Unspoiled beaches, historic towns, and more local delicacies than you can shake a fork at: the UK really does have it all. While the weather cannot be guaranteed this summer, good food can. Here’s our guide to the best places to while away those long, hazy days…
Words: Kayleigh Rattle
Eat your weight in seafood in Dorset
Home to the River Cottage, Dorset apple cake, and Portland lamb, Dorset has long been a pilgrimage for food afficionados. And this scenic county happens to be the perfect destination for seafood lovers: think cosy shacks on the beach, chunky crab sandwiches by the sea and oysters aplenty. For rustic charm, the Hive Beach Cafe (hivebeachcafe.co.uk) at Burton Bradstock is a must. Here you can tuck into sustainably sourced lobster (plus delicacies from their in-house bakery) mere metres from the sea. If oysters and English sparkling wine are more your thing, check out Lyme Regis where Mark Hix’s HIX Oyster & Fish House (hixrestaurants.co.uk) which boasts panoramic views of the Jurassic Coast, as well as all manner of morsels from the sea, such as Bigbury Bay cockle popcorn and scrumpy-fried rock oysters served with scotch bonnet mayonnaise. Handily, the HIX Townhouse is a short walk away from the restaurant too – with just eight rooms on offer you’ll have to book early, but it makes a great base for any holiday. Seafood enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival (dorsetseafood.co.uk) either. Taking place in the pretty harbour town of Weymouth 13th-14th July, the festival will host all manner of chef demonstrations and stalls, plus plenty of English sparkling wine.
Take a Bite of Suffolk’s Edible Coast
With award-winning bakeries Two Magpies (twomagpiesbakery.co.uk) based in coastal towns Southwold and Aldeburgh, and Pump Street Bakery (pumpstreetchocolate.com) in Orford, the Suffolk coast is a mecca for bread and cake lovers alike. Be sure to stop by under-the-radar garden centre and cafe Darsham Nurseries (darshamnurseries.co.uk) while en route between the two, where fresh garden produce is transported from plot to plate with understated finesse. And if you can bear to digest a crumb or two more, check out Aldeburgh’s quaint little tearoom Cragg Sisters (cragsisters.co.uk) for sizeable cheese scones and expertly curated tea blends. For accommodation, Southwold’s The Swan (theswansouthwold.co.uk) takes some beating, especially when Adnams’ brewery and distillery is on its doorstep. If glamping’s more your thing, check out Happy Days Retro Vacations’ Airstreams in Saxmundham – the perfect base to explore Suffolk’s pretty seaside towns. (oneoffplaces.co.uk)
Drink English Wine in Sussex
Thought you had to head to France or Italy for a vineyard tour or two this summer? Think again. On top of being the sunniest county in the UK (no wonder the grapes love it), Sussex is home to some of the UK’s best-known vineyards including Bolney, Rathfinny, Oxney, Bluebell, and Ridgeview – all of which are open to the public tours and visits. Count yourself as the next David Attenborough? Check out Rathfinny’s wildlife-filled nature tour, the Rathfinny Trail (rathfinnyestate.com), while you’re in the area, which explores the vineyard’s surrounding woodlands as well as the Estate itself. After sampling some of Rathfinny’s award-winning sparkling wine, treat yourself to a spot of lunch at the Estate, along with panoramic views of the vineyards. If you’d like to stay a night or two on a Sussex vineyard, Oxney Organic Estate (oxneyestate.com), on the outskirts of Rye, has three converted barns and two shepherds huts – ideal if you’re booking yourself a wine tasting session or two.
Go on a Guided Gourmet tour of Kent
Love the idea of exploring a new foodie region of the UK but not sure of how to plan such a getaway? Small group tour provider Rabbies (rabbies.com) can do the hard work for you, so all you need to do is concentrate on sampling Kent’s prized local fodder. Offering convenient pickups from London’s Victoria, Rabbies’ three-day ‘flavours of Kent’ tour will take you to local landmarks Leeds Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover, as well as some of the tastiest locations in the garden of England, from Kentish vineyards to oyster hotspot, Whitstable.
Road Trip around the Isle of Wight
There’s nothing quite like a road trip, especially when all of the stop-offs revolve around food. For a holiday with a difference, why not hop on a short ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight? Local gems to experience include Thompson’s (robertthompson.co.uk), the outpost of Robert Thompson, the youngest British chef to be awarded a Michelin star; The Isle of Wight Cheese (isleofwightcheese.co.uk) – their soft, naturally rinded cheese Blue Slipper is to die for; and the Isle of Wight Distillery, whose hand-crafted spirits contain locally foraged botanicals such as samphire. Fan of garlic? No visit to the Isle of Wight is complete without a visit to the Garlic Farm (thegarlicfarm.co.uk). On top of tours, tastings and even a dedicated garlic festival taking place 18th August 2019, you can even sleep in one of the farm’s yurts during your stay.
Hike and Drink the Fife Coastal Path
It may be one of the smallest regions in the UK, but when it comes to food, Fife certainly punches above its weight. While the Fife Coastal Path stretches 117 miles in total, it can be split into manageable walking chunks, each with its own foodie focus. The East Neuk of Fife (from St Andrews to Leven) is a great starting point, particularly for those hoping to sample a local tipple or two. While in the area, you’ll want to head to East Neuk Organics at food and drink hub and marketplace Bowhouse (bowhousefife.com) for small-batch wild beer, Lundin Distilling (lundindistilling.com) for local gorse gin and St Andrews Brewery (standrewsbrewingcompany.com) and Eden Mill (edenmill.com) for delicious beer and gin respectively. After all the exercise (and tastings), you’ll want somewhere to cosy to rest your head and The Peat Inn (thepeatin.co.uk), just ten minutes from St Andrews, is just the bolthole. Its adjoining restaurant has held a Michelin star since 2010, so you can and expect the rooms to be every bit as impressive as the food.