Summer 2017 is so stuffed full of food and drink that by the time September comes around you’ll need to loosen your belt, sit in a comfy armchair and take a nap. Follow our foody festival guide to discover some delicious delicacies, support local producers and pick up some new cookery skills along the way
1. The Great British Food Festival at Hardwick Hall: 29 April – 1 May
Festival organisers Danny and Nick Maycock help out in the beer tent © The Great British Food Festival
Explore the remarkable Elizabethan Hardwick Hall at the Great British Food Festival in Derbyshire this bank holiday. The Hall is surrounded by spectacular views of scenic landscape and mysterious woodland. ‘Last Lady of Hardwick’, Duchess Evelyn’s pioneering conservation work continues in the parkland encircling the Hall where rare breed of cattle and sheep have been reintroduced as part of the hall’s working farm. For those with a taste for the wilder things in life, a guided foraging walk is available with experts who will teach you everything you need to know about the medicinal, edible and cosmetic qualities of plants found in your back garden. And if that’s not enough for you, then head to the challenge stage. This year, the panel have devised three “Man vs. Food” style events to test the strength of your stomach… enter if you dare.
For more information, visit greatbritishfoodfestival.com/hardwick-hall/
2. VegFest: 20 – 21 May
Falafel wraps are a popular dish at VegFest ©VegFest 2016
Calling all fans of vegetarian fare, VegFest Bristol celebrates its fifteenth anniversary in 2017, and the event promises a vast range of food on offer. With stalls ranging from Flavours of Africa to Spanish Homemade, not forgetting the cheese-tasting event, there are plenty of opportunities to excite your taste buds. Get the kids loving veg as much as you do in a cookery class before the evening event kicks off with music and dancing.
For more information visit, bristol.vegfest.co.uk/.
3. Shrewsbury Food Festival: 24 – 25 June
Chef school © Getty
Shrewsbury’s 29-acre glorious parkland, the Quarry provides visitors with a scenic food festival. Wander through The Dingle – Percy Thrower’s floral masterpiece in the sunken garden – or mooch around the medieval town, following the baker’s cake trail or the brand new ale trail, tasting plenty of local produce as you go. The River Severn surrounds the grassland, where you may spot a kingfisher swooping down to catch its prey from the water. Join the Chef School for the chance to whip up exciting dishes or learn some kitchen flare in the knife-skills workshop. For charming views and delicious food, the Shrewsbury Food Festival is just the ticket.
For more information visit, www.shrewsburyfoodfestival.co.uk/.
4. North East Chilli Fest: 30 June – 2 July
A wide variety of chilli dishes to try at the North East Chilli Festival © Callum Thompson
This fiery chilli fest takes place in Seaton Sluice in Northumberland. Award-winning chilli companies present their wares at this lively festival while music and comedy stages entertain the whole family. Guests can sample chilli chocolate, handmade spice mixes, pastas and pickles. For those who just can’t get enough chilli, the Fresh Lemonade Company will be serving up hand-pressed spicy exotic chilli lemonade. Prepare for blast off. Beyond the festival’s farm base, you can explore the seaside village of Seaton Sluice. The National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall, once famous for the extravagant Georgian parties it hosted, is a architecturally beautiful and a woodland walk will be sure to cool your pallet after entering the festival’s daily chilli-eating competition.
For more information, visit www.chillifest-ne.co.uk/
5. Hampshire Food Festival: 1 – 31 July
Vineyard tours and wine tasting are just some of the activities to get involved with at the Hampshire Festival © Hampshire Fare
This year’s Hampshire Food Festival is packed with tempting food and farming events taking place across the county. Meet local producers, taste local food and relax in the sunshine (hopefully). Explore the county’s farms, vineyards and distilleries to see what goes on behind the scenes. Pop-up events with MasterChef Champion, Jane Devonshire, give you the opportunity to fine dine after a long day of pick-your-own at Durleighmarsh Farm and cookery classes.
For more information www.hampshirefare.co.uk/
6. Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival: 8 – 9 July
Weymouth harbour, location for the Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival © Getty
Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Surrounded by the traditional fishermen’s cottages, the fishy feast takes place at Weymouth’s charming historic harbourside and promotes the town’s thriving fishing industry, with more than 100 stalls offering fresh produce. The festival’s sponsor is Pommery Champagne, which complements the seafood well but if fizz isn’t your thing, local Dorset ales are available from the Badger tent. This year also sees the introduction of “Fishy Tales”, an interactive experience with marine experts and celebrities discussing a range of fish-related topics from cooking to conservation.
