Swap your cold beer for a warm cuppa during the 2019 Ashes Series

 The tea interval at a cricket match at Wormsley Park, Buckinghamshire.

The start of this year’s Ashes in England this week will no doubt have most cricket fans either staying up through the night or getting up at the crack of dawn to tune in.

For many, Dry July may have just finished but now there is no need to slip back into old habits by reaching for a cold one, especially when it’s chilly outside.

We know that Aussies love a good cuppa as much as the Brits. Research shows the tea market in Australia is worth $324 million* with half of Australians aged 14 or over drinking tea at least once a week – coffee is only slightly more popular!

Luckily, this year Victoria Bitter* has come up with a clever way for you to enjoy the flavour of beer while still reaping the warming benefits of a tea with a launch of a new limited edition tea bag ‘containing super pride hops with premium black tea leaves’ creating the perfect beer-flavoured morning drink.

With the Ashes 2019 series taking place at several iconic locations throughout England - Edgbaston in Birmingham, Headingley in Leeds, Old Trafford in Manchester, and Lord’s and The Oval in London – there’s plenty of time to enjoy a cuppa while watching the competition on the TV.

To help people make the most of the complete tea experience, VisitBritain has put together a handy seven-step guide to making the perfect flavoured brew:

Step 1: Boil the water 

Step 2: Warm your teapot, teacups or mugs

Step 3: Use cold, filtered water to fill your kettle

Step 4: Set the water temperature to between 95 and 60 degrees

Step 5: Pour the water into the warmed teapot or into the teacup / mug 

Step 6: Infuse the teabag or tealeaves once the water has boiled and brew to the desired strength

Step 7: Add your milk and then enjoy the brew! 

If you want to ensure your cuppa is being brewed the correct way, you can also check the official British Standard Institutions method.  

*https://www.victoriabitter.com.au/products/vb-tea
**https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/storm-in-a-teacup-how-melbourne-swapped-coffee-for-a-cuppa-20190701-p5231n.html

Welsh foodie experiences to savour

From baking traditional Welsh Bara Brith to sampling delicious local produce in the shadow of a UNESCO World Heritage castle, Wales is chock-full of fantastic foodie experiences. The Abergavenny Food Festival is just one of many food festivals and distilleries helping to promote the best of Welsh culture and cuisine, many of which take place in spectacular surroundings across the country.

Abergavenny Food Festival

The market town of Abergavenny, in Monmouthshire, is transformed by the Abergavenny Food Festival in September, a delicious opportunity to discover more about the world of Welsh food. Having grown considerably since its creation in 1999, the festival now includes more than 220 traders and four stages of free chef demonstrations, spread over nine sites in the town. With food tasting workshops, masterclasses and a whole host of other events, the festival seeks to introduce visitors to the people who live for making, cooking and writing about food via an array of delicious foodie experiences. The festival doesn’t shy away from tackling the key issues facing the industry either. Visit the Welsh chef demonstration stage to see local and emerging chefs in action, discover the abundance of food in nature during a Wild and Foraged event or get up-close and personal with farm animals in the expanded rare-breed animal area and petting zone. A Weekend Wristband for the festival is £15, whereas day wristbands are priced at £10 for Saturday and £8 for Sunday. Entry for under 16s is free and there are plenty of cookery classes and other activities to keep them entertained. Many of the main festival events are individually priced and should be booked in advance.

When? 21-22 September

Narberth Food Festival

Get a taste of the finest food from Pembrokeshire and Welsh producers at the Narberth Food Festival, one of the longest-established festivals in the country. Celebrating its 21st year in 2019 in the picturesque surroundings of Narberth Town Moor, the festival includes an abundance of entertainment, welcomes guest chefs aplenty and has activities all the family can enjoy. With the chance to visit more than 50 stalls, visitors can also take part in an exciting set of workshops and masterclasses where the finest local produce is top of the menu.

When? 28-29 September

Neath Food and Drink Festival

Tuck into high quality Welsh produce at the Neath Food and Drink Festival, spread across three days in early October. Hosted in the historic town’s Victorian Market and in the surrounding streets, it’s an opportunity for shops and cafes in the region to showcase their products and for visitors to try a range of mouth-watering dishes. Around 60 exhibitors, including some from the town’s renowned Indoor Victorian Market, attend each year, and there’s also an array of fun street entertainment for visitors to enjoy.

When? 4-6 October

Gwledd Conwy Feast

An annual celebration of food, music and art, Gwledd Conwy Feast takes place in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Conwy every October. With the stunning stonework of the formidable Conwy Castle providing the backdrop, an array of street food and arts and crafts stalls fill the streets, offering delicious local produce and an abundance of unique jewellery, paintings, textiles and other crafts. A number of food halls and market stalls pack into the Quayside, where visitors can sample new dishes, watch chefs in action and try a collection of fine wines. Lancaster Square and the High Street of the medieval walled town are home to further stalls and entertainment options.

When? 25-27 October

Llandudno Christmas Fayre

The stunning Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno hosts the World Bara Brith Championships as part of its traditional Christmas Fayre. Bakers from around the globe are invited to submit their own take on the famous Welsh bake, meaning ‘speckled bread’, at the competition, hosted in the town’s Holy Trinity Church. A new Junior class takes its place at the 2019 fayre, as people young and old are invited to show off their culinary skills. With more than 150 food, drink and craft stalls, as well as plenty of festive entertainment on offer, the fayre provides a platform for Welsh suppliers to showcase their extraordinary array of seasonal and local produce.

When? 14-17 November

Portmeirion Christmas Food and Craft Fair

Set in the grounds of the beautiful Italianate village, the Portmeirion Christmas Food and Craft Fair promises a delightful mix of local flavours and festive cheer. More than 120 artisan stalls sell an abundance of local produce and fine crafts, alongside a mix of entertainment including live bands, cooking demonstrations and a Santa’s Grotto.

When? 6-8 December

Aber Falls Distillery

Located near to picturesque Rhaeadr Fawr, the famous Aber Falls waterfall, the Aber Falls Distillery was the first to open in North Wales for a century. Its whisky is not yet available – the first batch is due in 2020 – but visitors can tour the distillery and discover more about the processes involved, while sampling some of the site’s award-winning portfolio. The distillery also produces small batches of handcrafted gins and liqueurs, developed using specially selected Welsh ingredients from the surrounding area. Distillery tours run between 12pm and 5pm and booking is recommended.

When? All-year round

Penderyn Distillery

Found in the foothills of the spectacular Brecon Beacons, the Penderyn Distillery produces award-winning single malt whiskies and spirits. Visitors can tour the site to discover what makes the produce unique, including the innovative single copper-pot Penderyn stills, before finishing with a sampling session at the Tasting Bar. Occasional Whisky and Chocolate Tours also run, with the distillery’s single malt whiskies being paired with hand-made chocolates from Chocolate House of Pontypridd. The distillery is open seven days a week from 9.30am-5pm and booking for the tours is a must. The main tour is priced at £9 for adults, with whisky and chocolate tours must be requested and cost £17.

When? All year round

Loving Welsh Food tours

For a true taste of Wales, discover the capital city and try its culinary delights as part of a tour from Loving Welsh Food. Visitors can sample traditional and modern Welsh dishes in locations across Cardiff as part of a food tour, while meeting local suppliers and discovering more about Welsh culture. Cardiff Tasting Tours run on Fridays and Saturdays and take in some of the city’s key sights, including the castle and the home of Welsh rugby, the Principality Stadium, while offering a chance to taste laverbread, cockles, cheeses and to sample Welsh beverages. Private tasting tours are also available, giving access to a range of farms, producers, vineyards, distilleries, pubs and restaurants in the Vale of Glamorgan.

