Sunday, July 03, 2011

Food and drink weekend breaks

Weekend getaways designed for food lovers and booze connoisseurs

Whitstable: oysters

Where to go: Whitstable, Kent.

How to get there: 1 hour 30 minutes by train from St Pancras or Victoria to Whitstable.

What to do: Whitstable’s been famous for its oysters since Roman times. Foodies will plan a trip to coincide with the town’s annual Oyster Festival (July 23-29). Celebrations begin at around 5.30pm on the opening Saturday with the Landing of the Oysters and the Oyster Parade and continue throughout the week with events such as oyster-eating contests, Champagne tastings, pub quizzes and guided walks. Whitstable Brewery Beer Festival is on Friday Sunday 24 from noon to 3am and includes 30 cask beers to taste and dancing to live bands until the small hours. The full festival programme is online.

As you explore the town you’ll soon encounter a network of narrow passageways. One of them, Squeeze Gut Alley, was reportedly used as a regular escape route by a group of troublemakers on the run from the town’s plump policemen.

See the coast from horseback on a hack at Benacre Riding School (two-and-a-half-hour beach ride £50; 01227 770931) or, for watery fun, Whitstable Yacht Club runs windsurfing and sailing classes (taster sessions £50-£100). The Horsebridge Arts & Community Centre hosts gigs, open-mic nights and markets, and The Playhouse is home to The Lindley Players who stage plays and themed nights.

Where to eat and drink: Food and drink Reserve well in advance in order to get a table at the bijou Wheelers Oyster Bar (01227 273311). Alternatively, if the weather’s fine, order a takeaway and shuck on the beach. The Film Café serves up with Fairtrade coffee and homemade cakes, and Samphire offers hearty meat and veggie brunches, lunches and suppers.