Top UK festivals for beer, wine and spirits

Britain is renowned for its craft beers, fine spirits and delightful mixology, while the growth of its wine industry continues to gather pace. With ‘Dry January’ at an end, those keen to sample the best of Britain’s alcohol can enjoy an abundance of incredible festivals for beer, wine and spirits throughout 2019, all of which provide ample opportunity to discover innovative concoctions and perhaps even a new tipple of choice…

Great British Gin Festival

The Great British Gin Festival will continue its tour of Britain in 2019, bringing 100 different gins from around the world to a range of locations. With cocktail demos and presentations from industry producers, they’ll be a generous helping of flavoured gins to test the taste buds, all with a background of live music.

When? On selected Fridays and Saturdays throughout 2019: 9 February (Hartlepool), 23 February (Winchester), 9 March (Portsmouth), 23 March (Ipswich), 29 March (Northamptonshire), 12 April (Bristol), 20 April (Hastings), 20 April (Edinburgh), 4 May (Belfast), 17 May (Birmingham), 25 May (Isle of Wight), 1 June (Cardiff), 7 June (Maidstone), 22 June (Newcastle), 29 June (London), 13 July (Nottingham), 27 July (Jersey)

Craft Beer Rising   

Tantalise your taste buds at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, as Craft Beer Rising brings together more than a hundred of the finest craft brewers and ten cider producers. Alongside established names from the craft beer world, such as Brewdog, London Fields Brewery and Tiny Rebel, the festival will also welcome Brooklyn Brewery and Goose Island from the United States. Visitors can sample an array of delicious street food in The Foxes Den and enjoy live music across all three days of the event.

When? 21-23 February

The Wine and Spirits Show

Following an extremely popular show in autumn 2018, in April this year The Wine and Spirits Show returns to One Whitehall Place, part of the iconic The Royal Horseguards hotel in Westminster. Sample masterclasses from major wine and spirit brands, meet up with boutique wine producers and discover more about the fantastic history of Champagne. Head to the Global Masters Zone to find out more about prestigious entries into Global Masters competitions, sample a range of brews from every continent as part of the Global Beer Tour Zone, or visit the Spirits Hall – home to award-winning vodka, whisky, tequila, bourbon and more.

When? 12-13 April

London Whisky Weekender

Try an array of the finest home-grown Scottish whiskies, alongside brands from all corners of the globe at the London Whisky Weekender. With set sessions at the Kia Oval to ensure things don’t get too crowded, try the finest whiskies that India, Japan, the USA and Taiwan (among many others) have to offer, or purchase ‘under the counter dram tokens’ to sample rarer, more exclusive tipples.

When? 10-12 May

Prosecco Springs

The UK’s largest festival dedicated to sparkling wine, Prosecco Springs, will return to London’s Oval Space in May. With more producers on the bill than in previous years, visitors can sample authentic Italian street food, live music and an abundance of Prosecco in the heart of East London.

When? 17-19 May

Fyne Fest    

The annual celebration of beer, food and music at the Fyne Ales brewery estate in Cairndow, Argyll marks its tenth year in 2019. Having won Beer event of the Year at the 2018 Scottish Beer Awards, the family-friendly festival welcomes people of any age and has plenty of space for visitors to pitch tents or park up in motorhome and caravans. Fyne Fest will have more than 200 beers from over 50 of Europe’s breweries available to try, as well as a wealth of cider, cocktails, wines and spirits. Three stages host live music while 11 local and award-winning producers provide the food.

When? 31 May - 3 June

Festival of Wine 

Having originated in Glasgow in 2002, wine expert Tom Cannavan’s popular festival has expanded to take in three cities across Britain. The Festival of Wine features tastings and masterclasses in city centre locations from top winemakers, retailers and importers, allowing visitors to discover great wines and to learn the stories behind them.

