Gourmet pilgrimages for spring

Scenic seasonal walks coupled with indulgent gastronomic experiences

Image courtesy of Salt 

Now that the snow has melted and there are (sporadic) signs of spring, there’s no lovelier way to spend a weekend than by heading to the countryside for some fresh air, a brisk walk and a well-deserved pub lunch or restaurant supper. Here, the T&C team pick their favourite British destinations for an epicurean amble.

Deepdene Trail and Sorrel, Dorking

Thanks to an extensive restoration project, a previously lost landscape in the Surrey Hills has been carefully revived for use as a public walking trail. Formerly the home of the 19th-century tastemaker Thomas Hope, the historic Deepdene estate later served as the headquarters for Southern Railways during World War II. The route through the Regency gardens reveals preserved architectural treasures including an embattled tower, a grotto and a Grecian mausoleum. Conveniently, the new trail is a mere 15 minutes’ walk from Dorking, where the Michelin-starred chef and Roux Scholar Steve Drake recently opened his third fine-dining offering, Sorrel. Having worked up an appetite, ramblers will be rewarded with a five-course tasting menu, which may include beautifully fresh scallop with parsley purée and mushroom milk, locally supplied duck with mushroom couscous and liver meringue, and a delectable pear dessert with sherry syrup, cinnamon mousse and hibiscus ice, complemented by fine wines recommended to you by ­Sazan the sommelier. Louise Curtin

Image courtesy of Sorrel

Hadrian’s Wall and Pentonbridge Inn, North Cumbria

Spanning 80 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian’s Wall stands as an extraordinary monument to the ingenuity of a once-mighty empire. There are a host of vantage points from which to admire its castles, barracks, ramparts and forts; one such is Lanercost village in north Cumbria, known as the gateway to Hadrian’s Wall, where you can wander through the remains of an Augustinian Priory dating back to the 13th century, complete with beautifully preserved cloisters. After your visit, ascend the hilly landscape to take in the beautiful Cumbrian views, then drive north to the tiny hamlet of Pentonbridge, where you’ll find the first solo venture from Jake and Cassie White, the former head chef and head pastry chef from Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. Their recently opened inn serves both a restaurant and a pub menu: the former comprises sophisticated dishes using the finest locally sourced ingredients – try the celeriac and chestnut soup with blood orange and lardo – while the latter centres on rustic classics such as beef-and-ale pie and apple crumble. If you can, extend your stay with a night in one of the beautifully appointed rooms and enjoy a home-cooked breakfast in the morning. Frances Hedges

Images courtesy of Pentonbridge Inn

Maiden Castle and Bramble Cafe and Deli, Dorset

One of Britain’s largest Iron Age hillforts, Maiden Castle in Dorset covers an area the size of 50 football pitches, with most of the visible ramparts built in the first century BC. Start your walk at the castle, marvelling at its sheer banks and deep ditches, before making your way to Poundbury, a new town on the outskirts of Dorchester built according to the principles set out by Prince Charles in his 1989 architectural tome A Vision for Britain. Here, Bramble Cafe and Deli in Poundbury, which the former Masterchef winner Mat Follas opened in November 2016, is the perfect venue to enjoy a refreshing cup of tea alongside home-baked scones or a slice of the signature bramble cheesecake. If you can’t make it all the way to Dorset, you could always try recreating some of Follas’ finest recipes – from lemon and lime meringue tartlets to raspberry meringue kisses – using his new recipe book. ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’  by Mat Follas (£16.99, Ryland Peters & Small) is out now. Frances Hedges 

Image: © Ryland Peters & Small/Steve Painter

Maiden Castle. Image: Getty

Shakespeare country and Salt, Stratford-upon-Avon 

A fine-dining restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere, Salt opened last year following a successful crowdfunding initiative by the award-winning chef Paul Foster. The pared-back interiors within this homely Grade II-listed building reflect the simplicity of the British cuisine on offer. Bathed in the buttery glow from the exposed-filament lightbulbs, enjoy immaculately presented dishes from the ever-changing menus, which capitalise on the freshest seasonal ingredients: expect parsley root salad, truffled mascarpone and sourdough, or venison tartare, barbecue mayonnaise and salt-baked swede. After your meal, amble along the picturesque streets Shakespeare called home in the history-steeped Stratford-upon-Avon, stopping off at his birthplace on Henley Street and funerary monument at Holy Trinity Church. Then meander along the banks of the river Avon towards Bancroft Gardens, whose imposing bronze Bard, encircled by statues of his most memorable creations, pensively watches over manicured lawns and baskets brimming with fuchsia blooms. Finish the day with a stimulating production at the RSC, where all the world’s a stage.Yasmin Omar  

Image courtesy of Salt

The river Avon and the Holy Trinity Church. Image: Getty

Thames Path and The Butcher’s Tap, Marlow

Overlooking the river and set amid lush meadows, with the woodland of the Chiltern Hills nearby, the Georgian town of Marlow is an idyllic destination for a weekend excursion. Starting from the town centre, you can walk along a pretty stretch of the Thames, taking a four-mile circular route that will lead you back to Tom Kerridge’s new venue, The Butcher’s Tap, which opened in November, doubling as a pub and a local butcher’s. Served alongside an excellent selection of real ales, lager and spirits, the dishes are a true celebration of British meat: expect homemade sausage rolls, pies and Scotch eggs, as well as a daily roast meat served in a bun. Frances Hedges

Images courtesy of The Butcher’s Tap 

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