Cottage of the Week – Villa Arzilla, Lazio

This beautiful country holiday home, spread over three levels, is set in green hills in the heart of the Tuscia Romana, near a small Etruscan necropolis. The house is situated on a hill, surrounded by lawns, an idyllic fruit orchard and an olive grove. Enjoy a dip in the outdoor swimming pool with separate children’s section. Sleeps 25 and 1 pet – it’s the perfect family getaway! More info on the property’s listing on cottages4you.

Grape Escapes – Enjoy English Wine Week

English vineyards

Visiting England’s excellent vineyards is a growing trend, and for good reason…

For English Wine Week (23-31 May), we’re taking take a quick look at the great holiday opportunity presented by this booming – and slightly surprising – English industry. With attractive vineyards dotted around some of the country’s most beautiful regions, getting to know the wines of England offers a great excuse for a holiday or mini-break, not to mention a spot of tasting along the way.

A bit of background

Despite common perceptions, winemaking is far from being a new industry in England, and we’ve actually been producing wines ever since pre-Roman times. The industry, as we now know it, really began in the 1950s, and by 2013 there were 470 vineyards England and Wales, with 135 wineries producing almost 4.5m bottles between them. Interestingly, half of this production is split between just three grape varieties, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir accounting for roughly 20% each, and Bacchus just over 9%.

Why take a wine tour?

There’s no doubt that English wines of every colour and grape variety have really come of age now, and many are winning national and international awards. Visiting vineyards and meeting the personalities that manage them is a fascinating experience, and of course there’s the chance to sample the goods and buy a bottle or two. Many of the country’s best vineyards have really embraced this new strand of tourism and welcome visitors with open arms. Typically, these estates have well-stocked shops, informative tours and friendly tasting sessions, while many also have on-site facilities like cafes and restaurants.

A wonderful trip for everyone

By their nature, vineyards are often situated in beautiful locations, and this is another one of the their appeals. Many occupy idyllic rural settings amid some of England’s best countryside, perfect for kicking back and relaxing or enjoying a spot of walking or bird watching. If that’s not your thing, all are within striking distance of a wide variety of attractions and activities to suit everyone, from young couples or families with kids through to groups of friends or retirees.

Our pick of the bunch…

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Raising a glass to England’s vineyards.

We’ve gathered the details of just a tiny selection of English vineyards open to the public, each one offering a range of tours, facilities and wines for sale. Don’t forget to check before you visit, as opening times, tour availability and product stock usually vary from place to place as well as seasonally. We’ve provided more useful info at the foot of this page.

Yorkshire’s not the first place that springs to mind for a visit to a vineyard, but Ryedale Vineyards offers wine tours as well as the chance for volunteers to muck in and tend the vines. This is England’s most northerly commercial vineyard, and you could combine a visit here with trips to the historic gem of York, the stunning North Yorkshire Moors or one of many pretty coastal towns and villages.

Chilford Hall Vineyard lies in rolling hills just 15 minutes south of the beautiful and historic city of Cambridge. A wide range of tour options are available here, including a Standard Tour and Tasting, Afternoon Tea Tour and Tasting or even a Tour and Tasting Experience, all depending on your preference and budget. The setting is grand and unique, and it features art and sculpture collected by the Hall’s late owner, Sam Alper.

Cornwall’s Camel Valley Vineyard occupies the sunny slopes above the river Camel. Visitors can choose from a range of tours to learn about wines that have won national and international awards. This stunning area of the country offers great coastal scenery and rural charm. For something a bit more modern, Cornwall’s famous Eden project is only a 20-minute drive away and makes a great day out for people of all ages.

In the pretty Cotswolds, Three Choirs Vineyards is one of England’s oldest vineyards. It offers tours of the vines and winery plus the chance to sample both red and white wines. The site’s shop sells local produce as well as the estate’s wines, and there’s an à la Carte restaurant too. This peaceful location makes a great base for enjoying the area’s nature trails, or for exploring the picture-postcard beauty of this most typically English region.

Biddenden Vineyards are Kent’s oldest, producing a range of red, white, rose and sparkling wines as well as ciders and apple juice. There are free tours throughout the year, and visitors get the chance to see everything from the vines themselves to the bottling line. Refreshments are available in the vineyard’s café. Kent is famously called the ‘Garden of England’ – a county of gorgeous pastoral views, romantic coastal walks and plenty of wildlife. There’s history and culture too, with castles, stately homes and the charming city of Canterbury.