When? 29 June (Glasgow), 19 October (London), 9 November (Edinburgh)

Great British Beer Festival

Developed by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the Great British Beer Festival showcases more than 900 real ales and craft beers from around the world, of which more than half come from British brewers. Having operated for more than 40 years, the festival is run by hundreds of volunteers and also serves an array of ciders, fine wines, perries and gin from more than 30 bars. Tutored tasting sessions reveal more about the brews on offer, with each brewery also competing for the prestigious title of 2019 Champion Beer of Britain.

When? 6-10 August

Indy Man Beer Con

Hosted in the glorious surroundings of Victoria Baths in Manchester, Independent Manchester Beer Convention will return for its eighth year in October. Welcoming breweries from across Britain, and a sprinkling of those from elsewhere in the world, the event features an eclectic mix of tasting sessions and a food village packed with delicacies from around the region.

When? 3-6 October

RumFest

Showcasing more than 400 rums from across the world, RumFest returns to the ILEC conference centre in Earls Court, London, for its thirteenth year in 2019. Expect intimate seminars from some of the industry’s leading lights, an array of delicious food tastings, live music and holiday giveaways as part of a carnival-like experience.

When? 19-20 October

Craft Beer Calling 

Bringing together an abundance of craft breweries under one roof, Newcastle’s Wylam Brewery will host the sixth edition of Craft Beer Calling in late October. As well as a Gin Palace and an artisan cider cellar, visitors can talk with the brewery staff to find out more about their favourite tipples before indulging at the on-site street food market.

When? 24-26 October

The Wine Festival 

Featuring hundreds of wines from English wine producers and some from further afield, Winchester Guildhall hosts The Wine Festival, a selection of tasters, masterclasses, street food and merchandise. Masters of Wine and TV presenters, Susie Barry and Peter Richards, host the event, imparting their expert knowledge while visitors discover exciting new wines.

When? 29-30 November

8 new museums and exhibitions you won’t want to miss

You’re never far from a first-rate museum or art gallery in Britain, many of which are free to visit. Take a look at these hot new openings in 2018 and be the first to see some of the best new exhibitions and galleries in the world.

 

If you like – art and design

You’ll loveDundee’s V&A, Dundee, Scotland

The V&A – one of London’s best museums – opens a new outpost of the museum in the Scottish city of Dundee this autumn, located 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. Ultra-modern and sleek in design, and architect Kengo Kuma’s first British commission, the museum launches with the spectacular Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition, which will display never-before-seen objects and highlights from the ships that revolutionised travel in the mid-19th to the late 20th centuries. The museum will also showcase world-class touring exhibitions from the V&A, as well as the best of Scottish design.

Open: 15 September

 

If you like – sculpture

You’ll loveYorkshire Sculpture Park’s new visitor centre, Yorkshire, north England

Be one of the first to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s (YSP) £4million, environmentally friendly visitor centre later this year, which will bring a gallery space exhibiting 20th- and 21st-century art, a restaurant and shop to this leading centre of modern and contemporary sculpture. Set in the 18th-century Bretton Hall Estate in West Yorkshire, 30 minutes from Leeds, it’s also the only place in the world where you can see Barbara Hepworth’s The Family of Man in its entirety as well as a significant collection of sculpture, including bronzes by Henry Moore.

Open: Summer 2018

 

If you like – great feats of engineering

You’ll love – Being Brunel, Bristol, south-west England

New to Bristol this year is Being Brunel, a museum celebrating the life and work of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the celebrated Victorian engineer whose famous designs include SS Great Britain, itself moored next to the new museum, and the city’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. It explores everything from the great designs themselves, his celebrity, his ambition to become a leader in engineering, and his home life. Families will love the interactive exhibits, which include talking portraits of his family and friends.

Open: Now

 

If you like – classic ceramics

You’ll love – the new-look Museum of Royal Worcester, Worcestershire, west England

Receiving a £1.7million refurbishment means the museum of the famed porcelain makers, located an hour from Birmingham, will become a living history of the factory, telling the stories of the people that worked there, as well as exhibiting collections that date back to 1751 when the company was formed.

