Feast on delicious local food, from Scottish haggis to Cornish pasties.
Arbroath Smokies, Arbroath, Scotland
An Arbroath Smokie is a haddock that has been salted and smoked over hardwood to produce a fish with an intense, rich smoky flavour and burnished copper colouring. The fish are now protected by the European Commission in the same way as Champagne – only haddock smoked in the traditional manner within an 8km radius of Arbroath are considered the genuine article. These days they’re exported all over the world and few producers rival Iain Spink.
Gower Salt Marsh Lamb, Gower Peninsula, Wales
These lambs graze on Llanrhidian Marsh, part of the National Trust's Weobley Castle Farm on the Gower Peninsula. This tidal marsh supports the salt-tolerant grasses and herbs of samphire, sorrel, sea lavender and thrift that the lambs feed on. This gives Gower Salt Marsh Lamb its distinct, rich flavour sought after by top chefs and restaurateurs the world over.
We’ve all heard of haggis. But do we actually know what it is? Well, recipes vary, but generally, haggis is the minced offal of a sheep, pig or cow mixed with suet, onions, oatmeal, spices and seasoning boiled in the stomach of the animal (or more contemporary synthetic equivalent). Not for the squeamish, then, but if you hunt down good quality haggis you’ll be surprised how delicious it is.
Devonshire cream teas, Devon, England
Thanks to its lush natural pastures, Devonshire clotted cream is some of the most scrumptious you’re likely to find. For those of you who haven’t sampled it, clotted cream is a thick, velvety cream that’s especially good spread over a freshly baked scone with a generous helping of strawberry jam to go with it. You just need a pot of hot tea to wash it down and you’ve got a real Devonshire cream tea.
We’ve cheated a little bit here and included cheese in general. It’s a nationwide obsession that comes in a bewildering array of styles and flavours. Try tangy Blue Stilton, made at only 6 dairies worldwide by law; tasty, nettle-wrapped Yarg from Cornwall or the original and best Cheddar from the West Country. We produce over 700 named cheeses throughout the UK, so you’re bound to find something to your taste.
Bakewell Pudding, Derbyshire, England
Supposedly invented by accident, the Bakewell Pudding comes from the Derbyshire town of Bakewell. The story goes that in 1820, cooking instructions for a jam tart were misunderstood by the cook at the White Horse Inn, and the almond paste and egg mixture was spread on top of the jam, instead of being mixed into the pastry. The Bakewell Pudding was born, and was a big hit among the inn’s customers. Don’t confuse it with the commercially produced, iced Bakewell tart you’ll find in most supermarkets.
Gingerbread, Grasmere, Lake District, England
Ok we know: you can get gingerbread in lots of places. But not like this. Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread takes the confection to a whole new level. The recipe has remained unchanged since she created it in the 1850s, and the tiny shop where it’s sold is the original cottage where she lived and worked. While you’re feasting, be sure to explore the village. This was where celebrated English poet William Wordsworth settled after being enchanted by the landscapes of the Lake District. His home, Dove Cottage, is now a popular museum.
Pork pies, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England
There are pork pies and then there are golden, hand-crimped pastry treasure chests encasing the best cuts of pork and the richest jelly. And the place to unearth these nuggets of perfection? Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. Visit the Dickinson and Morris pie shop in the centre of town to find the original and best pies and to try your hand at making your own.
Cornish Pasty, Cornwall, England
Another local legend that has been tainted by mass production is the Cornish pasty. The Cornish Pasty Association states that “a genuine Cornish pasty has a distinctive 'D' shape and is crimped on one side, never on top. The texture of the filling for the pasty is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede or turnip, potato and onion and a light peppery seasoning”. So, there you have it. Accept no imitations, head to Cornwall and track down the real thing.
Welsh Cakes, Wales
Wherever you go in Wales, chances are you’ll be offered a Welsh cake at some point during your stay. Often they’re served warm with a big mug of tea. People usually have their own family recipe, but the standard version is a modest round of cake packed with dried fruit and dusted with sugar. They’re sometimes known locally as bakestones, as they were originally cooked on a bakestone – an early type of griddle. At Maddocks’ tea room, near Swansea, you can buy gift boxes of 20. For a special treat, try their Welsh Whisky Welshcakes, infused with Penderyn single malt.