From Cumberland Sausage to Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cumbria has always held a place on the UK's culinary map - but in recent years, the county's popularity has exploded. 

In 2023, almost a quarter of all revenue for Cumbria's visitor economy came from the food and drink industry. Tourists spent more than one billion pounds of the county which is more than was spent on accommodation, according to latest figures from Cumbria Tourism.

One in five new visitors to the area say that food and drink is one of their motivations for visiting the county.

Whether it's the iconic food that the county has always been known for, its award winning restaurants, food trails, or the local breweries, Cumbria is the place to be.

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: "We are hugely, hugely proud and have been for a long time of our local food and drink producers, as well as those who are using that food and drink to create fantastic places to come and dine and visit.

"For us, this really stems back to the farm landscape that we've got here and how chefs have really taken their inspiration from that local produce to create award winning restaurants."

Not only are there many award winning restaurants based in Cumbria, the county also has the highest number of Michelin stars outside of London with 13 locations.

There's L'Enclume in Cartmel and The Old Stamp House in Ambleside in the south and the Cedar Tree at Farlam Hall in Brampton and The Pentonbridge Inn in Penton in the north.

Tourists visiting have no shortage of options of places to visit for a taste of the finer things in life.

Chris Archer, head chef at the Pentonbridge Inn, said: "As a destination, Cumbria is difficult to beat. The diversity of its towns, villages and landscapes is fantastic

"Perhaps more importantly, we have the very best produce and that really does elevate the county

"It's very common for our Michelin-starred counterparts in London and elsewhere in the UK to buy their beef and lamb from Cumbria. For us to have that on our doorstep, with minimal road miles from farm to plate, is phenomenal.

"There's a freedom in operating as a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cumbria. There is a growing number of us, but we each retain our own uniqueness with lots of restaurants carving their own niche which is great to see."

Ms Haigh added: "We've been really, really fortunate to have some leading chefs that have chosen Cumbria because of its landscape, because of the abundance of real quality local produce and because of tourism, let's be honest.

"I think that we've now become a real set place for Michelin star quality chefs to want to come and base their businesses."

But, it's not just the award-winning restaurants that give Cumbria it's foodie status. 

Award-winning breweries and distilleries like The Great Corby Brewhouse and Shed 1 Distillery have put the county on the map for drinks connoisseurs.

Whilst events such as Dalemain Marmalade Festival and the Taste Cumbria Festivals bring thousands of people from all over the country and the world to the county. 

Rather than just visiting during the traditional tourist season, people are coming to Cumbria for its food and drink offerings at all times of the year. 

Ms Haigh said: "This is a real reason for people to come here outside the core season as well.

"We've got that food and drink offer, lovely accommodation and roaring log fires, things like that alongside a really good sort of hearty walk make people travel for food and drink."

The future looks bright for Cumbria's food and drink industry with plenty of opportunities for businesses to grow.

But one of the challenges is that local training providers need to continue to help us develop our own award-winning chefs.

There's a staffing shortage and chefs in particular are in high demand. 

"Carlisle College has got a really good catering hospitality department, and it's really, really important that we continue to support Carlisle College," said Ms Haigh.

"And that us, as businesses, get alongside Carlisle College to support young people coming through and identify and develop that talent."