When? Friday and Saturday, 10.30am-2.30pm

Halen Mon Saltcote and Visitor Centre

On the banks of the Menai Strait in an Area of Outstanding National Beauty is the award-winning Halen Mon Saltcote and Visitor Centre. Embark on a one-of-a-kind tour to discover salt’s place in Wales’ history, culture and food, including a tutored salt tasting to find out what sets Halen Mon Sea Salt apart from the rest. Visitors can find out more about the family-run company and get unique insights into the world of salt from members of staff.

When? Open daily (apart from over Christmas/New Year) with tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Foodie foraging tours

Whether foraging along the seashore for ‘mermaid confetti’, samphire and oysters or hunting for lemon sorrel in Abergavenny’s lush undergrowth, there are a whole range of foodie foraging adventures to try throughout Wales. Discover the culinary delights hidden in the hedgerows on a short course at Llys Meddyg, learn about edible plants and where to find them in North Wales, or track down the freshest seafood in West Wales, on a coastal foraging experience to remember.

When? Various, see websites for details.

48 hours in… Bath

A whimsical mix of cobblestone streets, historical sites and romantic architectural styles, Bath is a British city famed for its history and natural hot springs. It’s also the only destination in the UK where the entire city is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

 

Time to check in:

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is a stunning five-star luxury hotel with a unique twist. Built in a Regency architectural style, it centres around its own naturally-heated pools with direct access from several rooms — meaning you can run your bath with the mineral-rich thermal waters.

 

Day one:

 

09:00 Hit the spa

Any weekend in Bath must start with a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa. Arrive early to beat the crowds and make your way to the open-air rooftop pool, where you can bathe in mineral-rich waters heated to 33.5-degrees Celsius, all the while enjoying panoramic views of Bath. 

 

11.30 Try the healing waters

Once you've dried off, it's a short walk to the Roman Baths, one of the city’s best-known historic attractions. You can no longer bathe in these waters, as they haven't been treated, but you can tour the site and learn about its fascinating history. Visit the Pump Rooms afterwards for a bite to eat, and to sample treated mineral-rich spa water, which is thought to have healing properties. 

 

14:00 Get crafty

After lunch, try some glass-blowing at Bath Aqua Glass where you can watch a demonstration from the experts before trying to blow your very own glass bauble.

 

16:00 Fashion through the ages

Style your way through the Fashion Museum and its collection of historic clothing, including replica Georgian and Victorian outfits that visitors can try on. On the first Saturday of each month, the museum also runs a sketching class (free with museum entrance — sketchbooks and pencils included).

 

20:00 IN FOR A LAUGH

Book a space on the Bizarre Bath Comedy Walk. This popular hour-and-a-half walking tour departs each evening at 8pm and offers a lighthearted, alternative look at the heritage city. Prepare for stunts, jokes, and lots of laughs. 

 

Day two:

 

10.00 City tour

After breakfast, jump on a 'hop-on, hop-off' City Sightseeing bus for a relaxing tour of the city's must-see attractions, including Bath Abbey, the Abbey Cemetery, and the architectural splendour of Bath’s Royal Crescent

 

12.30 Bath baked delights

You'll have worked up an appetite, so stop for lunch at Sally Lunn's famed ‘eating house’, one of the oldest buildings in the city and home to the famous Bath Bun. It’s named after a French girl called Sally (real name, Solange) who worked in the bakery kitchen in the 1660s and created a soft, fluffy brioche-style bread that locals fell in love with. Today, the 'Sally Lunn Bun' — still made from the original recipe — can be enjoyed with a selection of sweet or savoury toppings.

 

14.30 Tea and talks

Pop into the Jane Austen Centre and learn all about Bath's most famous former resident. Enjoy the talks, displays and activities centred on the author’s celebrated works, then stop for a cup of tea at the Regency Tea Room, where staff serve you in period costume. 

 

17:00 Bridging the gap

Wander along Pulteney Bridge, considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and one of just a handful with shops built into the design — there are worse places to browse for gifts than among these specialist shops and boutiques. 

 

Head home, happy, refreshed and relaxed. 

 

How to get here:

Bath is in the county of Somerset, south west England. The city is approximately a two-and-a-half hour drive west of London, or one-and-a-half hours by train from London Paddington. The nearest airport is Bristol, which has direct links to 25 European countries; shuttle buses run from the airport to the centre of Bath.

The Best Tipples of South West England

England's South West is famous for its scenic villages and dramatic coastline, but it’s also home to some of the country's most historic and exciting pubs, breweries and drinks festivals.

 

ALL ABOARD 

Combine the scenery of Devon and Cornwall with some of its finest beers, by taking a day trip on the Great Scenic Railways' Rail Ale Trails. With seven self-guided trails to choose from, they take visitors through lush valleys and traditional rural towns while chugging along sandy coastal tracks. Each stop includes a list of pubs within walking distance; jump off and enjoy a chilled pint before continuing to your next destination. 

 

A FINE VINE

If wine is more your tipple, plan a visit to Quoins, a family-run organic vineyard in Wiltshire near the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath. Quoins produces four single-variety wines, which can be purchased directly from the vineyard. It opens for tours from mid-August, or you can drop into one of its open days and tastings, which are held throughout the year.

 

HISTORICAL TIPPLE

Sitting in 180 acres of orchards, Somerset Cider Brandy Company and Burrow Hill Cider has been making apple cider for over 200 years. In 1989, the company began setting aside half its yield to produce apple cider brandy, a once-popular liquor that fell out of favour with English drinkers 300 years ago but is undergoing a modern-day revival. Wander the orchards, tour the cider house and distillery, and finish with a tasting. 

 

THE GRAPE ESCAPE

The fun doesn't have to stop when your winery tour does. At Three Choirs Vineyard in Gloucestershire, you can stay overnight in a room that overlooks the neat rows of grapevines, or even in a lodge right in the middle of them. Time your stay with one of their regular events such as dinner and wine tastings, and even pop-up opera performances.

 

SHAKE IT UP

Create your own signature drink with a cocktail-making tutorial at The Milk Thistle, an uber-cool Bristol bar styled like a 1930s speakeasy and complete with an unmarked front door. Make it past the secret entrance and into their masterclass, and their mixologists will teach you a few tricks of the trade. 

 

SOUTH WEST SPIRITS

This Easter, Cornwall's Colwith Farm Distillery will open its doors for tours. Originally a potato farm set up to help feed the nation during the Second World War, it produced the county's first potato vodka, Aval Dor, in 2014. The following year, Stafford’s Gin was created from the vodka and botanicals foraged from the farm. The distillery is now working on a premium Cornish whiskey. 

48 Hours in… Leeds

One of the only cities outside London to have its own ballet and opera companies, Yorkshire city Leeds is a hotbed of cultural gems, a city with a rich industrial and sports heritage that has become an energetic, contemporary city with a flourishing food and drink scene. Home to its own international airport (Leeds/Bradford Airport) and just two hours by train from London and one hour from Manchester, spending a weekend in one of the north of England’s most exciting cities has never been easier.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

Leeds has a wide range of hotels to suit all budgets yet if you’re looking for high-end accommodation, check out the only independently owned luxury hotel in central Leeds, Quebecs. This Grade-II listed, four-star property is situated in one of the city’s most impressive terracotta brickwork buildings, located in the attractive Victoria Quarter. Another luxury option is the city’s oldest hotel, The Cosmopolitan, which combines a historic setting with contemporary style. Leeds has some lovely boutique hotels too; in the heart of Leeds, the Malmaison is the place to go if you’re into cool, quirky interior designs while riverside hotel 42 The Calls, located in an 18th-century former flour mill, will soon be undergoing a multi-million pound investment under new management, set to develop it into five-star luxury accommodation.

