'Shakeeze', who create milkshakes while you wait based on entire bars of chocolate!
Congleton is actually reputed to be a fairly affluent area which surprises me given the nature of many of the shops in the town. It certainly isn't as upmarket as other Cheshire towns and you're unlikely to bump into many footballers' wives out on the High Street! Shoppers looking for premium brand name stores would be better suited going to the likes of Wilmslow or Knutsford but Congleton seems better suited to my meagre budget, sadly!
One particularly handy feature about the town is that parking is free all day, every day throughout all of the town's public car parks. Despite this, parking is never an issue and we've always managed to find a space without any trouble. I don't think the free parking is advertised as well as it could be as I've never seen any promotional literature about the town pointing this out. It might seem a small benefit but it is a good selling point for any small town in the current economic climate and always makes me feel more inclined to splash out on treats in the town!
The only difficulty I find is navigating the town's one way system through the town centre. I'm sure it seems fairly straightforward and logical to locals or very frequent visitors but, somehow, I always end up driving round in circles a few times before I manage to make my way out of town!
Congleton would be a pleasant place for a day out or a short break, particularly for those of us with tighter budgets.