The UK's top 20 vineyards, brewery tours, ale trails and cider-making courses
Pippa Stephens finds the top experiences offering an insight into how the country's best locally produced ales, beer, ciders, wines and spirits are made.
With hours of daylight stretching long into the evening and the elusive sun finally splintering over Britain's green hills, summertime provides an ideal excuse to explore how the UK's internationally award-winning ciders, wines and spirits are produced.
Breweries and Ale Trails
Castle Brewery, Cockermouth, Cumbria CA13 9NE
Jennings Brewery was established in 1828. The brewery is located in the historic town of Cockermouth and uses pure Lakeland water drawn from the breweries’ own well for brewing. The ales can be enjoyed in the atmospheric bar, the Old Cooperage, whilst lunch may be taken in the Tea Rooms.
42 Slateford Road, Edinburgh EH11 1PH
The last brewery to be located in the heart of Edinburgh, Caledonian was established in 1869. Having survived two world wars, multiple fires, Caledonian brewery is still producing beer in the same hand-finished style today as it was in Victorian times. Watch direct open coppers at work and see the location of novelist Ian Rankin’s book “Murder at the Brewery”.
Southwold, Suffolk, IP18 6JW
Inside this Victorian building lies one of the most modern breweries in the UK, with state of the art instillations. Meet a member of the team and learn about the beer-making process, carry out a tutored beer tasting and take home a bottle of beer.
Hook Norton Oxon OX15 5NY
Brewery tours begin from the Visitor’s Centre - originally bought in 1849. After a trip around the brewery, museum and village museum, witness the working steam engine on the ground floor, sample some beer and take home your own glass with a badge.
63 Trevarthian Road, St Austell, Cornwall PL25 4BY
Walk through the Victorian Brewery and witness the brewing process first hand, including the secret spring supplying the water. Explore the interactive museum and learn the history of St Austell Brewery’s pubs, beers, wines and spirits and about the Cornish families behind them. Finish in the Hicks Bar and sample some award-winning ales and pub food.
Wellgarth, Masham, Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 4EN
At the gateway to Wensleydale, this brewery is situated on the banks of the River Ure in North Yorkshire. Regular tours allow guests to see the traditional brewing process and sample award-winning ales. The Black Sheep Shop sells bespoke hampers to provide a taste of Yorkshire and the boots and beer walking festival, in September, includes a choice of 14 walks across the Yorkshire Dales.
Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, School of Geography, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA
Sample some of the best traditional real ales and pubs along some of the most beautiful rural branch lines in Devon and Cornwall.
Nanstation, Bodmin Cornwall PL30 5LG
A idyllic setting in sun-drenched slopes near the Camel River has helped Camel Valley to produce award-winning wines for the last 20 years. Camel Valley combines traditional vineyard practices with more modern techniques. See the vineyard and winery, taste the vineyard’s most famous wine Cornwall Brut during a wine-tasting session and sit on the terrace overlooking the vineyards in the afternoon sun.
Riverside Cellars, The Mill, Glasshouses, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG3 5QH
Located in an area of outstanding beauty, this winery was established in 1989 in the cellars of a nineteenth-century flax mill overlooking the River Nidd . Traditional fruit wines such as elderberry, blackberry, damson, cherry and rhubarb are produced here. Wagtails swoop over the large, stone slab tables on the terrace where food is served outside. Wine tasting is carried out inside over glass floor, looking 20ft below to the large water turbine. Evening winery tours are available by appointment.
Tenterden Vineyard, Small Hythe Road, Tenterden, Kent TN30 7NG
Chapel Down is the largest producer of wine in Britain. Lease your own vine, pick your own grapes and design your own label, take a tour or do it yourself as the vineyard is handily signposted. Finish with lunch on the bistro’s wooden deck with views over the vineyard.
Newent, Gloucestershire, GL18 1LS
Walk amid 75 acres of tranquil vines through the vineyard nature trail, enjoy a guided tour and tasting in England’s leading single estate vineyard. Three Chors has eight bedrooms, a restaurant, a micro-brewery and a shop on site where it sells eight wines. Take a Wine Tasting Break for a weekend, or visit and adopt your own vine.
London Road, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6AA
Learn about the history, geology and wine-making process involved during a virtual vineyard tour. Follow with indoor and outdoor winery tours on a miniature train passing through the working winery and finish with wine tasting in the cellar.
Valley Road, Harmans Cross, Corfe Castle, Dorset BH20 5HU
Arrive to this family owned Vineyard by steam train in summer and sample red and white wines produced from over 3000 vines on the sunny southerly Purbeck slopes. Take a tour around the vineyard and learn about the wine making process. Stay in a luxury guest bedroom in a four-poster bed with views from the balcony over the vineyard.
Upper Road, Adgestone, Sandown, Isle of Wight PO36 0ES
One of the oldest in Britain, Adgestone is set on a south-facing slope in an area believed to have been used originally as a vineyard by the Romans. Sample a cream tea and homemade cakes in the café then take a tour and enjoy a generous tasting of the red, white and sparkling wines in the purpose-made winery cellars.
Penhallow, Truro, Cornwall TR4 9LW
Explore the distillery, press house, bottlery, underground cellars and museum and learn about the process and history of making the award-winning Cornish Rattler and Cornish Scrumpy cider. Watch a complete working year at the Cornish Cider Farm on video and take a tractor ride through the fruit and apple orchards in the valley below. Finish by sampling traditional scrumpys and sparkling ciders and enjoy a Cornish Cream Tea or homemade lunch in the restaurant.
Bridges, Bradford-on-Tone, Taunton, Somerset TA4 1ER
See the 40 varieties of apple growing in the 150 acres of traditional farmland and learn about commercial orcharding from the back of a tractor. Stop off at the cellars where the prize-winning ciders are fermented and inhale the typical Westcountry aroma of aged oak and cider. Try the ciders for size in the tearooms with an expert guide.
Plough Lane, Hereford HR4 0XH
Herefordshire has been producing cider for 350 years and hosts a range of cider farms, namely Dunkerton’s, with free tastings of the formidable Black Fox cider, at 7%. Cycle to some of the best farms in the area with pre-prepared cycle routes.
Rosemaund Farm, Hereford, HR1 3PG
The home of the world’s best vodka – as voted in the San Francisco World Spirit Awards in March of this year – is in Hereford. The lovingly bottled potato vodka is made on a 400-acre farm alongside cider, apple vodka and gin using a hand-crafted copper pot still and a custom built, 70-foot rectification column. Take a tour around the farm in a trailer, see the potatoes being mashed in the distillery and design your own infusions during a mixology lesson in the bar.