 

DAY ONE

09:00 EMBARK ON A WALK OF DISCOVERY

It’s common knowledge that to really get to know a city you should walk it – and this is just as true of Leeds, where you can download self-guided walks around the city with a treasure hunt theme! Just over a mile each, Curious About Leeds has devised routes that take you from Leeds Art Gallery to the River Aire, and a second route from the river to Park Square. The beauty of these walks is that you’ll take in not just the city’s famous sights but also the more unusual ones. Expect to see the chic Victorian Arcades, Europe’s largest covered market – Kirkgate Market – former mills whose fortune the city was built on and secret squares to explore. Also look out for iconic street art; Leeds is home to the UK’s tallest mural, Athena Rising, as well as works such as Cornucopia next to the Corn Exchange and the George Street Mural at Kirkgate Market.

 

11:00 DELVE INTO THE CITY’S PAST

The story of Leeds unfolds at the Leeds City Museum, where – through six impressive galleries – you’ll find artefacts from archaeological finds to displays reflecting city life today. It’s also home to the Leeds Tiger… one of the most recognisable and loved exhibits at the museum with a fascinating back story to discover.

 

13:00 TAKE EARLY AFTERNOON TEA

It will be hard to tear yourself away from the pretty period furniture and mismatched crockery at vintage tearoom Just Grand! but try to as there’s plenty to tempt you on its menu. Located in the city’s Grand Arcade – a Grade II-listed Victorian shopping arcade that now boasts a good mix of independent retailers – you’ll reboot energy levels enjoying drinks from its huge assortment of loose-left teas (Yorkshire tea is, of course, on the menu!) and the delectable afternoon tea menu. Why choose a plain scone when you could choose from its wide range of flavoured scones such as black treacle and date, Earl Grey and Lemon, and ginger and apricot. Just Grand has also introduced a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea – finger sandwiches, locally produced pork pie and crisps along with a choice of Yorkshire bottled beer.

 

15:00 EXPLORE CONTEMPORARY ART IN A HISTORIC BUILDING

One of Leeds’ leading centres for contemporary art is at The Tetley, housed in an Art Deco-style former brewery. It’s not just the collections inside that are worth exploring – the building itself is an Insta-favourite; founded in 1822 – Tetley is one of Leeds’ oldest (beer) brewing families – it’s of huge social and industrial significance to the city. As well as changing exhibitions there’s a rich programme of events to take part in, including art workshops.

 

17:00 ENJOY COCKTAILS AND PRE-THEATRE DINNER

A department store might not the first place you think of for cocktails and dinner, but when’s it’s The Fourth Floor brasserie and bar at the city’s branch of the high-end Harvey Nichols, you know you’re in store for a treat. Superb views of the city greet you as you enjoy cocktails in the glamorous bar – think gold dome lights and circular banquettes – and the menu in the brasserie focuses on using the best Yorkshire produce in its creative dishes. It’s perfect for a pre-theatre meal, with the dinner service starting from 4.30pm.

 

19:30 CATCH A SHOW

Take advantage of the fact that Leeds is the only city outside of London to have its own ballet and opera companies and book tickets for a performance by either Opera North, one of Europe’s leading arts organisations, which produces the classics as well as lesser-known works and musical theatre, or the Northern Ballet, where you’ll find original productions as well as new interpretations of classic ballets. 

 

DAY TWO

09:00 DISCOVER HISTORIC TREASURES

Ever fancied seeing a world record-breaking suit of elephant armour? Here’s your chance – at Leeds’ Royal Armouries Museum, which sits on the waterfront at the city’s docks. Five galleries hold more than 8,000 fascinating objects, including Henry VIII’s tournament armour, the five heroic swords based on the prop weapons used in movies Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and the incredible centrepiece of the whole museum, the Hall of Steel – the largest mass display of arms and armour created since the 19th century.

 

11:00 SET OFF ON A SPORTING JOURNEY

Yorkshire boasts a legendary cricket heritage and, for cricket fans around the world, the Yorkshire Cricket Museum is a must-visit. It’s here that you’ll discover artefacts from Yorkshire’s cricket legends, the bats and balls used by iconic players as well as multi-media interviews with cricket heroes.

OR

SET OFF ON A SHOPPING JOURNEY

A raft of unique independent retailers can be found under one stunning roof at the Grand Arcade, a shopping venue built in 1897 where its fine Victorian architecture – including an exquisite glass roof and beautiful arched windows – is just as much of a draw as the shops. It’s a lovely surrounding in which to explore the stores, which range from luxury menswear retailer Labels, My Vibrant Home for stylish handmade interiors goods, and The Handmade Collective, where you’ll find unique gifts created by 60 local Yorkshire design-makers to take home. You’ll also find a vibrant shopping district at Victoria Leeds, an eclectic shopping destination combining Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate with traditional the British high-end department stores of Harvey Nichols and John Lewis and more than 90 boutiques.
 

13:00 VEG OUT FOR LUNCH 

Also finding its home in the Grand Arcade is Roots and Fruits, a fantastic vegetarian restaurant that’s recently upgraded its menu to be mainly plant-based. But there’s no compromise on flavour… this Leeds favourite is packed with local, seasonal produce and presents dishes such as Roots and Fruits Jerk Jackfruit with a secret recipe jerk marinade and giant Rainbow Salads.

 

15:00 LOSE YOURSELF IN A CHOCOLATE METROPOLIS

Leeds is home to the UK’s first two-storey chocolate emporium at Hotel Chocolat and it’s here you can learn the delicate art of chocolate-making at its Chocolate School, just one of the chocolate-filled experiences on offer here. Chocoholics may want to embark on its Tasting Adventure and there’s always further opportunity to taste the glorious sweetness in its Mega Café; look out, in particular, for its signature hot chocolate.

 

17:00 GO CUCKOO FOR CREATIVE COCKTAILS

Come to quirky bar Cuckoo for its imaginative cocktails, such as Peanut Butter Martinis and Dirty Grasshoppers, or to sample local craft beers served through ‘Giraffe Towers’, and stay for its amazingly fun décor. Murals, paint-splattered animal heads, cool neon lights and a secret rooftop garden all make a visit to this bar a colourful occasion.

 

20:00 TASTE THE CREATIVITY

Restaurant Man Behind the Curtain – with a name inspired by The Wizard of Oz – offers a magical culinary experience where you’ll be wowed by chef Michael O’Hare’s creativity. The restaurant’s tasting menu of 10 to 14 sequences’ includes hand-massaged octopus with capers and lemon; birds nest and kimchi ramen and cardamom & lemongrass soup with chilli sorbet- a treat for both the eyes and the taste-buds.

Alternatively, visit Bundobust for delicious Indian street food and craft beer that make this place one of Leeds go-to places for easy, deliciouscuisine. Still hungry? Try Matt Healy x The Foundry. This Leeds institution has recently relaunched with Yorkshire-born chef, Matt Healy (runner-up in BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals series), at the helm. The interior and exterior was redesigned and rebranded as Matt Healy x The Foundry. In the kitchen, Matt is concentrating on a menu of simple British dishes using up to five ingredients. A sample menu may include baby chicken ‘kiev’, wild garlic and duck fat potato, or pollock, charred leeks and potatoes with romesco sauce. Watch this space as the restaurant is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots in Leeds.