Last but not least

If you do decide to visit any of the vineyards we’ve suggested – or ones not listed here – we strongly recommend that you contact the vineyard first. For more details on England’s vineyards, visit English Wine Producers  – it’s a website packed full of interesting history and essential information about the country’s wine industry and wine producers.

Don’t forget – always drink responsibly and have a lovely trip.

Cheers!

Idyllic England for St George’s Day

We’ve chosen a few of our favourite images of England to share for St George’s Day. How many have you visited?

Celebrating the Pennine Way

Opened on 24th April 1965, the 268 mile footpath follows the backbone of England, meandering through stunning scenery in the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines and finally, the Cheviots. It’s one of Britain’s toughest trails, but fortunately you don’t have to walk the whole thing in one go, there are plenty of places to take a shorter stroll.

The preferred route is south to north…with the wind, rain and sun at your back. Reverse our guide if a tanned face is what you fancy!

Kinder Scout

The Pennine Way begins in Edale, a lovely village in the Derbyshire Peak District. A couple of miles out from the start, you’ll begin an ascent which will treat you to sweeping, panoramic views and get you in the mood for tough terrain, from day one. The craggy, flat-topped plateau of Kinder Scout is a famous fell and more than 80 years ago, it was a place of revolution. Here, the British public protested with a mass trespass and demanded the ‘right to roam’. It was against this political backdrop, in 1935, that journalist Tom Stephenson first floated the idea of a long-distance footpath in Britain, inspired by the epic American Appalachian and John Muir trails. After 30 years of route-wrangling, the Pennine Way was born.

A little further on, you’ll find Bleaklow; a high, peat moorland with a history to match its name. In 1948 an American bomber crashed here whilst on a routine flight. A large amount of wreckage is still visible along with a memorial to the 13 servicemen who died.

Hebden Bridge

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Hardcastle Crags

Around 50 miles north into Yorkshire and the Upper Calder Valley is the market town of Hebden Bridge, a couple of miles off the main footpath. A circular, well-signposted footpath, (just under four miles long) has recently been created. It encourages walkers into the town to get fed and watered, and to visit the ancient village of Heptonstall on the way back. Also nearby is the National Trust’s Hardcastle Crags, including 400 acres of unspoilt woodland and a 19th century mill serving as a visitor centre.

Here, in a new project called Framing the Landscape, artist Ashley Jackson has enhanced the natural landscape with an oversized, free-standing picture frame. The aim is to encourage visitors and children to peer through the aperture and to look more closely; to re-engage with their surroundings and to be inspired to protect Yorkshire heritage for the future.

Malham Moor and Malham Cove

A historically significant and stunningly beautiful stopping-off point on the Yorkshire Dales section of the footpath is Malham Moor. Britain’s first ever National Trail, (aka the Pennine Way) was officially and ceremoniously opened here on April 24th 1965. A spectacular upland and farmland landscape, it makes for a ravishing ramble with far-reaching views. Explore the most quintessential of the Dales’ limestone landscapes and enjoy the majesty of Malham Cove.

The cove itself is a massive amphitheatre of a cliff formation forged from limestone rock and its vertical face towers an awe-inspiring 260ft high. Above the cove lies a large and rare patterned area of limestone pavement – a perfect and photogenic picnic spot on a calm day. Looking out from here, it’s not difficult to understand why Malhamdale has been attracting visitors from near and far, for centuries.

Haworth and The Brontë Parsonage Museum

This way to Wuthering Heights

This way to Wuthering Heights

Further north, and the trail passes close-by to the striking hill-top village of Haworth, the home of the great literary family, the Brontës. Immerse yourself in the captivating lives of any of the sisters’ heroes or heroines whilst visiting the Brontë Parsonage Museum which has the world’s largest collection of their letters, poems and early editions of the famous novels. Sink a pint in the famous Black Bull pub, where Branwell Brontë allegedly began his love affair with alcohol and opium, or avoid temptation with a trip to see the preserved steam engines at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

Back on the Pennine Way itself, you’ll pass by Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse, reputedly set in the location which inspired Emily Brontë to imagine the hauntingly realistic home of the Earnshaws, Wuthering Heights. It’s a bleakly beautiful place, where you’ll feel close to the spirit of Cathy, Heathcliff… and maybe even Kate Bush.

