The best boozy breaks for 2018
Sample a range of beverages with these quick European trips, from vintage wines in the Med to craft beers in Prague and whiskies in Scotland.
Whether you're looking for a fine wine-tasting getaway in Burgundy or fancy sampling the modern craft ales of Prague, we've got a great list of places where you can enjoy sipping the best of local beverages, paired with some equally delectable cuisine. So sit back, relax and raise a glass of your favourite drink to a great holiday...
Prague, Czech Republic
Best for... craft beers & budget-pleasing menus
How to do it: Bed down in a brewery at the venerable U Medvídků, founded in 1466, where doubles cost from £67 a night.
Prague is one of the world’s greatest beer cities, and its cosy old pubs and hearty food are now joined by the best modern craft brews and menus, demonstrating that Czech cuisine is much more than just meat and dumplings.Head to Lokál on Dlouhá Street for perfect glasses of Pilsner Urquell and home-cooked food (beers from £1.60 per half-litre; mains from £4). For the best craft beers, go to Kulový Blesk and choose between the courtyard or basement where there are different beers on tap (from £1.50 per half-litre). For exceptional Czech cuisine with a mix of lagers and craft beers, U Šumavy is a wonderful option.
Review by Mark Dredge
Best for... venerable Spanish vintages & cool contemporary food
How to do it: Doubles at Echaurren Hotel Gastronómico from £160 per night. The closest airport, Bilbao, is a 90-minute drive.
Stepping into your room at the Echaurren Hotel Gastronómico in the village of Ezcaray, La Rioja, is a little bit magic. Raise remote-controlled blinds to reveal views of historic stone buildings, with flocks of birds fluttering over golden terracotta roof tiles – it’s fairy-tale film territory. There are two restaurants on site (plus an additional casual dining room). Both are overseen by chef Francis Paniego, but are very different in style.Modern, creative two Michelin-starred El Portal has tasting menus from £111, while Echaurren Tradición focuses on classic dishes inspired by Paniego’s mother’s cooking. In the latter, the £59 set menu came with classic croquettes, expertly-cooked hake, and an elegant dessert of apple crisps, Los Cameros cheese and honey ice cream. Breakfast in the morning greets you with a little fruit smoothie and gathers pace through fruit, cold meats and cheeses, finishing with a deep-fried poached egg and mushrooms.
Even with just a passing interest in wine, it’s well worth visiting Marqués de Riscal, famous wine producers a 30-minute drive from Ezcaray. A guided tour (£10.50 per person) includes tasting two wines. At the restaurant, you will again find modern menus from Francis Paniego. His 14 ideas menu (£89) came with standout red prawn carpaccio, black ‘olives’ (made from soft cheese), and ‘fresh grass’, which is exactly as you’d imagine eating a mountain meadow.Review by Miriam Nice
Ashdown Forest, Sussex
Best for... medal-winning English wines & fairy-tale forest
How to do it: Wine tasting and tour £16 per person (Fridays and Saturdays) at Bluebell Vineyard. Dinner, bed & breakfast £117 per person at Ashdown Park Hotel.
You don’t need to travel to France to find fine wine. Brilliant bubbly and a grand spa hotel in the heart of Ashdown Forest, with its thousands of acres of bluebell woods (this is Winnie the Pooh country), make for a relaxing escape in the countryside. English wine is winning international awards, and Bluebell Vineyard produces top English sparkling.Wine tours are relaxed and fun: one of the team will show you around the estate, and you’ll probably be joined by the owners’ four sweet Labradors too. Set on a former pig farm, it’s now home to 70 acres of champagne-blend grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – which are all hand-harvested. Kevin will explain the wine-making process and you’ll try four of their award-winning Hindleap English sparkling wines, including the zesty Sevyal Blanc and peachy Blanc de Blancs.
Stay at Ashdown Park, just a 10-minute drive from Bluebell Vineyard. Acres of woodland and lakes surround this 19th-century country house hotel, with rabbits hopping around the grounds. Take a dip in the pool or squeeze in a spa treatment before dinner in the Anderida Restaurant, where cheffy takes on classic British fare are on the menu – try the fillet of beef with truffle potatoes, goose liver butter and cauliflower purée.Unsurprisingly, the hotel makes the most of its proximity to Bluebell Vineyard, with Hindleap’s Seyval Blanc and Brut Rose on the wine list. Indulge with a Bloody Mary and a full English breakfast in the morning then ride it off on one of the cycling routes in the grounds, or go further beyond in the forest (you can hire bikes from the hotel). If you haven’t got the energy, step back in time and enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a steam train on the Bluebell Railway, from the ancient market town of East Grinstead, just a 15-minute drive away, which runs to Sheffield Park with its landscaped National Trust gardens.
Review by Fiona Forman
Best for... sunny South of France eats & treats
How to do it: Fly to Marseille with Ryanair from £50 return. The train from Marseille to Cassis costs £5.40 each way. Airbnb has some great accommodation options starting at £37 per night for an entire apartment.
