Top Picks: Where To Go For Afternoon Tea In The UK

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The afternoon tea tradition has been around since the 1830s. At first it was viewed as the latest fad, but these days, the experience has national treasure status.

Usually consisting of a pot of tea, sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries, over the years these elements have evolved. Each place has their own take on the format. What’s never in dispute is that it has to be tasty, fresh and indulgent.

If you want to learn more about the types of tea, along with a history of afternoon tea, then our Essential Tea Guide, including a flavour map, should help on that score.

But if you want someone else to do the selection for you, here are our picks for afternoon tea around the UK:

Afternoon tea icons

The Ritz – London

The Ritz

The Ritz

Here’s a taste

The name “Ritz” and “afternoon tea” is synonymous with class and grandeur.

Gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie for tea in the famous Palm Court and it’s these high standards and quintessential British setting that keep this permanently on the list of top London experiences.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR

Fortnum and Mason – London

Fortnum & Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon

Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon

Here’s a taste

They certainly put the “tea” in the afternoon tea at Fortnums, with 300 years of high-quality selling experience. And with trained “Tearistas” you know you’re in good hands when deciding between your first flush Darjeeling or your large leaf Assam. And of course they have their own blends to choose from.

Tea is served in the light and bright Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, which was opened by none other than HM The Queen.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER

Afternoon teas with a twist

BB Bakery – London

BB Bakery Vintage Tour

BB Bakery Vintage Tour

Here’s a taste

Take tea and a tour with this scrumptious combination.

Visiting Central London’s most famous sights on a retro Routemaster while munching on a macaron isn’t a bad way to spend the afternoon.

Sightseeing doesn’t come more refined.

Website and Facebook
Getting there: Board the bus on Northumberland Avenue, just off Trafalgar Square

The Lido Restaurant – Bristol

Here’s a taste

Work up an appetite and feel like you really deserve your scone with cream and jam, with this swim and sup package.

Spend time in the pool, sauna, steam room and hot tub, then repeat for three hours – before tucking into smoked salmon on toast and a cheeky glass of fizz.

The restaurant was the old viewing gallery of the Victorian outdoor pool and is now a Grade II Listed Building.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2B

The Flower Academy – Buckinghamshire

Here’s a taste

This is the place to learn flower arranging while tucking into a delicious homemade afternoon tea.

While you’re sipping on a glass of champagne, the demonstrator gets to work showing you how its done. Then it’s your turn.

You might have polished off all the sandwiches and scones, but at least you will have a fragrant flower arrangement to take home with you. Mission accomplished.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 46 Bathurst Walk, Richings Park, Iver, Buckinghamshire, SL0 9BH

The art of afternoon tea

The Berkeley – London

The Prêt-à-Portea

The Prêt-à-Portea

Here’s a taste

Fashionista’s will love the Prêt-à-Portea and it’s colourful catwalk cakes. This is one stylish spread with seasonal changes to the “collection”.

Nowhere else are you going to eat the Matthew Williamson sequin macaroon or feast on a Valentino mini dress chocolate tartlette.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL

Sanderson – London

Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea

Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea

Here’s a taste

The Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea will have you talking about the crockery as much as the cakes.

The Lewis Carroll-esque theme is everywhere and you can choose a “Tick Tock” slice of Victoria sponge clock to put on your carousel-decorated plate while sipping from a bottle that says “Drink me”.

Tumbling down a rabbit hole never tasted so good and after getting stuck in you needn’t worry about shrinking.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 50 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NG

The Fan Museum – London

The Orangery at The Fan Museum

The Orangery at The Fan Museum

Here’s a taste

This quintessential English Orangery in the heart of Royal Greenwich is a very civilised place to spend an afternoon. You get entry into the museum, which houses thousands of delicate and intricate fans included in the £11 cost.

The homemade tea includes a big slice of Victoria Sponge, a scone with cream and jam, and a choice of caramel brownie or lemon drizzle cake (both of which are gluten free). Full tea is taken on Tuesdays and Sundays (booking advised) but the Orangery is open during the week if you just want a bit of tea or cake.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: The Fan Museum, 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London, SE10 8ER

Sketch – London

The Gallery at Sketch

The Gallery at Sketch

Here’s a taste

The description of Sketch’s afternoon tea is easily the most poetic – a tantalising menu with a rhyme.

Caviar and quail egg is a tempting start at this pink paradise, before you move onto pastries, macaroons and scones.

The ceramic tableware and surrounding artwork is designed and drawn by Turner Prize nominee, David Shrigley.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG

Hotel high teas

The Bridge Cafe – Bristol

View from the Avon Gorge Hotel

View from the Avon Gorge Hotel

Here’s a taste

The Avon Gorge Hotel can lay claim to having one of the best views of all the afternoon tea places in the UK. The Bridge Cafe has an unparalleled view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge (designed by Brunel), which spans the gorge itself.

Take a seat and see out across the Somerset countryside as you enjoy your sandwiches, cakes and pastries.

They even have local delicacies like Bristol fruit cake on the menu.

Website and Facebook
Getting there: Sion Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4LD

The Dorchester – London

Here’s a taste

Having served afternoon tea since 1931, it’s fair to say that the 5* Dorchester has this down pat.

We recommend the Vintage Balcony Afternoon Tea experience as you can see who’s coming and going in the hotel’s famous lobby below.

Enjoy pressed Ham Hock with Piccalilli & Mustard Cress on Sourdough Crisp on vintage china before tucking into French pastries and warm scones.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 53 Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA.

