British Food: a guide for caravan touring
Cornish pasties, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Stilton cheese are sure to taste even better when sampled from the source. Caravan heads off on a culinary tour.
The reputation of British food used to be poor. But, there's been a revival. Delicious British food made by local businesses is more popular than ever as Brits move away from mass-produced food.
Perhaps you've eaten a Cornish pasty in Coventry, a pork pie in Preston or Stilton in Slough – we're not judging! However, if you fancy trying the real thing, why not hitch up your caravan and follow us across the country to discover the best places to enjoy them?
Produce with particular heritage and quality achieves a special status from the European Union, known as Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) it applies to products from specific territories or regions, whose quality, reputation and critical characteristics links to their geographical origins.
On the continent, we've got Champagne, that of course, has to come from the Champagne region of France and Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese that can only be made in the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua. But you don't need to go that far for quality produce – we've got 60 of these products in the UK.
Pic credit: VisitEngland/Visit Cornwall/Adam Gibbard
For many caravanners, the reward for the long tow down to Cornwall is the spectacular coastline, miles of beach and walls of surfing waves. For others, their prize is the gardens of Eden or Heligan; or the locations of Poldark and Doc Martin.
But for foodie-tourers, the prize is wrapped in golden, crimped pastry, and filled with beef, potato, swede, onion and seasoning. The Cornish pasty is such a drool-inducing concoction that it enjoys PGI status.
A genuine Cornish pasty has to be made in Cornwall, by an approved Cornish pasty producer.
Where to buy
We visited the lovely folk at Philps' Cornish Pasty emporium in Hayle for our Rivrons' Caravan Adventures 'TV' show.
They have six outlets around the county and will even courier delicious pasties to you anywhere in the UK! The Chough Bakery in Padstow has won two first prizes at the World Pasty Championships earlier this year, so pick up the pasty perfection, and then warm them through in your caravan at Gas Mark 6 for about 10 minutes, before savouring the authentic delicacy.
Padstow Touring Park, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8LE
T 01841 532061
Open All year
This five-star campsite was voted Campsite of The Year South West Gold Winner in the AA Caravan & Camping Awards 2016/2017. The site has an amenities block with underfloor heating, a coffee lounge and a children's play area.
It's situated an appetite-sharpening one-mile walk from Padstow.
Pic credit: VisitEngland/Plymouth Gin Distillery Plymouth
In the spirit of gin being very much the drink of the moment, Plymouth Gin sneaks onto this list due to its former PGI status.
For commercial reasons the owner of Plymouth Gin, produced at Black Friars distillery in the Devon city, decided not to renew its PGI protection, but that shouldn't stop any caravanner from breaking out the tonic and ice in the awning.
Plymouth Gin has been distilled in the city since 1793, and the still uses the original recipe of Dartmoor water, pure grain alcohol and seven exotic botanicals; juniper berries, coriander seed, lemon peels, green cardamom, orange peels, angelica root and orris root to make a gin that has circumnavigated the globe with Britain's navy.
Where to buy
Take a tour of the Plymouth Gin distillery (£7, with a free G&T, included at the end), and then choose your tipple in the shop.
Plymouth Sound Caravan and Motorhome Club site, Bovisand Lane, Down Thomas, Plymouth, Devon PL9 0AE
T 01752 862325
Open 16 March to 1 October
Non-members are welcome to this club site, which offers fabulous views over Plymouth Sound. It's an 8-mile drive to Plymouth, but much closer to hand is the South West Coast Path and the Plym Valley Cycleway.
Be aware that there's no toilet block, so you'll need to rely on your caravan's facilities.
Pic credit: VisitEngland/VisitKent
Records suggest that the Romans were sending Whitstable oysters back to Rome as long ago as 80AD, so these aren't the most original souvenirs of a caravan tour of Kent.
But their distinctive texture and flavour – a soft, creamy mouthful of minerals and ocean – make them the kings of shellfish. Whitstable oysters are slow-growing, taking five years to reach dining maturity, which gives them a higher meat content than faster-growing oysters from warmer waters.
To qualify for PGI status, Whitstable oysters, whether native or cultivated, have to grow in the vicinity of Whitstable.
Where to buy
Source oysters next to the sea at Whitstable Fish Market (W crabandwinklerestaurant.co.uk/fish-market), or eat in at one of Whitstable's many fish restaurants, such as the Royal Native Oyster Stores and Wheelers Oyster Bar.