Open: May 2018

 

If you like – maritime history

You’ll love – the new galleries at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Taking a lead role in Cook 250 – the 250th anniversary celebrations of Captain Cook’s first expedition from London to the Pacific and Australia (on 26 August) – the National Maritime Museum is opening four new permanent galleries in 2018 in its East Wing. The new ‘Endeavour Galleries’ will each be dedicated to different themes: Pacific Encounters, Polar Worlds, Tudor and Stuart Seafarers, and Sea Things.
Open: Mid-2018 TBC

 

If you like – Welsh history

You’ll love – the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff, Wales

Later this year, new galleries will open at the open-air history museum around St Fagans Castle to display objects – many never shown before – from the National Museum Wales’ collections. Part of a significant renovation project, there will also be new buildings across the site, one – Gweithdy, a sustainable building boasting a café and a range of craft workshops – that is now open.

Open: Now, and throughout 2018

 

If you like – WWII history

You’ll love – the new galleries at D-Day Story, Portsmouth, south England

Personal stories of D-Day are told through the museum’s collections and audio-visual presentations in the refurbished galleries of the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, two hours south of London. The new displays feature accounts of the Battle of Normandy and the museum has also put together guides on how you can discover the story of your family members involved in D-Day.

Open: Now

 

If you like – world-class art

You’ll love – the revamped Royal Academy, London

Marking its 250th anniversary in 2018, the Royal Academy will reveal its new look this summer. It will showcase more major exhibitions focusing on living artists and architects, new free art displays, and the institution’s two buildings – Burlington House on Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens – will be linked for the first time with dedicated spaces for exhibitions and displays across the site, including a new Architecture Studio and cafés. There’ll also be an increase in the debates, discussions and workshops the RA is famed for.

Open: May 2018

 

You might also like:

  • In autumn 2018 the British Museum in London will open the Albukhary Foundation Galleries of the Islamic world and a new Japan gallery.
  • The RAF Museum’s RAF Centenary Programme is transforming its London site as part of the Royal Air Force’s centenary celebrations in 2018 with new permanent exhibitions, opening in the summer, and the Now & the Future exhibit area will tell the story of the RAF from its earliest years in the First World War to its global role today.
  • The new-look Mackintosh Tearooms, Glasgow, Scotland, a £10million project preserving the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Tea Rooms Building, is scheduled for completion in June, and a shop next door will be transformed into an education and interpretative centre.
  • Westminster Abbey, London, will welcome a new gallery and museum this summer. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries in the Abbey’s medieval triforium, runs 70 ft above the Abbey and has not been seen by the public for more than 700 years. Expect to see treasures from the Abbey’s 1,000-year history.
  • Discover more than 3,000 objects from around the world in south London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens new World Gallery, celebrating what it means to be human. The new £4.6million gallery includes works of art and fun things to touch, play with and smell.

Surprising spots to tie the knot

The world will be watching when Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry this spring at Windsor Castle. But while Windsor’s historic St George’s Chapel is reserved for the nuptials of a very select few, the UK has many unusual options for adventurous brides and grooms-to-be.

 

Going underground

How deep is your love? About 300 metres deep if you get married in the Wookey Hole Caves, in Somerset. These subterranean limestone caves were carved out over millennia by the River Axe. Choose from three caverns where you can tie the knot, surrounded by flickering candles and crystal-clear pools.

 

Reach for the stars

If you want your wedding day to be out of this world, marry at Flamsteed House, the historic house of the Astronomers Royal in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London. Take your wedding photos either side of the Prime Meridian, then dance the night away under the digital stars inside the famous Peter Harrison Planetarium (where they can also arrange private wedding proposals).

 

Under the sea

Your marriage could be in deep water, in the best possible way, if you hold your ceremony at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, Devon. Exchange your vows against a glowing blue aquatic backdrop as fish, stingrays and tiger sharks glide gracefully past.

