I love visiting vineyards, and I love hiking. Travelling abroad to some of the world’s more famous wine regions may be proving a little difficult at the moment, but with the UK wine industry growing in both size and reputation, what better time is there to combine the two and discover some of the beautiful vineyards we have in the UK, on foot! For the first in what will hopefully become a series of wine walks, I visited Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey.
Denbies Wine Estate has 265 acres of planted vines, making it the largest vineyard in the UK. The first vines on their chalky south-facing slopes in the North Downs were planted in 1986.
Hiking to Denbies Wine Estate
Denbies is so close to both Dorking and Box Hill stations, any routes going close to those stations will allow you to visit the vineyard. This means there are a huge number of hikes around the North Downs Way, Norbury Park and Polesden Lacey Nature Reserve which you can combine with your vineyard visit. Box Hill is a popular walking and cycling spot, for good reason, boasting good views, peaceful woodlands and walks alongside the river. Although the first walk below doesn’t include climbing Box Hill itself, we decided to do a circular walk where the vineyard is towards the end of the route, meaning the amount of walking after wine was kept to a minimum! I have included some alternatives below.
https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/28764/Explore-Surrey-Ranmore-walk-directions.pdf This hike is 6 miles, around 3 hours walking. Good views from the North Downs Way at Denbies Hillside and from the top of the vineyard as you walk down into Denbies Wine Estate.
https://www.walkingclub.org.uk/walk/box-hill-to-leatherhead/index.html This route is 7 miles, around 3.5 hours walking with some steep climbs. Instructions on the link include making this into a circular walk with an extension to Denbies before returning to Box Hill & Westhumble.
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/box-hill/trails/stepping-stones-and-denbies-walking-circuit This is a shorter 3.5 mile circular walk from the stepping stones, via Denbies.
Dining options at Denbies Wine Estate
There is no lack of food choices at Denbies. The Gallery restaurant overlooks the vineyard from the first floor, the Vineyard restaurant (currently only open for hotel guests) also has a terrace, and the Conservatory Restaurant is more informal. There are currently also some outside self-service dining areas. Make sure to also check out the well-stocked farm shop on the estate where you can buy plants, seeds, local produce, and of course, wine. Denbies also boasts a hotel in case you want to make a proper trip of it, or have just indulged in a bit too much wine!
What to drink at Denbies
Whitedowns Brut – a Chardonnay-based traditional method sparkling blend with some lees ageing. Notes of apple, apricot, peach and a hint of brioche.
Ranmore Hill – a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Bacchus. Dry and full-bodied with notes of apple, pear and melon.
Noble Harvest – an award-winning sweet dessert wine made from noble rot-affected Ortega, with notes of dried apricot.
Denbies tours and tastings
Denbies offer a number of different tour options including an indoor wine tasting and winery tour, an outdoor vineyard tour by miniature train, as well as group and evening tours. For more info see their website here.
Denbies location and transport
Denbies is one of the most easily accessible vineyards to visit on public transport. Trains run frequently to Boxhill & Westhumble and Dorking stations, which are both only a 15 minute walk from the vineyard and under an hour from London.