The strawberry, one of the most popular fruits in the world, comes originally from the Americas. It’s a member of the rose family and is a unique fruit as it has seeds on the outside rather than the inside. The most common varieties are a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to the USA) and the Chilean variety (originally from South America).
Native Americans were eating strawberries when the European settlers arrived. Often the crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, colonists developed their own version of the recipe which became the famous strawberry shortcake.
In the 1500s, explorers brought the fruit back to France from Virginia. The Virginian and Chilean varieties were then brought together accidentally about 250 years ago in a botanical garden in France, where a new type of strawberry was born. This is the variety we eat with such gusto in Europe today.
The strawberry was also a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of its red heart shape.
The English word "strawberry" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "streoberie". The word was first spelt in the modern way around 1538.
In 1625 the British Francis Bacon described how ‘strawberry-leaves dying, yield an excellent cordial smell’, suggesting that strawberries were admired as much for their scent as their taste. It is still true that the very smell of the fruiting strawberry plant gets your mouth watering. Indeed the strawberry features in many works of fiction throughout history, including these:
The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality.
William Shakespeare, Henry V (c. 1599), Act I, scene 1, line 60.
The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.
Dr William Butler, 17th Century English Writer
In Britain many regions grow strawberries, including Kent, Devon, Cheshire, Lancashire and Scotland. But of course, the fruit grows equally well in warm and Mediterranean climates of the northern hemisphere. In Europe there are even annual strawberry festivals in the Greek towns of Paradisi and Nea Manolada, and in the French town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, as well as many in the US. There are also many strawberry fayres in the UK too, from community events to music festivals. In parts of Bavaria, the annual rite of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of cattle as an offering to elves is still practiced by country folk. Elves are believed to be passionate about strawberries and the offering will mean healthy calves and abundant milk.
It is impossible to mention strawberries without their mouth-wateringly perfect complement, cream. There is something quintessentially British about strawberries. An English summer wouldn’t be the same without a bowl of strawberries drizzled with cream. This delicious combination has been enjoyed for centuries, from kings to commoners. But nowhere is it more iconic than at Wimbledon, the international home of lawn tennis.
Celebrate this decadent fruit. Use our concierge service to add Wimbledon or festival tickets to your holiday itinerary or book a tour around the strawberry growing regions of the world.
Set within a loop of the river Severn, Shrewsbury is home to striking half- timbered Tudor and Jacobean buildings. With more than 650 of the edifices listed, many of them, including Shrewsbury's castle, are medieval. A wander through the winding streets is a joy at any time of year. Home of a vibrant music and arts scene, this compact town is far from dull and makes a wonderful winter weekend destination.
At the heart of the town-centre life of Shrewsbury with its shops, bars, cafes, art galleries and medieval streets is the Lion & Pheasant boutique hotel. Housed within an historic 16th-century inn, the hotel mixes original character and beamed ceilings with contemporary décor and eclectic furniture. Here, you can enjoy a romantic fine dining experience in a relaxed and comfortable setting, or sip your drink of choice in the stylish bar. Walk off your lunch with a stroll along the riverside, only a short distance away. Make the Lion & Pheasant your base to explore the fascinating country town of Shropshire.
The Cotswolds are magnificent at any time of year, but in autumn the rolling hills are truly breath taking. When thinking of picture-perfect Cotswold villages, they don’t come much more picturesque than Upper and Lower Slaughter in Gloucestershire. These villages with their charming riverside cottages, stone bridges crossing the River Eye are hard to beat for autumnal walks. Take a turn around Eyford House. Crunch through the fallen leaves on your riverside walk before repairing to a delightful country pub to warm up.
Travel further afield to one or both of the best-known Cotswold towns, Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh. Stow is an important shopping centre and has many fine antique shops, art galleries and craftsmen. Once the scene of huge annual fairs where as many as 20,000 sheep were sold at one time, Stow remains a fascinating market town entered across a bridge over the river. Moreton-in-Marsh is one of the principal market towns of the Cotswolds, situated on the Fosse Way Roman road. Full of 18th century houses and coaching houses, Moreton-in-Marsh still holds a market every Thursday around the Redesdale Market Hall. Wherever you go in the Cotswolds you will be surprised and delighted by the golden stoned towns and picture perfect villages.
