The UK’s best ice cream shops

A trip abroad isn’t necessary to indulge in the finest ice creams and gelatos – there are plenty being produced on UK shores. Many gelaterias here have Italian roots, founded by families who brought their gelato knowledge to the UK in the nineteenth century. There’s also a great tradition of farmhouse ice cream – making the most of quality British dairy – and today there are many ice cream innovators out there, pushing the boundaries of frozen treats. Keep scrolling to discover some of our favourite places to buy ice cream.

The UK’s best ice cream shops
Scoops piled high at Jack's Gelato in Cambridge

What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?
Before we get started, let’s clear this up. Gelato typically has around half the fat of cream-heavy ice cream (which can also include egg yolks) and has a higher proportion of milk. Its rich, dense texture is instead achieved through slow churning, rather than rapid beating it (which incorporates air).

Swoon Gelato, Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Cardiff & London
Bruno Forte’s grandparents came to England in the 1900s and opened gelaterias on the south coast. After working in hospitality for many years, he travelled to Bologna to study the craft and take up the gelato mantle, opening Swoon’s Bristol shop in 2016 alongside wife Ana Maria, mum Louise and sister Pat. It’s been a huge success: today Swoon has gelato bars in four more locations and four flavours have received the top honour of three stars from the Great Taste Awards. Nocciola (hazelnut) is produced using nuts from a single Piedmont producer and was awarded Supreme Champion by Great Taste in 2019.

Besides premium ingredients, what’s Swoon’s secret? Speaking after the big win, Bruno explained, “Our gelato is soft and silky because we churn it slowly and keep water crystals microscopic.” Other core flavours include Italian-inspired favourites amarena cherry cheesecake and bacio (chocolate with hazelnut). And don’t miss the sumptuous pistachio (a three-star winner, made with prized Sicilian pistachios): it’ll knock your socks, sandals and sunhat off.

Award-winning hazelnut from Swoon Gelato. Photo: Richard Faulks


Darlish, St Albans, Harpenden, Hatfield and London
Laura Dawson’s inspired ice creams encompass beloved flavours from the Middle East and beyond, drawing on her Iranian and Indian heritage and ranging from orange blossom pistachio, coconut cardamom and blackberry sumac to black tahini, Turkish coffee and rhubarb pomegranate rose. Laura founded Darlish in 2016, running an ice cream cart and supplying Selfridges before opening a parlour in St Albans in 2018. Today there are three further sites, in Harpenden, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire (this branch is open on Saturdays and Sundays only) and London’s Spitalfields – which is known for its special baklava ice cream sandwich.

The famous baklava ice cream sandwich from Darlish


Mary’s Milk Bar, Edinburgh
Open the Mary’s Milk Bar website and you’ll be greeted with a message that underpins everything this decade-old independent ice cream shop does: “Mary makes all the gelato and chocolate every morning. The flavours change each day and each season – no day is the same.” Inspired by the old milk bars of Whitby, Scarborough and Morecambe, where Mary – originally from Yorkshire – holidayed as a child, the parlour is in the popular Grassmarket area of the city, with views of Edinburgh Castle. Inside, you’ll find the bar counter and stools are made from recycled milk bottles and caps. Enjoy a sundae or hot chocolate float, made with your scoop of choice, or take away a cone or ice cream brick for the freezer (in compostable packaging). Current flavours are often promoted on Instagram, including delights such as spicy milk chocolate with cayenne and cinnamon, whisky cranachan with raspberry ripple and gooseberry sorbet (vegan friendly). Mary also produces chocolate, with previous bars including cinnamon pretzel and salt ’n’ vinegar.

Caliendo’s Gelato, Kentish Town, London
Winner of the Ice Cream Alliance’s Ice Cream Parlour of the Year 2023, this young business is the passion project of Fiona Bell and Michelina Caliendo-Sear.

While researching her family tree, Michelina discovered that every generation of her family had made gelato since their arrival in London in the 1800s and decided to continue that legacy. Opened in December 2019, the parlour uses quality Italian ingredients including hazelnuts from Piedmont and prized pistachios from Sicily, the ‘champagne regions’ for these ingredients. “Italians say, ‘Oh my goodness, this is like being back at home,’” says Michelina. “It’s the biggest pat on the back.” All gelato is made on site, with the roster of changing flavours including fig and walnut, white chocolate coconut and blackcurrant and liquorice (Fiona’s favourite).

