The gastronomic renaissance that has been taking place all over the United Kingdom has profound roots in the West Country, notably in the counties of Devon and Cornwall.
Climatically the mildest area of the country (Devon’s so-called English Riviera boasts palm trees, while south Cornwall features sub-tropical foliage and plantings), this region has long been the source of some of the finest things to eat and drink: organic vegetables from the South Hams; rich dairy products such as traditional farmhouse cheeses, clotted cream, farm ice cream; an outstanding catch of fish and shellfish landed at Exmouth, Brixham, Newlyn and Padstow; meats from local breeds such as Red Ruby cattle and Exmoor sheep; English wines, regional and craft beers, and farmhouse ciders; and much more.
A supportive and virtuous circle of farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, artisan producers, some of the country’s most talented and high-profile chefs, and appreciative and knowledgeable consumers and diners has resulted in a food scene that is squarely local, wonderfully varied and, at all levels, never less than deliciously vibrant.
This tour goes direct to the source to discover, learn, taste and enjoy. We meet some of the inspirational people who work so hard to produce such good things to eat and drink. We enjoy a lunch of just-picked organic vegetables and local meat in a ‘field kitchen’. We dine, seated on hay bales, on a feast of the best meat you will ever eat, expertly cooked over fire pits by the farmer himself. And we visit the National Lobster Hatchery to understand how this delicious crustacean can be sustainably raised. A cream tea is obligatory of course – but does the cream or the jam go on first? Other highlights include pub lunches, a vineyard visit, a cheese tasting masterclass, and splendid seafood.
‘The West Country has the best larder not just in the UK but in all of Europe,’ says Michael Caines, the inspirational and highly acclaimed two-star Michelin chef. The tour concludes with lunch at Lympstone Manor, Michael’s country house hotel overlooking the Exe estuary.
Topsham. The coach leaves Exeter St David’s Railway Station at 12.30pm. A simple lunch is included before transferring to Sidmouth for the first of three nights.
Quicke’s Cheese, Pipers Farm. Cheese masterclass and tasting at Quicke’s, award-winning producer of cloth-wrapped traditional farmhouse cheddar. Visit to Pipers Farm to meet the animals, then lunch on hay bales around the fire pits. Dinner at The Pig at Combe, with a menu of foods sourced locally within a 25-mile radius.
Riverford Farm, Sharpham Vineyard. Guy Watson’s Riverford Farm is the source of organic vegetables delivered in ‘boxes’ all around the country. Farm visit followed by lunch of organic vegetables and local organic meats in the ‘field kitchen’. Visit and tasting at the Sharpham Vineyard, beautifully situated near the River Dart, where award-winning wines and cheeses made from rich Jersey milk are produced.
Haytor. A walk on Dartmoor to Haytor Rocks is followed by a picnic lunch of local food and drink. Continue to Padstow, where the next three nights are spent. Enjoy an early-evening seafood cooking demonstration and tasting at Rick Stein’s Cookery School.
Roseland Peninsula, St Austell. Visit the magical Lost Gardens of Heligan, before lunch at a nearby restaurant on the Roseland peninsula, overlooking the south Cornish coast. Continue to St Austell Brewery for a tasting of their award-winning beers, before returning to Padstow.
Padstow. Learn about the life cycle of lobsters and what can be done to help them to reproduce sustainably at the National Lobster Hatchery. Free afternoon in the utterly charming port town of Padstow, with an optional ferry trip to Rock and a walk to St Enodoc Church, where the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman is buried.
Lympstone Manor. Michael Caines held two Michelin stars at Gidleigh Park for 18 years. His country house hotel which opened in 2017 won a Michelin star only six months after opening. Michael has devised a special lunch menu for us to highlight and showcase places and producers visited during the week. Finish at Exeter St David’s Railway Station by 5.30pm.
Wine, food and travel writer. Born in Mexico, he was raised in the USA before studying English Literature at the University of Exeter. Together with his wife, he has pioneered a series of illustrated wine-food-travel books including The Wine and Food of Europe, The Wine Roads of France, The Wine Roads of Italy, The Food Lover’s Companion to France and The Food Lover’s Companion to Italy. He is also the author of The Taste of Britain and lives in Devon, where he is closely involved with the food scene of the West Country. Marc is a certified Vinitaly International Italian Wine Ambassador. His next book, Italy in a Wineglass, will be published in Spring 2024 and tells the story of Italy through its wines. Twitter: @Marc_Millon
Price, per person
Two sharing: £3,760. Single occupancy: £4,550.
Travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 7 lunches (one light) and 4 dinners (one light) with wine, water, coffee; all admissions, private openings, tours, tastings and cooking demonstrations; all tips; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Sidmouth Harbour Hotel: a comfortable 4-star hotel situated in the seaside town of Sidmouth. Like the sister hotel in Padstow the decor throughout is contemporary and cosy with a gentle nautical theme. Padstow Harbour Hotel, Padstow: a revamped Victorian hotel perched above Padstow. Single rooms throughout are doubles for sole use. Estuary view rooms in Padstow are available on request for an upgrade fee.
There is a lot of walking on tracks in vineyards and farms, participants must be steady on their feet and able to walk unaided over rough ground in order to fully enjoy the tour. There is quite a lot of driving, often in two minibuses as access is limited at many of the special sites visited. Average distance by coach per day: 70 miles.
On a tour that focuses on food, wine and cooking traditions, we regret that participants with special diets may not have the same gastronomic experience as those with no restrictions. Please discuss your requirements with us before booking
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Gardens in the Highlands, 24 June–2 July 2024
The Plantagenet Empire, 27 June–3 July
Finland: Aalto & Others, 27 June–5 July 2024
The Welsh Marches, 1–5 July 2024
Walking to Derbyshire Houses, 1–6 July 2024
In Churchill's Footsteps, 1–6 July 2024
French Gothic, 1–7 July 2024
Franconia, 19–26 July 2024
‘Our second gastronomic tour and our fourth tour with MRT in total. We're very impressed by the range and efficient management at all stages.’
‘So many wonderful experiences, that's what money should buy.’
'Mark is a relaxed presenter and deeply knowledgable on the subject of gastronomy. He was on home ground for this tour and his love of the English West Country was evident.'