 

22:00 Leeds’ nightlife rivals that of any major British city and it’s particularly good for quirky bars. For a slice of hipster heaven and craft beers head to the cool, vintage-style Outlaws Yacht Club; drink cocktails from teapots at the Alice in Wonderland-themed, eclectically decorated The White Rabbit; while the Belgrave Music Hall is where to go to enjoy craft beers and cask ales across three floors of a 1930s venue that comes with a fabulous roof terrace, live music events, film and comedy or art exhibitions. Beer is also big news in Leeds; why visit one brewery when you can visit four on the Leeds Brewery Tour, and, if you’re coming over in October, look out for details of the city’s Oktoberfest.

60 minutes from… Cardiff

Wales’ vibrant capital city Cardiff is hosting one of the country’s biggest festivals between 3-11 August – the Eisteddfod – which brings with it a raft of concerts, carnivals and the chance to embrace Welsh culture and language. Once you’ve enjoyed the celebrations and explored Cardiff itself, an hour or less away from the city are some spectacular destinations that offer an alternative, yet equally exciting, vibe to Cardiff’s.

 

Swansea Bay

When a destination is packed with award-winning beaches, charming villages, historic castles and is the birthplace of legendary Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, you know a visit to it is going to be a fulfilling one. An hour by train or road from Cardiff will take you to Swansea Bay; here, you can spend time walking in Dylan Thomas’ footsteps, by visiting his birthplace and childhood home on a guided tour at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, which has been fully restored to its 1914 condition, before heading to the Dylan Thomas Centre for a fascinating exhibition about his life and works. Stroll around the attractive Swansea Marina, head down to the National Waterfront Museum to discover 300 years of Welsh innovation and industry, and sample local foodie favourites such as cockles, laverbread, fine Welsh cheeses and scrumptious Welsh cakes at the largest indoor market in Wales, Swansea Indoor Market. This is all before you’ve even had the chance to set off on a scenic walk along its promenade down to the pretty coastal village of Mumbles and explore the ruins of Oystermouth Castle (not forgetting to stop off for a mouth-watering ice-cream at either Verdi’s or Joe’s Ice Cream). You’ll have fallen in love with these picturesque coastal views by then, but even more stunning, award-winning beaches await you around the corner on the Gower Peninsula – Britain’s first-ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s a haven for walkers, surfers, kayakers and sailors alike.

 

Abergavenny

Set in a picturesque location at the foot of the Black Mountains and the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Abergavenny is close to some outstanding walking trails. But this attractive small town is also a foodie heaven – it hosts the must-visit Abergavenny Food Festival each September. This year marks the 20th year since it first took place and, as well as hundreds of stalls selling the freshest Welsh produce and cookery demonstrations, there’s a diverse selection of forages and tours operating as part of the festival, taking advantage of the bountiful Welsh countryside nearby. Yet the town is worth a visit year-round; from castles to Roman remains and standing stones, you’ll find Abergavenny is a heritage gem of south Wales. Raglan Castle may have been built more as a ‘show’ castle rather than as a defensive fortress yet it’s an equally impressive site. Just a 20-minute drive away is the mesmerising Blaenavon World Heritage site – across 33 sqkm you’ll discover Wales’ industrial past through fascinating attractions such as the Big Pit National Coal Museum (a must-do is the Underground Tour for an insight into what life was like at the coal face) and the Blaenavon Ironworks.

 

Newport

Just 30 minutes from Cardiff is a Welsh city, located close to the English border, that has bags of history and is a familiar name on the world stage of politics and sport, as a former host of the NATO Summit and the Ryder Cup. Explore the city’s long and varied history through Newport Cathedral and the diverse collections at Newport Museum and Art Gallery, before heading to the glorious 17th-century mansion Tredegar House. Set in acres of beautiful grounds, it was built by the Morgan family, the same family who, in 1906, built the nearby Transporter Bridge, a fine feat of early 20th-century engineering and one of just seven working Transporter Bridges in the world. Go back further in time as just a few miles from Newport is the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon, located inside the remains of one of only three permanent fortresses in Roman Britain. There are some incredible finds here – the only remains of a Roman Legionary barracks on view in Europe and the ruins of the most complete amphitheatre in Britain.

History aside, this is also a golfers’ paradise – 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre is the five-star Celtic Manor Resort, its six restaurants, five bars and two spas…and three world-class championship courses, a golf academy featuring a floodlit driving range and two golf clubhouses!

 

Chepstow

A charming market town on the Wales/England border, Chepstow is a hotspot for walkers; not only is it part of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and at the very start of the Wales Coast Path that then stretches 870 miles up to north Wales, it’s also the home to an annual walking festival. This five-day walking event takes you through Chepstow and the jaw-droppingly beautiful countryside of the Lower Wye Valley. Walking is also the best way to explore the town itself, home to Britain’s oldest remaining Roman stone castle, Chepstow Castle, where you’ll find the oldest surviving castle doors in Europe, as well as home to Chepstow Museum and its fine collection of local artefacts and 18th- and 19th-cenutry paintings of the Wye Valley. Just a 15-minute drive away is the magnificent Tintern Abbey, one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Britain and one of Wales’ most-well preserved medieval abbeys. Sports fan? Head to Chepstow Racecourse to enjoy exciting race meets at the home of the Welsh National.

10 of the best brewery experiences across North England

Britain loves its beer and ales and, to celebrate International Craft Beer Day on 3 August, we highlight just a few of the brewery tours and events that stretch from the north-west coast of England to the north-east coast, all in locations within easy 1.5-hour train or taxi access of each other. Cheers!

START

Liverpool

The Mad Hatter Brewing Company was set up just five years ago and, as of this year, is one of the small number of breweries run by a woman. The brewery is all producing creative ideas, which have included its signature beer the Penny Lane Pale, a low ABV craft beer with a tropical fruit aroma and a biscuit malt base – named after the street where the first bottle shop stocked them – and the Tzatziki Sour, made using Greek yoghurt to sour and then added mint and cucumber. There aren’t tours available at this small micro-craft brewery, but it does hold festivals, where they pair the beers with food, have live music playing, a kids’ corner on offer in the day session and a fire show in the evening one! The next festival will be held on 25 August, although check its website for further events.

 

ONE HOUR’S TRAIN JOURNEY FROM LIVERPOOL WILL TAKE YOU TO…

Manchester

Runaway Brewery brews its ‘modern-tasting, recognisably British’ beers by hand in small batches at its microbrewery. Head there for its core range of Pale Ales, IPA, Smoked Porter and American Brown Ales and there’s always seasonal ales to try out. As well as brewery tours that take place every Saturday – a fascinating trail through the working brewery, plus a tasting of four beers – you can continue to drink fresh beer from the source in its Tap Room until 8pm. Before you go, check out the brewery’s plans for its monthly pop-up dining rooms, where it teams its beers with local food producers

 

IT’S ONLY 15 MINUTES BY TRAIN FROM MANCHESTER TO…

Stockport, Lancashire

One of the oldest independent brewers in Britain, Robinsons, is located in the heart of Stockport and has been brewing there for nearly two centuries. Real ale is its pièce de résistance and its hour-long brewery tour takes you through Robinsons’ history, the science behind the brewing process and offers tutored tastings of three 1/3-pint samples of its beers. Upgrade to its ‘golden ticket’ and you also receive a gift set and twice as much beer at its Unicorn Bar.

