Yearlstone Vineyard, Devon

I am used to wandering round glorious sun-drenched vineyards in France but I didn’t know what to expect when I was told we were visiting a vineyard in Devon. We turned off the main road onto a steep lane and reached a cabin-like building surrounded by lush greenery, blissfully isolated and tranquil.

Yearlstone Vineyard was started in 1976 by pioneering English viticulturist Gillian Pearkes. Gillian planted a variety of vines, collected on her worldwide travels and experimented with vine growing techniques for the English climate. In 1993, Roger and Juliet White bought the vineyard and began building on the site. Using traditional materials they built a house, a shop and office, the equipment and indoor space to make the wine completely onsite and most recently a café and outdoor terrace.

Sitting on the shaded terrace overlooking the endless vines, I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic setting in the British countryside. I felt ignorant for assuming UK’s vineyards were inferior to those in France and elsewhere. As it turns out: “Yearlstone vineyard is located on a steep southerly slope on a hillside above the river Exe at the picturesque village of Bickleigh… 200 feet above sea level and has natural protection from the west, north and east. The soil is a silty clay loam over fragmented Devon red sandstone with excellent drainage and is perfect for vines – red soils are the most sought after for vineyards all around the world. In all, Yearlstone’s position is perfect for growing vines and ripening grapes.”

The Deli Shack cafe at Yearlstone offers wholesome and delicious sharing platters and meals, perfect for enjoying alongside a glass of their wine; we tasted a variety: a soft and floral dry white, a light fruity red and a delicate dry rose which we opted for. To eat, we shared a huge platter of artisan meat and cheese, olives, pickled onions and crusty bread. For main course we tried most of the menu: salad with goat’s cheese, creamy smoked salmon linguine, Spanish style chicken with tomato, peppers and beans, and Taleggio and asparagus tart. The dishes were simple and healthy with a focus on fresh seasonal ingredients.

As well as the vineyard, there is a mature orchard at Yearlstone with many apple trees, from which cider is made. If you are visiting Devon, Yearlstone Vineyard definitely deserves a place on your itinerary. Sitting amongst the beautiful vineyards sipping Yearlstone’s wonderful wine made me feel proud to be British.

More information here:

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with First Great Western trains.

Advance single fares from London Paddington to Tiverton Parkway are available from £12.50 each way. For the best value tickets and fares buy before you board at or 08457 000125.

Venissa, Mazzorbo Island, Venice

Venice is incredibly beautiful but it can be claustrophobic fighting your way through the hordes of tourists in the heat. For our final day in the floating city, we ventured out to the nearby islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello and Mazzorbo, all reachable in under an hour on a vaporetto boat. It was a heavenly respite – idyllic, quiet and quaint towns with humble offerings but beautiful sites to visit.

Mazzorbo is the lesser known but very picturesque island. Located next door to colourful Burano, you can walk from one to the other via the connecting bridge. Ideal for a calm stroll along the canal and a long lunch, it is the perfect day out. We visited Mazzorbo to dine at the island’s destination restaurant, Venissa. Wine and Prosecco maker Gianluca Bisol has resuscitated the rare vines and revived the wine production here. The menu focusses on local fare and home grown vegetables are shown great respect, they are given the starring role throughout the set courses.

Guests can dine indoors in the stylish restored rooms, or sit outside surrounded by the vineyards… if the weather permits I would recommend dining al fresco, I cannot think of a lovelier setting. The emphasis at Venissa is primarily on the wine made from their own grapes; with wine of this quality it is hardly surprising that it takes such a lead role in the dining experience. That said, the food excels in its own right, intricately and artistically arranged on the plates, and using the best seasonal ingredients available.

Different menus offer varying numbers of courses… we were completely in the care of the chef who brought out dish after dish, each paired perfectly with another glass of wine or Prosecco. Simple ingredients are adorned with seasoning and floral garnishes. Two lone spinach leaves from the garden arrive with a splattering of olive oil, black olives and a sprinkling of vine flowers. Next, pretty but spiky artichokes with beetroot puree was an invigorating dish. Eel cooked in Modera with green celery and wild chard was more unusual, delicately flavoured, lightly cooked fish.

Pasta courses followed, green ravioli filled with potato and thick linguine with marigold butter, these dishes were strange but amazingly vibrant in flavour, as if plucked straight from the wild. The meat was divine, of the highest quality with indulgent sauces: lamb with peas and onions, deer with cherries and berries. The top Bisol wines continued to arrive at the table, each one with its own fermentation technique and unique character and taste. Dessert was another palate cleansing delight; a citrus salad with orange and grapefruit granite.

It was the healthiest and one of the most memorable Michelin star meals I have ever eaten: immaculate presentation, the very best wine and a dreamlike setting that seems too good to be true.

Those wishing to stay a little longer at Venissa can book a room at their restored and converted manor house hotel, elegantly high ceilinged and beautifully decorated. Open from March to November.

More information and book here: