olive travels: where to visit in September
From Welsh food festivals to seafood-fuelled Swedish island hopping and pincho crawls in Rioja, here's our pick of where to travel this month
Want some ideas on where to go on holiday in September? We've selected our pick of destinations for a food lover's break to close the summer: food festivals in Wales, wine-related fun in Spain, seafood island hopping in Sweden and rural experiences in Malta. This is just a small selection of our UK, European and global travel guides, click here for more inspiration, or check out our pick of the best UK culinary escapes for 2022 and Europe's top food trips for 2022. We also have our pick of destinations to visit in July and August.
Where to visit in September
Magic season in Stockhom’s archipelago
In September, the archipelago air and waters remain a little warmer than the mainland, forest floors are blanketed with chanterelles and the last of the summer blueberries, and a magical mist creeps in to create a still, peaceful end to the summer peak season. Crayfish parties are still being held during the first couple of weeks; join Swedes as they sing aquavit-fuelled drinking songs and don hats and bibs while tucking into glistening buckets of dill-laced crayfish, served with Västerbotten cheese pie.
Take the ferry from Stockholm harbour or hire a boat with friends to sail past granite islands home to quintessential Swedish red fishing huts and mansions. Begin at waterfront Finnhams Café on Ingmarso island with freshwater bass, dill flecked Skagen toast and hand-picked chanterelles. Hike the Båtuffarleden trail winding through forests, taking dips in the water and rowing a wooden boat between granite rock stations. Stable-turned-bakery, Ingmarso Bageri, emerges from the forest like a mirage for a well-deserved fika of heavenly cinnamon buns, chocolate espresso balls and apple cream-filled pastries beneath pretty parasols. Stay overnight in the baker’s cottage, or sail on to Harö Natur, where your bed for the night is a unique choice between a floating greenhouse, boujie boathouse or glass-fronted treehouse. In the summer months, two Italians take residence to man the pizza ovens, or you can opt for the evening tasting menu; a succession of contemporary Swedish dishes that might include roe with dill oil and horseradish cream, smoked char with celeriac and cucumber celery jus and woodfire oven lobster with jalapaño cream. Complete your visit with a Get out Kayak tour to discover nature only accessible by kayak, then warm up in the dinky sauna and hot tub while looking out over the archipelago as the magical mist creeps in. Discover our foodie guide to Stockholm here.
Food festivals in Abergavenny
Head to the Welsh market town of Abergavenny over the weekend of 16-17 September for a celebration of food and drink, based around the Victorian market hall, surrounding streets and ancient castle grounds. Discover local and global treats, from Wales’s oldest Caerphilly cheese, Gower Brownies and craft gin to Tibetan dumplings, edible flowers and seaweed rum. Activities include chef masterclasses with the likes of Jeremy Pang, Melissa Thompson and Felicity Cloake as well as foraging trips, cooking over fire demos in the grounds of Abergavenny Castle, and the new Local & Vocal tent, where you can meet and hear stories from people growing, producing, and selling food in Abergavenny and the surrounding area.
While you’re in town, try some of the local dining experiences, from iconic Michelin-starred tasting menus at The Walnut Tree just 2 miles out of town, to contemporary small plates at The Gaff and seasonal Welsh comfort food at The Hardwick. Abergavenny’s rambling streets are dotted with cosy cafés including Cwtch Café, The Coffee Pot and Fig Tree Espresso, plus ice cream from Shepherds, Welsh craft beers at Hen & Chickens and Gurkha Corner’s Nepalese curries. Artisan food shops include Chesters Wine Merchants, Neil Powell butchers and The Marches Delicatessen for the region’s best cheeses, charcuterie, hams and chutneys.
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Stay at the Angel Hotel, an elegant yet homely Georgian former coaching in in the heart of Abergavenny. The dinners here focus on quality, locally sourced ingredients whilst breakfast is a lavish home-cooked spread and award-winning afternoon teas are enhanced by a dedicated tea sommelier.