 

BOOK A CAR TO TAKE YOU TO…

Burnley, Lancashire

Once a month, Moorhouse Brewery opens the doors for 45-minute guided tours, four samples of its beers and a pie-and-pea supper, in true Northern style! It’s recently launched a series of new hop-forward keg beers, plus an innovative botanical range and a new look for its cask beers. Its M1 Small Batch Brewery, nestled in the main brewhouse, also allows the brewers to brew in small batches, where they can develop unique recipes, so are well worth following. The tours for 2018 run on 28 September, 19 October and 30 November.

 

JUMP ON A TRAIN FROM THERE TO…

Leeds, Yorkshire

Why visit one brewery when you can visit four in the cool city of Leeds on the Leeds Brewery Tour! Once a month (25 August, 22 September, 20 October and 24 November in 2018), you can begin an afternoon at the North Brewing Co’s taproom, which boasts five core beers and one-off creations in its repertoire, followed by drinks at Indian street food venue Bundobust. Straight after you’ll move onto Tapped, an American-style brew pub with its wide range of keg and cask beer, before finishing at the Northern Monk Brewery for a guided tour and tasting at the brewery, which describes itself as ‘an homage to the monastic heritage of brewing’.

 

IT’S LESS THAN 30 MINUTES BY TRAIN FROM LEEDS TO…

York, Yorkshire

Set within York’s historic city walls, York Brewery was the first traditional working brewery within these walls for more than 40 years. The brewery has always welcomed visitors to see how the traditional ale is made, and runs four guided tours per day, Tuesday to Sunday. You’ll start in the brewery taproom bar to enjoy a pre-tour drink, head out across the brewery to learn everything that goes into making its unique beers and the process ‘from grain to glass’ and stop to admire the 20-barrel brew plant in its brewhouse. Handcrafted ales are the brewery’s passion and you can taste its quirky named, award-winning beers; Centurion’s Ghost Ales, the Guzzler, York Minster Ale and the Yorkshire Terrier.

 

ANOTHER HALF HOUR BY TRAIN FROM YORK AND YOU’RE IN…

Harrogate, Yorkshire

Nestled in the charming spa town of Harrogate is the independent, award-winning Harrogate Brewery. Run by Anton and Sarah Stark, this is a very small brewery although has recently moved into larger premises, so more fermenters could be added to allow the couple to small batch brew more beer. It also has space for a brewery tap that opens once a month, ensuring a special experience. Come here for its strong American-hopped ale, the Horse Head Stetson, its award-winning Vanilla Porter and its ‘strong and complex’ Kursaal Imperial Stout.

 

BOOK A TAXI TO TAKE YOU TO…

Masham, Yorkshire

A family run brewery that has been operating for nearly 30 years, Black Sheep Brewery doesn’t have guided tours, it has ‘shepherded’ tours, four times a day! You’ll be taken to see the traditional brewhouse, explore the science behind the fermenting process and how the brewery selects its ingredients for its distinctive tastes, and why it still uses the Yorkshire Square Fermenting Vessels that were developed more than 200 years ago. Then head to its bar to try out a few of its award-winning beers, such as its cult classic cask ale, Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and its strong dark Yorkshire ale Riggwelter.

 

HAVE THE DRIVER TAKE YOU ON TO…

Durham, County Durham

It may be the oldest working brewery in Durham but the award-winning Durham Brewery is still small and family owned, and continues to grow its beer portfolio, which ranges from dark stouts to light bitters, wheat beer to lagerbier, the latter of which takes three months to mature. Daily tours run twice a day and, as well as touring the brewery and tutored tastings, you’ll hear all about British and Durham beer history and culture. Don’t forget to stop by the shop on your way out to buy your favourite tipple.

 

A 15-MINUTE TRAIN RIDE FROM DURHAM AND YOU’LL ARRIVE IN…

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Housed in the city’s Palace of Art in Exhibition Park – the last remaining building from the 1929 North East Exhibition – the Wylam Brewery is certainly in a very special location. The brewery – which was founded in 2000 and is a 30-barrel brewery – opens its Brewery Tap Thursdays through to Sundays as well as runs brewery tours every Saturday, where the brewing process is explained, as is the fascinating history of the brewery and, of course, the chance to sample the beer. In October 2018 the venue will also host Craft Beer Calling, an international beer festival.

Foodie focus on… Cornwall

The south-western corner of England is a slice of foodie heaven. From mouth-watering local specialities to the hottest restaurants and must-do food experiences, Cornwall’s culinary capabilities are not to be missed.

 

Regional specialities and where to taste them

CORNISH PASTY: Succulent meat and vegetables encased in warm, golden pastry, formed into a distinctive ‘D’ shape and should be crimped on one side to ensure it’s a genuine Cornish pasty.

Where can I eat it? Pretty much in every butcher’s shop or bakery in Cornwall. Rowe’s Bakeries, dotted throughout the county, make award-winning pasties, with four bakeries in the coastal town of Falmouth alone. Malcolm Barnecutt has several bakeries around Cornwall selling hand-made goodies made fresh overnight, plus two restaurants where you can linger over a pasty, one in St Austell and one in Bodmin.

 

CORNISH CREAM TEA: A truly scrumptious treat, this is where you load jam and melt-in-the-mouth Cornish clotted cream onto a sweet scone. And, if you’re in Cornwall, the jam goes on first, topped off by the cream (neighbouring Devon does it the other way round)!

Where can I eat it? Cream teas are ubiquitous throughout the tearooms, restaurants and hotels of Cornwall. The Cream Tea Guide is a handy source of where to find some of the best – check out either the traditional cream tea or a savoury cheese tea with Cornish cheeses and chutney at The Elm Tree in Truro, or enjoy cream teas on the terrace of the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery Café, with views over the 13th-century Restormel Castle.

 

KERN AND YARG CHEESE: Crowned Supreme Champion at World Cheese Awards in 2017, Kern matures over 16 months and is a hard cheese with buttery and caramel notes. It is made by the same dairy that makes Yarg cheese (wrapped in nettles to produce a lemony, creamy taste), Lynher Dairies, and both are only produced by this dairy.

Where can I eat it?: Kern is not yet available to buy from the dairy (although watch this space – you could be among the first to buy it) but you can buy Yarg and it is often served on restaurant cheeseboards throughout the county, such as at The Herring at the Bedruthan hotel.

 

TREGOTHNAN TEA: The first tea ever to be grown in England is made from Camellia sinensis leaves from the Tregothnan Estate in south Cornwall, the first estate to grow ornamental camellia plants in the UK, which is possible thanks to the area’s microclimate. As well as Black Tea it also produces Green tea, herbal infusions and Earl Grey tea.

Where can I drink it?: Tregothnan is sold in supermarkets across the UK and is served in many tearooms across Cornwall, but why not sip it while overlooking the gorgeous views of St Michael’s Mount at the Godolphin Arms in Marazion.

 

CORNISH WINE: Thanks to the development of grape varieties that work well in the climate of south-west England, Cornish wine regularly wins awards, particularly with its sparkling wines. There are several lovely vineyards to explore in the region – Polgoon, Trevibban Mill, Knightor, Bosue, Polmassick and Cornwall’s largest vineyard Camel Valley.

Where can I drink it?: Cornish wine is sold in supermarkets and off licences throughout the UK, but a lovely spot to enjoy a glass is on the sun terrace at Camel Valley – overlooking the vineyard itself.

 

5 must-do food and drink experiences

Tea: To fully understand how tea is grown in England, join a garden tour of the Tregothnan Estate’s botanical garden or even learn how to become a tea guru with a Tregothnan tea masterclass. You’ll pluck your own tea leaves and have the chance to create your own bespoke blend of tea.

