The Culinary Tourism Report holiday cottages

The Culinary Tourism Report

Ellen Drowne 21 March 2024

The global culinary tourism industry is expected to reach US$4.12 billion by 2029, and we have it on good authority that travellers in 2024 are expected to plan trips based on the delicious delights they’d like to indulge in!

After all, we did find out from our very own Outdoor Trends Report that restaurants are a major factor for as many as 27% of people when figuring out where to book a staycation. With the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK (outside of London), Cumbria’s thriving gastronomy scene deserves to be put on the map – in the UK and beyond!

To help you taste-bud-oriented tourists out, we’ve created an index of the UK’s best culinary areas, all based on factors such as Tripadvisor data, National Restaurant Award ranking, search data, and the number of fine dining restaurants per capita. We also got chatting with our good pal, Cumbrian Michelin star chef and Head Chef at Forest Side, Paul Leonard, to tell everyone why the Lake District should be known as the UK’s foodie capital. Let’s tuck in!

If you’re looking to make the most of your foodie staycation getaway, don’t forget to book Sally’s beautiful holiday cottages, all catered towards different needs.

The UK’s best foodie staycations

Graphic showing a league table with the UK's top culinary tourism hotspots

From around the UK, there are plenty of gorgeous places to stay, but you might not have considered some of these destinations before:

  1. Cartmel, Cumbria
  2. Bray, Berkshire
  3. Fence, Lancashire
  4. Colerne, Wiltshire
  5. Crieff, Perthshire
  6. Port Isaac, Cornwall
  7. Grasmere, Cumbria
  8. Auchterarder, Perthshire
  9. Hambleton, North Yorkshire
  10. Ambleside, Cumbria

All these locations have a reputation for their foodie finds and a whole range of diverse food options to choose from, with a lot of these locations playing host to more than one Michelin-starred restaurant. So, even if you’re more in the mood for an indulgent Indian or cheeky Chinese when you’re staycationing, your options are still open in these areas!

The top Lake District destinations for foodies

Afternoon tea laid out on a table with Lake Windermere in the background

The best spots to get some good nosh in the Lake District include some classics that you might already know, and maybe some more hidden gems that you can explore:

  1. Cartmel sits south of Windermere Lake on the way towards the coast and is a historic village with an impressive collection of restaurants – L’Enclume and Rogan and Co are both Michelin-starred establishments and there is also a collection of pubs and inns that also provide top-rated food.
  2. Grasmere is where our top commentator, Paul Leonard holds the Head Chef position at The Forest Side, another Michelin-starred restaurant. Grasmere also has a great representation of different cuisines, as well as catering to lots of different diets such as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.
  3. Ambleside is probably the best-known location on our list, and that’s for a good reason! Even though this lakeside town has a very popular market where you can buy your own food to cook with, you’re not going to want to miss out on some of the incredible restaurants and fine dining establishments that this town has to offer!

Paul Leonard tells us why he thinks the Lake District is worthy of being the next staycation you take: “The Lake District has such a diversity of food – you could dine with us at Forest Side, or the Lake Road Kitchen just 10 minutes down the road which also has one Michelin star and is a totally different style. 

“You could also try the Samling, which is just up the road in Gilpin; it’s got country landscapes and is just phenomenal for people looking to dine in and enjoy those views. We’ve got such a diversity of local suppliers which attracts all these amazing chefs, which then provides excellent food to everyone who visits.”

The Lake District’s most popular dishes

Close up of sticky toffee pudding sprinkled with icing sugar and caramel sauce

The top Cumbrian dishes according to search interest and volume are:

  1. Sticky toffee pudding
  2. Cumberland sausage
  3. Cumberland sauce
  4. Kendal Mint Cake
  5. Grasmere gingerbread
  6. Rum butter
  7. Damson cheese
  8. Morecambe Bay shrimps
  9. Windermere char
  10. Cumberland Rum Nicky

Paul gave us his recommendations for the best dishes to try from the Lake District: “The Herdwick lamb is a favourite of mine because it’s grown and produced here in the Lakes. The story of the actual sheep is phenomenal, and the flavour is incredible, with nice and dense meat and a lovely fat covering. 

“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. St James Cheese offers local cheese, which is a must if you come to Cumbria. It's made over in Cartmel, and their cheeses are all made from goat's milk. 

“And, of course, there’s the famous Grasmere gingerbread! Invented in 1854 by Victorian creator cook Sarah Nelson, this tasty treat used to be sold on a tree stump outside Nelson’s cottage which now houses the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop.”

Head Chef at Michelin-starred Forest Side reveals his Lake District favourites

A selection of fruity Danish pastries and a cup of coffee

  • More Bakery – “Their Danish pastries are banging, and the bread is incredible. It's next to Hawkshead Brewery so you can go for a beautiful walk down the river, stop to get a pastry, and get a pint afterwards – it's class!”
  • Homeground “They have incredible coffee and brunch. When you go there, you’ll see half of the hospitality of Cumbria eating there on Monday, it’s great.”
  • Chesters by the River – “This hidden gem is a vegan, super organic café.”
  • Local breweries – “I’m in conjunction with a couple of these local breweries who are brewing their own beer using things from the garden. You also have places like North Lake Growers, Hawkshead Brewery, and Fell and Gan Yam Breweries which all champion the region.

Sarah Pring, Digital PR Manager at Sally’s Cottages said this about the importance of the Culinary Tourism Report: “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! Not only can you indulge in your favourite foods made by talented chefs, but you can enjoy it with some of the most beautiful landscapes England has to offer from your seat.”

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your knife and fork (and maybe a suitcase) and get yourself up to the Lake District to get stuck into mouthwatering meals and work up your appetite in the hills of the Lake District. We’ve got Lake District holiday cottages to suit every holidaymaker, from families to dog owners to hot-tub lovers.


This dataset ranks 53 villages and towns across the UK based on how good they are for a culinary tourism break. To do this, 15 different factors were used. Once the data for the factors was collected, the factors were then normalised to provide each factor with a score between 0 and 1. If data was not available, a score of 0 was given. The normalised values were then summed to give each location a total score out of 15. The factors were then grouped into 3 sub-categories. The locations were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores.  

The factors were weighted as follows:

  • Quality Score – 50%
  • Inclusivity – 25%
  • Diversity Score – 25%

Search data for the most popular Cumbrian dishes taken from keywordtool.io

All data is correct as of 28/02/24. The ranking data shown is a compilation of multiple data sources and may not be representative of real life. All data is accurate concerning the sources.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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