A Wonderful Washout: Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival With Kids – 2023 Review

As the girls get that bit older and we can get that bit more adventurous with our trips, we decided that Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival was too good to miss this year! With a promise of culinary treats, celebrity chefs and a weekend of live music and entertainment, we packed up the tent, piled in the car and made the trip to the Dales. At the festival, we were greeted by our old camping buddies Faye and Stu and their equally adventurous children Evie and Lilly, and we were all excited for the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival with kids!

A Ford Mondeo full loaded and ready to go camping at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival With Kids
The car was packed to the rafters!

If you are not familiar with the food and drink festival, this year it gathered together a mix of talented chefs from restaurants both locally and nationally, “Master Chef” and “Great British Bake Off” contestants and TV stars like The Hairy Bikers and Gino D’Acampo into one place. The festival also showcases local artisan suppliers, live music, a huge array of food stalls, cooking experiences and children’s entertainment.

The festival is now in its 7th year and is now the largest food and drink festival in the UK! If we are honest, it does feel like it is experiencing some growing pains at the moment, but the care and passion that has been put into making this festival work by the family behind it is clear to see.

The weather sadly let the festival down a little this year. The heavens opened at about 6 pm on Saturday, and it hammered down nonstop for pretty much all of Saturday night and Sunday. For some, this caused issues with cars and caravans stuck in the mud. Fortunately, our tent withstood the battering, but we couldn’t enjoy the Sunday to the fullest.

Thankfully our kids are pretty hardcore, and they slapped on the wellies and waterproofs and cracked on having a great time!

Four people walk over a feild in the rain with balloon swords.
If in doubt, pack waterproofs and wellys!

The most important question: Girls, did you enjoy it?

Georgia: Yep!

Eva: Yes! Apart from the rain!

What was your favourite bit?

Georgia: Giant stacked Biscoff cookie and Katy Perry tribute act

Eva: Churros, Katy Perry, and the fair ground rides

Kirsty:  ShikShak Indian Cookery School and Queen tribute band

Adrian: ShikShak Indian Cookery School and Tomahawk Steakhouse workshop

The girls enjoying the fairground rides at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
Scream if you wanna go faster!

What was the worst bit:

All: The toilets and rain!

Getting There, Getting In, and Camping

Getting to the festival by car was no problem, and the entrance to the fields are just a short drive off the motorway. To avoid tailbacks, they closed the right turn into the festival, so if you approach from Broughton on the A59, you drive past the festival to a roundabout and double back on yourself. This only adds a couple of mins to the drive and helps the traffic flow. 

As you pull in, there is a slight bottleneck on a bridge that isn’t wide enough to accommodate two vehicles side by side, but this was being carefully managed.

We arrived at the camping field at around 1 pm on Friday and got into the grounds with no delay at all. Faye and Stu arrived around 11 am and had a slight delay. Once in, it was well organised with clearly marked pitches for the powered pitches and an open “free for all” for the Gold camp where we stayed.

The Gold campsite at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
The Gold campsite on Friday before the endless rain.

One word of warning, we spoke to a number of day ticket holders who came in on Saturday morning, and apparently, there were long delays to get onto the site. Seemingly, this was due to a crash near the main entrance and bad weather turning the field into mud, making driving onto the fields very slow. Because of this, some people missed their live cookery demonstration with the VIP chefs

If you plan to attend these, ensure you get to the site nice and early!

If you chose to stay on-site, there were Gold, Silver and Bronze camping options with varying standards of toilets and other facilities. We went for the Gold standard, which (in theory) had a flatter field, better toilets, showers and was closer to the festival. 

In reality, the Gold camp is mainly on a gentle hill and the “posh” toilets were nice on Friday; by Saturday morning and the rest of the weekend, they were full-on festival horror! A team was trying to clean them, but it felt like a losing battle. The fact the site was so muddy didn’t help this. 

