3 autumn breaks for foodies

Sample the best of autumn's bounty with our three harvest holidays. From New Forest pork to Andalusian olives and Californian wine, this season brings ripe pickings.

Pony standing in the New Forest

We've picked our top autumn getaways for indulging in local seasonal produce in the fresh country air. Whether you fancy woodland walks alongside foraging pigs, basking in the shade of Spanish olive groves or sipping pinot noir by the ocean, these trips offer the best of nature's bounty...

The New Forest

Best for... pannage pork and woodland walks

Mellow yellow autumn arrives in the New Forest with crops of sun-ripe squash, russet apples and golden carpets of acorns, beech mast and chestnuts. The latter make for a supremely pretty windfall that's also, rather inconveniently, poisonous – at least for the forest’s free-roaming ponies. The solution – dating back to 1079, when William the Conqueror proclaimed the forest as a royal hunting ground – is to put local pigs out to pannage, letting them roam the forest and feast on fallen chestnuts. This nutty autumnal fodder fattens the pigs up to produce a tender, sweet 'pannage pork' – England's equivalent to prized Spanish Ibérico ham.

Two New Forest pigs

Common practice across the country for centuries, pannage is now mainly associated with the New Forest. Hikers in this preserved part of rural Hampshire get a kick out of finding pigs rooting around the national park’s 140 miles of tracks and footpaths. Hike out to Hockey’s Farm to sample the best of the season’s pannage fare: grab a bite to eat in the flower-decked Farmyard Café (full cooked breakfast from £6.50) or stock up at the farm shop, where you’ll find a range of products displaying The New Forest Marque.   

Tomatoes, bread, honey, cheese and other deli produce

Load up with local goods: sweet, smoky garlic and flavourful cherry tomatoes from nearby Isle of Wight; delicate pink Chalk Stream trout; Riverside lemon and lavender marmalade; and Tracklements chutneys and pickles, perfect with wheels of tangy local Lyburn cheese and sourdough from Bakehouse 24. Or pop into the bakery itself, just down the road in Ringwood. If you’re feeling really piggy, book ahead to get Hockey's butcher to teach you how to make sausages and cut chops from the almost apple-sweet pannage meat.

Exterior of Carey's Manor, behind trees

On the outskirts of nearby Brockenhurst village, Careys Manor is a quirky 18th-century New Forest manor house (complete with turreted roof), home to the UK’s flagship SenSpa. Come here for Thai-focused treatments (signature massage £80 for 1 hour) or simply to enjoy the swimming pools, saunas and steam rooms.

All senses are engaged at the hotel’s Cambium restaurant (one of three eateries on-site, including a well-respected Thai). The pickled white crab with brown custard, avocado and pink grapefruit granita (£12) popped with citrus and contrasting velvety crustacean, while the beef sirloin with oxtail raviolo, celeriac, rainbow chard and nasturtium was pretty as a picture but delivered a serious umami punch. 

Beef sirloin, oxtail ravioli and parsnips on a plate

Ask the brilliantly knowledgeable sommelier for wine pairings, including medalled Hampshire labels. Marlings Vineyard’s sparkling rosé was memorably rich and crisp. 

There’s ample opportunity to walk off any heavy heads the day after: Careys' concierge can ply you with maps showing trails through woodland, moorland and the largest remaining expanses of lowland heath in western Europe. Or hop into the car to take the scenic Rhinefield Ornamental Drive; stop off at the Tall Trees Trail for a short looped walk through lofty vegetation – just keep your eyes peeled for any pigs crossing. 

Seating and gardens at Carey's Manor

Where to stay

Double rooms at Careys Manor are from £149 B&B. For more info, visit thenewforest.co.uk.

Archidona, Spain

Best for... a bargain culinary break amid Andalusia’s olive groves

Swimming pool and white villa terrace

Malaga might be making a foodie name for itself, but few travellers have discovered the culinary credentials of the outlying Archidona valley. This region of craggy limestone mountains, wildlife-rich woodlands and whitewashed hilltop villages feels a tranquil world from the bustling port city, but is just 40 minutes’ drive away. In the central village of Archidona, Almohalla 51 is the place to stay: a rustic-chic guesthouse elegantly crafted from two townhouses. Lofty, beamed ceilings and terracotta-tiled floors run throughout, with steps to nooks and crannies dressed with books and cushions. Head out to the terraced suntrap garden to find a plunge pool and sweeping Sierra views. British owners David and Myles offer a sunny welcome, chilled glasses of local rosé and expert advice on excursions, foodie or otherwise. 

Exterior of white Spanish villa surrounded by olive groves

Not to be missed is La Samiaja, a 19th-century farmhouse surrounded by organic olive groves. Owners Luis and María Jesús can walk you around the grounds, explaining farming techniques and olive varietals, followed by an expert tasting in the farmhouse restaurant. Here you’ll learn to taste, smell and feel the difference between a first-press extra virgin single varietal (their award-winning picual) and blended extra virgin oils made from such lesser-known local olives as the super-plump gordal and the hojiblanca, whose distinctive silvery leaves make Andalusia’s hillsides shimmer in the sun. Dinner to follow might include a chilled Andalusian porra (a garlicky gazpacho thickened with bread, topped with sliced boiled egg and cubes of ham), generous slivers of semi-cured local sheep’s cheese, delicately fatty salchichón and jamon Ibérico – whole haunches of which are on sale above the bar (from £75).

