THE annual Chilli Festival took place this weekend at the iconic National Trust estate.

The two-day event was held at Holker Hall, kicking off on Saturday amidst coronavirus restrictions.

The festival included a variety of specialist chilli companies from all over the country, local specialist food suppliers, cuisine from around the world and a variety of quirky, fiery food-inspired gifts.

For many at the festival it was a rare treat to be able to attend such an open event and experience "normal life" after lockdown.

During the event, the organisers were careful to ensure that social distancing took place in line for entry, and that the crowd following the circular route around the stalls kept moving at a responsible pace.

The festival included the Thieving Magpies, salsa lessons from Salsa in Cumbria, food and drink, and 45 stalls offering a range of services.

Heather Creasey, Holker Hall and Gardens general manger, said: “A lot of work has gone into the event to be able to run everything as safely as possible without losing the essence of the Chilli Fest.

"We couldn't wait to throw open the gates and see our traders and visitors alike. We always look forward to Chilli Fest each year, so National Chilli Day seemed like the perfect time to start our search for Holker’s 2020 fiery food stars.

“We love hearing from people who fancied their chances against a Scotch Bonnet or the infamous Carolina Reaper during the festival itself, as well as traders looking to showcase their chilli-inspired products.

"It’s always a well-attended, much-loved weekend that draws people from near and far, with something for the whole family to enjoy.”

The Honourable Lucy Cavendish said: “2020 marks 70 years of Holker being open to the public. Although we could not have anticipated this year, we are thrilled to be able to hold our annual Chilli Fest and welcome you through the gates once again.”

Mike Foreman, 34, visiting from Manchester, said: “We came here a year or two ago but it’s good to be back now. There’s always some great food round here. I love spicy food.”

Leni and Dave, who visited from St Anne’s, said: “It’s great to be here. We came last year and we always really enjoy it.”

Stall operator David Hall said: “We’ve had a lot of people take an interest, and it’s great to know we always have a place to sell Kendal Mint here.”