Beer: Take a tour around Cornwall's oldest independent family brewery, established more than 150 years ago, at the St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre. Many original traditions and skills remain in its brewing method today, from the raw ingredients that are used through to the sampling process.

Chocolate: Watch chocolate being lovingly created by hand at the factory of Kernow Chocolate in St Eval, in the south west of the county. Every piece of chocolate is made by skilled chocolatiers and while you can’t tour the factory itself, its large viewing window allows you to see how its 20 flavours come together. An added bonus? There’s a tasting table so you can decide which chocolate is your favourite.

Fish: The Fat Hen near Penzance in the south of Cornwall offers a series of great experiences run by sustainable-living guru Caroline Davey. Courses including picking out and cooking live crab fished the same day, learning how to source, prepare and cook Cornish fish and shellfish, and there’s also a range of foraging courses.

Ice cream: If you enjoy Cornish clotted cream on a scone, can you imagine how delicious it must taste in ice cream? Discover how this delectable treat is made at Callestick Farm in north Cornwall, from the mixing of flavours, to freezing and the filling of tubs. And, of course, there’s ample opportunity to try the resulting product, flavours which range from clotted cream vanilla and Cornish sea salted caramel, to cinnamon, chunky root ginger and even bubblegum!

 

Hot restaurants you have to visit

Rick Stein, Padstow

You can’t come to Cornwall and not try a meal at a Rick Stein establishment – there are now nine across the county. Padstow is famously known as ‘PadStein’, such is the great chef’s influence in the area. His flagship restaurant is The Seafood Restaurant and the town is also home to Rick Stein’s Café, Stein’s Fish & Chips (for something a little more casual), Fisheries & Seafood Bar, Ruby’s Bar and St Petroc’s Brasserie (which also offers accommodation). Whichever eaterie you choose, the focus is on serving the freshest of fish, cooked to perfection.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac

Another master of seafood cuisine, chef Nathan Outlaw worked under Rick Stein at The Seafood Restaurant, and has since gone on to run the eponymous Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen and The Mariners (also a pub serving local beers from Sharps Brewery), and is the proud owner of four Michelin stars. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw is a real treat for lovers of seafood; it exclusively serves a seafood tasting menu highlighting the best in sustainable produce caught off the Cornish coast.

Fern Pit Café, Newquay

Choose your live crab or lobster caught by the Fern Pit Café’s own fishing boat, have it cooked to order and then savour the flavours while overlooking the beautiful Gannel Estuary or order it in takeaway form and head down to enjoy your food on Crantock Beach. Simple yet tasty crab sandwiches are also on the menu and, through the lobster season, the café creates its must-try lobster salad lunches.

Alba, St Ives

Alba’s first-floor restaurant one of the places to go in St Ives for an elegant dining experience. Housed in the refurbished Old Lifeboat House on St Ives harbour, the experience is further enhanced by the panoramic views to Godrevy Lighthouse across St Ives Bay, as well as a menu created from locally sourced ingredients and herbs grown on site. Award-winning chef and proprietor Grant Nethercott serves up modern British style cuisine that comes in the form of dishes such as blow-torched gin-cured sea trout and Cornish grass-fed beef fillet. For cocktails and small plates, head to its walk-in A Bar downstairs.

Fifteen Cornwall, Watergate Bay

Eat well and feel good; not only does Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen offer an amazing menu of Italian dishes using Cornish produce but this award-winning restaurant from the TV chef is also a social enterprise, with all profits going to its charity Cornwall Food Foundation. Why not try Jamie’s Corn Fritters with poached eggs for breakfast, slow-cooked duck with lentils and agro dolce for lunch and olive oil poached turbot with vignole for dinner?

The Hidden Hut, Porthcurnick Beach

It may be little more than a wooden hut on a beautiful beach on the Roseland Heritage Coast, but The Hidden Hut, located around 30 minutes’ drive from Truro, hosts spectacularly large outdoor cook-ups, where there’s only one dish served – think rotisserie duck, 12-hour Greek lamb, wood-fired mezze or Sri Lankan monkfish curry (there are always vegetarian options too). It’s bring-your-own plates, cutlery and drinks, and dress for the weather because it all takes place outdoors come rain or shine. Feast nights take place from May to September and you have to book ahead.

Paul Ainsworth at No.6, Padstow

It’s easy to understand why Paul Ainsworth At No.6 has a Michelin star, with inventive menus filled with gastronomic delights such as hogget (sheep meat that’s one to two year’s old) from the Tamar Valley (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that straddles both Cornwall and Devon) with red garlic ketchup and sweetbread fricassee, and raw sea bream with sand shrimp slaw and katsuobushi mayonnaise. Located in a lovely Georgian townhouse in Padstow, dining here is a special experience.

Gylly Beach Café, Falmouth

Family-run, Gylly Beach Café comes with views to die for over Gyllyngvase Beach and with panoramic views of the Lizard Peninsula. Its menu is pretty special too. Breakfast and lunch is about walk-ins; try the Full Cornish Breakfast early on or how about a slice of Homity Pie (puff pastry filled with creamed potato, leeks and Cornish cheddar) for lunch? Come evening, book a table so you can try out dishes such as locally sourced pork and prawns, venison loin and Newlyn pollock fillet.

 

A 48-hour foodie itinerary

The whole of Cornwall is filled with incredible food destinations – here are suggestions for just one area, from Port Isaac on the rugged Atlantic coast to Falmouth in the south-east of the county, to tempt your tastebuds.

Day one

09:00 Don’t go light on breakfast (it’s the most important meal of the day after all!), enjoy a plate of delicious Cornish produce at the Chapel Café in the pretty coastal village of Port Isaac, which includes Cornish hogs pudding and local meats, all for under £10. Even the coffee is locally roasted using ethically-sourced beans.

10:00 Discover the art of cooking seafood and check in to the masterclasses at Rick Stein’s Cookery School in Padstow, 45 minutes from Port Isaac. Got seafood sorted? Check out one of the other fantastic courses available here, which range from Indian street food, Spanish tapas or patisserie.

13:00 You can’t come to Cornwall and not hit the beach – half an hour from Padstow is the surfer’s paradise of Newquay – and here you can walk straight off the sand and straight into the Beach Hut Café, with its awesome views over the sea and vibrant atmosphere. Order Cornish mussels or huge dishes of beef chilli.

15:00 Head 20 minutes from Newquay to nearby Perranporth, home to Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm. Take a self-guided tour through its press house, bottlery and jam kitchen or book onto a fully guided tour, plus a tutored tasting.

17:00 Set off on the 20-minute drive to Truro, but don’t forget to stop off at the Great Cornish Food Store and stock up on some enticing local delicacies to take home.

19:30 Truro has lots of lovely places to dine – for more fish favourites head to Hooked! Restaurant & Bar and for a fine-dining experience try out Tabbs, which is listed in the Michelin Guide and has two AA Rosettes.

 

Day two

09:00 Drive 30 minutes from Truro to the cute fishing village of Charleston, close to St Austell, and fill up on a breakfast packed with local goodies at Charlie’s Boathouse. As well as the harbour views to admire over your meal, the restaurant has its own resident artist, whose work you can buy as a keepsake of your time in Cornwall.

11:00 Time to explore one of Cornwall’s excellent vineyards; just 15-20 minutes from your breakfast stop is Bosue Vineyard and its award-winning wines, or tour what is Cornwall’s oldest vineyard (planted in 1976!) at Polmassick Vineyard.