Imagine St Tropez 20 years ago and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Cassis is like today. A picturesque harbour surrounded by pastel-coloured buildings marks the centre, the most beautiful limestone cliff inlets make up the coastline, and the food and drink options are endless. It’s a great destination for a heart-warming, mid-winter Med break. Contrary to popular belief, crème de cassis is not actually made in Cassis, but comes from the Burgundy region of France. However, not indulging in at least one Kir Royale while in Cassis would be criminal, so head to La Villa Madie for lunchtime drinking and a seriously wow view of the azure blue bay.
A glass of Ricard Pastis, from neighbouring Marseille, is a pre-dinner drink that warms you up when it’s sunny but fresh outside. The anise and liquorice-flavoured aperitif is not to everyone’s taste, but you can’t get more French, and it’s cheap to drink; any decent bar in town will be able to serve you a glass after a day of hiking among the spectacular white cliffs of Cassis’ surrounding Calanques National Park.
Restaurants around the harbour can be overpriced, so it’s worth taking a side street and finding Le Romarin (Rue du Docteur Séverin Icard, +33 442010993). The langoustine and garlic spaghetti is superb and you can’t beat the local house wines for flavour and price. To aid digestion, sip a glass of Marc de Provence, a pomace brandy made from the leftovers of the winemaking process. Get a glass at Le Chai Cassidain (6 rue Dr Severin Icard, +33 442019980) and don’t forget to cheers – à votre santé! Craving something sweet? Amorino (4 avenue Victor Hugo, +33 4204 6594) is the perfect place for an after-dinner fix. Choose from delicious sorbets in seasonal flavours or, of course, a crêpe.Review by Lydia Swinscoe
Best for... dram drinkers & spectacular seafood
How to do it: For a luxurious foodie option, stay at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, a 20-minute drive from the centre of Oban, for £350 per night.
Head to Oban on the west coast of Scotland to experience the finest Scottish salmon, a bounty of shellfish and one of the oldest Scottish single malt distilleries. Known as the gateway to the islands, this little bay is full of fresh catches and a characteristic sea-salt-and-citrus-tinged whisky to enjoy alongside. Planning for a special occasion? Treat yourself to the five-course tasting menu at the Isle of Eriska Hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant (£75 per person). Ingredients foraged from around the island, such as seaweed, chanterelles, mussels, and organic veg from the garden, form the basis of a vibrant seasonal menu.
For no-frills fare, don’t leave Oban without a trip to the distinctive green shack, the Oban Seafood Hut (at the Railway Pier), for some hearty scallops or a generous portion of mussels for around £5, straight from the bay. For something sweet, head to the Oban Chocolate Company Café, for a warming hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows or the ultimate fondue, complete with golden shortbread for dipping.Not to be missed: take a tour of the Oban Distillery, in the heart of town. With just two stills, it’s one of the smallest producers in Scotland. Your tour (£10 per person) will take you through the entire process from grain to barrel, including a taster of the classic malt. Try the tasting menu of four drams for £20.
Review by Georgina Kiely
Best for... big French wines & hearty food
How to do it: Food & Wine Weekends at Domaine De Cromey cost £1,150 per person (four days/three nights), full-board, including tastings, excursions and transfers to the local station. Return rail fare from London to Le Creusot from £95 (including Eurostar).
Surrounded by vineyards, Domaine de Cromey, a converted farmhouse in the heart of Burgundy, is the ideal base for a culinary break. A stay at this luxury manor house, owned by couple Dennis and Ellie, includes meals cooked by chef Ellie, accompanied by a fabulous range of Burgundian wines. Learn where they come from at vineyards in the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits areas. Visits include tastings among the vines, and Domaine guests also have the option of private cellar tastings.A short drive away, the town of Beaune, wine capital of Burgundy, is a must-visit, particularly on market days (Wednesdays and Saturdays), where you’ll find great local produce. There’s wine aplenty in Beaune’s shops and cellars, but be sure to stop at Alain Hess Fromagerie (7 Place Carnot) for a staggering array of local cheeses.
For hefty portions of traditional food including oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce, £12), dine in the old winemaker’s residence turned restaurant Le Cellier Volnaysien in Volnay (three-course menus from £17). Around 50km north, in Fixin, Au Clos Napoléon offers a more elegant take on classics like boeuf bourguignon. Lunch menus from £13.Review by Anna Lawson
Best for... bubbles and classic menusHow to do it: Travel from Dover to Calais with DFDS ferries from £39 each way. Crossings take 90 minutes.Home to many of France’s largest champagne houses, the pretty medieval city of Reims is an ideal base for a fizz-fuelled visit to the Champagne-Ardenne region. Tour the vast network of chalk cellars at the famous Taittinger champagne house and the small family-run Champagne Godme Sabine in Verzenay.
It’s a short drive from Reims (stop on the way to admire the Windmill of Verzenay) and sip champagne six metres above the ground at The Perching Bar in a treehouse in the forest of Verzy. To soak up all that bubbly, head to Brasserie Excelsior in Reims city centre. The menu features classic brasserie dishes, including oysters, steak-frites, beef tartare and crème brûlée. Set dinner menus start at £24.60 for two courses.