The Slaughters Country Inn in Lower Slaughter is a great choice for exploring the footpaths and bridleways. In the evening, settle down by the roaring fireside enjoying a pint of local ale and the Inn's excellent gastro-pub fare made with the finest local produce. The Slaughters Country Inn is part of the AA Hotel Group of the Year 2017-18.
Blending traditional features of the oldest part of the house with contemporary design, the Inn’s 25 guest rooms and six charming cottages are all designed to reflect the property’s unique character. The friendly and rustic bar welcomes guests with sofas and shelves lined with books and board games. All in all, the perfect winter retreat from the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations!
One of the most complete medieval villages in England, Lavenham was built by wealthy wool merchants of the Tudor era. Stroll through the historic town with its half-timbered houses, the Guildhall, the market cross, quaint shops, pubs and restaurants for a memorable visit. Notice the large oak doors, wide enough to allow the wool sacks to be unloaded during the halcyon days of the village. Despite its bustling past, Lavenham has remained small, making it an easy place to get to know.
The birthplace of the painter Thomas Gainsborough is in nearby Sudbury. Here you can wander through the museum and gallery then view the garden. An ancient mulberry tree still stands as the garden’s centrepiece, just as it did when it was planted in the early 1600s. Sudbury is also home to ancient water meadows which make a great walking option. Or follow in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth I and Beatrix Potter at Melford Hall. This charming brick mansion is a great day out for all the family. If you have more than a weekend you could go further afield to charming Bury St Edmunds, the National Trust's Ikworth House or West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village for a living history experience.
The Swan is a stunning 4 star hotel with high quality dining, located in the heart of the historic centre. The afternoon tea is a must and there are frequent lunch and dinner events so make sure you check what's on. The hotel has 45 perfectly appointed bedrooms with all the little luxuries you need. Each room is utterly individual as they are all slightly different and as charming as they are comfortable. Any stay at the Swan comes with style and flair built in.
Faversham, the oldest market town in Kent, is a must for those in search of a great place to unwind. Located on a winding creek, Faversham is bursting with history. With an eclectic mix of independent shops, nearby places to visit, great walks and a reputation for fine food.
Faversham was the centre of the nation's explosive’s industry for 400 years so you can pay a call to Oare Gunpower Works or the 18th century Chart Gunpowder Mills. If you prefer the outdoors why not visit the national fruit collections at Brogdale or Mount Ephraim Gardens. If you book enough months in advance you could treat yourself to a table at The Sportsman pub, the Michelin starred restaurant. Lovely Whitstable and its oyster restaurants are a short drive away too. There is so much to see and do around Faversham you will be spoilt for choice.
A great choice for a weekend away is The Sun Inn, a beautiful old town-centre inn full of heritage. The pub, in Faversham’s conservation area, is full of original features like inglenook fireplaces and oak beams. It’s one of the most popular pubs in Faversham to drink, eat and stay, providing 12 stylish rooms. Just a short stroll from the Shepherd Neame brewery, The Sun serves distinctive Kentish cask ales of course. In addition to being a haven for real ale aficionados, the pub also offers a variety of top quality snacks and main meals to be enjoyed in the bar, restaurant or (in clement weather) in the courtyard garden. Take you morning coffee and breakfasts in the adjoining No.9 Coffee Shop. Escape the everyday and drink in the atmosphere of one of Faversham’s oldest pubs.
Glorious Camber Sands
Camber, located east of the ancient Cinque Ports town of Rye, has over 2 miles of beach, much of it golden sands. Home to the only sand dune system in East Sussex, it provides a valuable natural habitat to many animals and plants. Camber Sands isn't just dreamy in the summer months. In the autumn and winter months you can take a blustery walk along the beach and over the dunes. Nearby Rye is a 'must visit'. Once a port from Roman times, the harbour silted up gradually stranding the town inland.
Perched on a hill, the medieval town’s unhurried atmosphere and enchanting streets are dreamy. Rye is small enough to make you feel at home but with so much to discover. Antiques, books, records and artisan goods are Rye’s speciality, along with galleries, evidence of the town's thriving art community. Cobbled streets and narrow passages are ready to explore. Mermaid Street is peppered with ancient buildings and the renowned 15th century Mermaid Inn.
Winchelsea is another of the Cinque Ports stranded by the receding sea. The town now stands on an inland hilltop. This stunning village has ancient roots and its picturesque Georgian houses have inspired many an artist.
Romney Marsh - known for its natural beauty, the diversity of its habitats, rich history, extensive coastline and its sheep - is within easy reach of Camber. Even if you don't get to visit it is likely that you will have the opportunity to sample some of the region's fine produce, particularly the celebrated 'Salt Marsh Lamb'.
Once you've been for a bracing walk or done your days out to the local attractions, cosy up at the Gallivant. A restaurant with rooms, just across the road from the dunes, the Gallivant is relaxing hideaway. The 20 beautiful bedrooms have super-soft beds and giant roll top baths. The lounge boasts a log fire and a book-lined snug. The hotel's restaurant has a locally sourced menu that's well worth sampling. This coastal styled accommodation is a great choice for a weekend to recharge your batteries.
Hip Hebden Bridge
On the confluence of two rivers, hidden in a narrow valley alongside the windswept Pennine moors of Cragg Vale, stands Hebden Bridge. Home to my mother's family, this small town of weathered sandstone cottages is quite different to its neighbours, Mytholmroyd and Heptonstall. The reason for this is that it attracted the hippy movement from the 70s onward, thus turning itself into a unique destination.
Hebden Bridge grew up as a settlement on the packhorse route between Halifax and Burnley. Steep hills with fast-flowing streams and access to major wool markets meant that the town was ideal for water-powered weaving mills. The Rochdale canal passing through Hebden Bridge ensured that the cloth manufactured there could be distributed with ease. Now these signs of the town's origins house art, culture and independent shops, selling everything from vintage crockery and luxury soft furnishings to Fair Trade food. Colourful barges now tie up on the canal, once the bustling hub of the "Trouser Town". Hebden Bridge is also a market town so you can browse from Thursday to Sunday each week.
Hebden Bridge is a great base for exploring the local area. Hardcastle Crags is a spectacular place for a walk. Brave the stepping stones over the river or take in the views at the top of rocky outcrops or visit picturesque Gibson Mill - stop for tea at the National Trust cafe there. Also nearby is Halifax with its plethora of activities and places to see. Don't miss the wonderful market, housed in a grand Victorian hall, or the 18th century Piece Hall where local wool merchants used to sell their 'pieces' of cloth. After a massive renovation project, the Piece Hall is now home to high-quality boutiques and unique shops for artisans, it is also an event and festival space as well as housing heritage spaces where you can learn the history of this magnificent building. There is so much more to see funky Hebden Bridge and the surrounding area that a weekend may not be enough!
Why not stay at Croft Mill serviced apartments? Combining comfort and style with the added freedom of self-catering facilities should you just want to cuddle up instead of venturing out to eat. The amenities of Hebden Bridge are a short walk away. This 4 star property comes with secure parking and Wi-Fi. A Complimentary Welcome Breakfast Pack with fresh local produce is provided, full of all the ingredients necessary to complete a unique breakfast experience at Croft Mill. The perfect choice for immersing yourself in this historic and quirky town.
We hope you are feeling inspired to discover wonderful small towns in England this winter. To book a weekend at any of these properties or a selection of handpicked accommodation get in touch now.
The Brexit process seems to keep dragging on and on. Don't let it get you down. Time to plan your escape - at least temporarily. Brits are booking just as many holidays as ever, so at least the uncertainty of Brexit has not managed to take all the joy out of life! Here's some inspiration for your next journey.
Africa is a large continent with a huge array of vistas and activities so you can expect to find something to suit everyone. With its breathtaking natural beauty, contrasts diversity, your holiday to Africa will certainly be unforgettable.
