Food Festivals and Events
Not only do we have a fondness for eating in this part of the world, but there’s always an excuse to celebrate food too!
Every year there is a plethora of annual events celebrating local foods. The apple blossom season in May is marked with tours, tastings and markets in County Armagh, while our fishing heritage is celebrated with a summer of festivals, cookery demonstrations, and competitions in fishing ports.
Those with an appetite for oysters and stout can compete for international championship titles at the hugely popular Hillsborough Oyster Festival. At Christmas time Belfast City Hall hosts a Continental Market, where glüwein, German sausages, pretzels and sugary sweets enhance the Christmas sparkle of the city centre.
Below are some of the main food (and drink) events taking place during the year.
Apple Blossom Festival, County Armagh, May – Celebrate the beautiful apple blossom season in the orchard county of Armagh.
Open Farm Weekend, various locations around NI, June – This free event gives families the opportunity to explore their local farm, learning about its history whilst exploring the land and interacting with the animals.
Comber Potato Festival, Comber, County Down, June – This special event is held to celebrate one of Comber's most famous exports: its potatoes, which in 2012 were granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status under European law. The festival is a fun and educational event, with great food, and entertainment. Admission is free.
Irish Game Fair & Fine Food Festival, Shane's Castle, County Antrim, June – This is part of the Irish Game Fair, a country lifestyle event. Game and fish cookery demos, and the opportunity to sample produce from Ireland's leading artisan producers. http://
Flavours of the Foyle Seafood Festival, Derry~Londonderry, July – This major seafood festival includes a boulevard of chefs with restaurant-kitchens cooking high quality seafood.
Auld Lammas Fair, Ballycastle, County Antrim, August – Ireland’s oldest traditional market fair. Sample the local specialities, ‘dulse’ a dried edible seaweed, and the deliciously sweet chewy ‘yellow man’, made from a closely guarded secret recipe.
Dalriada Festival, Glenarm Castle, County Antrim, July – Highlighting the unique historic Sporting, Music and Food cultures of both Ireland and Scotland, there is a fine food courtyard at this event showcasing lots of high quality local producers.
Hilden Beer Festival, Lisburn, County Antrim, August – With more than 30 international beers on offer, this weekend event should whet the whistle.
The Festival of Fish, County Down, August – Seafood tasting, competitions and festive menus, as the four fishing villages of Kilkeel, Annalong, Ardglass and Portavogie celebrate seafood over the bank holiday weekend in August.
Clandeboye Food & Craft Festival, Clandeboye Estate, Bangor, County Down, August – Promoting locally produced foods and original crafts! All the family welcome.
River to Lough Festival, Toomebridge, County Antrim, August – This festival celebrates Lough Neagh eels, a world-famous delicacy and one of Northern Ireland's three EU Protected Geographical Indication foods. The Eel Fishery opens its doors to the public to showcase the industry with events including cookery demonstrations, tours, displays, live music and a pop-up restaurant.
Hillsborough International Oyster Festival, Hillsborough, County Down, September – Held every first weekend in September in the historic village of Hillsborough, the festival features local food and light-hearted events such as the World Oyster Eating Championships.
Larne Loves Food, Larne, County Antrim, September – Come along to this weekend festival and enjoy food demonstrations by chefs from Taste of Ulster and the 'Focus on Food' Stall with samples from local food retailers as well as family entertainment.
The Hans Sloane Chocolate and Fine Food Festival, Killyleagh, County Down, September (bi-annual) – A selection of the finest food producers from County Down and many of the best Chocolatiers from Ireland take part at the event. So browse the many stalls, enjoy the cookery demonstrations, taste, nibble and buy from a wonderful array of goodies.
Autumn Fair, Botanic Gardens, Belfast, September – A weekend of food, flowers and family fun with an array of live music, children’s entertainment and autumn flower show exhibitions.Tesco Taste Festival, Belfast, September – This excellent foodie event returns to Belfast's Custom House Square and showcases all that’s great about Northern Ireland food and drink producers, suppliers and chefs. It promises a superb weekend of tasting, demonstrations, cookery tips and recipes using top local produce, and entertainment for all the family!
The Bushmills Salmon & Whiskey Festival, Bushmills, County Antrim, September – Boasts a full programme of events. With culinary displays, stage performances, market stalls, history talks and tours, family entertainment, fancy dress, traditional games, community competitions as well as a stunning fireworks display.
Food & Drink Show Northern Ireland, Belfast – Will return in October 2016, for its debut at the Titanic Exhibition Centre. A feast of celebrity entertainment, cooking inspiration, sampling and shopping, plus your favourite celebrity chefs.
Belfast Beer & Festival, Belfast, November – a three-day celebration of great beer and cider. There are also two food stalls and a great selection of live music featuring a variety of local artists will give real atmosphere.
Continental Market at Belfast City Hall, Belfast, County Antrim, November and December – This vibrant market offers a fusion of tempting continental and speciality foods as well as some local delights, as well as a great selection of crafts and gifts.
St George's Christmas Market Light Switch-on, Belfast, December – Enjoy the best seasonal food, tastes and smells brought by local producers in Northern Ireland’s best food market.
Find out more about the Year of Food and Drink 2016 celebrations.