The 2017 summer solstice occurred this year on the 21st June, marking the official start of summer. To help you make the most of this fine season we have compiled a list of the 10 most British summer activities, foodstuffs and beverages to ensure you have a jolly good time.
A summer gathering in Britain is considered incomplete unless it features a jug of Pimms. For the uninitiated, Pimm’s is a brand of fruit cups, which is a beverage consisting of one part Gin Cup Liqueur, and three parts lemonade, finished off with a helping of fruit (typically cucumber, strawberries, lemon, lime and mint). The famous sweet, yet refreshing beverage was first produced in 1823 by James Pimm, and has now become a staple during a British summer.
The spirit which has long been a favourite amongst Brits is now making waves both stateside and in Europe, and has finally shaken its mother’s ruin image to become the focus of trendy craft distilleries. Gin provides the base for a whole host of popular cocktails such as a Tom Collins, Singapore Sling and French 75, but is of course most beloved as the vital component of a G&T (Gin & Tonic). To find out more about the history and production of this British favourite, as well as the opportunity to try if yourself, you can choose from some great Gin distillery tours when you’re next in the Green Isles:
Strawberries and Cream
This quintessential English dessert (or snack) is a summer favourite, especially during the Wimbledon Championships when 140,000 servings are consumed on average in the grounds. A little known fact though is that the summer tradition of eating strawberries and cream has been going strong for the last 5 centuries. While he most likely did not concoct the winning combination himself Thomas Wolsey is credited with serving the paring at his Tudor feasts in the 1500s.
- Eton Mess
This traditional English dessert consists of meringue, whipped cream, and you guessed it - strawberries. The first mention of this classic dessert was back in 1893 when Eton College started serving it during their annual cricket match against the pupils of Harrow school. While the original recipe used ice cream instead of meringue, the crunch it gives the dessert is a welcome improvement. You can add anything though from a dash of port to a splash of ginger for an exciting twist on this age-old dessert.
This light and refreshing dessert is made up of fruit, a thin layer of sponge soaked in dessert wine, covered with custard and cream. This colourful, and easy to make dessert often has three layers and makes for a lovely centrepiece when entertaining.
At the first hint of sun Brits can be found hauling their barbecues from shreds & garages and rushing to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. For many, the prospect of burgers and sausages sizzling away over smoky charcoal and eating alfresco with friends and family is the epitome of summer. While the unpredictable weather often means that barbecues are usually a spur of the moment affair, some forethought is required to make it a sizzling success. For example, for best results the barbecue needs to be lit ahead of time, and food should only begin to be cooked once the smoke has cleared and white ash appears on the glowing charcoal.
As soon as summer arrives we swap cosy pub interiors for alfresco drinking and dining in beer gardens, of which there is no shortage in the UK. The tranquillity that comes with sitting round tables surrounded by flowers, plants and fairy lights, while the smell of traditional pub food wafts through the air is a hard one to beat. Despite the large number of beer gardens as soon as that winter chill disappears the gardens are quickly filled to capacity, so prepare to hover for a while as you wait for a table.
Entertainment, beer, street food and family fun: the summer festival season has become a British tradition. Between May and August there are around 40 festivals in the UK, the most famous of which are Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Taste. The festival scene has perhaps become so big in recent years thanks to its diversity. From music festivals, food festivals, comedy festivals, theatre festivals, to ones aimed exclusively at families, there really is a festival for everyone.
Another favourite British pastime in the summer is taking to water in a punt (a bit like a gondola). It is possible to punt in many places along the River Thames, but the most popular and perhaps best suited places are Oxford and Cambridge, which both offer leafy soft flowing rivers. The key appeal of punting is that it creates a slow, leisurely and tranquil way to experience the beauty of the river, which in Britain's oldest university town is added to by the beautiful Colleges lining the river banks.
As summer settles upon us our minds quickly turn to picnics as the idea of doing away with normal eating conventions in favour of lounging in the great outdoors on a blanket with a hamper of goodies becomes incredibly enticing. To create the perfect British picnic grab a chequered blanket, some Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, qiches, British strawberries, Eton mess and an alcoholic beverage and you’re all set to join the teddy bears.
Trips to the seaside
There is no better place to soak up the sun than by the seaside so when planning a summer trip to Britain the following places should definitely feature:
- Eastbourne, East Sussex – Sunbath on its sandy stretch and enjoy the view of the chalk cliffs of Beachy head, which can easily be reached by foot.
- Brighton – From its famous pier enjoy fantastic views of the sea or relax on a deck chair on its broad beach. While there you can also visit the exotic, fairytale-like Royal Pavilion.
- Durness, Scotland - A thriving town surrounded by the dramatic moutainous landscape of Sutherland, Durness is home to spectacular scenery, pristine beaches and bright blue waters.
- St Ives, Cornwall – A picturesque seaside town with little shops and galleries as well as a tranquil harbour and lovely sandy stretch.
- Tenby, Wales – Go for a walk on the lovely beach located in this charming fishing village characterised by its quaint colourful buildings.
Founded in 1877, Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. In its 140 years it has racked up a number of traditions which have set it apart from other tennis grand slams. For spectators the traditional Wimbledon treats are Pimms, strawberries & cream and fish & chips. Whats more, if you don’t have a ticket you are required to join an orderly queue - it doesn’t get more British than that!
Now that you've been through the list, see how many of these you can tick off, because no matter where you are in world, you can atleast replicate the food and drink for a taste of a British summer!