From seafood tasting to learning new vegan recipes, heading to a food festival this summer is a great way to spend time together without breaking the bank.
Move over music festivals, food festivals are experiencing a huge rise in popularity as more of us than ever are flocking to taste, nibble and sip our way around the country. 25.4 million people in the UK want to attend a food festival this year, while more people are interested in buying organic produce through farmers’ markets and local providers.
They’re fun, affordable and can even help to encourage healthier eating habits, such as trying new foods or discovering seasonal ingredients. It’s time to discover your local foodie festivals this summer; here are eight to get you started…
1. The one for grow-your-own lovers
Isle of Wight Garlic Festival
When: 17-18 August
Where: Arreton Valley, Isle of Wight
The quirky (and pungent) Garlic Festival is linked to a local garlic farm and celebrates local producers of all types. Well worth the journey on the ferry (around half an hour from Southampton or Portsmouth), visitors can sit back and tuck in, while the kids can enjoy sing-alongs, theatre and the tiny tea tent. Plus, you can learn from the experts how to grow garlic plus other herbs, fruit and veg at home.
Don’t miss: There are endless garlicky products to try, such as jumbo garlic, pickles and even garlic beer.
Tickets: Day tickets £12.50.
2. The one for barbecue buffs
River Cottage Festival
When: 25-26 August
Where: Axminster (between Dorset and Devon)
Created by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall himself, this weekend is all about fun and feasting on the farm. Think botanical drinks, succulent meat from the fire pit and foraging classes with wild food expert John Wright. When you’re sated, there’s also stargazing, yoga and a ‘calm corner’ dedicated to all things mindfulness.
Don’t miss: The wood-fired master classes – there’s one for veggie, meat and fish lovers.
Tickets: Day tickets £25, under 16s are free.
3. The one for party lovers
The Big Feastival
When: 23-25 August
Where: Kingham, Costwolds
Hosted by chef Alex James on the August Bank Holiday, this festival has a fun party atmosphere, with music by Elbow, Jess Glynne, Lewis Capaldi and even a gospel karaoke choir. There’s something to suit all palates too – from Michelin-starred chefs to street food.
Don’t miss: The Big Kitchen is the place to watch some real foodie magic – Great British Chef Chantelle Nicholson will take to the stage alongside Prue Leith and Mark Hix.
Tickets: Day tickets from £67, under 12s are free.
4. The one for Scottish feasters
Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival
When: 7-8 September
Where: Loch Lomond, Scotland
Set on the banks of beautiful Loch Lomond, surrounded by the Trossachs National Park, this family-friendly festival is a feast of local Scottish food and drink. Take in all that fresh air while learning about organic produce or take a healthy mocktail master class.
Don’t miss: The amazing foodie demonstrations always draw a crowd – especially local chef, Martin Sweeney (now Head Chef at Hix in London).
5. The one for adventurers
The Good Life Experience
When: 12-15 September
Where: Flintshire, Wales
Fancy a long, idyllic weekend in the Welsh countryside? This one is perfect for adventurous types with everything from axe throwing to archery on offer. The foodie experiences are one-of-a-kind – you could be making campfire S’mores with local chocolatiers, Scandi-inspired hot toddies or fermenting fresh veg. The chef line up includes plant-based chef Anna Jones and Olia Hercules, a specialist in hearty Ukrainian dishes.
Don’t miss: On Sunday, the Vegetarian Society will be hosting the ultimate vegan Sunday lunch – perfect for meat-loving sceptics.
Tickets: 2 nights camping from £149, day tickets from £85.
6. The one for curious cooks
Abergavenny Food Festival
When: 21-22 September
Where: Abergavenny, Wales
Now in its 21st year, Abergavenny is a staple on the summer food festival calendar. It’s known for bringing together chefs, local food businesses, farmers and producers to share ideas and taste amazing food. Check out the food markets – Red Square offers a range of healthy groceries, while New Producers’ Market heroes the latest brands on the block. Or, book into the cookery school to learn how to chef up unusual cuts of meat, dinner party dishes or healthy meals with humble store cupboard ingredients.
Don’t miss: The panel discussions will tackle everything from the latest trends to food’s thorniest topics; including diet and mental health and the future of farming.
Tickets: Day wristbands are £10.
7. The one for seafood lovers
Falmouth Oyster Festival
When: 10-13 October
Where: Falmouth, Cornwall
This stunning part of Cornwall is well-known for its fresh native oysters – one of the richest foods in immune-boosting zinc did you know? Tuck into other Cornish produce, chill out in the many seafood bars or enter the oyster shucking competition if you’re feeling lucky.
Don’t miss: The Grand Oyster Parade involves local school children leading a colourful procession through the town, to the tune of sea shanties and folk songs of course.
8. The one for vegans, veggies and flexitarians
When: 26-27 October
Where: Olympia, London
One of London’s biggest veggie food festivals, you’ll find 320 stalls dedicated to plant-based brands. Visitors can learn how to cook up a summer vegan barbecue, visit the holistic health hub or wise up on their grow-your-own skills.
Don’t miss: Once you’ve fuelled up on all that vegetarian fare, chill out in the yoga area (there’s even a rainbow yoga section for kids).
Tickets: Day tickets from £13.20 (tickets available from 1 August 2019).