13:00 Head to the picture-perfect fishing village of Mevagissey, 15 minutes’ drive away, which is part of the stunning Roseland Peninsula and enjoy lunch at one of the superb restaurants, such as No.5 Mevagissey. Proudly using local produce in its dishes, you’ll also find an awesome selection of locally made drinks, such as Cornish beers, lagers and ciders, Cornish gins from Tarquin’s and Stafford distilleries and Cornish vodka Aval Dor.

16:00 If you’ve had a relatively light lunch, now’s a good time to tuck into a gorgeous Cornish cream tea. For a pretty setting as well as a delicious treat, try the freshly baked homemade scones, homemade jam and Trewithen Dairy Cornish cream at Miss V’s Vintage High Tea, located in semi-tropical gardens on the banks of the Fal Estuary.  

20:00 When you’re in this part of the world, a meal overlooking the sea is a must; end your foodie trip in Falmouth and enjoy crab, squid, mussels, prawns, oysters and scallops in the unassuming, but charmingly rustic shellfish bar, The Shack.

 

Food festivals in Cornwall 2018

 

Getting there

Central Cornwall is approximately five hours by train or car from London, with high-speed train services running from London Paddington, including the Night Riviera Sleeper Service to Penzance. There are also daily direct trains from Bristol and Bath.

Spotlight on: West London

Seriously good bars and cool street markets, cutting-edge theatre and smart hotels; Earl’s Court and Shepherd’s Bush may be well-known enclaves of west London – international backpackers and short- and long-term visitors have been coming to these neighbourhoods for decades – yet these areas of west London have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is gone, streets have smartened up and there are hidden gems to discover.

 

Where to…Eat

Shepherd’s Bush

Mustard is a treasure on Shepherd’s Bush Road; a cool neighbourhood diner with sassy décor, offering up a brasserie-style menu. Its ‘Green Menu’ is packed with delicious vegetarian options and its daytime and evening menus have a considerable collection of innovative dishes all utilising British produce.

Attracting a young, hip crowd but still maintaining a traditional British pub feel is no mean feat – yet The Defector’s Weld does it with aplomb. It’s a great pub to visit anytime, but especially at the weekend; Sundays are all about its ‘Roasts and Records’, winding down after its busy Friday and Saturday nights hosting eclectic DJ performances.

Bring your appetite and head to Bush Hall Dining Rooms for a cool diner-style restaurant serving hearty comfort food and all-day weekend breakfasts. There’s also a generous cocktail list and, if you’re going to a gig at the neighbouring Bush Hall, you receive a 10% discount on your meal.

Looking for fine dining? Find it at Shikumen, located at the Dorsett Hotel, for first-class Chinese cuisine that uses British produce prepared with traditional Asian flavours and cooking styles.

Coming soon: A new restaurant Maple is set to open at Westfield London in summer 2018.

 

Earl’s Court

The Prince is something special – one street transformed until the end of the summer into an avenue of four restaurants, three bars and an English country garden (retractable roof comes as standard), all of which is less than ten minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court Underground. Food ranges from top-quality burgers and Thai canteen-style cuisine to top-notch fried chicken and bao and yakitori grill, while a deck connects it all together with the revitalised Prince of Wales pub at its heart – and possibly makes it London’s largest beer garden!

Serving up satisfyingly British, giant-scale Sunday lunches as well as everyone’s favourite, the bottomless Saturday brunch, mean The Lillie Langtry and its divine Victorian cocktail lounge means it’s always an attractive venue to visit to quench thirst and satiate hunger. The owners have also launched an innovative project called Brush and Bubbles where people can come together, whatever their artistic ability, to chat and paint while enjoying a glass of bubbly.

The Pembroke is as quintessential a British gastropub as it gets. Feast on delicious meals in the intimate dining room of this historic building, enjoy drinks in its lively downstairs bar or relax on comfy sofas and snug armchairs in its upstairs lounge bar. Head to its roof garden when the sun’s shining and come back on a Sunday when it hosts its ‘Hangover Club’ for Bloody Marys, feel-good brunches and Sunday roasts.

The Evan & Peel Detective Agency is one of the places to spend an evening in Earl’s Court; this speakeasy style bar promises a distinctly memorable evening. Book an ‘appointment’ online to get in. You’ll then be taken into a small basement office to discuss your eating and drinking needs. Huge amounts of fun and an evening to message home about.

 

Where to…Stay

Shepherd’s Bush

K West Hotel & Spa may be a four-star haven but it also prides itself on its cutting-edge style and ambience. And that’s down to its location within former recording studios where legends such as The Kinks and Bob Marley laid down tracks. Its Studio Bar is all chic furnishings and chandeliers, playing host to a cool urban crowd at the weekends. And its spa features London’s first ‘snow paradise’; chilled to -15C, a cabin has captured the feel of a snow drift designed to complement the spa’s hot-cold therapy, alternating between steam and ice environments.

Another four-star option in Shepherd’s Bush is the Dorsett Hotel, which is conveniently located for a trip to the nearby shopping paradise that is Westfield London shopping mall. Behind the historic building façade lies a distinctly modern design, destination bar and restaurants, and a chance to rejuvenate at its Spa Mika, which overlooks Shepherd’s Bush Green for some added tranquillity. And, if you’re looking for a boutique-style property that’s literally right next door to Westfield, check in to W12 Rooms, where bedroom décor is vintage-inspired.

 

Earl's Court

Look beyond backpacker hostels and you’ll find an assortment of hotels to suit all budgets. Mere minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court Underground is the colourful, contemporary style of the Hotel Indigo Kensington secreted within a luxury Victorian townhouse. It’s a bright and comfortable accommodation option with its own Italian restaurant on site – Theo’s Simple Italian – if you like what you eat you can book on to one of its regular Italian cuisine masterclasses. Steps away from here is the Henley House Hotel, another townhouse property that overlooks a picturesque residential square and combines its classical features with modern décor. Art is a key element the property and you’ll find specially commissioned photographic prints in the guestrooms as well as artwork in its garden conservatory. Boutique hotel Twenty Nevern Square is a real find three minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court station; this four-star accommodation has individually designed rooms influenced by a range of international styles; think Egyptian sleigh beds and hand-carved four-poster beds.

 

Where to…Play

Shepherd’s Bush

Quite simply, you’ve arrived in shopping heaven; Shepherd’s Bush is home to Westfield London shopping centre, a heady combination of high-street and luxury stores, beauty bars and entertainment. It’s a great place to spend even an entire day, particularly if you’re travelling with kids; you can book them into KidZania – an indoor city for kids between 4-14, with 60 real-life activities for them to participate in while you treat yourself to some retail therapy. Alternatively, head down to the newest All Star Lanes venue at Westfield London – aside from the ten bowling lanes, keep yourself amused for hours in its karaoke booths and three Art Deco-style bars.

For altogether different type of shopping experience, but one that’s equally memorable, head to Shepherd’s Bush Market. It specialises in fresh food and fabrics and is a proper west London treat; established more than 100 years ago, it’s a much-loved fixture in the neighbourhood. An extension to the market opened earlier this year, the Old Laundry Yard, an unmissable mix of food stalls, ranging from Venezuelan street food to Nigerian barbecue, and a creative community space.

There’s more to Shepherd’s Bush than shopping; catch up with culture here too. Book tickets to a gig at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, which has hosted some of the world’s most inspirational artists, from David Bowie to Adele, Amy Winehouse to Muse, as well as being a hotspot for talented newcomers. And, just ten minutes’ walk from Shepherd’s Bush Underground station, is the Bush Theatre; thought-provoking performances take place across its two theatre spaces and it’s become renowned as a home to showcase original work – be the first to see plays penned by the world of theatre’s newest and most exciting writers. 

