Best of British: The best hotel, campsite, cheese, zoo, beach, beer... and dozens more
Forget Spanish villas or long-haul flights to Thai beaches – we've got everything you need right here to have a terrific summer holiday, from culture and leisure to family fun, and from top food and drink to sites of natural beauty. But don't just take our word for it: right across the UK, and in every possible industry, there are awards to celebrate the things we do well. Holly Williams reveals the latest crop of winners and list-toppers that have been officially recognised in their field, to give you the insider's view of what really makes Britain great
Cameron House, Loch Lomond
The classy International Hotel Awards has a British division; in 2012, the Best Resort Hotel was won by Cameron House. Head to the Highlands for luxury with lake views, romantic turrets and spires, and a damn fine selection of whiskies. And if rambles through the heather aren't really your thing, there's a golf course and a spa, as well as several restaurants to choose from (including the Michelin-starred Martin Wishart).
Barkham Blue, Berkshire
The World Cheese Awards has been going for more than 20 years; run by the UK's Guild of Fine Food, it judges the tastiest products from right across the globe. Last year's British winner was this blue cheese from traditional producer Two Hoots, which uses Channel Island milk from Guernsey and Jersey cows, set in an ammonite-shaped mould to give the cheese a shape as distinctive as its taste. Available from good cheese shops and delicatessens across the country.
Chester Zoo, Cheshire
One zoo swept the boards at the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums awards in 2012: Chester. With 11,000 animals in 110 acres it's one of Britain's biggest, but it was recognised for its commitment to sustainability, as well as for exhibitions, research and conservation projects. Of more interest to your average car-full of kids may be the recent arrival of a baby giraffe, baby elephants, a baby rhino and baby orang-utans.
Furleigh Estate, Dorset
While Britain may still not quite be up there with its European neighbours when it comes to wine, there's still some great grape stuff produced on our fair isle – and every year, the society of English Wine Producers celebrates the industry. In 2012 it raised a glass to Ian Edwards' Furleigh Estate near Bridport, crowned Winemaker of the Year. It's open for sales, tours and tastings on Fridays and Saturdays. Pick up a bottle of its international award-winning Classic Cuvee.
Best fish and chips
The Bay, Aberdeenshire
Could there be a dish more quintessentially British? And therefore, more worth getting absolutely right? Well, according to Seafish – the "Authority on Seafood", you know – if you're after perfect fish and chips, head to Stonehaven in Scotland, where The Bay netted 2013 Independent Takeaway Fish & Chip Shop of the Year in January. It's run by Calum and Lindsay Richardson, who have each previously won a Best Young Fish Frier award. They're committed to using local and sustainable fish, too. Pass the salt and vinegar.
Old Oaks Touring Park, Somerset
Camping at Glastonbury needn't mean sharing the loos with 180,000 other people. For a more serene Somerset break, this caravan park and campsite, which was England and Overall winner in AA's Campsite of the Year 2013 awards, boasts gorgeous views, spacious pitches, a half-acre fishing lake, and home-made cakes. And it's good for reluctant campers, too – there's free wi-fi and battery charging points, a new shower block with hairdryers, and a launderette. Old Oaks is adults-only, so there are no noisy kids waking you up with water-pistol wars either.
Portobello and Golborne Road, London
Whether you're after vintage fashion, tasty streetfood, a top-notch antique or just want to swan about imagining you're in a film, Notting Hill's markets, stretching over several streets including Portobello Road and Golborne Road, are an eclectic – and on Saturdays, hectic – affair. But their fun atmosphere makes them a destination even if you're not a serious bargain hunter, and NABMA (the voice of local-authority markets) awarded them the Outdoor Market of the Year award for 2013.
Red Star, Lincolnshire
The somewhat high-minded Academy of Chocolate takes the sweet stuff very seriously: it's all about the provenance of the bean, the quality of the fermentation, using only cocoa butter for fat… Dairy Milk ain't gonna cut it at these awards, which mark international excellence. One British brand, however, did take home gold in the milk-choc category, with its Duffy's Venezuela Ocumare bar. Red Star is a small bean-to-bar operation where the whole process takes place in-house, from cleaning cocoa beans through roasting and grinding to moulding. And you can buy online.