Review by Anna Lawson
Best for... prosecco and sweet treatsHow to do it: For a speedy city break, book a room at Relais San Nicolò, based in Treviso’s historic centre. For a luxurious country break, book yourself into the Villa Luppis, with double rooms for around £104 per night.At the heart of Italy’s sparkling wine region, Treviso is the perfect starting point for a trip down ‘prosecco road’ – a scenic stretch of wineries, hotels and B&Bs. First explore the town, with its stunning mix of elaborate Venetian gothic and Romanesque architecture. For a hearty lunch, stop off at Osteria Muscoli opposite the daily fish market for a golden plate of ‘frittura mista’. Later, treat yourself to a plate of spaghetti alla chitarra with a rich guinea fowl ragu at Le Beccherie. While debate rages about who invented tiramisu, it's widely acknowledged that Le Beccherie was one of the first purveyors.
Take a trip to 47 Anno Domini for a stunning range of wines and fruity prosecco – pair your fizz with the local meats and cheeses, like the creamy casatella. Continue your tasting at the tiny family-run vineyard of Le Celline. For a filling plate of fresh pasta, hop across the road to Trattoria Da Vanda (+39 0432 900029) for a Bolognese to fuel you through the day.Review by Georgina Kiely
Isle of Harris, Scotland
Best for... freshly caught crab and local ginHow to do it: A minimum three-night stay at Sound of Harris costs from £323 in The Other House, or from £460 in The Big House.There aren’t many self-catering cottages with owners who go fishing so there’s just-caught pollack in the fridge for your breakfast. Or dress the crab you’ve brought with you because you can’t face it yourself. Or race after your car because you’ve left all your smart clothes in the wardrobe and they don’t want you to miss the ferry back. Sound of Harris is no ordinary holiday rental, designed and decorated by Carol and Rob, an English couple who fell in love with the beaches of this beautiful island in the Outer Hebrides and built two cottages here, right on the sea. The style is mid-century modern, with Ercol and Habitat originals and geometric artworks and ceramics along with the Borrisdale tweed they weave and sell in their tiny on-site shop. The Big House is designed around the fully-equipped kitchen, a cook’s dream, so bring supplies with you – Just Hooked near the ferry from Skye (sailing time 1.5 hours) can sort you out with local lobster, crab, langoustine and monkfish.
While Harris is a Deliveroo-free zone, you can still enjoy hearty, restaurant-quality food. Island caterers Croft 36 will drop off sustainably caught fish, seafood, game and meat (rabbit stew, fish curry or moules marinière) to Harris’s visitors and residents. When you want to explore, pack a picnic – the white-sand beaches, especially Luskentyre, are uncrowded and unspoilt. Harris’s main foodie attraction is the gin distillery in Tarbert, producing a smooth, world-class gin with a distinct flavour courtesy of sea kelp, in a beautiful bottle you’ll keep forever.Review by Christine Hayes
Best for... beer & harbour viewsHow to do it: Stay at The St Moritz Hotel near Rock and Padstow. Twin rooms £160 a night per person.You’ll find vineyards, distilleries and breweries, as well as places to eat, around the sheltered bay. Daily catches supply eateries, including Prawn on the Lawn. Try a plate piled high with Porthilly mussels and clams or a whole red mullet.
Visit the cosy Harbour Inn for a glass of delicate Camel Valley Pilsner, the brainchild of two Cornish drinks giants: Camel Valley wines and Sharp’s Brewery. Or try Seven Souls ale, a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Indulge in dry-aged rib-eye and roasted pumpkin with plump burrata and romesco sauce at Nathan Outlaw’s The Mariners, and end with Crackler cheddar alongside fruitcake infused with Doom Bar – an almost porty beer.
Review by Georgina Kiely
Best for... sun-ripened veg and idyllic simplicity
How to do it: Don Tuto, located in the small town of San Cassiano, is nothing short of idyllic. Rooms are available from £176 a night and include breakfast and an aperitif in the evening.
Situated in the heel of the ‘boot’ of Italy, Puglia’s veg-centric dishes show a special appreciation for the produce, whereby even the simplest of ingredients are elevated, like courgettes marinated and lightly seasoned in a light and perfectly balanced salad, and cima di rapa combined with garlic and anchovy to form the most flavoursome pasta sauce. Take a tour of this area and you will eat very well.
At La Farmacia dei Sani in Ruffano, Valentina Rizza, the head chef, cooks a pasta dish with anchovies and pistachios that is an absolute delight. Head to La Bersagliera, in Surano (+39 345 795 3080) where Raffaele Fabcullio serves plates of food based on the produce that surrounds him. He also runs private cooking classes for guests staying in the nearby Don Totu hotel. La Puritate in Gallipoli (+39 0833 264205) specialises in fish – try the salt-crusted red shrimps. And for a truly hyperlocal meal, visit Le Stanzie in Supersano with its underground olive presses. They make their own ricotta, pasta and bread and grow their own veg.
Review by Elena Silcock
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of July 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.
Assistance for this feature was provided by: therectoryhotel.com, sharpsbrewery.co.uk, prosecco.wine, dfdsseaways.co.uk, soundofharris.co.uk, czechtourism.com, dontotu.it
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