Flavours on display at Caliendo’s Gelato, Kentish Town


Wholly Gelato, Elmore, Gloucestershire
Banana, passionfruit pavlova, white chocolate lavender… Wholly Gelato has created over 200 different flavours since opening in 2018, including collaboration incorporating local producers’ products. Based on Barhouse Farm in Gloucestershire’s Severn Vale, husband-and-wife team Jerry and Jenni’s Italian-style gelato is made steps away from the parlour where their free-range herd are milked. This star ingredient makes up two thirds of each scoop; try the wholly milk flavour for an unadulterated taste of local dairy.

Visitors can take home core flavours from the range and pick up pasteurised, unhomogenised milk from the farm vending machine (add a shot of syrup for a DIY milkshake) – plus see the dairy cows and their calves. As Wholly Gelato is based on a working farm, consult the website for opening hours (where you’ll also find a list of flavours you can expect to find in peak and off-peak seasons).

You might even get to see the cows at Wholly Gelato in Gloucestershire


Morelli’s Gelato, Broadstairs, Kent
This well-known family enterprise also has parlours in Whitstable and London’s Covent Garden – plus international outposts – but beachside Broadstairs was its first. Opened in 1932 by Mario Morelli, who first went to Scotland from Southern Italy as a boy, the place retains its retro feel inside with pink booths, a juke box and soda fountain, plus 1950s signage outside. Gelato is still made fresh for the parlour every day and quality ingredients are used to impart the best flavour, from Kilimanjaro coffee to alphonso mangoes from India. Also on offer: milkshakes, crepes and waffles, plus coffees, paninis and focaccia – but leave room for a legendary Morelli’s sundae.

Dylan’s Ice Cream, Haslemere, Surrey & Bordon, Hampshire
Started by ice cream lover Ben Govier, Dylan’s has grown from a two-van operation to two parlours – and in 2023 was a runner up in the Ice Cream Alliance’s Ice Cream Parlour of the Year award. Each site promises an ever-changing selection of up to 12 flavours, including seasonal specials; limited edition redcurrant was available for just two weeks this summer, after a glut was donated (in exchange for ice cream).

Dairy-free sorbets such as chocolate with clementine sit alongside fun flavours such as bumblebee (honey, chocolate and honeycomb) and unicorn (vanilla with sprinkles and broken cones pieces, which would otherwise be wasted). Local fruit is often showcased and all varieties are developed from scratch – strictly no pre-produced flavourings or pastes. Each summer, pupils from local schools dream up new flavours, which Ben churns into reality to be pitted against each other in a friendly competition. He’s also run a ‘bring your own banana’ event in the past, where shoppers could roll up with their fruit and enjoy a discounted banana split – and Halloween specials with… optional cricket or buffalo worm sprinkles.

Tubs to takeaway at Dylan’s Ice Cream in Haslemere


Hocking’s, North Devon
You won’t find Fabs or Magnums in the freezers of this fleet of ice cream vans – just Hocking’s classic vanilla. It’s made in Appledore using salted butter and clotted cream; add a scoop of the latter to your cone for total West Country indulgence. Find one of the traditional trucks at North Devon holiday hotspots including Westward Ho!, Appledore, Bideford and Instow every day throughout spring and summer.

Huge pride is taken in the running of this family business, with vans washed each day and staff serving scoops come rain or shine, outfitted in white coats. Founded by Dave Hocking in 1936, his original 1928 Morris Cowley vehicle is still in circulation. It’s thought that around 65 per cent of customers are from the local area – and keep coming back for Hocking’s old-fashioned flavour and charm.

Conti’s Ice Cream, Lampeter, West Wales
Conti’s traditional ice cream, made with nothing more than organic milk, cream, butter and sugar, took home the top prize in the ‘From the Dairy, Artisan’ category in the 2016 delicious. Produce Awards. It’s made to the same (secret) recipe today as it was in 1946, when the family began making ice cream in Wales.