At the Lobster Shack, wash down a plate of oysters with a pint of Whitstable Brewery Oyster Stout.
Seaview Holiday Park, St Johns Road, Whitstable, Kent CT5 2RY
T 01227 207107
Open 1 April to 18 October
Enjoy a beachfront location between Whitstable and Herne Bay at this holiday park with an excellent range of attractions and amusements.
There's an outdoor pool, an adventure playground, a family bar, restaurant and evening family entertainment.
Pic credit: ©VisitBritain/VisitScotland
Cooking smoked fish in the confined space of a caravan can be 'controversial' in some families, so turn on your van's extractor fan before preparing a breakfast of champions. You can microwave an Arbroath Smokie, or better still, heat the fish gently under an outdoor grill with a grind of pepper and knob of butter.
PGI status means the Arbroath Smokie name can only be applied to haddock smoked traditionally within a 5-mile radius of Arbroath, a fishing town in Fife on the east coast of Scotland. The process involves hot-smoking the fish so that it cooks and smokes simultaneously (kippers are cold-smoked, which flavours but does not cook the herring).
You can use any hardwood for the smoking process, and different smokers favour different woods. Buy it here If you're lucky, catch Iain R. Spink at a farmer's market or country show or food festival – he often features on TV programmes with Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver.
In Arbroath itself, head to Alex Spink and Sons, a fishmonger close to the seafront in Arbroath, or Stuarts Fresh Fish. W arbroathsmokiesdirect.co.uk
Red Lion Holiday Park, Dundee Rd, Arbroath DD11 2PT
T 01241 872038
Open March to 29 October
With a mix of touring and static pitches, this site offers impressive facilities for caravanners.
The leisure complex has a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, fitness centre and games room (£10 per day or free for seven-day stays and longer).
The Seafront Bar has live music at weekends, and nightly in peak season, and there are a restaurant and takeaway.
Pic credit: ©VisitBritain / Britain on View
As long ago as 1727, the author of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, wrote of passing through Stilton, "a town famous for cheese."
These days the geographic spread of Stilton has expanded beyond the Bell Inn in Stilton, a village just off the A1 near Peterborough, to cover three counties.
Three Stilton kinds of cheese enjoy PGI status, White Stilton, Blue Stilton, and Mature Blue and Vintage Blue Stilton. Their protection depends on using full cream pasteurised cows milk produced by dairy herds from Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, as well as a particular manufacturing process.
Delicious as part of a ploughman's lunch, on an after-dinner cheese board, or even mashed into a potato, Stilton can uplift any caravan meal.
Where to buy
The Long Clawson Dairy, arguably, makes the king of Stilton cheese in Leicestershire, whose traditional Blue Stilton has won Supreme Champion Cheese at the Global Cheese Awards for the third time in four years.
You can buy it from the Long Clawson Dairy Factory Shop in Long Clawson.
Sysonby Acres Leisure Park Asfordby Road, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire LE13 0HW
T 01664 567846
Open All year
Set in the countryside near Melton Mowbray; this site has 50 pitches, 25 of which have electric hook-ups.
It's a grassy site, with modern showers and toilets, and recreation in the form of an 18-hole pitch and putt golf course, as well as a fun football golf course (played the same way as golf, except players kick a football into the hole).
Melton Mowbray Pork Pie
Pic credit: ©VisitBritain / Gary Latham
Caravan lunch, caravan picnic, caravan breakfast ( Inns served pork pies on breakfast tables in the early 19th century, so perhaps they could replace cornflakes on your holiday), the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie is the daddy of all pork pies.
Its recipe mix of uncured pork (at least 30% of the pie), salt, spices, gelatine and lard-based hot water crust pastry, is pure alchemy, creating parcels of golden flavour in the mouth. Its PGI status extends in a radius around Melton Mowbray, and if the pies rarely feature on nutritionists' lists of healthy foods, cling to the fact that Melton Mowbray pork pies are free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.
Where to buy
Leeson Family Butchers in Oakham, Rutland basks in the glory of being declared Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Champion 2018 at the British Pie Awards (W leesonbutchers.co.uk).
Alternatively, try Dickinson & Morris, Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe at the epicentre of this tasty delicacy in Melton Mowbray itself.