Best heritage attraction
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
It looms over Scotland's capital with a confident grandeur – and there's plenty to see inside, too. Check out the Crown Jewels, the famous cannon Mons Meg, and the portentiously titled "Stone of Destiny"; brush up on your history in the Royal Palace where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI, or shudder in the vaults that housed prisoners of war. And if you're there in August, the military tattoo at night is a sight to behold. As voted for at the British Travel Awards.
No 9 Barley Wine, Cumbria
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is known for its uncompromising approach to beer, and the resurgence of interest in real ale in the UK means its awards are taken pretty seriously. The last winner was this powerful – if confusingly named – pint: No 9 Barley Wine is a strong golden beer that's only brewed by Coniston Brewing Company once a year, giving a long maturation process. It comes in at 8.5 per cent volume, so hold on to your bar stool… Speaking of which, it's best enjoyed at the brewer's own Black Bull Inn and Hotel, though you can also buy online.
Wobbly Munk, Monmouthshire
CAMRA doesn't just deal with real ales – it's got awards for proper cider, too. And the 2013 winner was a wonderful Welsh cider, with an equally wonderful name: Wobbly Munk. It's made in Monmouthshire by Springfield Cider, a husband-and-wife team who take a traditional approach to the craft, hand-picking the apples and using only natural yeasts for fermentation. Wobbly Munk is the newest of their ciders, a richly fruity medium pint which, at 7.5 per cent, may indeed wobble you after a couple. CAMRA, ironically, praised it for its "fantastic balance".
We may not have the reliable weather of more exotic locations, but you've still got to love the great British seaside holiday – whether it's all sandcastles, deckchairs and ice-creams, or "bracing" walks along the front. Coast magazine salutes the best of Britain's seasides each year; in 2013, Woolacombe beach in North Devon won the grand title of Best British Beach. Three miles of golden sand stretch between Morte Point and Baggy Point; with clean, quality water, it's the perfect spot for a bathe too. Or a paddle, at least.
We all love nosing around a proper bookshop, be it a dusty rarefied affair or a bustling local hub. Forget Waterstones: for the best British bookshop experience, the Bookseller Industry Awards 2013 suggests you visit Linghams, in Heswall. It's stuffed with staff who love talking to customers about their wares, and armchairs to sink into if you just want to be left alone with a good book. There's also a licensed coffeeshop that doubles as a space for regular reader events and author visits.
The Ledbury, London
For three years in a row, The Ledbury in Notting Hill has held on to the top spot at the National Restaurant Awards; head chef Brett Graham's mantelpiece must be getting crowded. With two Michelin stars to its name as well, the result was a shock to no one; our own critic Lisa Markwell gave the classy modern cuisine a glowing nine out 10 last year, calling it "damned near perfect". The awards are run by Restaurant magazine, which polls more than 150 experts to draw up a top 100 list. Booking well in advance is advised…
Best blooming village
Broughshane, County Antrim
All around the country, come summertime, you'll notice certain towns and villages start to look particularly pretty, draped in blossoms, sprouting brightly coloured beds and hanging baskets galore. It's not just for the love of a good flower, though: they're more than likely competing in Britain in Bloom, the Royal Horticulture Society's prestigious competition to find the "cleanest, greenest and most beautiful" place in Britain. Broughshane in County Antrim won last year – and its blooming marvellous makeover has seen its status as a tourist hotspot soar.
Best visitor attraction
It's home to the National Motor Museum, but even if old cars leave you cold, it's worth trusting Beaulieu's own slogan: "Much more than a Motor Museum." It must be true, for it was crowned VisitEngland's Large Visitor Attraction of the Year for 2013. Here be a grand country house, a Victorian flower garden, an exhibition dedicated to Second World War secret agents who trained here, and a historic abbey founded by monks in 1204 – god knows what they'd have made of the museum displays of James Bond and Top Gear cars. And there's a monorail.
