VICKY ROGERS selects her pick of the best coastal seafood extravaganzas taking place this year.
Forget Glastonbury or the Isle of Wight Festival… these popular, ultra-local events ooze with atmosphere and all have one delectable thing in common – great seafood! Featuring superb music, beautiful coastal settings and so much more, there are day or weekend-long events the length and breadth of the country, not to be missed.
1. Salcombe Crabfest, South Devon – April 30
Kicking off the 2023 seafood festival season is Salcombe Crabfest. A fabulous celebration of south Devon’s flavoursome brown crab, this is an action-packed day out and is completely free to attend.
For one day only, much of the pretty sailing town of Salcombe becomes pedestrianised, making way for an incredible meandering street market, selling everything from crab pasties to artwork and clothing.
With a chefs’ demo marquee on the town’s quayside, visitors will be treated to show cookery from locally and nationally acclaimed chefs – learn a host of new crab dishes, and pick up some top tips and techniques on easily preparing this delicious crustacean. With past visiting chefs including BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen host Matt Tebbutt, plus fellow TV regulars Freddy Bird and Jane Baxter, the demos are always popular so be sure to get your seats early.
Featuring live music, street entertainment for the children, and tasty food and drink options aplenty, this is a guaranteed great day out resulting in happy families and full tummies.
2. St Ives Food and Drink Festival, Cornwall – May 12-14
Spanning three days, this festival has all the ingredients for the perfect weekend – particularly if you are a beach lover, shopaholic, food fanatic…or all three! Taking place on Porthminster beach, visitors will be treated to countless food workshops and demonstrations, an artisan market, kids activities (with a dedicated children’s area), live music and so much more.
With a keen emphasis on positively impacting the town, expect an abundance of local produce and handmade wares, a wealth of opportunities for recycling and a real focus on reducing single use plastics.
The main festival is free to attend, so pop along and grab fish tacos or grilled lobster for lunch, before settling on the sand to soak up the atmosphere in the Cornish sunshine.
3. Whitby Fish and Ships Festival, North Yorkshire – May 20-21
Celebrating north Yorkshire’s wonderful fishing heritage, this festival makes its welcome return over two days this May. Throughout the festival, there will be a host of live cookery demonstrations in the seafood kitchens on Dock End, Endeavour Wharf and the Fish Quay. The many well-known chefs appearing will be on hand to offer hints, tips and insights on preparing a wide variety of locally sourced fish and seafood.
There will also be shanty singing, street entertainment for the children and various educational workshops. Visit the library and local museums where you can immerse yourself in fascinating interactive experiences…the Fish and Ships Festival provides great opportunities to both try and learn new things, whatever your age!
4. Tarbert Seafood Festival, Argyll, Scotland – July 1-2
The traditional fishing village of Tarbert on Scotland’s south coast is no stranger to festivals, hosting up to ten events each year – but their annual Seafood Festival is certainly one of their most popular weekends with both locals and visitors alike.
On the Saturday, the stunning harbour overlooking Loch Fyne becomes lined with stallholders selling local fish and seafood, whilst the Sunday afternoon is all about ‘Beer on the Pier’, with live bands and great lunch options – a fun open-air party for all!
Cookery demonstrations take place on the quay throughout the weekend, but one of the main attractions has to be the crowning of the Seafood Festival Queen and her Princesses. The Queen travels to the ceremony via fishing boat, and then leads a unique festival parade through the village.
5. Lymington Seafood Festival, Hampshire – July 14-16
Described as a boutique festival, this popular three-day event brings together Hampshire’s very best food and drink producers. Now in its seventh year, the event has gone from strength to strength, boasting over 80 market stalls, family entertainment and superb music – including Saturday night’s headline tribute act, Tina Turner.
Expect all things fishy on the menu, so whatever you are in the mood for, you’ll be well catered for. Located on the water’s edge, with incredible views over the Solent, this is a very special place to spend your weekend.
6. Rock Oyster Festival, Cornwall – July 27-30
One of the largest seafood events taking place this year is Rock Oyster Festival. Set on the banks of the Camel estuary in North Cornwall, this four-day event is within the spectacular Dinham House Estate and provides a haven for food lovers.
Festival goers will find the chefs tipi section bustling with cookery demonstrations all weekend, whilst music fans will be treated to Nile Rodgers and Chic, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, to name just two!
If you’ve eaten too much or are struggling with sore feet, head to the wellness tent for yoga and meditation – or join the early morning stand-up paddleboarding sessions. For the children there is also a dedicated section, where they can learn everything from circus skills to den building.
7. The Cardigan River and Food Festival, Wales – August 19
With unspoilt views of the Cardigan River, this is a day out brimming with Wales’ finest street food vendors, brewers and bakers, offering options to tickle everyone’s taste buds!
The dedicated food court marquee takes over Cardigan’s main car park, and is filled with both traditional and more unusual food and drink options, ranging from Welsh cakes to seafood paella. As well as great food, the festival also has an excellent choice of entertainment, including dancing, singing and children’s craft activities.
