Ok, so the Icelandic ash cloud is back and could be disrupting flights into and out of the UK, but all is not lost! With a heat wave just around the corner (supposedly) now is a perfect time to head into the countryside of England for a short break. From quaint countryside cottages to luxury ivy-covered ancient hotels, there’s a lot of choice on offer.
Did you know English Wine Week is starting on Saturday? Designed to promote the country’s variety of plonk, special events are taking place throughout the week in vineyards from Surrey to Yorkshire. Sure, many people might turn their noses up at English wine. But due to a new breed of professionalism and modern equipment, they’re now rather pleasing to the palate! Just to help you along the way, we have sourced some fantastic rustic cottages nearby each vineyard so you can make a weekend of it. Visit the vineyards, go rambling in the nearby hills, and choose the perfect meal to go with your new favourite bottle...
The Surrey Downs
Sure, Surrey is right by London, and sure, the commuter belt is big and strong. But the Surrey Hills are officially recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty (AONB) and it’s so easy to see why! The rolling chalk hills of Box Hill, Headley Heath, and Ranmore Common are grand spectacles in an otherwise sea of road, and are majestic to behold. Denbies Vineyard is nestled right in the middle of it, and is also the UK’s largest vineyard. To mark the beginning of Wine Week, the vineyard has thrown together a ride on the train-style coach through the hills to Ranmore, where visitors will feast on canapés and home-grown wine.
This is followed by dinner in the Gallery Restaurant, which boasts panoramic views of the North Downs. Later events held in the week include a cheese making lecture, and a champagne tasting tour. Stay in a spacious detached family home in nearby Cowfield. Owned by Cottages4you, this quiet residential house is only a stones-throw from historic Horsham and its range of restaurants and pubs. Ramble up the slopes to the 18th century Gothic tower at Leith Hill. The cramped stone staircases lead to a rooftop with unbelievably stunning views of Surrey. This is the highest point in south-east England. Head to Mickleham and dine at The Running Horses, which serves gourmet meals over a red carpet. This area of England is truly beautiful, whilst enjoying a tranquility unruffled by tourist crowds.
Last of the Summer Wine
The rolling hills of Yorkshire are some of the most beautiful and wild countryside in England. The wild grasslands and windy slopes evoke many a romantic feeling. We can’t actually think of a better location for a vineyard than in Holmfirth, where the classic BBC comedy the Last of the Summer Wine was filmed. Opened four years ago, Holmfirth Vineyard was originally a sheep rearing business but now boasts over 7000 vines! With a new restaurant opening tomorrow and a visitor’s centre finished a month ago, it has stunning views of the nearby Peak District. Try the daily wine tasting course and vineyard tour. At just £4.99 it’s an absolute bargain. Castle House Farm Cottages are traditional Yorkshire stone barns converted into holiday homes, and have modern kitchens along with lots more amenities. Located just outside of town, you could spend your second day visiting the iron age fort Castle Hill, followed with a pint at the award-winning Butchers Arms.
It’s in the soil
It’s not every day that an ex-RAF man wins countless and countless international and national awards. But at Camel Valley in the heart of Cornwall, that is exactly what happened. Winners of Best Sparkling Rosé in the World at the 2010 Italian World Sparkling Wine Championships 2010, Bob Lindo and wife Annie have been awarded well over 30 more. They planted their first vines in 1989, read up all they could about wine, bought some equipment, and hey presto! Two decades later they’re at their peak. So head down here for yourself and see what all the fuss is about. Take a tour of the vineyard and winery and see how grapes are transformed. But for a real treat, head up this Sunday for the wine week special of ‘Camel’s fizz and the Outlaw’s fish.’ Double Michelin starred Nathan Outlaw will cook-up a fish barbeque after you take a tour of the vineyard with owner Bob. And if you’re wondering where to stay, the vineyard offers two barn converted cottages with views of the valley. The Eden Project is only ten minutes away, and the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth is also near.
Sure you might not be able to head to France for some wine because of the ash-cloud, but do the next best thing and explore England instead!