For luxury resorts head to the north to Morocco and Egypt. This is a side of Africa full of history and a different culture to the rest of the continent. Fringed by the Mediterranean it is only a short flight too. Combine beach, city and a river cruise for the ultimate Egyptian experience. Whilst in Morocco visitors can combine desert, mountains, city and beach life.
Located about half way down Africa on the east coast, Kenya is a paradise for outdoor lovers. With its soft powdery beaches, snow-capped mountains, endless savannah and the vastness of Lake Victoria, Kenya can give you once in a lifetime experiences, like wildlife spotting on a safari.
Let's not forget South Africa, the rainbow nation. From bustling cities like Cape Town and Durban to splendid game reserves where you can view the 'big 5' - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape Buffalo. There are also mountain retreats and scenic coastal drives, not to mention great shopping and museums in Johannesburg. Fancy a tour around awe-inspiring Victoria Falls or a great wine tasting tour around Stellenbosch? Whatever your lifestyle you will find the perfect holiday in South Africa.
Why not head over to our Offers page and search for our latest Africa deals now (select holiday type then country).
England is a beautiful, surprising, historic and wonderful place. Why go abroad when there is so much to see here? From historic castles to lush green countryside to stunning coastline to ancient ports and activities galore.
Following the Brexit vote there is even more reason to stay in the UK, what with rising prices and the falling value of sterling. Get more bang for your buck in dear old Blighty. Visit extraordinary historic houses, castles and towns. The list is endless and no matter where you go, the United Kingdom is steeped in history everywhere you look. Along with this there is a huge range of accommodation to suit every pocket. There is also plenty to do from outdoor pursuits to craft workshops to museums, cinemas and children's activities.
Great Britain now produces excellent food and drink and is a haven for the foodie. Drink in the local brews in Kent, where not only is there the oldest brewery in England but also a multitude of vineyards, not to mention great pubs. Or head to Somerset where cider is king. Tour an orchard and learn how cider is made. Sample excellent local produce in West Sussex with a trip to a dairy to learn how to make cheese. Artisan producers of all types of gourmet foods abound, as do award winning vineyards. Take a trip into East Sussex and tour a quaint old brewery in Lewes.
There are so many amazing sights to see away from the obvious tourist attractions in Britain. In Yorkshire take a trip on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and learn the history of the longest canal tunnel in the world at Standedge in Marsden, West Yorkshire. Taste remarkably good wines at one of the most northerly vineyards in the country, whilst you take a break from touring the breathtaking moorland scenery. Or head to the seaside at Whitby with its ancient abbey and old fishermen's cottages.
England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland offer some amazing choices for short or long breaks. With steam railways, mountains, lakes, rivers both fast and slow and of course endless coastline. Whether you love adrenaline sports like zorbing or white water rafting or prefer to read a newspaper in a pub with a roaring fire - you will certainly find a holiday to suit you in the UK.
Tasteful Travel design bespoke UK tours so why not book a consultation now? We also have a range of short breaks and accommodation so check out our latest offers here. If you need some inspiration for your travel planning just head over to our Destinations page and get booking your staycation now.
England is a beautiful, surprising, historic and wonderful place. Why go abroad when there is so much to see here? From historic castles to lush green countryside and activities galore.
Following the Brexit vote there is even more reason to stay in the UK, what with rising prices and the falling value of sterling. Get more bang for your buck in dear old Blighty on a Tasteful Travel bespoke tour. Visit extraordinary historic castles and towns, such as Hever, Canterbury, Bath and York. Get off the beaten track in the charming villages that abound in Britain.
Don't forget to introduce some foodie experiences into your trip. Drink in the atmosphere and the local brews in Kent, where not only is there the oldest brewery in England but also a multitude of vineyards and cider producers.
Choose to sample excellent local produce in West Sussex with a trip to a dairy to learn how to make cheese. Artisan producers of all types of gourmet foods abound, as do award winning vineyards. Take a trip into East Sussex and tour a quaint old brewery in Lewes.
