One-product festivals: the events that make one ingredient the star of the show

There is a plethora of food festivals across the UK devoted to showcasing one product, all staunch supporters of their chosen foodie niche, be it garlic, coffee, cheese, seafood or, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, watercress. Whether you go along because you share their passion or simply because you’re curious about why they love this one ingredient so much, you’re sure to have a jolly good day out and learn something new too.

Rye Bay Scallop Week, Rye

Saturday February 21 2015 to Sunday March 01 2015

Not content with dedicating a couple of days to the beloved scallop, the team behind this East Sussex festival have put together a week-long programme of scallop-based events, tastings and demonstrations. Across the week, eateries in Rye will be offering scallop dishes specially created for the occasion, local chefs will be sharing their culinary wisdom at cooking demos, and a toe-tapping soundtrack will be provided by some fantastic live bands. If you don’t manage to make it to this scallop extravaganza, though, not to worry, as many of Rye’s fantastic restaurants serve scallops and other seafood delicacies throughout the year. Basically, Rye loves scallops, and you will too. 

The Little Orchard Cider & Music Festival, Penhallow

Friday September 11 2015 to Sunday September 13 2015

Cider and music are a perfect pairing, and both are on offer in abundance at The Little Orchard Cider & Music Festival in Cornwall. After the huge success of the first event, the Little Apple festival, last year, it’s back with a new name and an even bigger line-up. You’d be hard-pushed to find a better venue for a cider festival – Healey’s Farm is home to the famous Rattler Cider, and the team here really know their stuff when it comes to a good pint. There will be over 100 real ales and ciders from traditional and creative producers from Cornwall and beyond, and you’ll be able to sip your chosen pint while watching some fantastic live bands – this year’s event will be hosting three stages in 2015, including an exclusive BBC Introducing stage, just like at Glastonbury. 

Isle of Wight Garlic Festival, Sandown

Saturday August 15 2015 to Sunday August 16 2015

A chef’s best friend and vampire’s worst enemy, garlic provides the base for many a tasty dish and is given the credit it deserves at this popular annual festival on the lovely Isle of Wight, which is known for its fantastic garlic. Here you’ll find a seemingly endless array of stalls dedicated to this kitchen staple, as well as live music and plenty of entertainment for the kids. You can grab garlicky delights such as garlic fudge in the giant garlic marquee, as well as, of course, garlic bulbs of all varieties to purchase and take home with you. You can also pick up some new skills at the cookery demonstrations, and learn all about the many culinary and medicinal uses of good old garlic at the various talks and presentations. If you weren’t garlic’s biggest fan before, you will be after visiting this festival.

The London Coffee Festival, London

Thursday April 30 2015 to Sunday May 03 2015

There’s a latte to love about The London Coffee Festival. Even if you aren’t a complete coffee addict, this event is bound to mocha you crazy about your morning cup of Joe – and if you’re a big fan of getting your caffeine fix, why haven’t you bean before? All puns aside, The London Coffee Festival is a must for discerning coffee lovers looking to celebrate and discover more about the capital’s buzzing coffee scene (and you’ll probably be buzzing yourself come home time after sampling all that coffee). Along with the other 22,000 coffee lovers set to attend, you can browse over 250 artisan coffee and gourmet food stalls, watch demonstrations from world-class baristas and join in at the interactive workshops. There will also be tasty street food to pair with your coffee – or coffee cocktail – and live music, DJs and art exhibitions will provide the entertainment. 

Alresford Watercress Festival, Alresford

Sunday May 17 2015

Giving humble watercress its moment in the spotlight, Alresford pays tribute to this locally grown crop every year by holding a nationally acclaimed festival in its honour – in fact, it’s been an annual fixture for the last ten years. There’s a watercress king and queen (who hand out the first of the season’s crop to the crowds at the festival’s main event, the street cavalcade), a watercress eating challenge, the Watercress Food Awards, cookery demos, a huge market selling delicious local produce and much more besides. Alresford proves that there’s more to this versatile and often-overlooked member of the brassicaceae plant family than you might think.