Olive oil poured on bread

In Archidona town, trusty Restaurante Central (on Calle Nueva) serves decent local wine (£1.70 a glass) and has a menu that runs the gamut of fried regional specialities, including aubergine drizzled in honey. On the same street, the biscuit-vending hole-in-the-wall at Minimas Monastery specialises in such made-by-nuns delicacies as almond biscuits and macaroons (around £9 per box; weekdays 10am-12pm/5-7pm).

Bowl of risotto and biscuit and wine

On Plaza Ochavada, Archidona’s octagonal town square, Arixduna is set in a mountainside cave – but this is no touristy novelty. Chef Rubén Antón stands proud among the battalion of chefs marching out of nearby Santo Domingo culinary school, not least as he’s stayed local. Start with a glass of herby sweet craft vermouth and ponder the merits of the ambitious seven-course tasting menu (£49, including wine pairing), within which the submarine rice (black creamy risotto served in a voluminous glass bowl) is a win for both photos and palate.

Berry tart with ice cream and biscuit crumbs

Make the pilgrimage to the neighbouring town of Antequera and visit Arte de Cozina, whose menu focuses around ‘lost’ tapas dishes. Try the roasted chestnut and chickpea stew with ham and ask your waiter for take-away recipe cards.

Where to stay

Three nights in a double room at Almohalla 51 – including a lovely continental breakfast, guided olive grove tour and tasting at La Samiaja, plus dinner for two with wine and a 100ml bottle of extra virgin olive oil (aeroplane carry-on friendly) – costs £264 per person.

Mendocino, California

Best for... Pacific panoramas and exclusive pinot noir

River mouth with valleys looking out to sea

While Napa and Sonoma reign supreme among California’s wine regions, few know of Mendocino. Some 160 miles north of San Francisco, Mendocino (say Mendo-see-no) is home to hemp-happy surfers and, inland, a string of vineyards whose award-winning wines rarely get exported beyond the state, let alone overseas. Follow the ‘wine road’ Highway 128 through groves of towering redwoods into the Anderson Valley to find some of California’s prime orchard and wine country.

Glass of rose wine with cheese and cracker board

Bookending the valley’s patchwork of vineyards, Navarro and Pennyroyal Farm are owned by the same families and offer tastings and tours that typify the Mendocino experience: expert but informal, often free, and delivered with a laid-back country vibe that’s a world away from corporate Napa. At Navarro, one of Anderson Valley’s largest wineries, you’ll find an unusual breadth of varietals for an area that’s known as pinot noir country, including a sparkling white gewürztraminer and riesling. At Pennyroyal, every goat and sheep has a name (and a little photo in the reception area’s hall of fame) and the vineyard is manicured by miniature sheep. Tour the vines and ‘creamery’ (dairy farm), then lunch in the terrace restaurant (food and wine pairing from £42) or enjoy a tasting where cheeses rejoice in such local dialect names as Bollie's Mollies. And if you’re really lucky, some of the pinot noir rosé will be in stock.

Vineyard and pine forest views

Nearby Boonville is a picture-perfect American town; in autumn, its shops decked with pumpkins and harvest fair. Have a snickerdoodle ice cream from old-fashioned parlour Paysanne and call in at the exquisitely curated Mosswood Market (café and general store) for local chutneys and classy-pricey housewares.

En route to the coast, glory in the fall colours and stop off at Hendy Woods State Park to pay homage to the stands of ancient redwood trees. Within the hour, you’ll reach the misty shores of Mendocino. Have a quick bite at Flow Restaurant, where a decent Pacific cod chowder and an award-winning Californian beer costs £9. Or save yourself for supper at Wild Fish, serving up amazing ocean views and an exciting menu; standouts included teeny, flavour-packed Kumamoto oysters and an elegant bouillabaisse (mains £17-26). Or in town, Café Beaujolais offers a very grown-up menu, including black cod with mushroom agnolotti, complimented by a lengthy-yet-savvy Californian wine list (mains £18-32).

Griddled peaches, burrata and marmalade on a dark plate

Where to stay

Go glamping in the tree-lined cliffs above the surf, in luxuriously appointed safari tents (you just need a torch and a toothbrush) at Mendocino Grove, which has one of the chicest campsite bathrooms you’ll ever encounter. Double tents from £106 per night. 

Glamping tents on woodland campsite

Discover more foodie travel tips on our travel hub.

Read more foodie travel guides...

Best autumn half-term breaks for families
3 foodie spa breaks
The best boozy breaks 
The best family foodie half-term breaks
6 family-friendly trips: gourmet glamping

Which destination would you like to visit this autumn? Leave a comment below...

All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of September 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at goodfoodwebsite@bbc.com.

Photographs: Getty Images, David Griffen photography, Imogen Burrell, Maria Jesus Cordoba, La Samiaja, Mimi Gibion, Pennyroyal Farm, Sarah Barrell  

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