Best afternoon tea
Davenports Tea Room, Cheshire
Themed in honour of a one-time local Northwich resident – Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as the Alice's Adventures… author Lewis Carroll – this delightful, old-fashioned tea-room takes you down the rabbit-hole. But it's not just the Wonderland décor that makes Davenports wonderful: its selection of loose-leaf teas won recognition from the UK Tea Council, and it was recently afforded its guild's highest accolade, Top Tea Place 2013. Davenports' scones are made to a secret 1930s recipe; book in advance for a traditional afternoon tea served on tiered china cake-stands.
Festival No 6, Gwynedd
There are several categories in the professionally voted for UK Festival Awards, but one new addition to the summer season impressed last year: Festival No 6 won Best New Festival, its organiser Gareth Cooper netted Promoter of the Year, and it scooped Headliner of the Year, too (thanks New Order). If there was an award for nicest location, it would have been a shoo-in: Festival No 6 takes place in the weird but wonderful Welsh village of Portmeirion – famously the location for cult TV series The Prisoner.
Lass o'Gowrie, Manchester
The title of 2012 Supreme Champion Pub of Britain went to this boozer, at the annual awards organised by trade rag The Publican's Morning Advertiser. With nine real ales on the pumps at any time as well as good selections of Belgian beers, lagers and ciders, there's a pint for everyone. The Lass hosts all sorts of entertainment, too – from retro videogame nights to Dr Who evenings.
St Ives, Cornwall
Britain's best bed and breakfast – as decided by Food and Travel Magazine's awards – is a chic, superbly designed Modernist affair. The Salt House offers cool and spacious accommodation overlooking St Ives Bay and Godrevy Lighthouse from enormous, floor-to-ceiling windows; even if the rain lashes all mini-break long, you'll get smashing views. And breakfast is served in your room or – bliss – on your terrace, in the event of sunshine.
Best sports ground
Twickenham Stadium, London
After its £76m refurb, Twickenham is now a contender for best rugby ground in Europe, never mind the UK. The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) awarded it the IOG Governing Bodies Professional Spectator Sports Ground of the Year last year (and breathe). With environmental efficiencies built in to the new design, super-fast wi-fi, and mid-tier LED screens (the first stadium outside of the US to have them), there's a sense that the venue got a lot of things right.
The Dalemain Mansion and Historic Gardens, Cumbria
Near Ullswater in the Lake District, the Dalemain estate boasts a historic house, a tea-room in a medieval hall, and even a marmalade festival, but the jewel in the crown is surely its gardens. Five acres of gardeners' delights feature sumptuously planted herbaceous borders, a Tudor Knot garden, a Rose Walk and an ancient orchard. There are also ponds, woodland and a children's garden. No wonder it won the Historic Houses Association Garden of the Year this year.
William Morris Gallery, London
All the renovation and repositioning really paid off – Walthamstow's attraction re-opened last year with revivified gallery spaces and a top education programme. This was noted by the panel of judges at the 2013 Art Fund Museum of the Year awards in June, where it won the top prize. Visit to discover more about the Arts and Crafts movement and its pioneer William Morris, as well as catching touring exhibitions of historic and contemporary arts.
Best music venue
The Joiners, Hampshire
OK, so the whopping behemoth that is the O2 in the Millennium Dome may have won Best International Venue at the concert industry's world-wide Pollstar Awards, but we're more excited about the dinky new winner of NME's Britain's Best Small Venue: The Joiners in Southampton. It's a small-but-powerful 200-capacity gig venue; acts scheduled to play the space include Frank Turner, Band of Skulls, Willy Mason and To Kill a King.
Ginger's Comfort Emporium, Manchester
Streetfood may have been the hippest thing since sliced bread went artisan in London, but Manchester is no slouch when it comes to imaginative options, too – as Claire Kelsey proves with her marvellous ice-cream van, Ginger's Comfort Emporium. Her toast and marmalade ice-cream with orange-blossom sorbet was voted the Best Dessert at the British Street Food Awards, going on to win the overall Best of the Best award from a panel of judges including Tomasina Miers. 1
Additional research by Ivan Juritz
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