Tours, tastings and bucolic countryside await: Uncorking the best hotels with vineyards in the UK
Rows of corduroy green vines unfold before us as we gaze from the restaurant balcony in the last glorious gasps of daylight.
It’s a bucolic scene. There, at the centre, is a strip with a silvery shimmer that marks the pinot meunier planted between sections of chardonnay and pinot noir, the classic grapes that make up champagne.
This isn’t France, but West Sussex. A lake spreads out at one end of the vineyard and 200-year oak trees stand amid the vines, adding an English country feel to Ashling Park. You can see what wine writer and presenter Oz Clarke means when he says: ‘I know hundreds of vineyards but this one is special.’
The wine is pretty special, too. On the informative tour, we have already glugged a characterful cuvée, which to me is a softer version of Veuve Clicquot; a strong, sparkling rosé with a taste of cherries and a soupcon of spice; and a decent still blush. We pick a bottle of the latter to accompany our meal, the perfect accompaniment to fresh lobster and sea bream, which seems the right choice given that Ashling Park is close to the coast.
British wine is bubbling with potential right now, with 879 registered vineyards in 2022 – double the 432 that existed a decade ago, according to industry body Wines of Great Britain.
Jane Knight tours some of the best hotels with vineyards across the UK. You can ‘enjoy vineyard views from the beautifully decorated shepherd huts’ at Lympstone Manor (pictured) in Devon, she reveals
‘The quality of the wines speak for themselves,’ says Julia Trustram Eve, the organisation’s head of marketing. ‘That Taittinger and Pommery have invested in UK vineyards gives them a seal of recognition.’
If British wine is riding a wave, Sussex is at the crest of it, having just gained protected designation of origin (PDO) status. This means wines from the area are recognised to contain unique characteristics and is an acknowledgement of the quality of the area’s products.
It also has a good selection of vineyards to stay in, including here at Ashling Park, which last year opened its five wooden lodges – designed by Will Hardie of TV’s Amazing Spaces and themed on the different stages of the vines.
Ours, Budburst, has pink touches throughout – from the curtains to the window seat – with murals of blossoming vines set against the blue sky. There’s a rolltop bath in one bathroom and a power shower in another, outside decking, plus a kitchenette with, naturally, a fully-stocked wine fridge at cellar-door prices.
It’s all the vision of Gail Gardner, who in 2017 convinced her parents to plant ten acres of vines on their estate, previously owned by Viscount Portal, Chief of Air Staff in the Second World War. Now, it’s a family affair, with Gail’s mother growing the fresh flowers for the restaurant and the lodges, and her children serving the food. B&B costs from £225 per night (ashlingpark.co.uk).
Just a 15-minute drive away is Tinwood, where owner Art Tukker gives one of the most interesting wine tours I’ve had, beginning with explaining how he transformed his parents’ lettuce farm into a vineyard and ending with a tasting of three sparkling wines (it’s worth paying extra to taste them with local cheese and honey from Tinwood’s own hives).
The three contemporary wooden lodges are perfectly positioned for sunset over the vines and share the use of a barrel-shaped sauna – but you need to book well in advance. A room-only stay costs from £225 per night (tinwoodestate.com).
Also nearby, The Pig in the South Downs is new to the English wine scene, with rooms in the main house overlooking a small but perfectly formed Sussex vineyard. The first harvest from its 4,000 vines is set to take place this year.
A woman samples the wine at the Tinwood Estate. Jane notes that visitors are treated to ‘one of the most interesting wine tours’ at the vineyard
Tinwood’s three contemporary wooden lodges are perfectly positioned for sunset over the vines and share the use of a barrel-shaped sauna (pictured)
It’s worth a visit just for the restaurant, whose wine list is full of local fizz to complement its lobster cocktail. Room-only doubles from £195 (thepighotel.com).
Over in East Sussex, Rathfinny is one of the vineyards that pushed hard for Sussex’s new PDO status. With beautiful views over the South Downs, it has scenic walks through its 230 acres of vines as well as an impressive winery and tasting room.
Outside the harvest period, the views from the tasting room make it the place for dinner – but there is also a dining room at the Flint Barns which offers a courtyard for summer dining. Each room is cosy and contemporary, with B&B doubles from £100 or £238 including dinner for two and harvest tour (rathfinnyestate.com).
You need to book well in advance for a stay at Tinwood. Above is the interior of the retreat’s barrel-shaped sauna
‘The ambition,’ says owner Mark Driver, ‘is that in ten years’ time you will walk into a restaurant in New York, Beijing or Tokyo and the bartender asks, ‘Would you like Champagne or can I recommend a delicious glass of Sussex?”’
FROM WALES TO ESSEX… PICK OF THE VINTAGE BREAKS
When Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines bought Lympstone Manor in Devon in 2014, he was as excited by the idea of planning a vineyard as he was by transforming a dilapidated mansion into a luxury country-house hotel.
Now his dream has been realised, with the vineyard, sloping down to the Exe Estuary, having bottled its first wine: Triassic Pinot Noir 2020, available in his Michelin-starred restaurant. Next year, the first Lympstone Manor Cuvée sparkling wine will be released.
