Top of the list of truly outstanding experiences in Scotland has to be a traditional afternoon tea. Taken in a bright drawing room or on a sunny outdoor terrace, it should include an entirely home-made selection of delicious finger sandwiches, delicate pastries, soft scones and sumptuous cakes. Additional highlights like views over elegant hotel grounds, picturesque scenery or beautiful seascapes round off a truly enjoyable experience.
A proper afternoon tea should consist of a substantial selection of treats, be it a relatively basic tea and scones option or a full afternoon tea with a wide variety of delicacies and perhaps also champagne! You can decide whether jam with cream on top or cream with jam on top is the proper way of savouring scones – there is always a debate about that. In case you are wondering about the difference between an afternoon tea and high tea, the latter includes a main course e.g. fish and chips and is taken in the early evening in place of dinner.
Here are now my top 5 choices for afternoon tea in Scotland.
An afternoon tea on the luxury floating hotel Fingal in Leith harbour, which is part of Edinburgh, is the ultimate indulgence. With a backdrop of exquisite Art Deco interiors and views to match, the Fingal provides a beautiful location for this most opulent and yet sophisticated of British traditions. Guests can enjoy a range of the finest teas followed by a selection of savoury and sweet delicacies made to perfection while watching ships sail past.
After visiting the nearby Royal Yacht Britannia there is no better place to relax than the Fingal. Under a shimmering ceiling you can tuck into a selection of delicious sandwiches, cut to mouth-watering perfection. Guests are welcome to add some sparkle to the occasion with a glass of champagne while taking in the views of busy Leith Docks and maybe allowing themselves to reminisce about fond memories or dream of future plans. It is advisable to reserve a table in order to enjoy an unforgettable afternoon tea experience at the Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar.
Talented chefs like Michel Roux Jr and his daughter Emily oversee the culinary operations at Crossbasket Castle, so guests can book afternoon tea in the confidence that a splendid selection of sandwiches and cakes will await them.Warm scones will melt in your mouth and the cakes are simply delicious with elaborate finishes that demonstrate the attention to detail devoted to the making of them. There is a wide choice of teas on the special menu, whatever your taste.
Afternoon tea is served in the Stewart Room with a selection of the chef’s savoury finger sandwiches and freshly made scones while a selection of sweet delicacies finishes off the perfect afternoon tea. An afternoon here in the tranquil surroundings of Crossbasket Castle, just 40 minutes from Glasgow city centre, is time well spent.
Kinloch Lodge, facing Loch na Dal on the Sound of Sleat in Skye, sets the ideal scene for an exquisite afternoon tea. The award-winning culinary team serve the delicacies in cosy, informal drawing rooms which add to the enjoyment to the whole experience. Their signature raspberry jam brilliantly complements the vanilla notes of the home-made scones and the shortbread.
The delicate finger sandwiches, which are ideal as savoury titbits, and tasty cakes and patisseries for a sweet finish are the reason why here, on the Isle of Skye, this traditional afternoon refreshment is even called “Highland Tea”. Guests can choose from the all-day menu which includes smoked salmon, a variety of cheeses, carrot cake, warm chocolate brownies and homemade Kinloch scones.
Afternoon tea at The Torridon is a celebration of distinctly Scottish ingredients with savoury snacks like Isle of Ewe smoked salmon wraps, Mull cheddar quiche and Perthshire ham finger sandwiches. The Jasper Conran for Wedgwood china and the charming library setting create a supremely enjoyable experience and guarantee a very relaxing time in the afternoon.
The jam for the scones is made from berries grown on the premises and is accompanied by Scottish clotted cream while teas are sourced from Camellia’s Tea House. If guests fancy a special afternoon tea with gin, The Torridon is the perfect place for it because their own Arcturus gin is blended with local botanicals and pure Scottish loch water to produce an aromatic tasting gin with a dry finish.
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An afternoon at the Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh while enjoying their indulgent treats provides for some calm and tranquility amid the bustle of Scotland’s capital city. The selection of teas is supplied by St Andrew’s Tea-Lovers’ Company, which gives all profits to educational charities across the country. As a result guest can relish their cup of tea and home-made scones with locally made jam and Scottish cream in the reassuring knowledge that they are also giving a small contribution to the welfare of those who most need it.
Served usually in the Ba’ Bar every day, the afternoon tea comprises a delicious variety of freshly prepared tea sandwiches and a seasonal selection of cakes baked in the Dunstane kitchen. On sunny days guests can enjoy their afternoon tea in the hotel garden. In this special outdoor ambience, they can also seize the opportunity to explore the artisan gin selection of Dunstane House in order to turn it into a G&Tea!
Some of the hotels I have described can be nicely combined in an extraordinary “Afternoon Tea” tour of Scotland. For example, guests can fly into Glasgow or Edinburgh and start with a harbourside stay at Fingal in Leith. If travelling west, visitors can first choose Crossbasket Castle outside Glasgow before heading north to Kinloch Lodge on Skye. The final Highland destination of this culinary holiday could be the 1887 Restaurant at the Torridon Hotel before guests will travel back to the Central Belt for a final hallmark of Scottish afternoon hospitality at Dunstane Houses.
With these suggestions visitors to Scotland cannot go wrong. And if guests want to upgrade their afternoon tea experience to include champagne or gin, there is always the option to tour Scotland in style in a chauffeur-driven limousine to ensure complete enjoyment of these pleasurable afternoon outings. Along the way travellers also have the chance to visit the following attractions:
- Edinburgh: Johnnie Walker Whisky Experience in Edinburgh and The Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith
- Glasgow: Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and Glasgow Cathedral
- Isle of Skye: Talisker Distillery and Dunvegan Castle
- Torridon: Hebridean Whale Cruises and Inverewe Garden
Dorothy Welsh is the CEO of Luxury Scotland. Luxury Scotland offers true Scottish hospitality, culinary delights and unique experiences.
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