We visited a lot of tea rooms whilst in Scotland, some in very old buildings, some where the cakes and bread were provided as part of educational and vocational training, and some that were part of book and local craft shops.
Our first tea room en route was in Kendal in the Lake District. Not Scotland true, but definitely a good town to visit as you travel there. We had tea in the Master’s House dated 1659. It was the old Bluecoats School for the Poor and the person who lived in this house would have been the Head Master of the School, and behind it was the Sandes Hospital, also for the poor.
The bluecoat is a style of dress code, traditionally worn in Bluecoat schools (British private schools deriving from charity schools).
The main element of the bluecoat is a long (dark blue or black) coat, belted at the waist, with white neck decoration. Underneath a white shirt and grey shorts are worn, with knee-length socks and smart shoes.
The uniform has its origin in the 16th century dress of foundlings housed at Christ’s Hospital in the City of London. Other schools followed suit but many are now defunct – as in Kendal.
The old Masters’ House
Here we had a cafetiere of Italian coffee for £2.00, cakes cost from £2.00, and a cream tea (tea for one, a scone, jam and clotted cream, butter optional) was £3.65.
The area behind was converted from the hospital buildings and the old school buildings and now was a very pretty close and set of co
Kendal cottages created from Sandes Hospital
Another good place before Scotland is Appleby in Westmorland. There there is a delightful church – now subject to winter flooding due to the river rising and as the building is made of sandstone this is wearing it away fast and urgent dykes are required. There is a really good Saturday market where you can buy home made cakes very reasonably £3.00 for a large tray bake and £1.70 for a butter-cream filled sponge. We had tea in the Bojangles Cafe which has a large menu and lots of local cheeses which we sampled.
Moffat was our first tea stop in Scotland.
Here we stopped at the Black Bull to eat. This pub was built around 1568. The original ownership of this pub was in dispute between the Bishop of Glasgow and the Bruce family. It was finally settled by a Papal Bull or letter from the Pope. This was encased in a black envelope – hence the name of the pub. The pub was visited by Bonnie Dundee and Robert Burns (note that Burns seemed to have travelled widely in Scotland as we came across his name as a visitor to lots of places). Here coffee was £1.75, scones and cream or cake also £1.75. However, we went there for a lunch and they were only serving a few sandwiches (we found that in Scotland many places closed on Sundays and half-days and even lunch hours in some shops and Mondays were not the days to eat out) so we went elsewhere.
Elsewhere proved to be the Star Hotel from the 1700s. This hotel is only 20 foot wide and is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as being the narrowest pub in the UK.
Moffat, by the way is/was a spa and mill town with spectacular scenery backing a very narrow valley.
Peebles is a surprisingly old town as much the ancient buildings are no more, but we did find the Old Cross Keys Church which dated from the 15th century. It is a market town on the River Tweed which is very attractive and still has a good variety of local shops as there is no supermarket in close range, with some up-market ‘foodie’ places to eat.
The Wee Snug within the County Inn.
There was a fabulous cafe within the Cook Shop (lots of good cooking and kitchen implements etc) which sold an Americano for 31.85 and a good selection of home baked goodies including a strawberry tart at £2.25 or a Banana and Cinnamon cake at the same price. and we ate a nice meal in the County Inn – where you could two meals for under a tenner. The Tontine Hotel charged 32.30 for coffee and cakes from £2.00
Stobo Castle (more of the Japanese Garden another time ) had a good tea shop too within the hotel spa where a coffee latte was £2.29 and Americano £2.30, which for a hotel isn’t bad.
Other tea shops encountered were at the Riverside Garden Centre and Tullybannocher Cafe just outside Comrie. There we had scones cut from a large central piece served with jam and cream. Each slice they cut was more than enough for 2! and was only £2.50. they had a great sign up on the wall over the serving counter which said (they had a children’s play area) that unaccompanied children would be given a free espresso and a kitten….
Slice of Scone – enough for 2!
The Laurel Bank at Biggar was excellent with meals as well as tea and cake. An Americano was 31.60 but the choice of cakes was limited. However, I had peppers stuffed with vegetarian haggis which was a new variant for me – and it was very good. So often the vegetarian choice is unimaginative – eg on Sunday in Portsmouth whilst meat eaters were offered venison and duck etc I was offered one choice only – tagliatelle with marrow and spinach in a creamy sauce. It was nice but… even the fish had meat with it… the Laurel is open all day and evening with steak offered then and 7 days a year. TripAdvisor likes it!
One local Scottish delicacy I rather liked was their version of a fruit bread – a Bannock. Each area had a slightly different version but they were usually round and very full indeed of dried fruit. Not like the 18th century version which was just flat bread cooked on a griddle. These were flat but there the similarity ended… the original was basically a flat scone made from flour, water, salt and some fat. Baked over an open fire. The word “bannock” is of Celtic origin, derived from the Latin word, panicium which refers to baked goods, orpanis, meaning bread. (http://www.westernsportsman.com/2011/06/cooking-wild-recipe-campfire-bannock/)
There are variants of this simple bread cooked all over the world but the ‘new’ version with its dried fruit added is to my mind, the best yet! To see what I mean look at this website:http://food.list.co.uk/article/38916-border-bannocks-the-scottish-flatbread/ and yes, I bought one from a Dalgetty bakery.