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.
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.
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. Many details are yet to be revealed, but Olia Hercules, Chetna Makan and the Honey & Co duo are already confirmed to be taking to the stage.
Hackney Wick, London
Since 2012, Street Food has been taking over derelict buildings around London and transforming them into buzzy street food markets where visitors can discover the most exciting dishes. This summer, they’re taking things up a notch and 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. 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 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, Paul Ainsworth’s Travelling Feast, a one-of-a-kind festival combining dining, entertainment and camping in four beautiful locations across Cornwall – Boconoc Estate, Scorrier House, Royal Cornwall Showroom and Roscarrock Manor Farm. A highlight is 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 Dukes 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 – don’t miss the opportunity to meet famous chefs such as BBC Masterchef Champions Kenny Tutt and Thomas Frake, Great British Bake-Off contestant Karen Wright and Eva Humphries from Wholefood Warrior.
18 & 19 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 Nathan Outlaw, Mark Hix and Gizzi Erskine – with big name music acts and emerging artists to perform to the crowds. Headliners this August include Sigala, Nile Rodgers & Chic and Rag’n’Bone Man, who are joined by Ella Eyre, Zara Larsson Morcheeba and All Saints on the main stage. And there’s plenty of options to build up energy before the concerts, including an array of street food and decadent dining options. For a real treat, book the Feast on the Farm experience and enjoy fresh farm-to-table cuisine in a unique rustic setting.