 

Woodland wonderful

Shout your love from the treetops – literally – by marrying in the wooden wonderland of The Treehouse at The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland. Tie the knot under a canopy of lime trees, before having your photos taken on the rustic walkways and rope bridges. Continue the woodland theme in the treetop restaurant, where furniture has been crafted from chunky logs and fallen branches.

 

High society

Embrace your inner ‘Lady of the Manor’ with a Downton Abbey-inspired wedding.

Highclere Castle in Newbury, Berkshire, was the real-life setting for the award-winning period drama. Follow in Lady Edith’s footsteps by descending the same great oak staircase she walked down en route to her wedding, before exchanging your own vows in the castle’s majestic saloon.

 

Islands in the stream

Originally built in the 1860s to guard against a French naval invasion, the Solent Forts off the coast of Portsmouth in Hampshire eventually became an important line of defence during the Second World War. After laying unused for several decades, Spitbank and No Man’s Forts were transformed into luxury boutique hotels where weddings can be booked. The third – Horse Sand Fort – is a museum. Arrive by speedboat on this man-made island and enjoy endless views across The Solent and the English Channel.

 

Training day

You can make sure your marriage is going places, when you exchange vows at the historic Llangollen Railway Station in Denbighshire, North Wales. Then travel by steam train through the lush, green Dee Valley, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

 

Scandi-Chic

Create your own Sami-style celebration with PapaKåta Teepees. These spacious, traditional tents come with lots of magical add-ons, including wood-burning fires, giant mirror balls and even a handcrafted circular oak bar. Pitch your teepee at lakeside venue Aldourie Castle, near Inverness, Scotland, and you can also squeeze in some monster spotting at the world-famous Loch Ness. Based in Henley-on-Thames, York and Scotland, they can set up tents across the UK.

 

Fit for a princess

Why stop at a castle when you can get married on your own island? Belle Isle is a 17th-century castle that sits on its own private island in Lough Erne Lake among 470 acres of countryside in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. After celebrating your nuptials, you can go fishing, shooting or explore the eight islands that make up this impressive estate.

48 Hours in South-East England

Stretching from Kent to the east of London, down to England’s southern coastal counties of Sussex and Hampshire and back up to the counties of Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire that cluster around the capital, the area of South-East England is one of diverse landscapes, vibrant beach resorts, historic cities and gastronomic centres of excellence.

The real beauty of this region is its accessibility from London, with numerous public transport options available from the capital to all parts of the South East. Within just 30 minutes south of London you can be in the attractive city of Guildford, with its inviting mix of centuries of history and first-rate contemporary shopping. Beautiful coastlines and verdant woodlands await you in the New Forest in Hampshire, just 90 minutes from London, or experience the royal atmosphere of Windsor or the scholarly vibes of Oxford in less than an hour’s journey time from the capital.

The area may be perfect for day trips from London, but it also means you can pack in a huge variety of experiences within a weekend in the area, each bringing its own unique charm. Here we take a look at just one option of how to spend 48 hours South-East England; in its vibrant coastal areas.

 

DAY ONE:

09:00 BROWSE CONTEMPORARY ART

Take an early train out of London’s Charing Cross station and, within 90 minutes, you’ll reach Hastings, a town on the Sussex coast that’s well-known for its connections with the famous battle of 1066 but is also at the forefront of contemporary art with exhibitions at the Jerwood Gallery. Set in a stunning glass building on the Old Town’s fishing beach, this is the home to a fabulous collection of 20th- and 21st-century British art.

 

10:30 DISCOVER THE DARK SECRETS OF SMUGGLERS

Head down to St Clements Caves and embark on a Smugglers’ Adventure. You’ll join notorious smuggler ‘Hairy Jack’ through underground tunnels and caverns on this interactive experience that tells the tales of smugglers through the ages. You can also enter the attraction via the original West Hill funicular railway, which retains its original Victorian wooden carriages.