Pen-y-Ghent

A highlight of North Yorkshire and of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the peak of Pen-y–Ghent, and the Pennine Way takes you right up it! It’s one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks, along with Ingleborough and Whernside, (both of which are visible along the way) and is the scene for many scrambled dashes to complete the Three Peaks Challenge. Hiking the footpath from the village of Horton in Ribblesdale, you’ll climb the distinctively-shaped fell, also known as ‘The Hill of the Winds’ or ‘Hill on the Border’.

It’s a fairly strenuous but scenic ascent, climbing to 2,277ft.  The striking ridges that stripe along the sides of Pen-y-Ghent are the result of different layers of rock; grit, shales and half way up a band of familiar Yorkshire limestone.

High Force  

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England’s biggest waterfall

Leaving the Dales behind and heading into County Durham, the Way wanders into the North Pennines and its hazy, heather covered tops. The crowd draw here is High Force, England’s biggest waterfall. The gorge at High Force has been shaped over thousands of years by water and today it’s a roaring mass of froth where the River Tees crashes 70ft over the hard rock of Whin Sill into a plunge pool below. Spring and summer are wonderful times to visit this area as walkers are treated to a beautiful display of rare wildflowers. Autumn lends further drama to the falls, as the deciduous trees around the riverbank explode in a riot of colour. There are more fabulous falls at Low Force a little further downstream.

High Cup Nick 

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A true geological wonder

If you’re walking the Pennine Way from Langdon Beck to Dufton, you’ll pass one of the most impressive and dramatic sights on its whole journey. It’s a challenging hike to get there but High Cup Nick is a geological wonder – a classic U-shaped valley high up in the west of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A deep chasm, this famous scar is a jaw-dropping formation at the top of High Cup Gill and overlooks arguably the best example of a glaciated valley in Northern England. You definitely have to see it to appreciate the grandeur of the greyish blue dolerite cliffs, standing as solemn sentinel over the valley in a setting which wouldn’t look out of place in the fantastical landscapes of Game of Thrones.

Kirk Yetholm

Whether you’ve been walking for weeks, days or just an afternoon, it’s always satisfying to reach the end of something. The small village of Kirk Yetholm in the Cheviot Hills, on the Scottish Borders is the final destination on the Pennine Way and a resting place for weary walkers. Apparently, if you follow the path all the way to its official conclusion, it will take you to the Border Hotel, where hard-worn hiking boots receive a warm welcome, and there’s local food, and of course, Scotch, on offer. On your way into the village, you can make a short detour up Green Humbleton to see the Iron Age hill fort at its summit, or join St. Cuthbert’s Way, which follows in the footsteps of the Saint who walked from Melrose to the priory at Lindisfarne, via Kirk Yetholm.

If you have any energy left at all, the 470 mile Scottish National Trail which opened in 2012 also begins in this village, and then weaves its way all the way to Cape Wrath! Well, now you’re here…

Find more info on the Pennine Way Association website

8 Tour de Yorkshire Highlights

Le Tour returns

By ‘eck, it’s back! Following last year’s huge success story, Le Tour is returning to Yorkshire and its speed-defying pack of professional cyclists look set to delight spectators as they chase across the county.

To celebrate the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire (1- 3 May 2015) we’ve chosen the eight best en-route attractions, including the perfect places to catch more than a passing glimpse of the peloton.

You blinked and you missed it? Don’t stress – a spin around God’s Own Country will inject the ‘ooh la la’ into your life, at any time of year…

Danby and the North York Moors

Holiday in Robin Hood's Bay

The beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay

The first ever Tour de Yorkshire kicks off in Bridlington and loops scenically around the coast, dashing through the dramatic North York Moors National Park before sprinting into Scarborough. One of the most scenic spots to catch the cruising peloton is at Côte de Rosedale Abbey – a three kilometre climb rising out of the village and culminating on top of the moor. Even these gravity-defying athletes have to slow down to survive such a slog, so your viewing pleasure should last more than a micro-second. Base yourself in the picturesque Eskdale village of Danby to explore the bleak beauty of the North York Moors and nearby coastal resorts. Hunt for fossils at Robin Hood’s Bay or ride the Victorian funicular cliff-lift at surfers’ paradise, Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Not just for elderly ladies, it’s a wonderful way to get from pier to pint, without breaking a sweat.

Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast

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The white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head

The commanding white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head fascinate geologists the world over and offer stunning sea views, but they are also home to one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. Summer attracts thousands of breeding birds to the Flamborough Cliffs Nature Reserve, including razorbills, guillemots and the comically popular puffin. Pack a picnic and watch butterflies and rare moths fluttering in wildflower meadows above. The closeby RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs also rewards visitors with spectacular cliff-edge viewing platforms. If man-made endeavours are more your bag, then check out Flamborough’s historic lighthouses, one of which is the oldest in Britain, dating from 1669. First one to spot a smuggler wins.

