Pack your bags (and maybe an umbrella), these are the best English vineyards for tours, wine tasting experiences and more
The last of the summer wine is dwindling – and after all that rain, a golden English autumn couldn’t come sooner. What better way to enjoy the changing leaves and make the most of the last days of warm weather than by packing a picnic hamper and heading for Britain’s most beautiful vineyards? From Sussex to Essex, Kent to Suffolk, these are the best English vineyards and vineyard tours to book for a weekend escape.
Best English vineyard for an overnight stay
After one too many glasses of rosé it pays to have somewhere to nap away a fuzzy head. A vineyard-meets-luxury-Airbnb, Toppesfield’s vines are overlooked by Toppesfield Wine Centre, a contemporary holiday cottage with glorious views. After a day sampling Toppesfield’s Bacchus Reserve 2020 or Sparkling rosé brut (if the mood takes you), the Wine Centre is equipped for an evening of unwinding with a four person Jacuzzi, day bed and tennis court to practice your backstroke. The ultimate city escape, Toppesfield is just an hour and a half from London by car, and sleeping up to four it’s the perfect wine lover’s weekend break. Locally to the vineyard, the village of Toppesfield has its own microbrewery and community-owned pub. Further afield, the pretty villages of Finchingfield, Castle Hedingham and Saffron Walden are also worth a visit. For a vineyard a stone’s throw from both London and Essex (saving the need for a designated driver), you couldn’t do better.
Stay at Toppesfield Wine Centre from £240 per night, www.toppesfieldvineyard.co.uk
Bolney Wine Estate
Best vineyard for Family days out
Just two hours from London by train, Bolney Wine Estate is the ultimate family day out. Whether your pace , foodie pairings or even yoga in the vines – Bolney has tours for every type of wine lover. Meanwhile, kids can explore the acres of vines (and blow off some steam) with the Bertie the Bolney Bunny tour, ending at the Eighteen Acre Cafe. Reserving a table here is worth it for the views over ripening vines and beautiful seasonal grub. If you prefer, you could book a Bolney picnic basket instead and enjoy some more time taking in the second-to-none South Downs surroundings. Don’t leave without stopping by the shop on the way out: after all the walking, Sussex cheese and chutneys or a bottle of Bolney’s own wine to take home will be well deserved.
Cheese and wine tasting tour, £22.50 per person, www.bolneywineestate.com
Three Choirs Vineyard
The Best English vineyard for a Cotswolds weekend break
Nestled in the heart of rural Gloucestershire, 75-acre Three Choirs Vineyard could easily be mistaken for a spot in Tuscany. As well as wine tours and tastings, there are three lodges and eight Vineyard View Rooms, making this the ideal place for a romantic getaway (wine, candlelight, and an on-site brasserie serving tapas – what more could you want?).
Three Choirs’ English wine tasting experience begins at the Cellar Door, where a guide will take you to the edge of the vines and give a lesson on the growing process. Winding its way down to the winery, you’ll learn about the journey from grape to bottle. Finally, make your way (possibly wonkily – a four-wine tasting is included) to the Brasserie for a lunch of small plate warm fresh figs with crumbled stilton, arancini or potted prawns and crayfish. Between tours, tastings and meals, there are also miles of vineyard walks to explore.
Vineyard tour and wine tasting, £15 per person, www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk
Best English vineyard for a Family day out
A gem of an organic vineyard in the heart of the Surrey Hills, Albury Estate is the passion project of Nick Wenman, who took over the vineyard in 2009. If you have a budding interest in sustainable, biodiverse and organic English wine this is the place to brush up your knowledge. Wine and cheese tasting tours kick off with a glass of sparkling English wine, progressing to a self-guided tour of the vineyard. There’s also a more intensive guided walk and tasting session, delving into the processes which go into organic viticulture. If you manage to get tickets, Music In the Vineyard is a must – featuring a programme of opera singers, jazz trios and musical theatre troupes. Keep an eye out for the wagging tails of Attila and Ulisse, the Albury resident dogs. (PS: Gin enthusiasts – this is also a dream getaway for you, as Albury is located right next to the Silent Pool gin distillery).
Vineyard tour and tasting, £20 per person, www.alburyvineyard.com
Best English vineyard stay in Sussex
On the hunt for a vineyard tour in Sussex? In a beautiful location by the River Tillingham which will win over even the most reluctant country-goer, Tillingham represents the best of what Sussex has on offer. Dating back to the 13th century, the farm itself is one-of-a-kind, blending age-old techniques with break through science – something you can learn about on its tour. If you’re going to sample the spoils, make it a glass of Tillingham’s vegan White (we tried it with a full English fry up – a surprisingly perfect pairing). Foodies won’t be disappointed either, the on-site restaurant serves set dinners, a la carte, small plates and even pizza. Keep an eye out, too, for the recently converted outdoor kitchen in the farm yard with al fresco seating on the terrace. After you’ve had your fill of wine, food, and vineyard walks there are eleven rooms (in the former hop barn) to crash in. Into glamping? Tillingham has also introduced two bell tents for the summer.
Vineyard tours, from £35 per person, www.tillingham.com
Best English vineyard tour in Cornwall
Visiting a vineyard might not immediately spring to mind for bucket list Cornwall activities, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t stopover at Camel Valley. A family-run business since 1989, Camel Valley holds a royal warrant for good reason. A meander around its enchanting, sloping vines on a guided tour is the best way to appreciate the goods, rounded off by tasting four of its flagship wines (our personal favourite? The pinot noir rosé). Or, simply relax on the sun terrace for wine by the glass and a dose of those famed panoramic views of the Cornish countryside. For a romantic stay, you can also book one of its two barn conversion holiday cottages, spectacularly located with views over the valley. The perfect antidote to city life. Daily tour, from £5 per person, www.camelvalley.com
As for those of you who can’t make it out this weekend? No need to feel blue, get the vineyard getaway experience (almost) by ordering one of our English Best Sellers, finding a good spot for a sunlounger in the garden, and seeing off the season in English Vine style. Cheers to you!