 

12:00 EXPLORE THE TOWN’S PAST

Stroll around the picturesque Old Town, a bustling haven of cobbled streets, ‘twittens’ (narrow passageways) and a flourishing arts community, which you can explore through its myriad of antique stores and independent art shops.

 

13:00 FEAST ON LOCAL SEAFOOD

Fresh fish lands on Hastings’ beaches every day, serving the town’s restaurants and cafes. Head down to The Stade area, the town’s fishing and cultural quarter, and dine on smoked fish and fresh cockles at Rock-a-Nore Kitchen, or admire the views of the seafront while munching oysters and other delicacies from the sea at the Old Custom House Restaurant. Round off your lunch with a luscious homemade ice cream from Di Polas ice cream parlour, where flavours range from sea salt caramel to apple and ginger.

After lunch, jump on the train and travel to the coastal city of Brighton & Hove, around an hour’s journey. Although just a short distance from Hastings, you’ll find a different vibe here.

 

15:00 WALK THROUGH A ROYAL FANTASY

Brighton & Hove is bohemian yet historic, eccentric yet stylish, and is unlike any other English seaside city. Although its heritage is deeply rooted in the 18th century – the Regency era – it boasts a heady mix of contemporary culture, artistic quarters, must-see museums and diverse shopping. Dominating the town is the Royal Pavilion, built by King George IV, a palace unlike any other in Europe. Wander through architecture bedecked with Indian domes and oriental interiors as well as Regency style.

 

17:00 SOAR INTO THE AIR

For unrivalled views of the city and its surrounding area, take a ‘flight’ on British Airways i360, the tallest UK viewing platform outside of London. Brilliant, Instagrammable views surround you as you head up 450ft/137 metres in the air.

 

18:00 ENJOY TRUE BRITISH ENTERTAINMENT

Back down to earth and head out to sea – as far as the end of Brighton Pier! A Grade II-listed pleasure pier, you can enjoy fairground rides and entertainment, and don’t forget to buy an iconic English seaside treat – Brighton Rock.

 

19:00 DINE AT SUSTAINABLE RESTAURANTS

Brighton is a real hotspot for food, particularly if you’re looking for something special, with a range of restaurants that encompass everything from vegan to waste-free. Terre a Terre, situated in the narrow alleys of the 17th-century Lanes – a maze of eclectic shops and unique eateries – is about indulgent vegetarian cuisine. And, if you’re looking for a restaurant that endorses sustainability throughout, try Plateau, a vibrant Lanes-based eaterie that offers a menu of organic and biodynamic wine.

 

21:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

The city is well-known for its fabulous nightlife, arts and theatre scene, and is bursting with seriously cool and quirky bars and clubs. Sip on craft beers from local breweries, surrounded by walls lined with vinyl records and listen to your favourite tunes on the record players at Dead Wax Social; enjoy live music, home-made brews and quirky weekend events such as chocolate-sculpting lessons at the North Laine Brewhouse; or sip cocktails amid the retro charm of The Mesmerist, a 1920s’ speakeasy-style bar.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

There’s a range of well-known budget hotel names in Brighton, from Ibis to Travelodge, as well as a whole host of quality bed and breakfasts (B&B). Nineteen, located in the Kemp Town area of Brighton, is a stylish B&B in a converted 200-year-old Victorian townhouse, with walls adorned with contemporary artwork. For truly bohemian artwork throughout the rooms check into the Artist Residence, a seafront hotel decorated by local artists, while the grand dame of the city’s hotels is the Grand Brighton, an iconic five-star Brighton landmark of elegance and grandeur.

