Having carefully collated which UK vineyards offer accommodation, I have long wanted to visit each and everyone one of them. Like most people, though, I have a day job and other calls on my time and money, so I always have half an eye on our map of vineyards to see if I can fit any into everyday life.
When I needed to stay overnight near Folkestone on business, I recalled the Marquis at Alkham, a restaurant with rooms and its very own vineyard, being in that part of the world and was delighted to realise that it was only 5 miles from where I needed to be. Perfect – booking made!
I found the Marquis in a pretty, yet just realistically short of chocolate-box, village on a quiet road and managed to arrive early enough for the last of the daylight. Having quickly popped my bag in a very comfortable room, I asked if it were possible to visit the vineyard and was given a map. With more time and daylight it would be quite a nice walk of 20 minutes or so, but I drove up the lanes behind the Marquis and soon found Chalksole Vineyard.
After a deep breath of fresh country air, my ear more attuned to vineyards than ornithology quickly detected electric pruning secateurs and soon I had met Mark, who has been looking after these 8,500 vines for the last 6 years. The 7 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were planted about 9 years ago and when they needed a new pair of hands to look after it, Mark, an Ex-Docker, heard about it from a friend of a friend and before he knew it, became the full time Vineyard Manager. One advantage of such a tough previous job means that long days and everything that the weather can throw, don’t seem to faze him at all!
The vineyard itself is mainly flat with a slope to the south and crops 14 tonnes in a good year. I left Mark marking the point at which he’d reached after pruning 247 vines that day and headed back down to the Marquis.
Vintage sparkling wine is made not too far away at Chapel Down and I happily accepted the offer of a glass as an aperitif later in the evening and very much enjoyed it. My delicious meal, showcasing local produce, also included verjus sorbet, a tasty first for me.
Overall, The Marquis is a delightful place to stay for business or pleasure – slightly over-budget for my work expenses, but well worth paying the difference myself. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wishing or needing to be in the area – it’s just a few minutes from the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle terminal on the Kent side, so a great place to stop if you have an early train, too. As well as the Marquis, there are two self-catering cottages overlooking the vineyard itself, which would be perfect for a longer stay.
UK vineyards with accommodation range from camp sites and glamping, to hotels in castles! I already have plans to visit the Star Castle Hotel on the Isles of Scilly to see their Holy Vale Vineyard, Castlewood Vineyard on the Devon / Dorset border (who have camping for their annual festival and self-catering all year) and the self-catering eco lodge at Trevibban Mill in Cornwall, which just happens to be a few miles from a family party.
Others I have spotted that look well worth a visit are Oxney Organic in Kent, where Kristin has renovated 3 barns with a Scandinavian eye, The Retreat at Holmfirth Vineyard in Yorkshire and the “Wooden Wigwams” at Secret Valley in Somerset, but really there are too many to mention here.
In my experience. you get accommodation of at least the standard you would find elsewhere, in beautiful countryside, with the added attraction of local wines and hosts always delighted to hear of your interest in their vineyards and wines. Do take a look at our full list and see if you can fit one in your diary, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience.