There’s never been a better time to enjoy a flight – of beers that is! Yes, travel is tricky at the moment, with quarantines being instituted at the drop of a pint glass. But, well, frankly it’s 2020 and pretty much everyone needs a drink. If you’ve been swilling beer in bed for the past six months, you might be looking for a change of scenery.
The good news is that now’s a great time to get out and turn a sampler paddle into a long weekend away. Luckily for beer-loving travellers, our long history of growing hops and brewing fine beverages with them makes the UK a beer destination in its own right. Here’s where to go for a British getaway on the ales this autumn.
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Knoydart Peninsula, Scotland
Where better to head during a time of social distancing than the remotest part of mainland Britain? Inaccessible by car, the Knoydart Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands can only be reached by ferry or on foot via a wild, 16-mile hike. Once here, Knoydart Brewery crafts up local ales served at the few bed and breakfasts in Inverie, the peninsula’s main village. You can also hunker in for a few drinks with the locals at the Old Forge, which holds the title as ‘Britain’s Remotest Pub’ and has its own beer on the pumps: Remoteness 2, a hoppy real ale brewed by Glen Spean Brewery in Fort William.
When you’re not supping a pint, there are wild walks up the fells and at night, the starriest skies thanks to almost zero light pollution in the area. This is an extremely remote location, so plan for a longer stay and bear in mind the season generally runs through October.
Where to stay
Knoydart River Cottage has three rooms with private outdoor space overlooking Highland peaks and Loch Nevis, as well as a luxury studio apartment with a wood burning stove and kitchen. Cottage stays from £250 per night including breakfast supplies; £89 per night for the studio as a double.
East Midlands, England
In the market town of Oakham in the East Midlands, the Grainstore Brewery uses traditional, gravity-fed methods to make and serve English ales. Set in a renovated Victorian grain storage located next to Oakham Railway Station, the Grainstore has a taproom and runs tours of the brewery, as well as socially-distanced special events. Head to neighbouring Stamford to explore its stone architecture and medieval churches, then hit up the Jolly Brewer for a finely-kept selection of traditional ales, including from their own house microbrewery, Baker’s Dozen Brewing Co.
Where to stay
A 10-minute walk from the Grainstore up Oakham’s high street, the Wisteria Hotel serves Grainstore beer in the the lobby bar, a Grade II-listed former hunting lodge dating to 1604. The hotel completed a massive refurbishment the day before lockdown; modern super-king and twin rooms run from £80 per night.
Thanet, Kent, England
For a getaway by the sea in the veritable home of hops, head to southeast Kent, where a number of breweries, taprooms and micropubs will keep you lubricated. Ramsgate Brewery (GADDS’) brews a cask pale, bitter and amber, which can be sampled in their tasting room (Mon-Sat), as well as at a special pop-up bar, the Ravensgate Arms by the Sea, overlooking the Ramsgate Boating Lake. In Broadstairs, the Four Candles – which claims to be Britain’s smallest micropub – has managed to reopen with a few inside seats and street drinking. The Northdown Brewery in Westwood is located in the vicinity of a 17th century brewery mentioned in the Robert Herrick poem, ‘A Hymne, to the Lares’. They open their yard on Saturdays for the socially distant ‘NorthDown Saloon’. And Margate is overflowing with great beer: the Xylo is a microbrewery and taproom on the Parade; the Harbour Arms has lots of outdoor seating on the harbour arm (geddit?); the Two Halves offers gravity-fed ale with sea views; and the incredibly quirky Fez serves Thanet ales in a room stuffed with knick knacks and high potential to encounter Morris dancers.
Where to stay
The Corner House in Minster has two rooms with characterful, country decor and views of the church steeple. Owned by chef Matt Sworder, the restaurant serves modern British dishes made with locally-sourced fish and produce, and Ramsgate beers. Room prices start from £80 per night, including continental breakfast.
Holsworthy, Devon, England
In a rural idyll of northwest Devon, ArtBrew is situated on five acres of land, with river and stream. Run by wife and husband team, Becky and John Winnerah, this boutique brewery serves an ever-changing lineup of cask and keg beers from their brewery tap every Friday evening and all day Saturdays, along with pizzas and live music. They hold a couple of beer festivals a year, plus an Apple Day in October, when they press apples from the local village. The flagship beer is the 6% Love or Nothing IPA, and they also make a raspberry pale and a black cherry chocolate porter, and several seasonals including an elderflower pale ale.
