When I booked a picnic at Rathfinny Estate I wasn’t originally planning to spend the night at this beautiful vineyard in East Sussex. However, as I had left it quite late to book somewhere to stay, there weren’t many options left for accommodation around Alfriston and Seaford. My initial plan was to combine a picnic in the vineyard, with a hike to the Seven Sisters, over a weekend at the beginning of September. I wanted to start the hike early from Seaford, as completing the Seven Sisters trail takes the entire day. However, when I tried to find a hotel for the night, I realised that the closest to Seaford was actually Rathfinny Estate, so after taking into account that a picnic in the vineyard without a glass of their own wine would be a sin, I booked a room at the estate. This way I didn’t have to worry about choosing between tasting the wine or driving.
Typically though, I managed to pick the wettest weekend in September, so I had to abandon my plan to hike the Seven Sisters. Fortunately, the cliffs are not going anywhere, so there’s always next time.
Rathfinny Vineyard is located in the beautiful South Downs National Park, just outside the medieval village of Alfriston, four miles away from Seaford. It’s easily accessible from the A27 road, coming from Brighton.
From Central London, by car it takes around two hours to reach Rathfinny Wine Estate, via the M23 and A27.
If you choose public transport from London, you will need to change twice. The fastest journey is three hours, changing train in Brighton to Seaford, then taking the local 119 bus from Seaford towards Alfriston.
About Rathfinny Wine Estate
Rathfinny Estate is a family owned young vineyard in East Sussex, established in 2010, launching its first English sparkling wines in 2018. The vineyard is spread along the chalky hilly terrain facing the South, with similar weather conditions as the Champagne region in France. This gives the wines the freshness and crispness required for a high-quality bubbly. In fact, both East Sussex and Kent produce amazing sparkling wines which have the same quality as Champagne. For more details about English wines, check out my article about a tasting in the Chiltern Hils.
The vineyard offers tasting tours, vineyard walks, delicious food and overnight stays.
Picnic at the Rathfinny Vineyard in East Sussex
As I mentioned in my intro, I didn’t co-ordinate well with the weather, so my beautiful picnic in the vineyard had to be moved upstairs, in the tasting room. I did receive a call from them in the morning asking me if I still wanted to go ahead with my booking, taking in consideration the bad weather. I didn’t mind though as I was looking forward to an entire day spent at the vineyard, especially when it was the first time I had really travelled since March. The weather was not going to ruin my trip!
The Tasting Room is a beautiful spacious hall with panoramic windows, overlooking the vineyard and the nearby Seven Sisters cliffs. Beautiful, even in the rain.
As many many bookings had been cancelled due to the rain, I was able to choose whichever table I wanted, and I had the entire room to myself. The waiter presented me with their wines and I went for the Pinot Noir as it was still quite early, and I thought that a nice light wine would go perfectly with the picnic.
The food arrived in a cute box, just like it would have been delivered among the vines. The dishes were modern-British inspired, and I could select from a menu just after I booked the experience. I chose the grilled sea trout with crème fraiche, Jersey Royals and samphire, and the herb roasted Sussex chicken with summer beans, olives and salsa verde.
The picnic also included a selection of smaller dishes, such as local grape and rosemary focaccia, a selection of Brighton artisanal charcuterie board, wood roasted Piedmont peppers with courgettes and wild rice, cannellini bean falafels with a Moroccan cucumber salad and a harissa labneh, a garden leaf salad with buttermilk dressing and pecorino cheese, and a watermelon with barrel aged feta, sesame and basil salad. The dessert was an English classic: a Victoria sponge with locally grown strawberries and cream.
The food was outstanding, every dish bursting with so much flavour. I didn’t expect every dish to be so carefully crafted, especially as it was just a picnic. I really wanted to return for the harvest and try their open fire cooked menu, but unfortunately this had to be cut short due to the lockdown. I would however love to go back and enjoy another dining experience at the Tasting Room or in the cellar, once things get back to normal.
Staying Overnight at The Flint Barns
Should you want to spend the night at Rathfinny Estate, the vineyard has its own B&B in a converted barn. They don’t have many rooms, so you need to book early, especially if you want to visit during the harvest season.
There are two types of rooms: double and family rooms. I highly recommend booking a family room if you don’t travel alone, as the doubles are very small. They are great as singles, but not large enough for doubles. They are however warm, clean and comfortable.
The price for one night, depending on the room you book, varies between £135 – £165 including breakfast and parking. You can check the latest rates by clicking here.
The Flint Barns B&B is located in the middle of the estate, surrounded by fields of vines with only one small access road. It’s a beautiful oasis if you are searching for some quiet time and want to wake up to the sounds of birds chirping.
Before retreating to the lounge for the evening, I took a walk around the vineyard. The rain stopped for a while and I enjoyed some quiet time strolling around the vines.
I chose to spend the rest of the evening in the cosy lounge downstairs, with a good book and another couple of glasses of wine. At some point the wind turned blustery, swooshing through the massive barn doors. The crackling of the open fireplace, the comfy couch and the good wine, contributed to a perfect, relaxing end of the day.
The breakfast was a hamper of continental dishes, including warm croissants with butter and homemade jam, granola, yogurt, fresh fruits and coffee.
Other Things to Do Around Rathfinny Wine Estate
You can easily spend a long weekend at Rathfinny Wine Estate, without running out of things to do. As mentioned before, the winery offers wine tastings and specialised walking tours around the vineyard where you can learn how to pick grapes the proper way. There is a path that goes around the vineyard, if you fancy going around by yourself.
The medieval Alfriston is just one mile away from the vineyard, and you can easily walk there and have an afternoon tea at one of the many cute tea houses in the village. In Alfriston you can visit the Clergy House, a 14th century Wealden Hall House with a thatched room and timber framed walls. Nearby there is the St Andrews Church, dating from 1360, which has 16 bells. The gorgeous Follers Manor Garden is an award-winning garden where you can stroll around admiring the beautifully landscaped grounds.
If you like hiking, the nearby Seven Sisters makes a perfect day trip from Rathfinny Estate, where you will burn enough calories to reward yourself with a good dinner and a bottle of wine at the Tasting Room restaurant upon your return.
You can book a wine tasting or a lunch directly on the vineyard’s website, and you can book a stay at the Flint Barns on Booking.com by clicking here.
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Please note this is not a sponsored post. I enjoyed a beautiful stay at Rathfinny Wine Estate and paid for everything myself.