In total 76 attractions were recognised in VisitEngland’s fifth annual Attractions Accolades – seven of which were breweries, wineries or distilleries.
The awards recognise members of VisitEngland’s Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme in categories including Hidden Gem, Best Told Story, Quality Food and Drink, and the Gold Accolade for all-round top-scorers.
Further evidence of the Home Counties’ burgeoning reputation for winemaking, Hush Heath Winery, in Tonbridge, Kent, was recognised as a leading attraction, while The Lakes Distillery at Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District, also struck gold.
Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre, in Devizes, Wiltshire, the Cotswold Distillery, in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, and Hook Norton Brewery, in Banbury, Oxfordshire, could all be found among the hidden gem winners, while Cambridge’s Chilford Hall Vineyard and Plymouth Gin were recognised with respective Best Told Story and Quality Food & Drink accolades.
Discussing this year’s awards, VisitEngland director Andrew Stokes commented: “England is home to world-class attractions right across the country, welcoming visitors throughout the year and offering experiences of the highest quality, including excellent food and drink and outstanding customer service.
“It is also really fantastic to see these accolades recognising the work of those employees, managers and owners who make sure that all who pass through their doors have a truly memorable experience.”
According to a recent feature in The Morning Advertiser, the story and provenance behind a beer, wine or spirit are becoming increasingly important in consumer choices at the bar – a trend that is likely fuelling the ever-increasing popularity of breweries, wineries and distilleries as tourist attractions.
Commenting on the number of breweries among this year’s winners, James Calder, head of communications at the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) said: “VisitEngland have rightly recognised that breweries are exciting places to visit in their Visitor Accolade winners 2018.
“Our latest member survey for 2019, which will be released in the next few weeks shows that nearly all independent breweries now run a shop or a tap bar on site and nearly one in 10 have a dedicated visitor centre.
“Most breweries run open days where visitors can learn the history and the process of making Britain’s national drink.
“Some of Britain’s brewers even offer visitors the opportunity to build a recipe and brew their own beer on pilot kits, too.”
Findings from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have revealed that the pub and alcohol industries have strong appeal to both staycationers and visitors from overseas. According to BBPA research, roughly half of tourists to the UK visited a pub during their stay, with a traditional British local ranking among the must-see attractions for foreign holidaymakers.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, commented: “It is fantastic to see breweries recognised in these awards for their first-class visitor experiences.
“Breweries have a unique role in British history and many have developed exciting and very attractive brewery tours for domestic and international visitors.
"With a visit to the pub being third on the list of things for international tourists to do when they visit the UK and our unique beer offering such an important part of our heritage, brewery tours complete the story of British beer.
“Many congratulations to both Hook Norton and Wadworth. Both have beautiful and historic breweries and this recognition is well deserved.”
Miles Beale chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) added: “It is fantastic to see several English distilleries and wineries have been recognised for their excellence in the latest VisitEngland Visitor Attraction awards.
“The last year saw significant new investment by our talented and innovative English distillers and wine makers, who are keen to find new ways to let the public explore behind the scenes and see how their products are made.
“It is inspiring to watch these passionate producers develop visitor centres, tours and food and drink experiences and at the same time securing a global reputation for making world-class drinks.
“It is hugely important that we spread the word about just how good a visitor experience these places are.
“There is no reason why Britain shouldn’t secure a place on the world map as a great destination for food and drink tourism. After all, provenance is one of the most important ingredients of world-class British drinks brands – past and future.
“The success of these visitor hotspots are increasingly important to local communities, providing a major boost to jobs and revenue, and come at a time when some pubs are facing the threat of closure.
“With so many shining examples of how wine and spirit making can provide a great day out – for example the Cotswold Distillery, which picked up a Hidden Gem award, and Hush Heath winery, which secured a Gold – we would encourage everyone to support these projects and visit others like them.”
The full list of 2018 Attractions Accolades winners can be found here.