 

Earl’s Court

When you’re in Earl’s Court you’re only a 20-minute walk from some of the capital’s greatest museums, such as the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the Science Museum. Yet take an even shorter stroll to another two museums to have on your must-visit list. First is the Design Museum, which moved to the area less than 18 months ago from its east London location, and is 2018 European Museum of the Year. Come for inspirational exhibitions or to join a specialist workshop in design practice. Right next door is the picturesque Holland Park and its 55 acres of gardens and woodland and Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens to explore. Second on the list should be an institution that describes itself as ‘a private palace of art’…and that’s a pretty accurate description of the Leighton House Museum, the former home of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton. He curated a glorious collection of art that encompasses a mesmerising Arab Hall with a golden dome, beautifully detailed mosaics and paintings by Lord Leighton himself, all in various stages of completion.

Within half an hour’s stroll from Earl’s Court you can explore some of the capital’s greatest and most fascinating sights. Kensington Palace, home to both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is where royal history comes to life – visit its unmissable exhibitions, which currently comprise Diana: Her Fashion Story and Victoria Revealed. And for a fascinating afternoon out, take a stroll around Brompton Cemetery. One of London’s seven historic cemeteries, it’s here you’ll discover the stories of the thousands of people buried here among historical monuments, woodland, stoned arcades and catacombs.

48 Hours in… Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate

Looking for a super-cool retro vibe from beach destinations that are just 1.5 hours by train from London? Dotted along the coast of south-east England are three captivating beachside towns that have reinvented themselves into stylish destinations over the last few years – Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. In this coastal corner of Kent, known as the Isle of Thanet, you’ll find a buzzing contemporary arts and culture scene married with quirky attractions, elegant Regency squares combined with maritime history, all packaged together with that quintessential British seaside charm.

 

Time to check in:

This is an area of Kent that boasts a raft of gorgeous guesthouses and B&Bs, each with their own unique character, many influenced in style by the area’s rich history, and all within various price ranges. For a touch of luxury, check out Bleak House Broadstairs; not only can you visit eminent author Charles Dickens' study and the smuggling museum, you can stay in rooms such as ‘Fagin’s Superior Double’ (no pickpockets here though!) or the David Copperfield suite. Elsewhere, Broadstairs’ Yarrow Hotel is housed in a 16th-century building now designed with all the comforts of a luxury boutique hotel, while in Margate, the Reading Rooms boutique B&B is housed in a building dating back to the 1760s; its décor is contemporary yet boasts original floor-to-ceiling windows and polished antique floorboards. Margate’s pretty Sands Hotel captures those stunning sea views perfectly, easily enjoyed as you sip cocktails on its own roof terrace. Sea views are also guaranteed at charming boutique hotel Albion House Ramsgate – and it also overlooks the only Royal Harbour in England.

 

Day One

09:00 EMBRACE CONTEMPORARY ART

Not only are the exhibits at Turner Contemporary exceptional, this gallery is well worth visiting for the building alone. It’s an architectural highlight of the Kent coast, flooded with natural light and is a fitting tribute to Victorian artist JMW Turner, who loved Margate. Until the end of September 2018 you’ll have the chance to catch a major exhibition, Animals & Us, examining how artists’ view the relationship between humans and other animals.

 

11:00 EXPLORE A MYSTERIOUS UNDERGROUND ATTRACTION

Just a ten-minute stroll from the gallery is another of Margate’s works of art, but one that couldn’t be more different. The Shell Grotto is a subterranean passageway 21 metres long adorned with 4.6 million shells laid out in a myriad decorative patterns. One of the most intriguing things about it, since its discovery in 1835, is nobody knows who put it there and why. Let your imagination wonder about its mysterious history!

 

13:00 FEAST ON THE FINEST SEAFOOD

Seafood is as fresh as it gets in Margate – and café Hantverk & Found is all about serving the local produce. Find local delicacies such as rock oysters and Rye Bay scallops on its menu, as well as tagliatelle with sea urchin, all washed down with a glass of wine from its range of natural and organic wines.

 

15:00 FIND ALL THE FUN OF THE RETRO-STYLE FAIR

One of the most significant reinventions in Margate over the last few years is Dreamland amusement park, based on the idea of a traditional British seaside fair. When you’ve whooped and laughed your way through rides such as rollercoasters and swing boats, and immersed yourself in the interactive art installations, strap on some roller boots and hit the retro roller disco. Dreamland is a fun way to spend the afternoon whatever your age, while the evenings here are packed with live music and DJ sets for over 18s.

 

19:00 SIP STYLISH COCKTAILS

After an afternoon of fairground fun, take the short six-minute walk from Dreamland to the Clockwork Cocktail Company, for a well-deserved Perk-Up Martini or Satan’s Whiskers in this cool cocktail bar that describes itself as ‘Steampunk/neo-Victorian style’.

 

20:00 BUY THE INGREDIENTS FROM YOUR DINNER

Stylishly contemporary interiors greet diners at The Old Post Office restaurant, a couple of minutes’ walk from your cocktail spot, which is passionate about featuring locally grown and sourced produce on its menus. And, if you like what you ate, you can buy the produce at its delicatessen, stocked to the brim with treats from around Kent.

 

Day Two

09:00 HEAD OUT TO SEA

A great way to brush off the cobwebs from a late night in Margate is to embark on a brisk hour’s walk to the nearby town of Broadstairs and straight to the Joss Bay Surf School. The beautiful bay – fringed by the Georgian facades of the town – is a popular Kent surf spot and the surf school also offers Stand-Up Paddleboarding.

 

11:00 DISCOVER DICKENSIAN CULTURE

Easily venture from sport activity to cultural activity in this town, as you head to the Dickens House Museum. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to Broadstairs over 22 years of his life and the museum is housed in the cottage said to be the inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. View fascinating Dickensian artefacts such as his writing box, letters he penned and early editions of his novels.

 

13:00 INDULGE IN ICE CREAM FOR LUNCH!

Since 1932 Morellis Gelato on Broadstairs seafront has been serving customers a huge range of delicious flavours of its famous ice-cream, where fresh gelato is made in store daily. Enjoy these creamy treats among the parlour’s funky 1950s décor, which includes its original soda fountain, pink leatherette seating and juke box.

 

15:00 WALK ANCIENT TRAILS AND TUNNELS

Join Kent’s Viking Coastal Trail between Broadstairs and neighbouring town Ramsgate and walk along the beautiful coastline between the two towns – it’s a pleasant 40-minute walk on this part of the trail. When you arrive in Ramsgate – which made its name as a favoured seaside retreat in the 18th and 19th centuries and where much of the elegant Georgian architecture still stands – head to the Ramsgate Tunnels. Take a tour of this fascinating civilian wartime tunnel network, the largest in Britain, for a feel of what life was like for the citizens of Ramsgate during World War Two.

 

17:00 DRINKS IN THE MARINA

Soak up the atmosphere in Ramsgate’s picturesque marina, that borders a busy Royal Harbour, with pre-dinner drinks at one of the marina’s bars – a great spot for yacht-watching – such as Enoteca or 26 Harbour Street. Keep an eye on the time…Ramsgate boasts its own Meridian Line and is five minutes and 41 seconds ahead of GMT!

 

19:00 DINE WHILE OVERLOOKING HARBOUR VIEWS

Even if you’re not staying at Albion House, you can dine at its restaurant Townley’s; admire the fine views from its windows over the harbour and enjoy formal dining in its elegant Georgian dining room as you order from menus that reflect the seasons and use local produce.