There are so many amazing sights to see away from the obvious tourist attractions in Britain. Take a trip on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and learn the history of the longest canal tunnel in the UK at Standedge in Marsden, West Yorkshire. Taste remarkably good wines at one of the most northerly vineyards in the country, whilst you take a break from touring the breathtaking moorland scenery.
Now is the time to book your UK tour for the autumn or next spring. Whether you love sightseeing, history or eating and drinking, Great Britain is the place to go. Stay a few days, a week or more. If you need assistance to plan and book your trip get in touch with our UK experts and they will be happy to help.
After the Romans left British shores in the early 5th century, it left the country open to invasion. Tribes in what is now Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands were faced with war, shortage of land to grow food because of increasing population and flooding of low-lying land. News of England's fertile land and ease of invasion reached the Angle, Saxon and Jute tribes. These tribes were a fearsome warrior people and easily subdued the local Britons.
Added to this the Britons in the north were being threatened by the Picts and Scots now that the Romans were not defending the border. Some Briton chieftains made deals with these European invaders for their mercenary services in return for land. This led to the first establishment of Saxons on the Isle of Thanet. Going forward they settled in large numbers in the south of the British Isles.
Although the leaders continued to be warriors, the rest were predominantly farmers. Their contribution to the history of England was significant, giving the country the bulk of the language we speak today. The Saxon methods of farming were much more efficient than previously and gave a great deal more variety to the diet. It was pretty healthy cuisine, varied if not very fancy.
Saxons farmed the land, kept livestock, foraged, hunted and fished. Barley, spelt, wheat, rye and oats were grown. Spelt and wheat for bread, barley for brewing and oats for animal fodder and porridge. Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry were kept and bred. Eggs, milk and cheese added variety to the diet, as well as nuts, fruit and fungi in season. Meat would have been provided mainly by hunting and Saxons would have dried and salted it for preservation. Only pigs were grown and consumed as a source of meat. I guess that from this came the British love of the bacon buttie!
Vegetables were widely used, although it is not clear whether these were cultivated or foraged. Saxons certainly had purple carrots, the ancestors of the large orange ones we have today. A parsnip-like vegetable called white carrot was also available and wild cabbages. Legumes were grown, such as beans. There is some controversy as to whether peas were grown or whether they came to England with the Normans. Wild roots were collected, such as burdock and rape. To give flavour onions and leeks were cultivated and many herbs, such as wild garlic, sorrel and lamb's tongue grew wild. Other herbs like mint and mustard were grown near Saxon houses for daily use.
Fruit was foraged for, such as crab apples, rosehips, sloes and bilberries, plums, cherries, strawberries and blackberries. All of these were seasonal and most probably cultivated as time went on.
Flavourings were not readily available but the Saxons were traders and some spices would have been imported. Honey was the sweetener and also used in mead, an alcoholic beverage. Wine was made from various fruit but grape wine would mostly have been imported and so only available to the rich. Beer was much more widely drunk, especially as water was not always safe to drink. Cider was also made and was widely available. For alcohol free beverages the Saxons made fruit infusions and juices.
Interested in history and gastronomy? Find out more on a bespoke historically themed tour in the UK tailored just for you.
Despite the deluge on Saturday afternoon, we had a successful day at the Foodies Festival in Brighton. A group of tents, buses and a giant teapot faced the sea at Hove Lawns. Packed with everything to do with food and drink it is a gourmand's dream. Demonstrations from top chefs were mixed with wine tasting classes and stall after stall of goodies.
As we walked in our first sight was Aldo Zilli serving Italian street food to the crowd.
I also got to meet Emma Spitzer, Masterchef finalist and a personal favourite with her Middle Eastern fusion style cookery. What a thrill, she was so nice, even given my stammering explanation of needing chefs to talk about culinary history on Tasteful Travel tours. Here's hoping!
We rounded off our trip with a cup of tea, buying some gourmet sausage rolls and resisting a gorgeous bottle of wonderful Silent Pool gin. Maybe next time...
Visiting Brighton always gives us a buzz but it was made even more fun with the Foodies Festival.
Hope you can make it to your local Foodies Festival, best wishes Sarah.