We’ve picked our top autumn getaways for indulging in local seasonal produce in the fresh country air. Whether you fancy basking in the shade of Spanish olive groves, tucking into a bowl of mussels on Ireland’s west coast or sipping Californian wine by the ocean, these trips offer the best of nature’s bounty…
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1. Ballynahinch Castle, Ireland
Best for… fabulous seafood and outdoor pursuits
About the area: The west coast of Ireland is a magical place of mountains, sea, bog and lakes. Soft drizzle, driving rain and brooding skies make its cosy pubs with traditional music particularly inviting in autumn. It’s also the best time for walks along deserted white sandy beaches and for exploring Galway city and pretty Clifden without the crowds.
About the hotel: Fishing, cycling and mountain hiking are year-round pursuits and, at Ballynahinch Castle, waterproofs and wellies are pretty much offered on arrival so you can make the most of the walking trails in the grounds. In nearby village Roundstone, join local fisherman John on a fishing trip – explore the remote, uninhabited island of Inishlacken, spot seals and check lobster and crab pots, then eat the haul for dinner back at Ballynahinch. The castle lobby’s open fire, luxurious bedrooms and welcoming pub are the perfect antidote to the wild outdoors.
Local food highlights: Coastal Connemara is known for its seafood and salmon. Head to the one of the pubs for big bowls of mussels with a hunk of soda bread or crab sandwiches and Guinness. At Ballynahinch’s Owenmore restaurant, a very comfortable spot overlooking the salmon river and grounds, Irish produce is the star. Local suppliers are namechecked and the menu has a warm informality, stating ‘we throw in a little foraging, wild game and garden herbs when we can’. Plates are simple and beautiful: Dooncastle oysters served with trout roe, chives and wild flowers; multi-coloured beetroot with goat’s cheese; and contemporary touches such as dashi in its cod, mussels and seaweed main course (five-course dinner, £64). Breakfast is generous: carve off slices of honey-roast ham, sample Irish cheeses or opt for a full Irish. Nearby, O’Dowds in Roundstone serves seafood chowder, beef and Guinness stew and Irish craft beer (mains from £11). Galway is just over an hour’s drive away and is Connemara’s foodie hub.Visit Sheridan’s cheesemongers and wine bar, hyper-local Aniar restaurant and boutique cookery school, the relaxed Ard Bia restaurant and myriad pubs.
How to do itDoubles from £175 a night, or a two-night stay with dinner for two costs from £430, ballynahinch-castle.com.
2. The New Forest
Best for… pannage pork and woodland walks
About the area: 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.
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.
Local food highlights: 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.
About the hotel: 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) pops with citrus and contrasting velvety crustacean, while the beef sirloin with oxtail raviolo, celeriac, rainbow chard and nasturtium is pretty as a picture but delivers a serious umami punch.
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.
How to do it
3. The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny
Best for… sumptuous bakes and mountain hikes
About the area: The mountains of Monmouthshire are never far from sight in Abergavenny. With such dramatic scenery on its doorstep, it’s no surprise this idyllic location was voted one of this year’s best places to live in Wales by The Sunday Times.
About the hotel: Not fortunate enough to have this place as your postcode? The Angel Hotel offers a home from home; its Castle Cottage strikes the right balance of modern luxuries and British home comforts, with slate floors, a stone fireplace and Lewis & Wood fabrics. The perfect retreat after a long day’s hill hiking, one final ascent up the winding staircase reveals a decadent master bedroom with views of the Blorenge mountain range on the horizon and, below, a lavender-scented walled garden.
Local food highlights: Treats continue down the road at The Angel Bakery, where sourdough loaves are lovingly hand-baked and leavened for longer to ensure maximum flavour. But be careful not to spoil your appetite for the hotel’s award-winning high tea: focusing on fragrant East India Company blends, this afternoon ritual offers classic coronation chicken and smoked salmon sandwiches plus mini savoury pastries, quiches, cakes and scones, topped off with a gin and Earl Grey tea cocktail (£30 per person).Walk off the sugar high on a five-hour circuit of Sugarloaf Mountain. This heather-lined route can be cut in half by starting the ascent from the upper car park. Ambling back to lower ground, stop off at Abergavenny Market for local produce and head to The Market Bakery stall for Welsh cakes straight from the griddle. For fine dining, The Angel’s Oak Room serves elegant starters of sweet watermelon and heritage tomato salad and mains including a Welsh loin of lamb or cod paired with squash gnocchi dipped in butter sauce (mains from £10).
