Eat Festival, Lyme Regis, Dorset
The best producers from across the south-west head to this gorgeous seafront setting to showcase their food and drink at the Eat Festival. It’s free to attend, so bring the whole family – even the dog! After sampling the wares and enjoying the entertainments, including jugglers and DJ sets, finish your visit off with a walk along the cob or roll up your trousers and have a paddle (weather permitting).
Forest Feastival, West Glamorgan
Tucked away in Merthyr Mawr, the street food circus has set up shop to deliver a food festival that showcases the best street food Wales has to offer. Set against the backdrop of the Welsh coast, the festival caters for everyone – it’s a party in the forest and a party for the palate. Street food vendors present a range of cuisines, from bao buns to scallops and, if you have room, there is even pwdin (pudding). Tickets are £5 and are available online at forest feastival.com. Food ranges from about £8-£15, depending on the vendor.
Eastnor Castle ChilliFest, Herefordshire
Eastnor Castle celebrates “all things spicy” at its ChilliFest (adult £13.50, child £8.50, family £35) every May bank holiday, and last year our taste buds and senses were teased with hot treats for the day. Vibrant sights, music and cooking exhibitions also contributed to a carnival-like atmosphere. The Castle Courtyard became a chilli marketplace with over 50 stalls selling chilli produce to stimulate and satisfy our appetites. Venture down onto the Lower Terrace to find a fantastic selection of chef demonstrations throughout the day. A highlight of the day was the chilli-eating contest on the Valley Lawn, where contestants had to eat increasingly hot snacks – last person standing was declared the winner!
Ludlow Castle Food Festival, Shropshire
The lovely setting of Ludlow Castle is a great place for a food festival (adult from £10, child 5-13 £4, family £26). Our recent visit, after two years’ absence, was a real treat in many ways. My teenage daughters were so inspired by their success in a pie-making contest – brilliantly run by two locals chefs – that they have been making desserts for us ever since. There were over 100 stalls selling or giving free samples of country fare such as cider, Hereford beef pie and apple crumble to all comers. A cheese-rolling game down the castle mound was great fun, plus there were bands and poetry readings with food themes, too. My husband was less (or more) successful making cider – he made some, drank it, then fell asleep for three hours on the sofa, snoring loudly.
MRS Gonca Cox
Sheffield Food Festival
Sheffield Food Festival (free) is held each June in the city centre. Local vendors have everything on offer from Caribbean fusion dishes to speciality focaccia. The live demos with chefs are a great introduction to the local restaurants. Heeley City Farm, a charitable city centre farm, is my favourite producer with its organic produce and focus on sustainability. There is, of course, plenty of craft beer, too.
Scottish Wild Food Festival, Loch Lomond
If you’ve looked at a hedgerow and wondered if anything in there would make a tasty soup (or soap), then the Scottish Wild Food Festival (adult from £16, child 5-13 £2, family £30) should be in your calendar. The festival focuses on the local, forage-able, in-season and kind to the planet. Hosted at Tír Na Nóg, a wellness centre six miles east of the beginning of the West Highland Way, the weekend makes a great start (or end) to a hike. I was treated to miso-making guidance, tasting sessions on seaweed from Fife and guided woodland foraging walks.
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Food and Drink Festival, Bolton
Love food? Enjoy cuisines from every corner of the world? Well, Bolton’s Food and Drink Festival (free) is a food lover’s dream. As soon as you enter the Market Square your sense of smell and taste will be in overdrive with Greek, Singaporean, Chinese and Indian but a few of the many cuisines you could be tucking into. Once done with all the tantalising tastes, you could learn a few culinary skills from celebrity chefs, including Ainsley Harriott or James Martin! Pre-warning, you may need to loosen your belt on the way home.
Erddig Apple Festival, near Wrexham
I had no idea there were so many varieties of apple until I visited the apple harvest celebration set in the palatial grounds of 18th-century Erddig Hall near Wrexham in north Wales. Now in its 32nd year, the Apple Festival (adult £10.30, child £5.15) started with the ambition to rescue and preserve old apple varieties, and more than 180 varieties are grown in its orchards. Fruits you won’t find on the supermarket shelves include Orlean’s Reinette from 1776, James Grieve (1893), Yellow Ingestrie (1800) and Leathercoat Russet from the 16th century. Beyond the apples, there were cider press demonstrations, live cookery demonstrations, an apple trail, a tour of the orchard, storytelling, live music and poetry. Plus there are tours of the hall, described as “the most evocative Upstairs Downstairs house in Britain”, giving an insight into the lives of both the occupants and its staff.
WINNING TIP: Garlic Festival, Isle of Wight
There’s no such thing as garlic breath at the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival (adult from £12.50, child £7.50, family £35). You’ll find the strangest things made with garlic here: ice-cream, popcorn, fudge, biscuits, apple pies and even a selection of cakes – all made with the little white cloves. There is a contest to showcase Britain’s most powerful garlic, ready to be sampled after judgement is cast. Sitting outside on boats going back to the mainland is advised.