From the world-famous Craster kippers which have graced the breakfast table of royalty to the unique Lindisfarne Mead once enjoyed by the monks of Holy Island, sweet grass-fed lamb from the hills, award-winning artisan cheeses, real ales, and celebrated jams and relishes, Northumberland boasts food and drink galore to tantalise the taste buds of even the most fastidious eater.
And it is all locally sourced and lovingly produced.
Much of Northumberland’s food and drink has been shaped by the county’s dramatic and varied landscape – from the powerful North Sea which brought trade and invaders to this distant shore to the remote and wild hills and open moorlands of the interior fashioned by extremes of weather over the millennia.
The result is a backdrop rich in history, grandeur and beauty which has left its mark on everything from the people to the area’s culture and, of course, it’s food and drink.
Salmon abound in the county’s rivers, while the shallow waters around Holy Island are home to oysters and the only wild mussels harvested between the Wash and Aberdeen. The North Sea provides an abundant yield of seasonal fish, much of it landed in the picturesque coastal village of Seahouses, which is home to Swallow Fish – said to be one of the possible places where the modern kipper was invented.
Here you will also find the oldest working smoke house in Northumberland, dating back to 1843. Inland the magnificent Cheviot hills form a natural barrier between east and west. Sheep thrive on the rich mix of heather and grass, and the lamb reared on the gentle slopes has become justifiably celebrated for its sweet, succulent flavour.
Potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to any roast meal, and they don’t come any finer than those grown in the fertile soils of the beautiful valley carved by the River Till on the England-Scotland border. If you are only used to the insipid multi-purpose spuds on sale in the high street, then Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes – chosen for their flavour as well as their unusual looks – will be a revelation.
No meal would be complete without the cheese course – and the area between the Rivers Tyne and Tweed has a plethora of award-winning varieties to choose from courtesy of the Northumberland Cheese Company and Doddington Dairy, which also produces award-winning ice creams.
There can be no better way to finish off a repast than with a warming glass of whisky. But you don’t have to look north of the border for your dram– Northumberland even boasts its own whisky in the shape of Black Rory which draws its inspiration from the mystical and magical tales of Coquetdale and the craggy Simonside Hills.
Add to this some of the finest flours milled anywhere, artisan breads, game in abundance, puddings, pies and a profusion of indigenous recipes from Alnwick Stew to Pan Haggerty and Singin’ Hinnies, and it’s easy to see why Northumberland is a food lovers paradise.
All pictures courtesy of visitnorthumberland.com