The British Isles is growing as a foodie destination – and for good reason. With fresh seafood, local farmed meats and homegrown fruit and vegetables galore, Britain is overflowing with quality seasonal produce, which is being used by an ever-growing pool of talented chefs intent on shaking up the concept of British food. From oysters on the coast to restaurant pop-ups in the capital, these are the best food festivals in the UK to book now.
Various destinations around the UK
Dates throughout September
As the UK’s most fun-loving chef, Tom Kerridge has been bringing his unique brand of outdoor pub knees-ups to green spaces around the country for a few years now. This September, three different locations will be hosting the al fresco food and drink festivals, kicking off with Chiswick House & Gardens from 2-4 September, before moving on to St Albans from 9-11 September and ending with their Brighton debut at Preston Park from 16-18 September. At each one, Kerridge will be joined by a host of the UK’s most exciting chefs, including Atul Kochhar, Simon Rimmer and Matt Tebbutt, while music will come courtesy of Craig David, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Basement Jaxx.
Dedicated to championing Scotland’s finest food and drink purveyors, this 10-day festival in Edinburgh’s charming George Square Gardens is one of the highlights of the city’s summer calendar. Scottish ingredients are at the heart of the dishes on offer from the curated collection of street food vendors here, from the award-winning pies at Jarvis Pickle to the fresh lobsters caught from local waters at Alanda’s Scottish Seafood Grill. There are also chef demonstrations and workshops from some of the country’s best chefs, including Contini’s Carina Contini and Fhior’s Scott Smith.
When Cornish foodie royalty Jack Stein – son of Rick and chef director of the Rick Stein restaurant group – throws a party, you know the food is going to be pretty out of this world. That’s certainly the idea behind the Rock Oyster Festival, which is held on the banks of the Camel Estuary and brings together brilliant chefs, great music and wellbeing and kids’ activities to keep the whole family happy. This year the line-up of chefs includes Gizzi Erskine, Rosemary Shrager and Adam Handling, while music comes courtesy of Laura Mvula and Happy Mondays. When you’re not busy eating or dancing, you can try your hand at surfing, foraging or hip-hop yoga.
Hosted in the small market town in North Yorkshire, the Malton Food Lovers Festival is a celebration of the finest Yorkshire produce. The fun and laid-back event features live chef demonstrations and cooking workshops alongside a variety of stalls and street food trucks offering both small bites and extravagant dishes. This is certainly a festival for the whole family, with live music performances, surprise entertainment and kid-friendly activities woven into the foodie experience.
12-14 May 2023
Every year, this festival takes over the picturesque Porthminster Beach for a long weekend of food, drink and merriment. The free three day festival sees tents and marquees dotted along the sandy shores, where visitors can taste artisan creations from local businesses and street food vendors and watch acclaimed chefs flex their culinary muscles in a series of demonstrations. Attendees are also encouraged to try out their cooking skills at one of the workshops, and visit the pop-up artist galleries, too. In the evening, those with tickets can wind down from the day and enjoy oceanside live music performances at The Lighthouse Stage.
Every year, oyster fans descend on the seaside town of Whitstable for a three day celebration of the beloved mollusc. The festivities kick off with the Landing of the Oysters at high tide, when a symbolic haul of oysters is landed on the beach by a group decked out in traditional costumes, after which they are received by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury and even blessed by the clergy. Tradition and heritage run through the entire festival — there’s the famous oyster eating competition, and in the evening you can see the beach glow with lit Grotters, small domes built out of oyster shells. Of course, there’s plenty of opportunity to taste oysters and seafood delicacies at the food fair, where local and international food and tipples are all on offer.