 

DAY TWO:

0900: BUILD UP AN APPETITE

There’s nothing like fresh air to wake you up and a bracing walk along Brighton’s seafront will do just that. Worked up an appetite? Pop into Billie’s for breakfast, a cosy, family-run café serving local handmade sausages, stacks of pancakes and a wide range of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

 

11:00 TASTE ENGLISH WINE

Nestled in the beautiful Sussex countryside, just 20 minutes from Brighton & Hove by taxi or bus, is the South Downs National Park, home to Ridgeview Vineyard and its award-winning English sparkling wine. Go behind-the-scenes with a tour of the vineyard and finish off with wine tastings overlooking the glorious South Downs. Once a month the vineyard also offers a wine and lunch tour.

 

12:30 Head to Brighton station and take the direct train to Portsmouth in the county of Hampshire, in just under 90 minutes.

 

14:00 GO BEHIND THE SCENES OF A HISTORIC DOCKYARD

The city of Portsmouth on the south coast of England is completely surrounded by water, making it an island city! So, it’s no surprise that it also comes with more than 800 years of naval history, much of which you can discover at its Historic Dockyard. Step back to the 16th century and explore the story of Henry VIII’s shipwrecked (and now raised) war ship at the Mary Rose Museum, or imagine what it was like being an 18th-century sailors aboard HMS Victory. In Spring 2018, the D-Day Museum will reopen on Southsea seafront (in the south of the city), which will use interactive material, video and major new exhibitions to retell the story of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War.

OR

14:00 DISCOVER A LITERARY PAST

Portsmouth has hugely significant literary links; Charles Dickens was born here and his birthplace is preserved at the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes while living in Portsmouth. The city is home to a large collection of Conan Doyle memorabilia at the Portsmouth Museum.

 

16:00 SHOPPING AND SEAVIEWS

Pick up designer bargains and high-street treats at the 90 premium outlet stores located at Gunwharf Quays, before heading up 105 metres to take in the gorgeous views from Emirates Spinnaker Tower, over the city and out to the Isle of Wight.

 

18:00 SIP CHAMPAGNE AT DUSK

Walk along the charming waterfront at Southsea and stop off for a glass of Champagne at the Southsea Castle Champagne Bar, which runs every Friday from May until September. You’ll be drinking bubbly with a beautiful Tudor castle backdrop!

 

20:00 ENJOY A RANGE OF RESTAURANTS

Restaurant 27 and Montparnasse are two of Portsmouth finest restaurants, and it’s at both of these you’ll find menus produced by chefs with Michelin-star experience, using ingredients from local suppliers and producers. Or, if you prefer a taste of the east, head down to the area of Old Portsmouth – this was once referred to as the Spice Island, as ships would dock there from Asia to unload their cargo – which still has a whole host of restaurants serving Asian cuisine. Check out the area of Albert Road, which is packed with choices.  

 

22:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

Being a university town, Portsmouth offers a good mix of nightlife. It also serves up some excellent locally brewed beer – head up to the rooftop garden of the Brewhouse & Kitchen, set in a historic, Tudor-style inn, and order a pint of one of its 50 craft beers, including five that are brewed on site. Gin fan? Head over to Gin & Olive where aficionados of the spirit can choose from more than 100 on its menu, the only bar to offer this many in the county of Hampshire.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

Similar to Brighton, Portsmouth has a good stock of budget hotels, guesthouses and lovely bed and breakfasts. Its boutique hotel offer is strong too. The G! Boutique Hotel has designed each room to be unique and quirky – rooms are given names ranging from Good Times and Grinning From Ear to Ear, to Giddy with Delight and Gloating You’re Not Here, plus there’s a funky cellar bar. Or, for a hotel with views over Portsmouth Harbour, check in to the Ship Leopard Boutique Hotel, housed in a Georgian building next to the Historic Dockyard, while just five minutes from the Southsea area is luxury property The Clarence. Looking for somewhere unique to stay? Sail out to No Man’s Fort, an island man-made fortress out at sea converted to a luxury venue that’s ideal for group bookings.

 

RETURNING TO LONDON:

There are direct trains from Portsmouth to London, which take just under two hours.