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.

Things to do in Lisbon

Lisbon is an enchanting mix of old and new, sun and sea, ups and downs. Navigate your way round the hills and you will find traditional neighbourhoods, breathtaking views, cute cafes and boutiques, all within walking distance. When your feet do begin to ache the modes of transport are numerous: trains, trams, taxis and modern tuk-tuks! Aside from the typical tourist attractions, this capital has plenty of other ideas to explore, out of the ordinary, bizarre little places were my favourite discoveries of the weekend.

To eat
Belcanto: Jose Avillez is integrated completely in Lisbon life spreading his culinary expertise and creative ideas in shops, cafes and restaurants. His very own Belcanto is rightly awarded a Michelin star and I was utterly astounded by the beautiful precision and impressive flavourful creations.
The Decadente: almost impossible to get a table but well worth booking if you can. All the food is great but most rave about the chocolate trio dessert, simple but brilliantly tasty.
Casanova Pizza
: a hip pizza joint by the waterfront. Sit inside at the shared tables and switch on your floating lightbulb for service. The pizzas are insanely good with crispy crust, plenty of cheese and numerous topping options.

To snack
Pasteis de Belem: it is considered a sin to walk past this café without popping in for a Pasteis (custard tart). Sweet, warm, gooey and delicious, they are the very best Lisbon has to offer.
Santini: always expect queues at this wonderful Italian ice-cream shop. The recipe is top secret and undeniably delicious, try strawberry and coconut combination.
Pizza a Pezzi: A new way to eat pizza on the go, choose a piece, it will be weighed and costed accordingly, pay and you’re ready to go. Yum.

To drink
Cinco Lounge: Lisbon has definitely not caught on to the cocktail trend yet. But those in favour of a fruity concoction will be pleased to discover Cinco, which offers a menu of over 100 carefully designed recipes. We tried the Milly Vanilly (obviously)!
Kaffeehaus: a cool hang-out for coffee lovers and those needing a snack as a break from shopping in Chiado.

To see
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian: contains a collection of amazing ancient and modern art.
Museu-Escola de Artes Decorativas: a quaint collection of Portuguese artifacts and furniture.
Hospital de Bonecas: opened in 1930 this eerily spectacular array of dolls and broken toys. Unlike anything I have ever seen before, this longstanding building restores damaged dolls back to their former glory and offer visitors a chance to view the workshop.
Belem church: An epic building, overlooking the city. Stunning interiors and free entry.

To do
Oceanario: Europe’s largest aquarium is a must see when in Lisbon. Showcasing each of the oceans it houses a huge variety of exotic and exciting sealife, we particularly loved seeing the otters and penguins.
Feira da Ladra: locals love the flea market which is held every Tuesday and Saturday near tram stop Campo da Sta. Clara. We wandered up and had great fun checking out the second hand selections.
Santa Justa: travel up one of the city’s best-loved landmarks,also known as the “Elevator of Carmo,” this extraordinary structure was built at the turn of the century by the Portugal-born French architect Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard (an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel). The top of the Neo-Gothic tower, reached via a spiral staircase, has a cafe with splendid views of the city, Rossio Square, the castle and the river.

To stay
Four Seasons Ritz: historic, beautiful and luxurious, this five star hotel cannot be beaten for its superior service and wonderful rooms. Check out the fabulous spa and rooftop running track.
The Independente: the trendiest hostel and suites accommodation in the city. This funky venue also offers a groovy bar and restaurant for guests and visitors. Cheap and cool.

To shop
Lisbon Lovers: stylish merchandise for tourists.
21PR: an expansive concept store on the Rua Dom Pedro. Colourful treats come in all varieties: jewellery, chocolates, clothes and other lovely bits and bobs to tempt you to part with your pennies.
Cyan: a small jewellery workshop in the midst of the flea market, founder Maria will pick out a handmade piece to suit your character. I left with a precious engraved silver ring, that she sold me despite wearing it herself.
SkinLife: simply put, Skinlife is the Portuguese version of SpaceNK… a collection of high end boutique make-up and fragrance brands housed under one roof. Rose wine is served to clients instore.
Nails’4’us: the top nail salon in Lisbon, experts in gel manicures with a colourful range of nail essentials.
Queijaria Nacional: a top foodie store to buy wonderful cheeses and meats.
Lavaria Ulisses: this glove shop was founded in 1925 by Joaquim Rodrigues Simões, an entrepreneur with a profound understanding of the habits of the people of Lisbon. This tiny little original shop is adorable and the lovely man behind the counter will inspect your hand for a second before returning with a box of suitable options. I chose bright pink, snug fitting leather gloves, a very special reminder of my Lisbon weekend.

If you have the luxury of more time, I’d recommend a trip to the nearby seaside town Cascais where you will find free bike hire perfect for trails along the coast.

The perfect St Lucia itinerary with Premier Concierge

Premier Concierge work meticulously to ensure your holiday is efficiently organised and blissfully relaxed. You literally need not worry about a thing. With them we tried the following activities:

Ziplining: an adventurous and fun experience, swinging through the rainforest like Tarzan. The staff are very experienced and great teachers making sure you are safe and smiling 100 percent of the time.

– Whale watching: I have always been desperate to see whales and though none of the big guys came out for us on this tour, we saw lots of beautiful dolphins whilst sailing through the idyllic Caribbean Sea.

Jacques: a lovely relaxed modern bistro on the Rodney Bat Marina. Enjoy a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta whilst watching the boats go by.

Starfish: a grubby little cafe offering surprisingly good food. Delicious burgers, paella and homemade ice cream is all on offer. The newest addition to brilliant Swedish chef Bobo Bergstrom’s trio of restaurants in St Lucia.

– Transfers: best of all there is no need to worry about how you’ll get to and from your chosen bookings as Premier Concierge sort it all out.

Premier Concierge think of everything, a bespoke service to make your St Lucia trip as perfect as possible.

More info here.