Snape Maltings, Suffolk
Nestled next to the River Alde, a short distance from the Suffolk coast, is the annual culinary celebration that brings together over 100 food and drink producers from the county to share their produce and cooking inspiration. From organic vegetables to sourdough bread, the festival celebrates the highest quality local produce, as well as award-winning beers from local breweries. There are also two cooking demonstration stages where visitors can see acclaimed culinary figures show off their skills – this year’s travelling chefs include Thomasina Miers, Chetna Makan, Richard Bainbridge and Dominique Woolf, the winner of Channel 4’s The Great Cookbook Challenge. New additions to the festival this year include The Larder, an area celebrating fresh fruit and vegetables grown in Suffolk, and a Seafood Stage that champions the fisheries and seafood on offer on the East Coast.
Hackney Wick, London
Since 2012, Street Feast has been taking over derelict buildings around London and transforming them into buzzy street food markets where visitors can discover the most exciting dishes. Last summer, they took things up a notch by hosting their biggest event yet — a one day food, drink and music festival at Hackney Wick’s Three Mills Island. Think of it as an outdoor party where you’re actively encouraged to eat as much as you want from some of the city’s finest street food vendors. While details for this year’s event are yet to be released, if last year’s line-up is anything to go by you can expect to dance to Horse Meat Disco’s set in between trying El Pollote’s Latino fried chicken, Bob’s Lobster’s seafood and Fundi’s woodfired pizza slices.
Hosted in the grounds of the medieval Ludlow Castle, the annual celebration sees more than 180 local food and drink purveyors bring their goods for the public to taste and buy. The free festival is focused on celebrating the culinary heritage of Ludlow and the Welsh Marches, with vendors ranging from farms to local shops. In addition to the array of cheeses, desserts and more, there are a number of stages where visitors can see top chefs host talks, demonstrations and tastings.
British chef Paul Ainsworth, based in Cornwall and originally from Southampton, is one of the UK culinary scene’s leading lights. He’s been awarded a Michelin star as well as four AA Rosettes and has worked for famous chefs such as Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsey. In August, the chef brings his Travelling Feast, a one-of-a-kind festival combining dining, entertainment and camping, to four beautiful locations across Cornwall – Boconoc Estate, Scorrier House, Royal Cornwall Showroom and Roscarrock Manor Farm. While details for this year’s event are yet to be released, last year the highlight was the food trucks, picked by Ainsworth and in collaboration with top chefs, including The Humble Pie by Tom Kerridge; Niall Keating’s Paradise Carriage, John Hooker’s Cornish Arms Airstream and James Martin’s Ice Cream Van.
Arguably one of the most picturesque food festivals in the UK, the Blenheim Palace Food Festival takes place in the grounds of the stunning Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the seat of the Duke of Marlborough. The gastronomic festival showcases cuisine fit for high society, with local and national stallholders offering tempting selections of organic fruit and veg, indulgent sweet treats, tempting baked goods, street food, and more. There’s also an exciting calendar of entertainment, demonstrations, workshops and talks – this year’s event included the chance to make pasta with Italian legend Gennaro Contaldo, cocktail concocting with wine expert Andy Clarke and baking demonstrations with Great British Bake Off‘s Karen Wright.
17 & 18 September
The small town of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, Wales may not be the best known Welsh town but it’s home to one of the best food festivals in the UK. Founded in 1999 by two local farmers in response to the BSE crisis, the festival is on a mission to showcase the best of British produce and highlight the passion of local producers. It’s a great opportunity to meet the farmers growing the foods you enjoy and sample a vast range of local produce in the pretty setting of this Medieval market town. There’s also a programme of interactive activities such as tastings, cooking lessons and talks where experts debate topical issues affecting Britain’s food industry.
English musician and songwriter Alex James – best known as the bassist of Blur – lends his farm in The Cotswolds to this unique celebration of food and music. Half music festival, half food festival, The Big Feastival brings together the UK’s leading culinary talents – including Clare Smyth MBE, Ravneet Gill and James Cochran – with big name music acts and emerging artists to perform to the crowds. Headliners this August include The Human League, Anne-Marie and Stereophonics, while you’ll also find the Sugababes, Jake Bugg and Basement Jaxx on the Main Stage across the weekend. And there’s plenty of options to build up energy before the concerts, including an array of street food and decadent dining options.