From artisanal ice-cream makers to crafters of some of the finest cheeses, beers and gins in the world, Katie Wilson will take you on an unrivalled food tour of Bowland & Bay
Having spent many years in product development, self-confessed foodie Katie Wilson decided to take the plunge and set up Bowland & Bay – taking like-minded people on food adventures to meet artisan producers, from the fells of the Forest of Bowland to the coast around Morecambe Bay.
“Burgundy is known as the prestigious area of France for fantastic food and drink. In the UK, this is our Burgundy. I meet people who come up from London and the south and they can’t believe the breadth of small independent makers who create such fabulous products here in the north. These small artisan producers really put their heart in their homeland,” says Katie, who as part of her degree in American History, spent some time in Oregon as a student.
“I was blown away by the variety of food available out in the States. There was a bit of a hippie culture on the west coast, with an emphasis on natural, sustainable food and a lot of micro-breweries – back in the 90s these trends were virtually unheard of in the UK!”
Katie’s experience in the US changed her career path and she went on to work in food related roles for a number of national organisations, including the National Trust.
But it was the pandemic that sowed the seeds of setting up her ‘artisan food tour’ business: “I had a lot of time on my hands on furlough, so I dug out my bike again and rode the Bay Cycle Way, in sections, from Glasson Dock to Barrow-in-Furness. Somehow, everywhere I cycled I found a little local ice-cream maker and they were amazing. Ice-cream really soothes the soul. That cycling experience inspired me.”
Full of admiration for small, craft producers, Katie adds: “The spirit of the independent artisans is unique – when I travelled around the States I would find myself creating food tours. Food is an important part of immersing yourself in the culture of an area.”
Aiming to provide a food experience with a micro-tourism footprint, Katie started to map out local suppliers: “They were incredibly supportive of my start up idea. All of them said they had been longing for someone to develop an experience that revealed the richness of the food culture across Lancashire and Cumbria.”
Seeing the momentum of her food tour idea gaining traction, Katie launched Bowland & Bay artisan foodie adventures last summer and since then it has attracted people from throughout the UK as well as local Lancashire folk, who are keen to learn about the food heritage of their area.
One of the big surprises she has encountered since hosting her first food tour last summer, is how keen the younger generation are to learn about food: “They have spent their formative years with Great British Menu and Bake Off. Youngsters really know their food – it is an absolute delight!”
Bowland & Bay conducts mixed group tours from two to eight guests, private tours and specialist tours that can include brewery days or ultimate foodie experiences.
There are half days and full days around the Lake District and Lancashire and as your host and chauffeur, Katie will introduce guests to local artisans who craft some of the finest food in the UK. She will also share her local knowledge of history and legends.
“Guests can tailor make their own bespoke tour, or they can just join an existing one – you find they make friends very quickly as they all have one thing in common – they love food!” adds Katie, who was delighted to host a tour for Craft Guild of Chefs’ national award winners Nick Smith, Steve Groves and Tom Swaby at the beginning of 2022. Starting off from Northcote, Katie took them on a half-day tour including Wild Fox Gin Distillery, the Cartford Inn, Mrs Kirkham’s Cheese, Walling’s Ice Cream and Farm Yard Ales.
“They really got the concept of the tours. At one point they asked about butter pie – a northern delicacy. I went out and got some and there they were, three of the best chefs in Britain at a craft gin tasting session and sampling butter pie! They raved about it – I think they really saw the beauty in something simple and authentic.”
Looking to the future, Katie has various tours planned: “I enjoy putting all the elements of a tour together so guests get the best possible experience. I tend to just give them a rough guide as to the order of the day, so it makes it a bit of a magical mystery tour.”
With over 150 artisan producers and chefs in this part of the UK, and with numbers growing, no two adventures are the same.
“People have been blown away by what we have here in Lancashire and Cumbria and I’m super proud of where I live.”
To book your adventure: