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Aug 11, 2006 09:32 PM

Need Ideas for Food Exploring Trip in England

My husband and I have 3 days free in England before he reports to London for a week of work. (We're coming from San Francisco.) As we will be in London for a full week while he works we are wanting to see some of the rest of England during those 4 days. (Also, we've been to London a couple times before.) We considered hopping a flight to Dublin, Edinburgh, chunnel to Paris, etc., but it just seems like a hassel.

I would like to get recommendations for places to visit outside of London. Mostly we're interested in food and drink, but of course the overall experience is important too. What I'm thinking here is things like: dairies, farms, breweries, places/things that most tourists don't see.

We'll be renting a car, but would like to not go more than a 3-4 hour drive from London.

Also, recommendations for off-beat or food specific travel guides/websites would be appreciated. I'm having a hard time finding anything but the usual trave book at the book store and the ususal travel advise on the web.


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  1. We're from SF too (and my husband is a beer geek and serious brewer), but we spend a lot of time in the UK each year. A few suggestions for you. First, one guidebook you do want to check out is the Good Pub Guide. Look for starred pubs and food awards. The country pubs are going to usually be the most interesting. They also have a website with most of this info online and searchable.

    If you are interested in brewery tours outside London, the most unique brewery tour I've ever taken anywhere was up in Oxfordshire, not far from Banbury. Go to Hook Norton which is a true Victorian brewery and still operating under its own steam power. Good beer and a fantastically interesting tour, they still even deliver their beer locally to several pubs via horse drawn dray. The only other place I know that comes close is Harvey's, down South in Lewes, which was designed by the same person. Harvey's is also a favorite beer of ours and you can arrange for a tour (Hook Norton is better set up for it though). There are several nice pubs in the nearby countryside.

    North Yorkshire also seems to me to be an exceptionally chowish place with great food pubs and other interesting places. Go stay in Masham, where you have not one but two major breweries in town -- Black Sheep and Theakstons. Both are good as Theakston's is back to being family owned again. Masham is a nice little town, with one of the best sausage makers I know and also a quite good cheese shop. Lots of good country pubs in the surrounding countryside including a few not far that are famous for their food. Plenty of other conventional sight-seeing possible too.

    By the way, you can get pretty far from London in 4 hours by car. We regularly drive from Heathrow all the way to Weardale in Country Durham in that amount of time, so getting to North Yorkshire is quite doable and the area is beautiful and very friendly in our experience. Also, while I've not been there, one of the larger producers of Wensleydale and other cheeses is in the same vicinity, so that's another possible visit for you.

    1. As always, Joan has some great suggestions. Another good area to explore is the Cotswolds.. Cheltenham area (Le Champignon Sauvage is a very good restaurant there). We had unexpectedly good food at different pubs including The Churchill Arms in Paxford outside Chipping Camden.

      Not long ago we were in the New Forest area near Southampton. It's not a long journey from London. Someone here had recommended The Thatched Cottage and the food there was as nice as the scenery.

        1. re: TexasToast

          Nice list. It reminds me, another place to get ideas is definitely the BBC Food site. In particular, check out what's been featured in the past on Rick Stein's Food Heros:

          This show highlights some of the top artisan producers and farmers in the country. The BBC site for it is searchable too, by food type and region of the country. Looks like a great resource for you.

        2. Thanks, guys! This is exactly the kind of stuff for which I was looking.

          Other EU countires seem to have much more readily avail info about food and "agrotourism" (I'm thinking Italy, Spain, France), so I was getting a little discouraged when I wasn't coming up with anything on my own.

          I'm off to the book store for a map so we can plot our adventures. We will report back!

          1. If you're interested in a winery tour, there's Denbies, in Dorking, about 20 miles south of London. They produce some surprisingly good sparkling wines.


            If you fancy getting up early, Billingsgate Market is an experience -- it's London's wholesale fish market, open from 5am to 8.30am.