Artillio Conti made the journey from northern Italy in the 1930s and went on to open 17 cafes across South and West Wales. Lampeter is the last remaining original site, today run by third generation Conti Jo and son Tom, chief ice cream maker, with his wife Heulwen. Since taking the helm in 2012, Tom has expanded the range of flavours to include blackberry, Welsh honey, elderflower and more – plus alcoholic ice creams in collaboration with Penderyn Distillery. There’s also a second café at National Trust property Llanerchaeron.

Cones from Conti’s. Photo: Mark Benham


Jack’s Gelato, Cambridge
The eponymous Jack van Praag made ice cream in restaurants before launching his own business in 2010, delivering grown-up, ingredient-led flavours such as double dark chocolate, salted treacle and yuzu sorbet (vegan friendly). Everything is made in small batches, with chocolate from celebrated producer Pump Street in Suffolk, organic vanilla from Madagascar and honey from Cambridge bees. Classic hazelnut or pistachio are sure bets but look out for the sublime miso and honey if it’s available. Just like the Italian stuff, the texture is pleasingly fluffy.

Expect to queue at either of Jack’s two town centre shops if the weather is good, but you can order ahead to skip the queue on the website – where you can also suggest a new flavour (or request an old favourite’s return). Nationwide home delivery is coming soon.

A double scoop at Jack’s Gelato


LA-POP!, Edgbaston, Birmingham
Love a chocolate-coated ice cream? You’ll love LA-POP! Proving that quality ice cream doesn’t have to take itself too seriously, this lolly bar produces gelato popsicles made from organic milk from a Leicestershire dairy farm, which you can customise to your heart’s content. Choose a lolly base (gelato or sorbet), from flavours such as caramel, banana, peach and coffee; dip it in milk, white, dark, strawberry, orange or matcha chocolate; and finish it with a chocolate drizzle and your pick of toppings – think crushed Oreos, coconut or chopped pistachios. There are gelato-based milkshakes on offer too. Such fun!

Customise your lolly at LA-POP!, Birmingham


Surfing Cow, Holbeton, South Devon
Recommended by delicious. reader Paula, who praised its beautiful ice cream and brilliant flavours, Surfing Cow makes gelato-style scoops on the same farm where it milks its Jersey-cross herd. Try the flavour Devon dairy – the British equivalent of Italian fior di latte – for the purest milky expression, alongside favourites such as rum and raisin, mint choc chip and salted caramel. Ingredients from other small Devon producers are used wherever possible. Enjoy your ice cream in the farm’s garden area, overlooking the sea, with a maize maze and sunflower field to explore in summer and pumpkin patch in the autumn. Decided to take home a tub for the freezer? The 120ml, 500ml and 1 litre cartons are biodegradable and compostable.

Shorty’s, Ballater, Aberdeenshire
Lifelong ice cream lover Cheryl Barr opened her parlour in 2017 with the motto “It’s never too cold for ice cream!” The place serves up an array of homemade ice creams (butterscotch is our pick), alongside baked treats and hot desserts (warm cookie dough or sticky toffee pudding, anyone?). There’s also a bevy of sauces and toppings, from hot Nutella and Biscoff to tropical fruit and Maltesers, to choose from. Shorty’s often takes its hot chocolates, cookie pies and more on the road to local events and a new shop will open in nearby Aboyne soon.

Moomaid of Zennor, Cornwall
Rob Monies’ family have been producing milk at Tremedda Farm, near the village of Zennor, since 1905. Together with brother Nicky, he launched Moomaid of Zennor in 2006, a name that acknowledges their herd of Friesian Holsteins and the local legend of a young Cornishman enticed into the sea by a beguiling mermaid. Today, ice cream is made in small batches just across the yard from where the ‘moomaids’ are milked, churned with double cream or Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream. Found in shops and restaurants across the county, the brand also has its own parlours in Porthtowan, St Ives, Zennor and St Just and has produced over 30 flavours. Highlights includes crème fraîche and lemon curd, moomaid mess (a twist on Eton mess, with meringue, hazelnuts, choc chips and raspberry) and shipwreck (sea salt, dulce de leche and honeycomb). There’s also a range of sorbets, always made with real fruit.

Take a seat outside Moomaid of Zennor’s St Just parlour


Did we miss your favourite ice cream parlour? Let us know in the comments below.

Fancy making your own next-level ice cream? Check out our recipes for builder’s tea ice cream, olive oil ice cream and more here.

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