8. Seafeast, The Dorset Seafood Festival, Weymouth – September 9-10
Perfectly positioned on Weymouth Peninsular, the festival is on the beach, yet just yards from the harbourside. The event prides itself on offering over 40 species of locally, responsibly sourced fish, from crab and lobster to Dover sole and dab! Navigating Seafeast couldn’t be easier – simply download the ‘Seafeast menu’ for a full run-down of the incredible dishes on offer from street vendors, along with their location.
Don’t miss the talented local chefs demonstrating in the cookery theatre, the talks from Dorset’s ‘Seafood Heroes’, the numerous local bands and musicians performing, or the children’s cookery workshops. It is certainly a fun-filled two days for all who attend! The event raises much needed funds for the Fishermen’s Mission, which supports local fishermen and their families.
9. Stranraer Oyster Festival, Scotland – September 15-17
Where better to celebrate great oysters than in the pretty Scottish town of Stranraer? Positioned at the top of Loch Ryan – the most southerly of all the Scottish sea lochs – Stranraer Oyster Festival is a community celebration of the town’s wild and native oyster bed. A three-day homage to this highly decorated and world classed commodity, the festival includes everything from cookery demos to ‘extreme pond dipping!’ in the loch.
Watch the unmissable Scottish Oyster Shucking Championships and the oyster eating competition, before taking the kids to the children’s marquee for a little pirate skulduggery, or a boogie at the silent disco.
10. Hastings Seafood and Wine Festival, Sussex – September 16-17
There’s arguably no better combination – mouth-watering seafood and exquisite wine! Hastings Seafood and Wine Festival brings together the impressive choice of award-winning wines produced in local vineyards, with the delectable seafood caught off Hastings Old Town’s lively fishing beaches… enjoy fresh and tasty food and drink sourced, grown or created yards away, not miles.
Highlights of this weekend long event include the Sunday morning live jazz breakfast, and cookery demonstrations in the ‘Classroom on the Coast’, from chefs including Sunday Brunch star CJ Jackson and festival regulars, the ever popular ‘Tush’ and Pat Hamilton.
11. England’s Seafood FEAST 2023, South Devon – September 29-October 15
This is a far cry from a traditional seafood festival. Taking place across the south Devon towns of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay, this fortnight-long ‘feast’ aims to give visitors the chance to experience some of the best seafood in the world, right where it is caught.
The heart of the festival is Brixham Fish Market, where England’s biggest catch by value is landed; over 40 species of fish and shellfish are regularly sold at the daily auction. During the festival there will be regular tours of the market taking place at 6am.
Over the two weeks, local eateries across the towns will be hosting various individual events – from seafood set menus and celebration suppers, to crab cracking masterclasses. Other activities include wild sea swimming, stand up paddleboarding and nature walks with local experts… followed by more delectable seafood of course.
12. Falmouth Oyster Festival, Cornwall – October 12-15
Another celebration of oysters and all their tasty goodness, Falmouth Oyster Festival is an all-round fun weekend. In addition to the cookery demos and master classes, the main stage plays host to an annual Oyster Shucking competition – a hotly-contested event that draws huge crowds.
Looking for a little lunch? In addition to the wealth of food vendors and stalls selling pleasing treats, there is also a dedicated Oyster Bar, and an equally popular Champagne Bar! Other entertainment comes in the form of the working boat race in the inner harbour, along with musical interludes from the likes of Cornish singers The Oggymen to round things off.
13. Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey Festival, Northern Ireland – October
The picturesque village of Bushmills hosts its very own Salmon and Whiskey Festival each year, allowing visitors and locals alike to experience the exceptional food and drink found in this stunning place, on Northern Ireland’s rugged coastline. Split over two days, with workshops and samples, whiskey tours and salmon smoking demonstrations, there is plenty to learn and taste!
On both days, venture out on the dedicated Bushmills taste trail – visit the many restaurants and venues playing host, serving everything from festival themed cocktails, to smoke-house fishy treats. Enjoy exhibitions, foraging walks, book signings and more. Keep an eye on their website for date confirmation.
14. Clovelly Herring Festival, North Devon – November 19
One of the last seafood festivals of the year is Clovelly Herring Festival. Always falling in November, this popular event celebrates the arrival of the great ‘silver darlings’ – otherwise known as herring – to North Devon’s shores.
Those attending can sample both fresh and smoked herring, see how delicate tasting kippers and bloaters are made, and learn about the history of this nutritious fish, with maritime historian Mike Smylie’s ‘Kipperland’ exhibition.
In addition to some fantastic street food available, including a host of fishy delicacies, there will also be entertainment and workshops for the children, live music and a full exhibition of Clovelly herring fishing. An important part of the village’s heritage, this celebration is both an interesting and tasty day out!
Looking for more ideas for some fun coastal activities on the coast this year? Check out the latest things to do!