Enjoy vineyard views from the beautifully decorated shepherd huts, with kitchenettes and outdoor baths. B&B doubles from £316, shepherd huts from £485 (lympstonemanor.co.uk).
Three Choirs in Gloucestershire is one of Britain’s oldest vineyards, dating to 1973. Starting with just half an acre of vines, it has now expanded to 75. Look out at them from eight vineyard-view rooms or stay in one of three cedar lodges.
You can take a self-guided tasting tour, then order your favourites to accompany the brasserie’s tapas-style dishes. Rooms from £185 per night, lodges for two from £205, room-only (three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk).
Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey produces a million bottles a year on its 265 acres. Run by the same family since it opened in the Eighties, it now has a hotel in the old farmhouse with 17 rooms. Take a tour and tasting, eat in the orangery and finish up in the wine library, with a floor-to-ceiling wine wall holding Denbies vintages from 1993.
The Pig in the South Downs is new to the English wine scene, with rooms in the main house overlooking a small but perfectly formed Sussex vineyard
At Adgestone Vineyard on the Isle of Wight the bubbly is different – it’s blue
Dinner and B&B from £265 for two, with tour and tasting (denbies.co.uk).
Llanerch Vineyard Hotel in the Vale of Glamorgan is just 15 minutes from Cardiff. Surrounded by woodland, it has contemporary rooms, a restaurant and cookery school. An escape for two with dinner, breakfast and a shared bottle of still wine from £250 (llanerch.co.uk).
Also in Wales, straddling the borders of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, Jabajak has eight rooms and a restaurant in the old smithy. Sample a cellar-door tasting at 5.30pm before sitting down to locally sourced, seasonal dishes. The best room, the Grainstore, comes with a vaulted, beamed ceiling and slipper bath.
B&B doubles from £129, the Grainstore from £195 per night (rarebits.co.uk).
At Adgestone Vineyard on the Isle of Wight the bubbly is different – it’s blue. One of the oldest operating vineyards in the UK, Adgestone also produces a range of still wines, including a blackberry and elderflower country wine. Stay in the one-bedroom cottage, where wine was sold through the window back in the Seventies, with its rustic kitchen and sea views. From £456 for two (adgestonevineyard.co.uk).
Look out on to a sea of vines from Vine House on Chet Valley Vineyard in Norfolk. Head wine maker and owner John Hemmant gives tours, with tastings that include five of the vineyard’s wines. Picnic in the vines or cook in the barn conversion, with three bedrooms and a shared bathroom. A week for six is from £875 (cottages.com).
Great Lodge Barns in Essex is one of several properties Henry VIII gave to Anne of Cleves when their marriage was annulled. Originally known as Great Park, it is home to Bardfield Vineyard, which produces a white named after Henry’s fourth wife. The three barns house seven rooms with kitchens, and can be rented by the room. B&B from £90 per night (greatlodge.co.uk).
At Herefordshire’s Coddington Vineyard, stay in either the Grade II-listed Hop Cottage for four, or at Vine Lodge, sleeping two. Between the Malvern Hills and Ledbury, it is a beautiful boutique vineyard, with just two acres of bacchus and pinot gris. Tours run on Saturdays and you can taste the white wines in the garden with platters of meat and cheese. Two-night weekend stays cost from £360 (coddingtonvineyard.co.uk).
The Grange on Hencote Vineyard in Shropshire sleeps 14 in seven rooms, one with its own steam room. The Georgian farmhouse has a modern open-plan kitchen diner and bedrooms overlooking the vineyard. Enjoy a massage, take a private vineyard tour followed by a meal in the restaurant, then enjoy an evening soak in the hot tub. Three nights for 14 guests from £2,400 (hencote.com).
GET UP CLOSE AND GLAMP AMID THE CREEPERS
To showcase the glorious settings of England’s vineyards, many have begun to offer glamping experiences, which see you nestled within the sprawling acres of vines and able to sip the produce with views over where it was grown.
Glamping specialist Feather Down’s first vineyard is at Great Barn, near Battle in East Sussex. After a tour, retire with a bottle of their artisan sparkling wine to one of the canvas hideaways. Two nights for up to six people from £470 (featherdown.co.uk).
For views over the vines, stay in a treehouse at Fullerton Farm in Hampshire looking over Black Chalk Vineyard. Visit the winery, sample the produce with cheese, and picnic in the vine circle. Back at the treehouses, with their wood burners, sip the complimentary Black Chalk Classic as you wallow in the outdoor bath. From £290 for two (canopyandstars.co.uk).
The Hobbit House on the Oastbrook Estate in East Sussex’s Rother Valley is so realistic, you almost expect Bilbo Baggins to come out of the round front door. Not quite glamping – the turf-roofed house has two bedrooms – but there is a a hot tub in the garden. Adults can take a tour and taste wines with owner America Brewer, while her daughter gives special tours for children.
From £300 a night for four based on a five-night stay (oastbrook.com).