The cider and perry industry – worth £1.94 billion a year – is enjoying a revival. According to the National Association of Cider Makers, their members are currently visited by more than half a million cider fans every year. Here are some of the best orchards to visit, with activities for the whole family to enjoy...
Torre Cider Farm, Washford
A trip to Torre Cider Company in Watchett, hidden within among the network of winding roads on the Somerset/border, is a bit like the best soft play centre you've ever been to (sorry – trigger warning to all tired parents). There are no ball pits or suspiciously wet slides; instead you have an outdoor kiddie oasis complete with a playground, chickens, lambs and two gloriously fat pigs, all of which you can supervise from under the shade of an apple tree, with, most importantly, a pint.
Gemma, Neil and nine-month-old Maggie are the proud owners of their eight-acre orchard, growing 16 varieties of apples that come late-September, will all be hand-picked and pressed into six different scrumpy ciders, ranging from dry to sweet. Everything they make can be bought in their farm shop, along with fresh eggs from their hens, local cheese and tempting bottles of apple brandy and fruit wines.
On the uncharacteristically pleasant day of my visit, the rows of orchards are heavy with ripening fruit (picking season has not yet begun), making for a gorgeous walk in the dappled sunlight against the backdrop of the rolling hills of Somerset countryside. Greet Freddie the goat along the way – and don't be put off by his missing eye – the result of an altercation with a horse.
Though you can visit at any time and wander free around the farm, tours take place on Wednesdays at 11:30am and Saturdays at 3pm, complete with tastings of the fruits of their labour - fresh apple juice for the kids, and a snifter of Sheep Stagger (be sure to say it carefully) for the grown-ups. Top it off with lunch under the shade of the trees in their cafe, and you have an easygoing, family-friendly, cheap and – should you desire – rather boozy day out. Make sure you're not the designated driver – the Sheep Stagger is a taste of real farmy deliciousness.
Healey’s Cornish cider farm, Truro
Here you can enjoy tractor rides, jam tasting, cyder museum tours and scrumpy-glugging on any given day – followed by plates of Ciderman’s Stew at The Old Bottlery Restaurant or a Cornish cream tea, as the kids acquaint themselves with the pygmy goats in the animal courtyard. Glamp out at the Little Orchard Cider and Music Festival from 13-15 September, featuring silent discos in the 20-acre orchard – plus headline acts The Zutons and Mad Dog Mcrea (in case you missed them at Glastonbury).
Middle Farm, West Firle
Home to the National Collection of Cider & Perry, where you can sample over 100 different draught ciders and perries, including Middle Farm’s own Pookhill Cider. Apple-pressing is available during the harvest; let off steam in the picnic areas, outdoor playgrounds, the hay play barn and at the open farm, where children can meet the animals and watch the Jersey cows being milked every afternoon. Leave laden with fresh produce from the butchery and farm shop, which stocks over 25 Sussex cheeses.
Pure North Cider Press, Holmfirth
Seek out dry, bottled champagne style ciders, oak aged ciders and cider vinegars in the Holme Valley, where Pure North allow the fruit to drop naturally (a sign that the apples have reached their maximum sugar content). A place to learn about traditional methods, and then hunker down by the woodburner in the Cider Press Café and Shop with a bottle of medium dry cider in hand: dogs, walkers and cyclists are welcome.
Butford Organics, Hereford
Janet and Martin Harris produce only non-interventionist, Soil Association-approved organic cider, perry and juice; letting nature do the work of fermenting with wild yeasts in the shadow of a 300-year old cider mill. Book a tutored tour in advance, or nab a spot on their coveted cider making courses – which cover the processes of collecting fruit, milling, pressing and fermentation, as well as maturing, blending, preserving and bottling in the shadow of a 300-year old cider mill. Don’t leave without a bottle of their Aurora Premier Crus sparkling, bottle conditioned celebratory perry, 6.0% ABV. Butfordorganics.co.uk
Perry’s Somerset Cider, Ilminster
The West Country has been a hub of traditional cider making since the 11th century; according to CAMRA, there’s a total of 32 cider and perry producers operating in Somerset today. Perry’s cidery, café and farm shop, founded in 1920 is a good place to start. Be sure to try the Great Taste-award winning Grey Heron 5.5% ABV, made with Redstreak and Dabinett apples.
Ty Gwyn cider shop and bar, Pontrilas
A cider shop and bar with views of the Black Mountains at Pen-Y-Lan Farm, run by Alex Culpin (formerly of 90’s indie band, Tiny Monroe). The single-variety Festival Ferret draught cider is aged for a year. Alternatively, nurse a bottle of Great Taste Award 2018-winning Medium Dry outside on the sun deck, or sample the newly launched a “Black and Browns” real fruit blackcurrant cider. Rumour has it that Culpin is plotting to convert a barn into guest accommodation next: on the Herefordshire & Wye Valley Cider Route, Ty Gwyn is also an apple’s throw from Rowlestone Farmhouse Ice Cream. You’re welcome.
Ross on Wye Cider & Perry company, Peterstow
Ross Cider at Broome Farm was crowned Best Drinks Producer of 2019 in the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2019, and on-site pub The Yew Tree was named Herefordshire CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year in 2018. Their yearly family friendly three-night Cider Festival food and music is next weekend, from 30th August–1st September. If sleeping over appeals, orchard camping is available throughout the summer months, for £8 per adult.
Sheppy’s House of Cider, Taunton
370-acres of orchard as well as a museum of rural life, a tearoom and a farm shop await you at family-run, 200-year-old Sheppy’s, based at Three Bridges Farm. After your cider tour, dine on their Longhorn steak and cider-glazed ham at the Apple Bay Bar and Restaurant.
Pant Du, Snowdonia
A solar-powered orchard and vineyard in one in the Nantlle Valley, with 3,200 apple trees – 700 of which are native Welsh varieties, such as the once-endangered Bardsey apple. Owner Richard Wyn’s cider is golden, with notes of citrus and honey; he also bottles his own spring water direct from source. The café bar serves Sunday lunch and Welsh rarebit; stay later for a wine tasting evening.