Why pay to get into a food festival when there are plenty of free events on offer, leaving you with money to spend on the great produce and ingredients you discover? Plan a Great British festival tour, or simply make a date to drop into an event near you. If the fruits of the sea get your taste buds tingling, head to Weymouth on July 11 or 12 for the Dorset Seafood Festival. This is renowned as being the best seafood-focussed event in the country, testified by the fact that this year’s will be the eighth event. Float your way around more than 100 stalls, where you will find plenty of tasting opportunities and chances to learn skills from some top chefs. What drink goes best with seafood? Champagne, of course, and as the event has Pommery as its sponsor – and you didn’t have to pay to get in – it would almost be rude if you didn’t enjoy a tipple. Just make sure you take the train to this one.
Head to Pontefract in West Yorkshire on July 12 for the annual Liquorice Festival. The sweet itself may not be to everyone’s taste, but there promises to be plenty of fun for all the family to enjoy. This year visitors can browse lots of liquorice-inspired stalls, where even non-fans may find a tempting treat. How about some liquorice beer or a square – or six – of fudge? There’ll also be lots of workshops on offer if you fancy learning how to make jewellery out of liquorice or want to visit the Liquorice Apothecary. Guess where the Big Cheese Festival is being held? No, it’s not in Cheddar or Cheshire, so Caerphilly must be one of the next on the list. The event, on July 24 and 26, will take pride of place in the shadow of the famous castle, where the cheese is just one of many attractions on offer. There’ll be funfair rides, fireworks, food, folk music and varied entertainment. Around 80,000 people are expected to make the journey to this year’s events, with many planning to be there at the start for the traditional Great Cheese Race. Don your fancy dress, grab some team-mates and head to the start line at 6.30pm on July 24 for the annual relay, where cheese is passed instead of the usual baton. Fireworks will follow at 10.30pm.
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Clitheroe in Lancashire is the place to be on August 8 for the popular Food Festival. Join thousands of visitors for lots of demonstrations and chances to taste and buy some great local fare. There’ll also be some bars popping up to keep you refreshed as you browse the wares of more than 100 different producers, sit in on a few workshops or just enjoy the festival atmosphere on offer. West London’s Notting Hill Carnival, meanwhile, is not a food festival in the strictest sense, but there’s no denying that it’s a foodie fest, and best of all, you can dance off all the extra calories you consume. This is a haven for the Caribbean food lover, but there are also many other types of nosh on offer over the weekend of August 30 and 31.
If you’re heading down to Cornwall for a late summer holiday, why not time it to coincide with the Great Cornish Food Festival, held in Truro between September 25 and 27? You know that the food on offer will be great – this is the home of the pasty and clotted cream, after all – and, with plenty of scrumpy cider available, the atmosphere won’t be bad either. Over 40 food experts and chefs are getting involved this year, along with more than 60 local producers. End a summer of foodie fun on September 26 at the Thame Food Festival in Oxfordshire. Frances Quinn from The Great British Bake Off is judging a Big Thame Bake contest, and there’ll be a host of expert knowledge and local fare on offer. If you’re not content for your tour to end there, head west on October 31 for the Burnham-on-Sea Food and Drink Festival in Somerset. Events will include the Great Burnham Bake Off, Brew Off and Burn Off, along with a pumpkin-carving competition to mark Halloween.