Charlotte & Katie climb aboard a Routemaster bus to escape the city and experience Sussex Vineyards...

There are some invitations you simply cannot say no too and one example of this was being invited to join a Great British Wine Tour. If you follow us on Instagram, then you’ll have seen the amazing reels we post showcasing our stunning city and the fabulous businesses within it. I am allowed to call the reels amazing partly because that’s a fact but also because I’m not the one that puts them together so for once I am not tooting my own horn. Katie is the talented woman behind the camera, and she had been talking to Great British Wine Tours about the possibility of joining a tour in order to capture some footage. They kindly offered her a ticket and asked if she would like to bring a plus one, this was the invitation I couldn’t say no too. A day out with my lovely workmate, riding a bus into the Sussex countryside to enjoy gorgeous views and sip delicious wines? Oh well if I must!

Routemaster bus parked outside Leonardo Hotel ready to start the Great British Wine Tour

While recently Spring has been doing an excellent impression of Winter, we were fortunate to be heading out on a day that was sunny, warm, and pleasant. The meeting point was at the front of the Leonardo Hotel, handily located behind Brighton Station. Whether you are a resident, a day tripper or a staying visitor this is an easy location to get too. We were clearly excited about our day out as we were one of the first people to arrive, so after ticking our names off the list we were allowed to pick our seats. Naturally we headed upstairs and a few short minutes later, the bus was full, and we were off. I should point out that the bus is no ordinary bus, this is a vintage Routemaster, lovingly restored to its former glory. This includes the narrow, twisty stairs to the top deck, and we were even given tickets, printed from a handheld machine by the resplendently dressed bus conductor. It’s these lovely, little touches that add to the overall experience.

Of course, we love Brighton but sometimes it is nice to escape the madness for a bit and it always surprises me just how quickly the scene outside the window changes from the vibrancy of the city to the tranquillity of the countryside. Although I was very glad, I wasn’t the one in charge of the bus as I still don’t know how he manged to manoeuvre us through the picturesque, and petite, village of Ditchling but somehow, we got through and both the bus and the village remained intact.

Woodland on the Ridgeview Wine Estate

Our first stop of the day was at Ridgeview, a name I knew well but somewhere I hadn’t visited before, so I was looking forward to having a good look around. When I’m not at work encouraging you all to visit Brighton then you will most likely find me walking in a wood. So, you can imagine my delight when we started the tour, turned the corner, and walked through a little wood. Complete with tweeting birds and beautiful bluebells, lovely. I have been lucky enough to visit a couple of vineyards and so I generally picture fields full of luscious vines with rolling hills in the background. I’ve never pictured woodland being part of a wine estate before, so I was immediately enamoured with the place. Beyond the woodland was one of the vineyards where our guide explained about how Ridgeview got started and that it is a family-run business. Their commitment to sustainable methods of production is inspiring although the fact that stuck in my mind was that the family wanted to apologise to the bees for planting self-pollinating vines, so they made a point of keeping some land spare for beehives instead. This was just a small example of the community spirit that is evident at Ridgeview and how they run things.

Outside seating at the Ridgeview Wine Estate

After the tour it was time for a tasting, we took our seats on the terrace overlooking the vineyards and we could have easily believed we were in France rather than Sussex. It was amazing to think we were only a few miles away from brilliantly bonkers Brighton. We sampled three sparkling wines and one still, they were all very tasty but in our humble opinion the Cavendish sparkling was the winner. The official notes tell me I enjoyed the depth and complexity of the Pinot dominance, all I know is that it was a Pi-yes from me. Along with the wine we enjoyed a lovely lunch consisting of local produce including a charcuterie board, Sussex cheeses, Sussex sourdough and even South Downs butter. I like the fact we were given plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely lunch, I remember being on coach tours when I was younger & we were speedily whisked from place to place with no time to actually enjoy it but that was not the case here.

Bus parked behnd a barn-like building at Artelium near Brighton

After lunch it was time to hop back on the bus and head off to our next vineyard – Artelium. I have to be honest I wasn’t sure how it would go seeing two vineyards in one day, would the second tour repeat elements of the first one? However, I needn’t have worried as rather than repeating details of the wine-making process Artelium told us a bit about how they got started and also explained that their ethos is to curate a space where art and wine converge. The wine estate hosts regular art exhibitions, courses and workshops.  As well as featuring art in the grounds, the wine labels have also been designed by local artists.

Sculpture in the grounds of Artelium Wine Estate near Brighton

The atmosphere at Artelium was welcoming and laid back & after the introduction we were invited into the barn to sample a couple of their wines including a mix of sparkling and still wines. We then had some free time to explore at our leisure and so we decided to head to the bar for a farewell glass of wine. The friendly staff offered us some advice on what to order and we ended up with a glass of Pinot Noir. I wouldn’t normally opt for a red on a sunny, Spring Day but this was lovely & light. In fact, the following weekend I recommended the same drink to my Mum when we were soaking up the sunshine at One Garden Brighton – thankfully she agreed that it was delicious, phew!

Two glasses of Pinot Noir on the bar at Artelium near Brighton

And just like that our day out in Sussex was at an end, it was time to board the bus and return to the city. I was very impressed with the organisation throughout the day, but I have to say kudos to the team for their skills at timekeeping as they estimated we would be back in Brighton around 4.30pm and it was spot on! Of course, I can’t guarantee that will always be the case, but it was still impressive.

Overall, it was a delightful day out, the vineyards were lovely, and it was wonderful to be able to really relax and enjoy each one knowing that the transport was taken care of & in such a stylish fashion too.

Cheers to Great British Wine Tours and thank you for making it easier for people to experience Sussex vineyards 🥂


Don't forget English Wine Week is happening next month from 15th - 23rd June.


Great British Wine Tours
Bus / Coach Tour
Great British Wine Tours - outside vintage bus

Explore the vineyards of Sussex on board an iconic vintage bus with Great British Wine Tours. Join us for a unique day out tasting award-winning English wines and dining among the vines. Scheduled and private wine tours available for hen parties, groups and corporate events in Sussex, Kent and Surrey.

Ridgeview Wine Estate
Ridgeview Estate

Nestled at the foot of the picturesque South Downs in Ditchling, just a 20-minute drive from Brighton, Ridgeview are a second-generation family company dedicated to the production of the highest quality English sparkling wine.

ARTELIUM Wine Estate
Artelium - view of the vines

Artelium is a contemporary wine estate just a 25-minute drive from Brighton celebrating exceptional Wine and Art against the beautiful backdrop of the South Downs.



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