Newquay Fish Festival is one of Cornwall's longest established food and crafts shows, taking place over three days on the second weekend in September. Started in 2003, it is now run as a professional well-oiled machine, blending fish cuisine and beach competitions with a Summer Proms Concert finale.
Chef's kitchens at the Newquay Fish Festival
Masterchef comes to the Newquay Fish Festival in the form of a team of local chefs and restaurateurs. These flamboyant entertaining characters are always keen to show off their culinary skills while creating new dishes from fresh local fish and seafood. Add a few ingredients of local produce from the surrounding farms and you can't go wrong.
Learn how to fillet a fish (they make it look so easy!) and get ready with a fork to taste the delicious results. If you are not particularly a seafood lover, there are plenty more stalls around the harbour selling hot pasties, crepes and I even saw a chocolate fountain one year! The Fishermen's Mission put on a fish barbecue and everyone is asked to make a donation to this worthy cause.
As well as crab sandwiches, a pilchard BBQ, oysters and smoked fish there are plenty of real ale brews from the Atlantic Brewery.
Beach fun at Newquay Fish Festival
Down on the beach at low tide you will see children industriously digging, patting and decorating their works of art for the sandcastle competition. Amidst the amateurs there are some amazingly professional works of art ‐ well worth taking a look, I can assure you. Rock pool discoveries, Punch and Judy shows and plenty of fun games make this a great day out at the seaside for families.
One group of local visitors never fails to turn up at Newquay Fish Festival – the harbour seals – no doubt lured by the scent of fish! These wild creatures can be seen bobbing in the water hoping for a tasty morsel, but please don't attempt to hand feed them ‐ they can't differentiate between fish and fingers and will bite hard!
Musical entertainment includes some hearty sea shanties sung by pirates and as part of the weekend there is a wonderful concert of “Last Night of the Proms” favourites, so bring your Cornish flag to wave and wear your best union jack T-shirt please! On Sunday evening you can join in “Songs of Praise” at the harbour to end this traditional event.
Newquay Harbour makes an authentic setting for the Fish Festival
Newquay Harbour is often overlooked by visitors who head to the better known beaches of Fistral, Watergate and Tolcarne. However, at low tide Newquay Harbour has a lovely sandy beach in a protected cove which is ideal for youngsters to play and paddle in the calm shallow waters.
Just a short stroll from the High Street, harbour parking is limited at the best of times. If you plan to attend the festival, use one of the main car parks throughout Newquay and follow the sound of music and fun to find the Fish Festival.
The old harbour is in a beautiful setting with the cliffs behind covered in the deep pink flowers of late summer thrift. The fishing fleet – some colourful boats, some rusting – adds to the authentic atmosphere of this working port with its stacks of crates and piles of nets. The harbour wall, which separates the harbour from the beach, is filled with stalls and tents for the event.
If you look up to the top of the cliffs there is an old whitewashed building which is known as the Huer's Hut. Long ago, lookouts would be posted there to spot shoals of pilchards. They would shout “Heva, Heva” and the local fishing fleet would scramble to net them. They must have been pretty efficient because pilchards have not been seen in these waters for decades!
Have you visited Newquay during early September and taken part in the annual Fish Festival? We'd love some feedback and tips from anyone who's attended, so feel free to add your comments below.