Warmth and community spirit is prevalent in all corners of Abergavenny, but The Art Shop & Chapel unites the town with shared supper feasts using foraged and garden-grown produce. Start the morning in the pretty chapel courtyard feasting on cinnamon French toast and jostaberries (£10) or the spicy shakshuka (£8), but leave room for lunch at Michelin-starred The Walnut Tree (with complimentary taxi transfer for Castle Cottage guests). The heavily fish-focused menu features dishes such as skate with brown shrimps and wild garlic potato cake, while fusions continue to flourish with the five-spice duck, artfully presented with soy and sesame sticky rice (mains from £16).
How to do it
Angel’s Castle Cottage sleeps four and costs from £95 a night. Take Great Western Railway’s high-speed Intercity Express from London Paddington to Newport and change for Abergavenny. Return from £72.90.
4. Timbrell’s Yard, Bradford-on-Avon
Best for: West Country produce and riverside charm
About the area: Just seven miles from Bath, Bradford-on-Avon has all the best bits of its neighbour – honey-coloured Georgian buildings, ancient history, independent restaurants and tea rooms galore – without the hordes of tourists. Autumn is a great time to visit, as any summer crowds will have departed and the cosy pubs come into their own.
About the hotel: On a top spot overlooking the River Avon, you’ll find Timbrell’s Yard, a revamped coaching inn set in a grade-II listed building with a bar, farm-to-plate restaurant and 17 bedrooms. The luxurious bedrooms range in style from modern to period – either way, opt for one with a river view. On arrival, soft classical music plays from your radio and the warm welcome doesn’t stop there; other touches include complimentary locally made fudge and natural toiletries from Somerset-based Bramley. Enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the stylish bar, grab a seat near the fireplace and sip a regional craft beer or West Country cider (they do excellent cocktails, too).
Local food highlights: In the restaurant, ex-River Cottage chef Tom Blake oversees the modern British menu. Provenance is key – meat, eggs, cheese and yogurt are sourced from local farmers, and bread, cakes and sauces are made in-house daily. Dishes are expertly cooked and portions are generous, with standouts including the fall-apart-soft Gloucestershire Old Spots pork belly with crackling and decadent desserts such as the chocolate & salted caramel tart (mains from £13.50, desserts, £7).
Post-dinner, you won’t even have to brave the cold night air – simply stagger upstairs to your bedroom. Breakfasts are just as good, with a buffet of yogurt, fruit, croissants and homemade jams to start, followed by a full English with all the usual (top-quality) suspects, plus smoky beans and an exceptional slab of bubble & squeak. Beyond Timbrell’s Yard, there’s plenty to do. Cross over the medieval bridge to find the Saxon church and, just 10 minutes’ walk away, there’s the 14th-century tithe barn (admission is free). Check out the surrounding outbuildings selling crafts, homewares and antiques – ideal for sourcing Christmas gifts – and recharge in the coffee shop or tea room. From there, it’s a half-hour stroll through the scenic Barton Farm Country Park to the Avoncliff Aqueduct. Walk back along the towpath and stop off at quirky pub The Lock Inn Café. There’s no shortage of good dining options either; don’t miss the award-winning The Bunch of Grapes, a charming candlelit bistro serving a modern European menu (mains from £15.50). A few minutes’ drive away, The New Inn in Westwood is a toasty country pub with an open fire and a menu of British classics – if you’re lucky, the venison and red wine pie (£13) will be on the menu.
How to do it
Double rooms at Timbrell’s Yard from £85 a night.
5. Archidona, Spain
Best for… a bargain culinary break amid Andalusia’s olive groves
About the area: 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.
About the guesthouse: 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.
Local food highlights: 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).
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 Mínimas Monastery specialises in such made-by-nuns delicacies as almond biscuits and macaroons (around £9 per box; weekdays 10am-12pm/5-7pm).
On Plaza Ochavada, Archidona’s octagonal town square, Arxiduna 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.
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.
How to do it
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.
6. Mendocino, California
Best for… Pacific panoramas and exclusive pinot noir
About the area: 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.
Local food highlights: 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.
Nearby Boonville is a picture-perfect American town; in autumn, its shops are 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 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). In town, Café Beaujolais offers a very grown-up menu, including black cod with mushroom agnolotti, complemented by a lengthy-yet-savvy Californian wine list (mains £18-32).
How to do it
Go glamping in the tree-lined cliffs above the surf, staying in luxuriously appointed safari tents (you just need to bring 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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.
Photographs: Getty Images, David Griffen photography, Imogen Burrell, Maria Jesus Cordoba, La Samiaja, Mimi Gibion, Pennyroyal Farm, Sarah Barrell