Where to stay
ArtBrew is located at Brightwater Farm, a petite campsite with amazing stargazing at night. It accommodates a few small caravans and around 10 tent pitches. There are some electric hook-ups, and a small, heated shower block. The nearest shop is a mile away in neighbouring village Bradworthy, or it’s a 10-minute drive to Holsworthy. Prices start at £10 per night per pitch and £15 per night for campervans. To book, email Ant on [email protected]
Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, Wales
In the Welsh village of Tintern alongside the River Wye, Kingstone Brewery is a four-barrel microbrewery that uses traditional recipes to make session bitters and golden ales. Tintern is best known for being the home of the staggering ruins of 12th-century Tintern Abbey – the second Cistercian foundation in Britain. There are numerous walking paths up and down the valley, as well as river canoeing and other outdoor pursuits. In Tintern, the Anchor Inn’s beer garden has views of the abbey ruins, and the Rose & Crown’s picnic tables overlook the waters of the Wye. If you get tired of beer (gasp!), Parva Farm Vineyard makes Welsh wines – their wine shop is open for takeaway and you can take a self-guided wander of the vineyard.
Where to stay
In a meadow just outside Tintern, the Hop Garden offers self-catering, boutique cabins and cosy glamping huts adjacent to the Kingstone Brewery. The brewery shop is open for guests to stock up on bottles, and they run a pizza-and-ale taproom on the first Saturday of the month. Prices from £75 per night for huts and £95 per night for cabins.
The Chilterns, England
The Chiltern Hills: beautiful and beery. You’d be hard-pressed to mention all of the breweries in and around the AONB, most of which have taps, shops and tasting rooms. The Chilterns are outstanding for walkers and cyclists alike, with the Ridgeway National Trail running the length and plenty of beacons and back roads to explore on foot or two wheels. A slightly different way to get around is by motorcycle trike. Chiltern Trike Tours, amazingly, launched this year, offering bespoke private tours (£250 for two hours) of the area on their yellow trike, Bumblebee. A special brewery tour takes in a number of Chiltern brewhouses; options include Chiltern Brewery (near Aylesbury), Malt The Brewery (Prestwood, Great Missenden), Rebellion Beer Co. (Marlow) and Tring Brewery in Tring.
Where to stay
Chiltern Trike Tours can arrange pick-up from Chadwill Hill Farm, a luxury inn and working farm near the market town of Princes Risborough. They offer three ensuite rooms, glamping in a shepherd’s hut and bell tents. Prices range from £100-£145 per night, including a cooked breakfast made from the farm’s fresh meats and produce.
Cropton, North Yorkshire, England
On the edge of the North York Moors in the village of Cropton, the New Inn is a self-contained beer destination: a brewpub, inn and campground in one perfect package. All beers are brewed on site, and they are currently offering their core range of Great Yorkshire Brewery beers, including Blackout Porter, Best Bitter and Yorkshire Lager, as well as the popular Two Chefs honey beer. Within striking distance is another brewpub, the Black Swan in Pickering, home to Breworks, a boutique brewery set up, randomly, by the people behind Istanbul’s Bosphorus Brewing Co. Also nearby is Helmsley Brewing Co, which has a brewery tap with lots of outdoor seating where you can sample their classic Yorkshire ales.
Where to stay
The New Inn houses a traditional inn with nine modern, ensuite rooms from £85 per night for a double/twin, including a cooked breakfast. There is also a campsite, with rates at £6 per person per night. Campers can add on the hearty Yorkshire breakfast for £7.50 per person.
Hackney, East London, England
London is the place to be now, as the city is nearly free from visitors and has settled into a lovely, quieter pace of life. While the breweries along the Bermondsey Beer Mile are open, if you’ve already been there head instead to Hackney, where a cluster of breweries and craft beer pubs have created a new hub of beer in London.
In a strip of arches just east of Hackney Central, there are four breweries stacked next to each other: Hackney Church Brew Co, Pressure Drop and Verdant’s The Experiment, Deviant & Dandy and Brew Club, where you can sign up to brew your own. Two overground stops (or a brisk 30-minute walk) puts you at Hackney Wick, where Howling Hops serves their huge lineup fresh from the tanks and, next door, Crate offers canalside IPAs and pizzas. On Stoke Newington High Street, the Jolly Butchers is a beer lover’s dream, with a huge menu of international and British craft beers on keg and cask.
Where to stay
Just up Stoke Newington Church Street from the Jolly Butchers, the Rose & Crown is a pub-hotel with refurbished rooms that retain characterful features. Standard doubles start at £132 per night, including continental breakfast.
Windermere, Lake District, Cumbria
Windermere is perfect for a classic outdoor Lake District holiday with plenty of fresh ales. Windermere Brewery is a five-barrel microbrewery situated in the Watermill Inn in the village of Ings, just east of Lake Windermere. They brew a variety of real ales, including the popular Collie Wobbles golden ale, Dog’th Vader porter and Windermere Blonde. A few miles up the road in Staveley, Hawkshead Brewery is one of the largest in the lakes and has a beer hall where you can sample their brews fresh from the source. In Windermere town, the Crafty Baa is a cosy little stone pub with an absolutely massive craft and world beer list.
Where to stay
The Watermill Inn has eight modern, dog-friendly, ensuite rooms located above the Windermere Brewery pub. Doubles start from £89, B&B.