The real problem was the number of toilets and showers on the Gold field was insufficient for the number of people. We ended up using the portaloos in the caravan and camper field next door as they were much cleaner! 

Also, there were no baby changing facilities, and the “posh” toilet cubicles were too narrow to get into with a toddler. There were two washing-up points and one water point for the entire field. 

Speaking to those in the caravan and camper section, there were complaints about the ELSAN points being too high to easily empty your tank and no water to wash your tank out. 

All told, the cost of the Gold pitch was very high for what you got, and it was probably not worth the extra money. Certainly, we would consider going Bronze for our next visit as it did let the camping vibe down a bit. 

Georgia and Eva snug as a bug in their tent.

The Food and Drink 

As mentioned above, the festival feels like it is experiencing some growing pains and is unsure of what it trying to be with different elements clashing. This can be best demonstrated by the fact that during our ShikShak Cookery School workshop, the chef had to shout over the blaring music and noise of the fairground rides. How she managed to do this all weekend is beyond us! 

The food stands on offer were diverse and interesting, with everything from Jerk Chicken to Japanese Dumplings available. This meant that everyone in the family got to eat exactly what they wanted (something we have not had since our trip to Camden Market!) As expected, there was a festival premium on the food, with most main meals being between £10 and £12.

Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival With Kids
The girls made short work of a chocolate-topped waffle!

The real highlight of the food was the Artisan Shopping, where there were some incredible local suppliers. We sampled:

  • The Yolker Scotch Eggs – The black pudding and pork & mango Chutney were the family favourites.
  • Yorkshire Dama Cheese – Battered and fried halloumi, which the girls demolished in short order.
  • Bronte Drinks – The “Ee Bah Gum” Rum helped the Sunday pass more easily.
  • Revolution Coffee – Their single-origin Columbian was a welcome addition to the camp breakfast.
  • Yorkshire Crisps – Roast Lamb and Mint flavour were incredible. 
  • Rose Cottage Drinks – Their Stinging Nettle Gin Liqueur goes very nicely with a drop of prosecco.
A bottle of Bronte Drinks Rum
Slipped down a treat back at the tent!

Sadly, the drink options available at the festival bars were disappointing. Seemingly, Timothy Tailor provides all the beers on site leading to a drab selection, with Hopical Storm being the only half-decent grog available. Kirsty and Faye looked around for interesting rums or gins but only found what you would expect to see in every Wetherspoons in the country.

In this age of great local craft breweries and distilleries, how a “drink” festival can not be showcasing beers from the likes of Helmsley Brewing Company or Yorkshire Heart Brewery or gins from Yorkshire Dales Distillery is mystifying.

The biggest complaint about the drinks is that pints were served in single-use plastic glasses, which is just not acceptable in 2023. I dread to think how much plastic went into landfill over the weekend. Last year at Timberfest, we paid a £2 deposit on a reusable pint glass that is much better for the environment, and we still use it to this day as part of our camping gear. 

4 adults enjoying a pint of average beer at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
Hopical Storm – moderately better than being sober.

The cooking workshops were brilliant. Between us, we did the Tomahawk Steakhouse workshop, Simmer Kitchen Pizzetta making and ShikShak Indian Cookery School and found them all to be led by passionate people excited to share their knowledge of the food. 

These workshops are paid extras on the entrance tickets you need to book online for a specific time slot. Each runs for about an hour. Some can book up before the festival even starts, so be sure to book early if there are any you especially want to do. 

The Tomahawk Steakhouse workshop was very informative and delicious! They talked through the maturation process of the cuts, seasoning, searing, and the ideal cooking temperature depending on your preference. You then got to cook and eat your own steak, we were booked on the 10.30 session and it was the breakfast of champions! 

Stu cooking a Steak at the Tomahawk Workshop at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
The happiest we saw Stu all weekend!

The Simmer Kitchen Pizzetta making was great for the kids. It was hosted by a very engaging young lad only a couple of years older than the girls. It was lovely to see the whole family hosting the workshop. The girls enjoyed watching their pizza cooking in the wood-fired oven and demolished it in short order.

Eva demolishing her pizza cooked at The Simmer Kitchen Pizzetta workshop
Eva certainly enjoyed it.

The most informative was the ShikShak Indian Cookery School. The “ShikShak” Monica talked us through how to cook genuine paratha from scratch, including how to work in the yoghurt, season, fill and cook (lots of butter). These were an absolute treat and the nicest thing we ate the entire time we were there.   

Kirsty proud of her paratha cooked at the ShikShak Indian Cookery School workshop
Our first attempt at paratha delicious.

As it was of no interest to the kids, we didn’t do any live cookery demonstrations with the celeb chefs, but we did watch their interviews on the main stage. The cost for the cooking demo would have been an extra £160 for the four of us which was just not worthwhile but looking at the queues they are obviously very popular.

To be honest, for the entrance fee, it felt like all we got was access to food stands you would get at any county show. Everything else was paid extra.

Overall the food side of the festival was very enjoyable if a little muddled. Next year we would love to see the fairground rides moved further away, reusable cups for the drinks, and more food and drink included for the entrance fee.

Fun for the Kids

Although it is pitched as a family-friendly festival with a full lineup of children’s entertainment, there doesn’t seem to be much to keep the kids engaged.

Last year we went to Timberfest, which was crammed with enough to keep the kids amused for days, with activities like circus skills classes, roving discos, gymnastics displays, forest crafts, and story time fire pits. All of those activities were included as part of the ticket price. 

At this festival, there was a kid’s stage that was quite babyish, the smallest “giant” sand pit we had ever seen and not much else. The brochure promised bush crafts and donkey rides, but we never found them. In fairness, with the weather being so bad on Sunday, it is entirely possible we missed them while avoiding the rain. 

A very wet Sunday at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
Wetter than an otters pocket.

There were fairground rides, but these were overpriced and loud enough to be annoying, including one with a mechanised-sounding laughing baby on a loop that was like nails on a chalkboard. There were a few rides for the littlies and a larger choice for the bigger kids wanting more adventure. They were priced between £3 and £4 a go. 

Other entertainment included petting animals like rabbits, goats, alpacas, and chickens.  You could pay £1 for a small ball of chopped hay to feed them. Also, there were birds of prey with various owls and hawks.  They were cute but didn’t look overly enamoured with the situation.  You could hold one for about a minute for £3 and have a picture taken.

There was also a princess party which the girls are a little old for now but looked to be very popular. There were plenty of princesses in wellys heading that way.

The best bit for the kids was the live tribute acts, with the fake Katy Perry being the biggest hit! The Spice Girls and Take That (although not musically strong) got them boogying. The best performance by far was the Queen tribute act, who delivered an incredible set despite the awful weather on the Sunday.

4 girls watch a Katy Perry tribute act on a wet day at the Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival
(Sort of) Katy Perry and muddy bums!

Overall the kids had a great time, but this was because of the music, not entertainment. Maybe we were spoiled at Timberfest last year, or maybe it was the bad weather, but this festival didn’t really deliver on children’s entertainment.

Would we go again?

Despite the terrible weather and the lack of children’s entertainment, we did have a good time at the festival. The workshops, local artisan tents, and live music were the highlights for us, and I am sure we would have seen a lot more on Sunday had the rain eased up, so yes, on balance we would return.

Changes we would like to see are no single-use plastics for the drinks, better camping facilities, more activities included in the ticket price, a much better selection of drinks from local suppliers, and the fairground rides made a lot quieter or moved much further away.

Kirsty got a bit over-excited during Fake That.
Kirsty got a bit over-excited during Fake That.

More than anything, the festival must decide what it is trying to be. Is it a genuine showcase of the best drink and food available in the UK, or a watered-down county show with blaring fairground rides, limited options for a drink and a few celeb chefs thrown in?

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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