For more information, visit www.dorsetseafood.co.uk/
7. Nottingham Food Festival: 12-13 August
The Bush Tucker Challenge © Getty
This food festival at the Elizabethan country house of Wollaton Hall in Nottingham really gets the taste buds going. The grand house was built from Ancaster stone and is surrounded by maintained parkland, home to red and fallow deer. Visitors can explore the beautiful grassland, botanic gardens and the oldest cast-iron glasshouse in Europe as they wander around the festival. Try jungle delicacies in the Bushtucker Challenge or create the perfect sausage at a Food Roadshow workshop. Keep kids entertained in the craft marquee or fun house while you grab a pint of real ale from one of Nottingham’s local brewers.
For more information, visit livingheritagefoodfestivals.co.uk/nottingham-2/
Nadiya Hussain, one of the celebrity chefs at the Garlic Festival in 2016 ©Isle of Wight Garlic Festival ltd.
8. The Isle of Wight Garlic Festival: 19 – 20 August
Boasting Britain’s most pungent garlic, the Isle of Wight Garlic festival is all about island food. You’ll find excellent meats, cheese, honey and wine produced from the island on offer, and also incredible garlic combinations: garlic fudge, popcorn and (alarmingly?) scones, to name a few. Newchurch, in which the festival is based, has remained remarkably unchanged since the early 1900. The Garlic Farm has brought fame to the little village and the festival is now the island’s most popular family event. Mingle with Great British Bake Off contestants in the kitchen theatre and get the whole family involved in the Garlic Games. Perhps you’ll even feel bold enough to swig a bottle of garlic beer while enjoying the local bands at the stage. Crammed full of Britain’s favourite bulb, this festival is one of a kind. Vampires beware.
For more information, visit www.garlicfestival.co.uk/.
The music stage at The Big Feastival © Getty
9. The Big Feastival: 25- 27 August
Calling all cheese lovers, this festival is the one for you. Located at Alex James’ farm in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, The Big Feastival thrives as one of the best food festivals in the UK. The farm is where James’ cheese inventions take place (including his eccentric toast-shaped, cheddar-and-tomato-ketchup-flavoured cheese ‘blankets’) – all of which can be sampled at the festival. Alongside James’ fromage masterpieces, traditional street food from Bangwok to burgers, pizza to fry ups are available in the street food tent. The evening entertainment is set to be big this year, with 17 music acts already confirmed, ranging from classical to pop to DJ sets. The stunning Cotswolds are right at your feet at this fantastically fun feast of a festival.
For further information, visit uk.thebigfeastival.com/food-and-drink.
10. Loch Lomond Food Festival: 2-3 September 2017
The Loch Lomond Food Festival set in the beautiful National Park © Loch Lomond food & Drink
Situated on the bank of the famous loch in the Loch Lomond and Trossach National Park, this is a vibrant event for all to enjoy. Loch Lomond is well known for its exhilarating activities from water sports to hiking adventures; the National Park covers an extraordinary 720 square miles, offering visitors the chance to explore the wilderness as they wish. Learn to cook enticing Scottish dishes in the festival’s food demos or discover how Highland inhabitants would have lived off the land in the Clanscape Kitchen. Guests will be in fine fettle on a full stomach of Scotland’s supreme cheeses, vegetables and meats, all washed down with a “dram” of whisky.
For more information, visit www.lochlomondfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk/festival-fun/
11. Abergavenny Food Festival: 16– 17 September
The firework party on the last night of the festival should not be missed © Simon Wheeler
Attracting visitors from across Britain, Abergavenny Food Festival is the most popular event of the year for the Welsh gateway town. Known for its thriving Welsh markets, the town remains without major industry and full of rural charm. The festival first began in response to a lack of consumer confidence when British produce came under threat from BSE and Foot and Mouth disease, aiming to showcase the best of British produce. It now claims to be the “Glastonbury of food festivals”, engaging visitors with chef masterclasses from top cooks such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as well as farmers who explain how and why we should support our local producers. After learning to cook tasty dishes in a workshop, grab a drink and join the firework party, which goes on until late in the ruins of Abergavenny castle.
For more information visit, www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com/
12. Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival: 23– 24 September
Snape Maltings, the buzzing venue for the Aldeburgh Festival ©Bokeh Photographic
A coastal town on Suffolk’s River Alde, Aldeburgh thrived in the Tudor era when the growing fish industry led to it becoming a ship-building hub, producing the Golden Hinde (first English ship to circumnavigate the world under command of Sir Francis Drake). Today Aldeburgh is best known as a seaside retreat and the festival celebrates its local produce, with various stalls displaying organic vegetables, raw milk and sourdough bread. The festival aims to promote the connection between the beautiful landscape and the local food producers, encouraging the reduction of food miles when food shopping.
For more information, visit www.aldeburghfoodanddrink.co.uk/