Kent, located just South East of London, has long been called the Garden of England. Quite an impressive name considering that Britain overall is known worldwide for its fabulous gardens! Recently, however, Kent has started to be known by another name as well: The Wine Garden of England. While it was the Romans who introduced winemaking to England, it is only relatively recently that England has become one of the world’s fastest growing, most dynamic, and pioneering wine regions. There are over 450 wineries across England, though Kent has been found to boast the most favorable climate and soil for viticulture in the country.
As a bonus, when you visit these vineyards, you will not only have the opportunity to sample the award winning wine and learn about the traditional craft of wine making, but you will also be touring one of England’s most charming corners. Kent is known for beautiful gardens, golden beaches, imposing castles, and exciting local culture. Your wine tasting will be complemented by delicious food made from the locally grown produce and the indulgent fresh seafood the region is known for.
Kent is an easy day trip from London if you are not planning on staying in Kent for a few days (though I recommend you do since it is so lovely). The region is served by rail from several London stations including Waterloo East, Victoria, St. Pancras, London Bridge, and Charing Cross. You can also easily get to and around the region by car, but with all the wine tasting it might be easier to hire a driver or take the train!
I do, however, feel as though once you are in Kent you will find that you would rather spend a night or two and really enjoy yourself instead of trying to finish up in time to catch the train back to the city. There are so many lovely villages and seaside towns where you can spend the evening, and there is something so nice about enjoying a long leisurely dinner and then sleeping in a bit the next day before strolling down to a little café for breakfast – don’t you think?
Here are my three favorite wineries worth a visit when you find yourself in Kent. As a bonus, they are all very close to each other, so make a day (or two) of it and spend some time really taking in the beautiful countryside before heading back to the city.
Chapel Down Winery Located in a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, the sparkling wine produced by Chapel Down was served at the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, so you know it has to be good! England’s leading producer, Chapel Down crafts a range of sparkling and still wines and has a fabulous Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant onsite in addition to a well-stocked shop. You can tour the vineyard from May through September though their tasting classes run all year long.
Biddenden Vineyard Recently celebrating their 50th anniversary, Biddenden is a family run vineyard growing 11 different varieties of grapes with all work done by hand to ensure the highest quality. Their signature wine, Ortega, has twice won English Wine of the Year and they also produce a wonderful cider. As a bonus, Biddenden is only a short drive from one of my favorite little inns in Kent, the Three Chimneys, a 15th century pub with rooms though I do recommend planning ahead if you plan to stay the night as there are only five rooms. If you plan to add a little extra time in Kent, Sissinghurst Castle is only a five minute drive away from the pub (though personally if you have the time I prefer to take the scenic footpath – a slightly longer journey, but well worth it!)
Hush Heath Estate Last, but certainly not least, is the lovely Hush Heath. Even its name sounds rather peaceful, don’t you think? Situated on a picturesque 400-acre Tudor estate complete with ancient woodlands, meadows, and apple orchards, Hush Heath is widely recognized for heir distinct style of wine, known for their elegance and purity. If you don’t want the wine experience to end, head just down the road to spend the night at one of Hush Heath’s pubs, the Tickled Trout located in a charming village overlooking the river. Enjoy a wine flight with local oysters before bedding down in one the six rooms, each named after members of the Balfour family who owns the winery. Less than a half hour drive from Leeds Castle (and only 15 minutes farther down the road to Bodium Castle), this is a lovely inn that is ideally located for lingering in the area a day or two.
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