Sample gins in the English countryside
It may be known as mother’s ruin but why not toast Father’s Day with gin this year instead?
The Feathers hotel in Woodstock, a stone’s throw from the gates of Blenheim Palace, is just the place to take your gin-loving dad to celebrate the day.
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The hotel boasts a collection of 162 different types of the heavenly tipple, and at the time of writing was waiting to be judged the world record holder for the largest collection.
The kooky yet comfortable hotel also offers an intriguing gin tasting dinner menu.
The seven-course Gin Experience pairs the subtle flavours of a selection of gins to a delicate and contemporary menu. Each course is either cooked using gin or is accompanied by a glass of gin, to great effect.
Who would have thought the humble spirit would have so much going for it beyond the realm of tonic?
Among the numerous courses is foie gras, marinated in a three-year-old aniseed-heavy Dutch gin called Zuidam Zeer Oude, then served in a deliciously velvety consume.
Three gin drinks are served throughout the meal - a shot, a Martini and a sloe gin nightcap.
But there’s plenty of opportunity to continue with a selection of gin cocktails in the lounge after, where a grandfather clock deems it ten to eight - otherwise known as gin o’clock - at all times. Chin chin.
:: The Kevin Barratt Gin Experience package costs £185 per person, per night based on two people sharing. It includes B&B accommodation in a superior room, the Gin Experience tasting menu for dinner, and a bottle of Hendricks gin to take home. Visit www.feathers.co.uk or call 01993 812 291.
Discover fine food, fabrics and film in Lyon
It’s often said that if France has the best food, Lyon has the best food in France. The cobbled streets of the old town are awash with Michelin-starred restaurants and traditional bouchons, where the city’s silk workers once tucked into hearty Lyonnaise cuisine.
Dads in particular will appreciate the manly portions of andouillette (pork offal sausage), Bresse hen and, of course, an excellent selection of wines from Beaujolais and the Cotes du Rhone.
But although dinners are a delight in Lyon, this lively city is much more than a mecca for gourmets.
Set the knife and fork to one side, and visit the famous silk workshops, where weavers perform painstaking restoration work on lavish brocades, using original techniques.
Prestigious silk manufacturer Prelle still has an archive of original patterns, once used to decorate the homes of kings and queens, which can be remade for an eye-watering price. A generous Father’s Day gift if you’re still stuck for ideas.
More technical boys’ toys can be found at the Institut Lumiere, housed on the site of the Lumiere factories, where the cinematograph was invented in 1895.
Early cameras, film-making equipment and a selection of remarkably well-preserved images are displayed in the excellent museum, along with some of the Lumiere Brothers’ more curious creations, such as three-dimensional portraits that appear to leap from their frames.
But for a truly authentic Lyonnaise experience, stay the night at historic hotel Cour des Loges in the heart of the old town. Secret passageways and winding staircases connect rooms in this restored Renaissance building, and cheese and wine tastings take place in an underground cellar, with Epicureans perched on reclaimed church pews. After all, in Lyon, you’re never far from good food.
:: Eurostar operate trains from London St Pancras to Lyon via Lille or Paris, with returns from £109. Journey time is under five hours. Visit www.eurostar.com or call 08432 186 186.
:: Rooms at Cour des Loges start from 250 euros room only. Visit www.courdesloges.com or call 033 (0) 4 7277 4444.
:: For more information about Lyon, visit www.lyon-france.com
Soak up sea air on the Dorset coast
There’s no better seaside experience than watching the sun set over rows of pastel beach huts on the sandy spit across the harbour water from Mudeford Quay.
This idyllic little spot on the Dorset coast is often overlooked by holidaymakers heading to the better known Sandbanks.
But here in Christchurch, with its combination of water sports, boutique hotels and fine dining, you’ll find the perfect way to spoil your dad.
An afternoon’s sea kayaking is a definite must. Friendly father-of-four Nick, who runs Shore Sports, takes two-hour tours from Mudeford Bay up the harbour to Christchurch, where the rivers Avon and Stour split.
Despite the wetsuits, you’ll still get chilly, so it’s back to the Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa for a warm-up in the sauna and hydrotherapy pool.
Located on the water’s edge, with views over Mudeford spit, the serene hotel is perfect for a relaxing weekend.
Dinner at The Jetty, in the hotel’s grounds, is an unmissable experience. Formerly Rhodes South, run by TV chef Gary Rhodes, it was taken over in 2010 by Michelin-starred chef Alex Aitken, who has stocked the menu with seafood caught in the nearby quay.
Push the boat out for the exquisite tasting menu, complete with wines selected by Aitken’s son and restaurant manager, AJ.
On your second day, take a small ferry from the quay to Hengistbury Head, a Special Site of Scientific Interest.
Here, you can rent one of the beautiful beach huts (£80 per day if arranged through the hotel), with a peerless view across to the Isle of Wight’s Needles. For £30, local Christchurch deli Heartizan’s can provide hampers stuffed with cheese, olives, chutney, bread, scones and jam.
Catch the ferry back, or walk the hour and a bit around the head to Christchurch, and watch the world go by from the harbour.
:: Rooms at the Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa start from £149 (two sharing) on a DBB basis. Visit www.christchurch-harbour-hotel.co.uk or call 01202 483434.
:: Kayak tours with Shore Sport start from £40 for 2.5 hours. Visit www.shoresports.co.uk
:: To order picnic hampers through Heartizans, visit www.heartizans.co.uk
Enjoy outdoor sports in the Algarve
Along with beautiful beaches, the Algarve region of Portugal is home to some of Europe’s best golf ranges, making it an ideal option for sporty dads.
For a luxurious treat, the five-star spa resort Vale d’Oliveiras in Carvoeiro is an excellent option. It’s close to a number of excellent courses, including Gramacho, and also has a good selection of sporting facilities on site.
If Dad doesn’t wield a golf club, there are plenty of other activities to keep him amused. Wine, art and even surfing can feature on a weekend itinerary, with enough time to spare for a massage in the resort’s spacious spa.
There are 18 wine producers across 2,000 hectares of vineyards in the Algarve and even Sir Cliff Richard has a plot here. Worth a visit is Quinta dos Vales vineyard in Lagoa, which has a sculpture garden and even a farm with sheep, kangaroos and llamas.
Vale d’Oliveiras is also close to the coast, and surf lessons can be arranged through Algarve Water Sport. Rest assured they’ll find you the best wind and swell, although Dad might not be so appreciative when 3ft waves are batting him like a ping pong ball. But aching muscles and all, it will be one Father’s Day he won’t forget in a hurry.
:: Rooms at Vale d’Oliveiras Quinta Resort & Spa start at £103 per night, based on two sharing. Visit www.valedoliveirasresort.com
:: Monarch operates flights to Faro from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £39.99 one way. Visit www.monarch.co.uk
:: For information on Quinta dos Vales, visit www.quintadosvales.eu
:: Learn to surf with Algarve Water Sport. A day-excursion to the west coast starts at 65 euros. Visit www.algarvewatersport.com