Staithes…a haven for artists

Staithes harbour

Staithes harbour

The wild seas and steeply winding streets clinging to a rugged coastline have attracted artists to the tiny fishing port of Staithes for centuries. Today there are plenty of pubs, cafés and galleries just waiting to tempt tourists, but it’s still a hub of artistic enterprise. Painters battle all weathers, armed only with an easel, hoping to capture the raw power of the North Sea and a rare quality of light found here. Village cricket is also popular in this area, as is rock-pooling just around the corner at Runswick Bay. Nearby Whitby is famous for its imposing cliff-top abbey, as well as Dracula, and for jet jewellery which was popularised by Queen Victoria. Stroll along superb sandy beaches and watch out for washed-up fragments of shiny black jet formed, amazingly, over millions of years, from monkey puzzle trees!

Historic York

York Minster

The awe-inspiring York Minster

The finale of Stage Two culminates in a circuit showcasing the architectural allure of the medieval city of York and treating spectators to a dramatic sprint finish. Follow Le Tour’s example and spend a day or two exploring a city which prides itself on having more attractions per square mile than any other UK destination! Don’t miss the awe-inspiring gothic York Minster, the York Dungeon, Railway Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre and boat tours on the River Ouse. The Tour de France also aims to encourage more ladies to learn to love those uncomfortable saddles and to prove it, Saturday 2 May will see the first dedicated women’s race whizzing around York’s imposing streets.

The Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route

Beverley, Yorkshire

Fields around Beverley

Feeling inspired to take up two wheels? Pedal power is perfect for exploring some of Britain’s most charming countryside. There are 146 miles of sign-posted cycle ways, lanes and roads on the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route, which criss-crosses gentle chalk hills and valleys. Alternatively, the Yorkshire Wolds Way – a National Trail – is another lovely way to tour this peaceful part of the county and enjoy some of the rolling, agricultural landscapes which have inspired David Hockney’s most recent artworks. Meander through ancient villages, and sample real ales in country pubs and local produce at Farmers’ Markets.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Admire the work of Henry Moore

Admire the work of Henry Moore

The Tour’s final stage kicks off in Wakefield and will loosely reverse the route of last year’s Grand Départ. The jewel in this city’s crown is undoubtedly the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – an open-air art gallery set in 500 acres of parkland. 2015 heralds a new exhibition, called Back to a Land, celebrating Henry Moore’s work and his radical ideas about showing sculptures, outdoors in the landscape. Whilst visiting this part of West Yorkshire, dig out your Sunday best and pop along to Pontefract Racecourse, or ponder whether you actually like liquorice whilst munching Pontefract cakes. Top off your day with a traditional afternoon tea in 18th century splendour at the National Trust’s Nostell Priory. Just remember to remove your flat cap!

Cragg Vale

This way to Wuthering Heights

This way to Wuthering Heights

The moorland village of Cragg Vale is situated at the foot of the longest continual gradient in the country, climbing almost 1000 feet in just over five miles. It formed the mind-boggling and never-ending leg-burner of a climb during last year’s race and now takes the title of the tour’s longest continual descent. Take your position to watch national treasure Bradley Wiggins (aka Wiggo) tear past towards the finish, and victory? After all that excitement step back in time crossing cobbled streets in Haworth village, the home of literary legends, the Brontë family. Or take a trip to Hebden Bridge and soak up its lively music scene, independent shops and cafés, then investigate the infamous local landmarks from the BBC’s crime drama Happy Valley. Best done before dark!

Ilkley, the gateway to the Dales

Ilkley Moor

On Ilkley Moor

The well-heeled spa town of Ilkley lies in the Lower Wharfedale valley and is perfectly positioned for exploring the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Visit the famous Bettys tearoom for a spot of lunch or satisfy a sweet tooth with a slice of local curd tart. For a fresh air fix, don your hiking boots for a ramble up Ilkley Moor and the splendid Cow and Calf rocks. If it’s adventure you’re looking for, this area is a haven for climbers, with dramatic gritstone ascents at Otley Chevin, Almscliffe Crag and Brimham Rocks. Further north, visitors are delighted by Bolton Abbey and the limestone majesty of Malham Cove. Ee by gum, it’s gorgeous!

To find comprehensive route information on the Tour de Yorkshire, check out Le Tour’s official website.