Asparafest, Evesham 

Saturday May 30 2015 to Sunday May 31 2015

Asparagus is more often a side dish than the main event, but that’s not the case at this festival at Ashdown Farm near Evesham. The not-for-profit Asparafest, which is in its third year, is very community-minded – not only does it bring local people and visitors together to celebrate all things asparagus, it also helps out worthy local causes too. Asparagus-related events include the crowning of the asparagus king and queen, asparagus eating competitions, appearances from Gus the Asparaman and the Asparafairy (no, we don’t know either) and, of course, lots of opportunities to savour freshly cut local asparagus. It’s not all about asparagus, though – live bands and TV personalities will be in attendance and there will be family crafts and other events to get stuck into, as well as craft and food stalls aplenty to peruse. 

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Speyside

Thursday April 30 2015 to Monday May 04 2015

The Speyside region is well-known for its cornucopia of whisky distilleries – in fact, it produces more than any other area of Scotland – and since 1999 has been honouring its whisky-making heritage with the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. Rather than taking place in one location, this festival spans a variety of events across the region in Rothes, Elgin, Aviemore, Aberlour and the other settlements in the area. Goings-on include tastings and tours of distilleries, open doors events at local landmarks and, of course, the prestigious Whisky Awards. If you like a wee dram, get thee to the Spirit of Speyside.   

Artisan Cheese Fair, Melton Mowbray

Saturday May 02 2015 to Sunday May 03 2015

It would Brie awful to miss out on the Artisan Cheese Fair, so you’d better make Edam sure you put it in your diary. This is one of the biggest festivals in the country devoted to cheese, with many rare varieties available to taste and buy, as well as cheeseboard regulars like Cheddar and Stilton. In fact, there will be over 50 cheesemakers in attendance who, between them, produce over 250 cheeses. Of course, being in Melton Mowbray, its famous pork pies can also be sampled here, and there will be ales, wines, chutneys and other produce available to purchase too. Be sure to also catch the talks, demonstrations and tastings given by industry experts, including the School of Artisan Food and the Stilton Cheesemakers Association.

Oxford Wine Festival, Oxford Union

Friday August 21 2015 to Saturday August 22 2015

Oxford is a cultured, refined city known for its beautiful historic buildings and, of course, its world-famous university. Surely, then, there could be no better backdrop to a celebration of that most sophisticated of beverages, wine. The Oxford Wine Festival is held in the grand Oxford Union building and showcases award-winning wines from over 20 countries. Oenophiles and wine newbies alike from across the UK flock here to take part in tutored tastings led by prominent wine experts and educators. While you imbibe a libation (or two) you’ll be treated to delicious nibbles and live music. 

Meatopia, London

Saturday September 19 2015 to Sunday September 20 2015

This festival’s name speaks for itself – it’s all about meat, meat and more meat. Not just any meat, though – premium, ethically sourced, local, organic meat is the name of the game here, all cooked over a real wood or charcoal fire (you’ll find no butane or propane at this barbecue). Every part of the animal, from head to toe, is used to ensure no meaty goodness goes to waste. Over 20 international chefs will be taking to the demo stage each day, and there will be plenty of samples and tasters on offer, plus a profusion of quality ciders and artisan craft beers to wash it all down with.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, Galway

Thursday September 24 2015 to Sunday September 27 2015

This has to be one of the longest-running food festivals in the UK – it has taken place every year since 1954, making 2015 its 61st anniversary. Galway is a coastal spot that is naturally ideal for oyster cultivation, so it stands to reason its people want to celebrate this local delicacy by holding a shindig in its honour. There’s so much going on it would be impossible to list it all – local restaurants will be getting involved in the action with special menus, the best oyster-shuckers in the world will be competing at the renowned Guinness World Oyster Opening Championship, and there will be cookery demonstrations, live music, a cooking challenge and plenty to do for the kids as well. No wonder it’s been going for 61 years.

The Great British Beer Festival, London

Tuesday August 11 2015 to Saturday August 15 2015

CAMRA is known for being an authority on beer, so it stands to reason it should host its very own beer festival. Impressively, this annual festival has been attracting hundreds of beer aficionados from across the country for the last 38 years. This year’s event will see over 900 real ales on offer from microbreweries and beloved British brands, including limited edition brews and one-off specials, along with hundreds of bottled and foreign beers and a host of real ciders and perries. In true CAMRA spirit, there will also be games, quizzes, live entertainment and snacks to enjoy alongside your pint. 

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