It’s been a proud couple of years for the UK, after two English vineyards were awarded gold at the prestigious International Wine Challenge. Yes, Britain can grow wine grapes. You may be surprised to hear that there are no less than 400 vineyards and wineries across the country, so vino lovers don’t need to look to Europe for wine-tasting short breaks. Most offer the opportunity to take tours of the extensive grounds and stay in boutique guest rooms.
So, which vineyards should you visit this year?
If you’re looking for the best wines in the UK, Camel Valley is a gold award winning winery in Cornwall with eighty-two acres of gorgeous grapes. It was founded in 1982 by an ex-RAF pilot, after he experienced a traumatising air collision. Part of the estate includes beautiful stone cottages that are available to rent for a week, self-catered. There are ample opportunities for walking and cycling by the riverbank.
Two farmers started up this vineyard in 1976 and now they offer the whole package: shop, B&B, tours, lunch, visitor centre, and wine tastings. With more than 14 English wines to taste, you’re spoilt for choice. There are either terraced Vineyard View rooms to choose from or your very own Scandinavian lodge! After you’ve enjoyed a little more wine than perhaps you should have, you can stagger back to your luxe pad feeling wholly satisfied.
This mini vineyard has its own restaurant and chic hotel, complete with wrought-iron beds and silky throws. If you’re lucky, you can even snap up a balcony with views of the vineyard. Try visiting in the summer, when you can rock up in a steam train and get dropped off at a nearby station.
If you find yourself in the Isle of Wight, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit one of the older vineyards in the UK – at the age of forty-two, it might as well be ancient in British vineyard years! Expect a café that serves cream teas and a farmhouse that provides rooms with great views (and affordable too). Guests get free tours and, of course, wine tasting.
At Biddenden, you can sup ten varieties of wine, as well as some robust ciders and apple juices (would not recommend mixing those). Biddenden offers free tours twice a month and there’s a Vineyard Loft for overnight guests. And yes, this open plan studio leads to a glorious balcony.
This is about as north as it goes, when it comes to winemaking. A hop, skip, and a jump away from York city, Ryedale is home to 10 acres of organically grown grapes. This wildlife-friendly business has actually won numerous awards and the farmhouse offers rooms for any northern vinos looking for a place to lay their head for the night. And the owner’s octogenarian mother has provided homemade jams and marmalades for your brekkie!
Ava Watkins is a freelance journalist who wrote this post on behalf of Knowsley Safari Park; discover a great family day out at Knowsley!