Drink British wine at these six vineyards, which offer more than wine: they have activities for the whole family, from train trips to cycling and quizzes
School half-term is upon us and if, like me, you find parenting aided by a glass in hand then look no further than a beautiful English vineyard for a perfect way to fill the day. Romping through the countryside, your children can get their healthy doses of fresh air as you enjoy your deserved dose of delicious wine. Here are some of my favourites to visit as a family.
Less than an hour from London by train is Denbies Wine Estate, found within the lush greenery of Surrey’s Dorking. A long-standing friend to families, this estate has its own train which trundles its way across the vast grounds entertaining the passengers with historic tales and information on the vines. They run themed events all year round with beloved characters like the Easter Bunny and Father Christmas, but next week it is time to get on board the Spooky Halloween Train Ride for a treasure hunt.
Hush Heath Estate, home of Balfour Winery, produces a staggering 400,000 bottles of beautiful wine a year yet despite this prolific activity the estate itself exudes a wonderous sense of calm. This is probably due to their ancient oak woodlands and expansive wildflower meadows, all of which visitors can walk through by themselves or there’s the option to join a guided tour.
Nature loving children can be on the lookout for barn owls, buzzards and deer who have made this wilderness their home, while adults can admire the art collection and enjoy a tasting on the terrace with its charming views.
Saffron Grange in Essex has taken British wine tourism one step further, offering family friendly tours and tastings designed especially to keep younger members entertained. Every child receives an activity leaflet including colouring, dot-to-dot and nature activities to fill in during the tour but my favourite bit here is the special juice tasting for children while the adults enjoy their more grown-up version. A child’s lunch bag can also be ordered to keep any ‘hanger’ at bay.
Westwell on the North Downs of Kent is becoming increasingly popular with the cooler London crowd. They actively want to get youngsters enthused about viticulture and grape growing so welcome families for tours, or to play on the lawn outside the winery, though tastings will be withheld until your offspring turns 18. For those with older children who love to cycle, Wiston Estate on the South Downs offers Off-Road Bike Tours with local experts ahead of a slap-up lunch at Chalk Restaurant.
They can arrange conventional or electric mountain bikes as well as transport from the nearest rail station or hotel and create a tailor-made tour of the estate and countryside. Sussex’s Nutbourne Vineyard offers a winding vineyard trail for a self-guided tour spotting diverse insect and bird life. Look out for the quiz signposted along the way and discover the ancient oak sculptures among the vines. Finish the day with a cheese platter and tasting on their Windmill’s balcony.
Gather up your bundles of joy and set off to the autumnal countryside to stretch their legs and your taste buds. British wine exploration is the half-term break you all need!
Read more: A wine-lover’s guide to Sober October
Read more: Top London bars to drink organic wine