From the oyster-shucking festivals of Scotland’s east coast, across the rolling countryside down to the Isle of Wight’s aromatic Garlic Farm, our nation’s diverse regional produce is something to be truly celebrated.
And what better way is there to do a weekend food shop than milling around a marketplace sampling the best of the UK’s cuisine, while supporting local producers? Learn the secrets behind each type of food directly from the supplier, arguably the person with the most knowledge about it.
Regional foodie Natasha Goodfellow rounds up her pick of the best food festivals in the UK to get in the diary now.
Alresford Watercress festival, Hampshire
15 May 2022
Every year, the pretty Hampshire town of Alresford plays host to a festival celebrating all things watercress. The highlight is a parade where the watercress king and queen distribute the first of the season’s harvest. There’s also a watercress-eating championship (now in the Guinness Book of Records), cookery demonstrations, a street market, Morris dancers and Punch and Judy shows, all in honour of this nutritious leaf.
Irish Game Fair & Fine Food Festival, Antrim
25–26 June 2022
Artisan producers from across Ireland take part in this festival at Shane’s Castle in Antrim, which is rooted in preserving the Irish countryside. Expect falconry displays, carriage riding events, dog shows plus game and fish cookery demos.
Dalemain marmalade festival, CUMBRIA
Date to be confirmed
Jane Hasell-McCosh, chatelaine of Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria, dreamt up the World Marmalade Awards in 2005 to attract tourists to the region after the Foot & Mouth outbreak. A huge success, the accompanying festival now boasts everything from orange-dyed sheep to a visit from Paddington Bear, of course.
Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
23–24 July 2022
Funkirk Farm in Skipton is the venue for this two-day extravaganza offering live celebrity demos by the likes of James Martin and The Hairy Bikers, alongside workshops, masterclasses and hundreds of foodie exhibitors.
Isle of Wight Garlic Festival
20–21 August 2022
A heady mix of country fair, pop festival and a vampire’s worst nightmare, this festival offers everything from garlic beer and ice cream to fudge, with much of the raw ingredients grown just minutes away at the island’s multi-award winning garlic farm.
Meatopia On Fire, London
2–4 September 2022
Top chefs from around the world assemble for this visceral celebration of meat and fire at Tobacco Dock in East London. It’s a party with principles though – the festival’s manifesto insists on ethically produced and sustainable ingredients and extols the benefits of nose-to-tail eating.
Stranraer Oyster Festival, Scotland
10–11 September 2022
The UK’s native oyster season opens on 1 September and the boats here need at least a week to land enough for this fun festival on the shores of Loch Ryan. Witness the high-stakes Oyster Shucking Championship in which chefs from all over Scotland compete, or grab a napkin and enter the oyster-eating competition yourself.
Abergavenny Food Festival, Wales
17–18 September 2022
Since it was first founded by two farmers in 1999, Abergavenny Food Festival has become one of Britain’s leading food events, with talks and workshops. The Saturday night party at the castle is legendary.