Eye Kettleby Lakes, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. LE14 2TN
T 01664 565900
Open All year
With 47 full-service pitches, excellent showers (designed as individual bathrooms) and an award in 2017 for being the best adults-only site, this is a beautiful site for some peaceful R&R.
The specimen carp lake is popular with fishermen, while the bar and lounge transform from daytime café to evening entertainment venue, with live music, quiz nights and a fish & chips and takeaway night.
Pic credit: VisitBritain/VisitScotland
Behind the fearsome horns and shaggy ginger fringe stands the better part of a tonne of prime Scotch Beef.
The name is essential – Scotch Beef has PGI status, Scottish beef does not so be aware of the provenance of the steak or burgers cooking on the barbecue outside your awning.
Scotch Beef has protected status thanks to a complete field-to-fork chain of measures – the cattle have to be born, reared for the entirety of their lives, slaughtered and dressed in Scotland (including the Scottish Isles), and the animals will have been produced and slaughtered following strict quality assurance schemes.
The quality of the meat stems from the cattle's extensive grazing on Scottish pastures. Buy it here Bert Fowlie Family Butcher in Fraserburgh on the Aberdeenshire coast is the reigning Scottish Butcher of the Year.
Fraserburgh Caravan Park The Esplanade, South Harbour Road, Fraserburgh AB43 9TB
T 01346 379162
Open 1 April to 31 October
Sea views are guaranteed from this small site on the Esplanade next to a sandy beach, and depending on the time of year you may spot seals, gannets and porpoises from your van.
There are 22 touring pitches with electric, and free WiFi, although you may need to rely on your caravan's washroom facilities.
Lakeland Herdwick Lamb
Pic credit: ©VisitBritain / Britain on View
Spend too long watching Lakeland Herdwick lambs frolicking on the fells of the Lake District, and there's a strong possibility of turning vegetarian!
Pop Herdwick lamb chops under the caravan grill and the carnivore instinct becomes irresistible! People prize Lakeland Herdwick meat for its texture and flavour, a delicious lamb and mutton thanks to the sheep maturing slowly on a diet of grass, heather and bilberry.
Its PGI status only applies to pure-bred flocks of Herdwick that have been born, raised and slaughtered in the zone identified as the County of Cumbria.
These sheep owe their survival in part to the author, Beatrix Potter, who bought up Lake District farms in the 1920s and then donated them to the National Trust in her will, stipulating that the sheep on these farms should be pure Herdwick.
Feast on the meat and you're in good company - Lakeland Herdwick lamb was served at the Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation dinner in 1953.
Buy it here Just a couple of minutes from the M6 (so handy for a quick diversion off the motorway as well as a Lake District holiday), Cranstons Cumbrian Food Hall in Penrith is an award-winning butchery and delicatessen with a fantastic array of fresh local produce. W cranstons.net
Lowther Holiday Park, Eamont Bridge, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 2JB
T 01768 863631
Open 1 March to 18 November
With four play areas for children, a games room with pool table and table tennis, and a mini supermarket there's no reason to leave this five-star site and its 50 acres of woodland on the banks of the River Lowther, unless you want to explore the beautiful Lake District National Park, whose boundary lies barely five miles away.
Saunter to the Squirrel Inn on site for a beer.
Raise a glass of Scotland's finest export to salute a beautiful day of caravanning. Or pour a dram as a remedy for when things haven't entirely gone to plan. Either way, this delicious spirit more than merits its PGI status.
To be genuine Scotch Whisky the entire production process – fermentation, distillation, maturation, blending and bottling – needs to take place in Scotland. The HMRC, no less, inspects and verifies the process.
There are several thousand brands of Scotch, each with its distinctive flavour. The local water source, the malting and distillation process, as well as the barrels in which the whisky matures (typically casks that previously held other wines or spirits) all influence the taste.
Our advice – try plenty, find one you adore, and make sure there's always a bottle stowed somewhere in your van.
Buy it here Speyside, Islay, Jura, Campbeltown. There's no shortage of distilleries to visit in Scotland.
For a touring holiday, the Kintyre peninsula takes some beating, so head to the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown itself and choose between its three single malts.
Peninver Sands Holiday Park, Peninver, by Campbeltown, Argyll PA28 6QP
T 01586 552262
Open 17 March to 31 October
Watch the sunrise over the sea from this site, which looks over the Kilbrannan Sound towards the Isle of Arran. Pitches have electric hook-ups, there's a modern toilet block with free showers and a launderette.