The British Isles is growing as a foodie destination, thanks to its ever-evolving roster of brilliant food festivals. With fresh seafood, locally farmed meats and homegrown fruit and vegetables galore, Britain is overflowing with quality seasonal produce, which is being used by a 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.
Saturday 19 August
New to the UK’s food festivals scene for 2023 is this offering from Shoreditch favourite Smokestak, who are throwing their own al fresco mini-fest to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Harking back to their roots as a street food trader, they’ll be taking over the car park opposite the restaurant, where founder David Carter and the team will recreate the festival vibes of Smokestak’s early days at Street Feast, complete with a double-stacked, 40ft shipping container bar. Four wood-burning smokers are being imported from all corners of the UK for the Smokestak Street Festival, where they’ll be cooking up old classics like brisket buns, pork rib tip burnt-ends and grilled greens with tahini and pomegranate. With live DJs and bartenders slinging drinks until the small hours, it’s set to be a birthday party to remember.
2 & 3 September
Held in the Walled Garden of grand Holkham Hall, the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival is Norfolk’s largest food festival and will be celebrating its 14th year in September, welcoming over 12,000 visitors to sample some of the area’s finest food and drink. Head to the popular Cookery Theatre, hosted by Andy Newman, where you can watch the region’s finest chefs cooking up a storm, or take a turn around the stalls, where you can try everything from wood-fired pizzas and homemade chilli sauces to locally distilled gin. While you’re there, the 18th century Palladian-style mansion of Holkham Hall is more than worth a visit, as is nearby Holkham beach.
Various destinations around the UK
Dates throughout August and September
Billed as the UK’s biggest celebration of food, drink and music, Foodies Festival is the place to come if you want to see top TV chefs cooking live. They’re known for gathering the culinary great and good from the small screen, and this year is no exception, with everyone from MasterChef’s Chariya Khattiyot and Shelina Permalloo to Michelin-starred Michael Caines on the line-up. Musical acts, meanwhile, come in the form of feel-good names like Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Toploader and Blue. This summer, there are four events to choose from around the country: Edinburgh from 4-6 August, Glasgow from 11-13 August, Oxford from 26-28 August and Norwich from 8-10 September.
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 food festivals, Pub in the Park, to green spaces around the country for a few years now. This September, two locations will be hosting the al fresco knees-ups, kicking off with Chiswick House & Gardens from 1-3 September, before moving on to St Albans from 8-10 September. At each one, Kerridge will be joined by a host of the UK’s most exciting chefs, including Andi Oliver, Ainsley Harriott and Si King, while music will come courtesy of McFly, Sam Ryder and Rudimental.
Until 30 July
Dedicated to championing Scotland’s finest food and drink purveyors, this food 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 at the Edinburgh Food Festival, 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 MasterChef finalist Sarah Rankin and Junk’s Cam Laidlaw.
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 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Mark Hix and Olia Hercules, while music comes courtesy of Groove Armada and Nile Rodgers & Chic. 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.
Whitstable is famed for its oysters, and now the Kentish town has a new oyster-related food festival to prove it. Launched last year, the Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival takes over the quaint harbour town for three days in September, celebrating all things mollusc-related. 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. In the evening, you can see the beach glow with lit Grotters, small domes built out of oyster shells, and on the last day everyone comes together for a mammoth beach clean. Of course, there’s also plenty of opportunity to taste oysters and seafood delicacies at the food fair, where local and international dishes and drinks 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 Aldeburgh Food & Drink 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 Jeremy Lee, Thomasina Miers and Pierre Koffmann. There’s also a strong emphasis on agriculture and food education, with showcases from local restaurants like The Regatta on the Main Stage and live demos from small businesses who fish sustainably on the Seafood Stage.
Hosted in the grounds of the medieval Ludlow Castle, the annual Ludlow Food Festival sees more than 180 local food and drink purveyors bring their goods for the public to taste and buy. The free food 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.
16 & 17 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 Abergavenny Food Festival is on a mission to showcase the best of British produce and highlight the passion of local producers. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, 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. Highlights from this year’s festival include an event with Great British Bake Off fan favourite Jürgen Krauss and a breakfast with Emma Bridgewater.
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 Anna Haugh, Asma Khan and Nathan Outlaw – with big name music acts and emerging artists to perform to the crowds. Headliners this August include Sigrid, Tom Grennan and Blossoms, while you’ll also find Natalie Imbruglia, Hot Chip and The Vaccines on the Main Stage across the weekend. And there are plenty of options to build up energy before the concerts, including an array of street food and decadent dining options.