Wine festivities in La Rioja
Logroño is the capital of La Rioja, Spain’s most famous wine region. Every September, the city’s streets come alive in celebration of the Fiestas de San Mateo wine festival (16-22 September this year), with parades, live music and wine-related activities including grape stomping, offering of the first must, and tastings in the main square of the city. Most of the vineyards are accessible from the town, and there are plenty of special events taking place during the festival, so take a tour to visit a few. Franco Españolas is on the edge of the town, where you can tour the ancient cellars, vineyards and taste the Bordón tempranillo wines.
Wine makes its way into many of Rioja’s traditional dishes, including beef cheeks in red wine sauce and lamb chops grilled over vine shoots. Restaurante En Ascuas is a traditional Riojan asador serving flame-grilled meats, roast suckling pig and white bean stews. Or try the hyper-seasonal set menus at La Cocina de Ramón, that focuses on roast meats and seasonal vegetables including Ebro River white asparagus, roasted piquillo peppers and blanca de tudela artichokes.
Embark on a pincho crawl along lively Calle del Laurel, a rite of passage when visiting Logroño. Each bar specialises in particular pinchos; head to bar Soriano for stacks of garlic mushrooms topped with a tiny prawn, La Ladea serves epic razor clams and Papa Negra specialises in tiny jamón sandwiches.
Bourbon trails in Kentucky
September is National Bourbon Month, making it the ideal time to visit the birthplace of this smooth, golden tipple. Bardstown’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival runs on 15-17 September, hosting events such as whisky tastings, bourbon pairings, blending masterclasses, cooking demos and live music. If you can’t make the festival dates, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail offers plenty of distillery experiences all year round – the website even offers a handy itinerary planner to make the most of your trip. Our insider tip is to visit Bardstown Bourbon Company, housed in an impressive glass building on a 100-acre estate, where you can tour the striking distillery, blend your own bourbon, and taste unique varieties straight from the barrel. The distillery’s restaurant is a stunning space where you can enjoy contemporary twists on southern classics such as fried chicken and grits, catfish po’boys and grilled Nashville chicken sandwiches, paired with special barrel bourbon cocktails such as old fashioneds and manhattans. If you need a small break from bourbon, Scout & Scholar brews a wide selection of craft beers, that nod to the town’s heritage. You can build your own flight to enjoy with smoked pulled pork, bratwurst and American smash burgers. While you’re in the region, take a drive through small towns in search of bustling farmers markets and autumnal harvests, and even catch a race at Keeneland.
Harvest activities on Malta
September is a prime time to visit this southern Mediterranean island, thanks to long, warm summers and a patchwork of produce ripe for picking. Make the most of quieter roads to explore the rural north, covered in vines, olive trees and prickly pears, as well as carob, almond and fig trees. Late September marks the beginning of the olive and wine harvest, as well as the autumn honey collection, that releases an intense aroma from the flowers of carob and eucalyptus. Local families get involved in the harvest and many farms host festivities, including western Malta’s traditional farm restaurant Diar Il-Bniet. Join an olive grove and vineyard walk before an al fresco sunset dinner of Maltese dishes accompanied by the gentle flutter of an acoustic guitar.
Victory Day on 8 September sees a lively regatta in the Grand Harbour, firework displays and churches decorated with flower garlands in the celebration of village ‘festas’. Northern hilltop town, Mellieha, known for its sandy beach Melliena Bay, comes alive in the lead up with band marches, outdoor celebrations and stalls selling local treats including qubbai nougat and date-stuffed mqaret pastries.
In the capital of Valletta, head to stone cellar wine bar Legligin for Maltese meze or Noni for modern twists on Maltese dishes, such as rabbit confit croquettes, octopus tagine and local black tea and condensed milk dessert, te fit-tazza. Nenu the Artisan Baker specialises in ring-shaped ftira pizzas topped with Maltese ingredients, while Is-Suq Tal-Belt is where to head for prickly pear liqueur and Malta’s national snack, ricotta-filled pastizzi pastries.