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jul 16 2013

The U.K.'s Top Tipples

London is the epicenter of excellent gin, just one of the U.K.'s tasty tipples.

(Courtesy London & Partners)

Sophie Gackowski for HomeAway UK

Whether you want to whet your appetite with a whisky or sample cider from the West Country, the United Kingdom boasts some brilliant beverages. We're known for our real ales, organic beers, and London gin, as well as Pimms, a fruity liqueur first produced in Kent that's best appreciated with lashings of lemonade, slices of cucumber, fresh strawberries, and lots of crushed ice. And while we're not quite up there with our French neighbors when it comes to wine (give us time), we've plenty of great distilleries, pubs and pints.

Fancy a Wee Dram? When it comes to whisky, you have to go to Scotland. There are distilleries in England, Wales, and Ireland, of course, but the Highlands and Islands arguably do it best. Talisker is situated in the west of Skye, on the banks of a peaceful, salty loch. Due to the water used in the process, the whisky produced here is known for its unusual tang, and is best enjoyed when it's at least a quarter of a century old. If you prefer your dram a little smokier, try a sweet Laphroaig; the distillery is one of eight situated on the windswept isle of Islay.

Visit the Oldest Pub in England. To find our oldest public house, you need to head for Nottingham. Home to the infamous outlaw Robin Hood, there are no less than three pubs here. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (funny name, we know) is said to date back to 1189, if we're to believe the inscription on the outside. It sits snugly under Nottingham Castle, dug into the cliff side, and offers a great old-fashioned atmosphere with an even better selection of beers. While it can't be proven it's the oldest we have, we do know it was once the castle's own brewery.

Head for an Ale Trail. If you'd like to see a number of breweries, spend some time in Cumbria. There's a great "ale trail" here, leading you to several different producers and pubs, all the while enjoying that beautiful Lake District scenery. Travel during the summer and you can also attend beer festivals, which usually offer discounts on up-and-coming pints! One of the best in the area is undoubtedly the Watermill, Lake Windermere, an award-winning brewery and inn whose drinks have names like "Collie Wobbles"!

Jump for Juniper. London's the city for you if you're partial to a G&T. The capital's been producing gin for hundreds of years. In centuries past, it caused some pretty disastrous social problems in the overcrowded slums of the city, but today, it's a sophisticated drink enjoyed in reasonable quantities. The best tour in the Big Smoke is run by Sipsmith, a distillery in Hammersmith. Producing limited batches of their distinct London dry gin, they also offer a sensational, dark purple sloe variety—yummy!

Sip a Scrumpy Cider. For a traditional glass of "scrumpy," stronger and cloudier than most ciders, you should set your sights on Somerset. Situated in the West Country, a land of lovely orchards and rolling, green hills, it's a great place for a rural retreat in England. Sheppy's Cider is located in Taunton, and grows over 40 different varieties of apple in its 150-acre plot. For the tour, you'll hop on the back of a tractor as you're led around the farmland, before learning all about the fermentation of this fruity tipple in the apple- and oak-scented cellars.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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