Home Culinary Travel Culinary Tourism Report: The UK’s best-kept foodie spots

Culinary Tourism Report: The UK’s best-kept foodie spots

Cumbria, UK

The global culinary tourism market is projected to reach US$4.12 billion by 2029, with 27% of travelers choosing vacations based on the local food scene. This trend highlights the growing interest in palate-led tourism, which doesn’t require a visit to big cities for high-quality food. Instead, one can venture to quaint villages and towns boasting underrated culinary gems that promise to impress.

Sally’s Cottages has conducted a study to assist those with a penchant for gastronomy by uncovering the UK’s most underrated foodie towns and villages. The study evaluated 15 factors, including TripAdvisor data, Michelin-star awards, and National Restaurant Award rankings, to assign a score for quality, diversity, and inclusivity, ultimately identifying the top destinations for food enthusiasts.

Sally’s has also teamed up with Paul Leonard, Head Chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Forest Side, to discuss why the Lake District has become a magnet for foodies, and discover his picks for some of the area’s unmissable foodie gems.

The top 10 foodie destinations were revealed as:

RankLocationQuality ScoreDiversity ScoreInclusivityTotal Score
1Cartmel, Lake District3.930.971.069.90
2Bray, Berkshire3.331.880.028.57
3Fence, Lancashire0.996.260.088.33
4Colerne, Wiltshire0.636.330.037.61
5Crieff, Perthshire3.350.100.126.91
6Port Isaac, Cornwall0.884.160.116.04
7Grasmere, Cumbria2.000.571.225.80
8Auchterarder, Perthshire2.450.060.265.22
9Hambleton, North Yorkshire0.511.092.594.70
10Ambleside, Cumbria1.610.530.744.50

Taking a look at the top three destinations in more depth:

1. Cartmel, Cumbria 

Taking the top spot is the historic village of Cartmel. Sitting on the south of Windermere Lake on the way towards the coast, the village has some of the best pubs, inns and restaurants in the Lake District including Michelin-starred establishments such as L’Enclume and Rogan & Co. Cartmel is also home to the famous sticky toffee pudding, so you can try the famous dessert in its authentic form.

The village has plenty of options for vegans and coeliacs, such as The Cavendish Arms and The Kings Arms. If you’re looking for budget-friendly bites, don’t forget to check out the classic Cartmel Village Shop and Mallard Tea Shop.

2. Bray, Berkshire 

In the second position, we have the picturesque Bray, known for its half-timbered houses and calming Thames views. The village is home to three Michelin-starred restaurants including The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn. It also has plenty of options for vegans and coeliacs such as Pink Salt and Dockyard No 8. Lovers of Asian and Mediterranean cuisines can also find plenty of options like Koi Japanese and Caldesi in Campagna.

3. Fence, Lancashire 

Fence ranks as the third-best destination for foodies, with one Michelin-starred restaurant, The White Swan, and many other quality establishments such as The Sparrowhawk and Forest Fence, the village has a great gastropub scene, perfect for those looking to indulge in high-quality food in a pub-like atmosphere.  

Fence has the highest diversity score (6.26) in our list due to the number of cuisines available, making it perfect for foodies who enjoy trying different types of foods.

The Lake District’s best-kept secret is its food scene

According to Paul, The Lake District has a lot to offer and could be considered the next foodie capital of the UK for a variety of reasons. Talking about his favourite Cumbrian foods, he says:

“The Herdwick lamb is a favorite of mine because it’s grown and produced here in the Lakes. The story of the actual sheep is phenomenal, and the flavor is incredible, with nice and dense meat and a lovely fat covering.” 

He further continues: “You might not know that sticky toffee pudding was invented in the Lake District too, so you’ll find some of the best pudding options at restaurants in this area.

“Rapeseed oil is the only cooking oil grown in Cumbria and we use it in our dishes. Cartmel in particular has some great cheese made from goat’s milk, sold at St James Cheese – it’s a must try if you come to Cumbria.”

Paul has also revealed his favorite Lake District cafés and pubs:

  • More Bakery for their Danish pastries
  • Homeground offers incredible coffee and brunch
  • Chesters by the River is a hidden vegan gem with super organic food
  • Horsehead Brew for the best Lake District beer

Commenting on the research, Sarah Pring, Digital PR Manager at Sally’s Cottages says: “The Lake District is such an amazing place for finding local and natural food produce, and every restaurant in the region has access to such incredible ingredients that it’s difficult to see why you wouldn’t want to come here on a gastronomic getaway!”