We went along to one of County Durham's most anticipated food festivals to see what it was all about - here's what we really thought.

Bishop Auckland Food Festival kicked off this weekend (April 20) for a two-day extravaganza celebrating everything from fabulous fudge and loaded fries to homemade jams, jellies and cakes.

The event, which is organised by Durham County Council, was sprawled across Market Place and North Bondgate with some 150 different stalls.

The Northern Echo: Bishop Auckland Food Festival 2024.Bishop Auckland Food Festival 2024. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Celebrity chefs including BOSH! duo Henry Firth and Ian Theasby as well as Great British Bake Off Finalist Dan Hunter were also showing off their culinary skills to a captive audience.

An estimated 28,000 people visited the festival last year – proving it’s a highly popular day out.

This made me eager to head along myself this year to see what it was all about – with hopes I could enjoy some tasty food in the process.

I arrived at about 11am on Saturday (April 21) and hoards of crowds were already making their way around town. The place was buzzing, therefore unrecognisable and far from the peaceful atmosphere you usually get when you visit.

In my preliminary walk around, I was able to take in much of what was up for grabs. The smell of fresh fries, burgers, pies and cake wafted in the air, mixed with the scents from demonstrations ongoing at the celebrity chef stage.

Whilst following the general ebb and flow of my fellow hungry foodies around the event I was overwhelmed and dizzy with choice. Gyozas, perhaps? A crepe? A pie or sausage roll?

In the end, I decided to opt for a pot of Redhead’s Mac and Cheese – a Newcastle chain with its own spot in Grainger Market.

The Northern Echo: Mac and cheese.Mac and cheese. (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

I parted ways with £9 to secure sticky rib mac n cheese – a creamy pot of deliciousness topped with pulled pork, onions, chilli and a generous topping of parmesan.

Garlic crumbs were also sprinkled on top – giving it a crunch mixed with the soft tang of chilli from optional siracha on top. This, for me, was like a gourmet pasta experience and was absolutely beautiful.

The portion size was also generous, making it well worth the money.

One thing I had spotted during my roaming was several people carrying pots of loaded fries. Curious and now craving fries myself, I was able to track down the stall and paid £8.50 for Fakin’ Double Cheese Fries.

Onions, nacho cheese, mozzarella, spring onion and paprika was lathered on top of the generous scoop of crispy fries.

The Northern Echo: Loaded fries.Loaded fries. (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

This was another very decadent and rich treat which I was able to take away with me, and finish later on in the day.

Lastly, I wanted something to take home and share with family. Then, when I spotted The Dales Fudge Co stall from Wolsingham and bought a four-pack of fudge slices for £10.

Run by husband and wife Jackie and Derrick Dett with niece Ashleigh, the trio expressed their joy at the boost it's given Bishop Auckland as a whole.

Derrick said: “Bishop Auckland is changing – it has been slow but it is changing now.”

The Northern Echo: The Dales Fudge Co ran by husband and wife Jackie and Derrick Dett with niece Ashleigh.The Dales Fudge Co ran by husband and wife Jackie and Derrick Dett with niece Ashleigh. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

My chosen flavours in the end were rum and raisin, lemon meringue, Devon toffee vanilla and plain vanilla.

Sweet, creamy, but not overly overpowering, the toffee vanilla slice ended up being my favourite and created long sugary strands when I broke it apart.

Overall, I would say that on variety, entertainment and overall vibe, Bishop Auckland’s food festival has to get top marks.

Everywhere you looked you could see smiling faces from stallholders and visitors who all spoke with gusto at the boost it’s giving the town.

However, I’d say if you visit do remember what you’re getting into. Much of your time is spent trying to figure out what to eat and in the process walking at a speed of two miles an hour through crowds making it more like an expedition than a relaxing day out.

The Northern Echo: Bishop Auckland Food Festival 2024, Vegan and plant based BOSH! Duo Henry Firth and Ian TheasbyBishop Auckland Food Festival 2024, Vegan and plant based BOSH! Duo Henry Firth and Ian Theasby (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

But, when you think about the positive impact its having on the town, the crowds become encouraging and exciting rather than annoying – and you have to expect it!


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I would recommend looking at the map before you arrive and try picking a few places you want to visit rather than deciding when you get there otherwise you’ll be walking around for ages.

As for next year? I’d definitely head back to sample more tasty treats.

The atmosphere was positive, hopeful and more importantly a fantastic opportunity to support local business.