The George of Stamford – Lincolnshire

The George's Afternoon Tea

The George’s Afternoon Tea

Here’s a taste

This hotel oozes history from every pore, as there has been some type of hostelry on the Great North Road since around 947AD. In fact you can see doors marked “York” and “London” near the entrance as these were the rooms where passengers waited for their coaches.

It’s a relaxed affair here, they don’t take advance bookings, and depending on the weather you can take tea in the lounge or courtyard.

The full tea has sandwiches, scones and cakes with of course a selection of tea.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 71 St Martins, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2LB UK

The Lowry – Manchester

Here’s a taste

Here you can try a more modern interpretation of the classic afternoon tea, served in The River Bar & Grill,

They keep things fresh by changing the menu each month, but while the flavours might change, you can still expect sandwiches, cakes and pastries.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 50 Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, Salford, Manchester, M3 5LH

Waldorf Astoria – Edinburgh

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh

Here’s a taste

One of Edinburgh’s finest hotels serves up afternoon tea with Scottish ingredients getting a nod. And of course they have shortbread.

You’ll know when it’s tea time at The Caley, thanks to the hotel’s Peacock Alley bar clock. It used to be part of the station concourse, but be aware, it always runs five minutes fast to make sure passengers didn’t miss their trains.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian, Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 2AB.

Hotel La Tour – Birmingham

Here’s a taste

Dainty and delicious is a decent description of this afternoon tea offering the best of British in Birmingham.

If you fancy something a bit stronger with your sweets and savouries, maybe opt for a Martini or Gin and Tonic with your spread.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Albert Street, Birmingham, B5 5JE

The Angel Hotel – Abergavenny

Here’s a taste

This award-winning afternoon tea offers a huge range of teas to please most palates. They also encourage you to try a different blend or infusion and if you ask them they can advise you on what to try.

Everything is freshly baked and you get a generous helping of everything, while retaining the elegance you want.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 15 Cross Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP7 5EN

Hotel Cafe Royal – London

Hotel-Cafe-Royal

Here’s a taste

One of the most exquisite rooms to enjoy your tea, the Oscar Wilde Bar (renamed after its most famous patron) has had a lavish restoration including the original Louis XVI detailing.

Their London High Society Tea has been revamped and it is their take on the classic English tradition featuring sandwiches, cakes, scones and pastries.

Gentleman are asked to wear a jacket, tie is optional, and this is the place to dress to impress.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY

Castles and cakes, palaces and pastries

Kensington Palace – London

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Here’s a taste

Home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, there’s a distinct regal feel to this afternoon tea experience. Build up an appetite strolling round the grounds and visiting any exhibitions that are on at the palace, which has undergone a £12m refurbishment.

Then head to the aptly-named neighbouring 5* Royal Garden Hotel for refreshments. Expect finger sandwiches, cakes and pastries, scones with the works and organic leaf tea.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, London, W8 4PX

Crewe Old Hall – Cheshire

Here’s a taste

While not quite a castle or palace, Crewe Old Hall in Cheshire became the first northern brick built “town house” when Ranulph Crewe finished his Jacobean family seat sometime between 1616 and 1636.

King George V and Queen Mary were entertained in the Sheridan Lounge during their visit in 1913, and it’s in this lavish room you can enjoy your own tea. It’s so genteel you even get a glass of Sherry on arrival.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Crewe Hall, Weston Road, Crewe, CW1 6UZ

Thornbury Castle – South Gloucestershire

Here’s a taste

Enjoy your very own “Wolf Hall” experience at this Tudor Castle, which once entertained Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn on their honeymoon (it had become the crowns’ after HRH had the owner, the then Duke of Buckingham, beheaded for treason).

Clearly in this case it’s only fair to opt for the Royal Full Afternoon Tea, with finger sandwiches, scones, biscuits and cakes. The landscaped grounds can be escaped to, before or after tea.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Thornbury Castle, Castle Street, Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, BS35 1HH

Combe House – Devon

Here’s a taste

From the Tudors to the Elizabethans. This Grade 1 Manor in Devon oozes romance and intrigue and has an award-winning restaurant to boot.

The afternoon tea can be had in either the restaurant or Green Mural Dining room, both with views of the gardens and Devonshire countryside.

Cucumber sandwiches, scones with Devon clotted cream and jam from strawberries grown in the house’s kitchen gardens, give this luxury treat a welcome homemade feel.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: Combe House at Gittisham, nr Exeter EX14 3AD

Tempting Tea rooms

Bettys – Yorkshire

Bettys

Here’s a taste

This Yorkshire institution has now spread from York across the county, so you can also try the delights of Bettys in Harrogate and Ilkley.

The original York tea room has to be the most elegant and keep an eye out for “Bettys Mirror”, where servicemen engraved their signatures with a diamond pen during World War II.

Where possible the tea rooms use local ingredients like Yorkshire clotted cream.

Website and Twitter
Getting there: 6-8 St. Helen’s Square, York, YO1 8QP

Ballylagan Organic Farm – Belfast

Here’s a taste

As you’d expect from a tea room on a organic farm near Belfast, everything here is locally grown and sourced. And if you like what you eat, you can visit their shop and take some home with you.

Definitely on the relaxed scale of things, they don’t do a “formal tea”, and if the weather is nice you can take your tea out in their walled garden. However you can get a delicious cuppa, fresh scones and cakes made on the day to create your own ceremony.

Website and Facebook
Getting there: 12 Ballylagan Road, Ballyclare, County Antrim BT39 9NF

Inspired?

Why not look at the latest deals, two for ones and experiences: Afternoon Tea offers

And have you a favourite spot to take tea? We would love to hear about it. Leave us a comment below or get in touch with us on Twitter.

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About Author

Kirsten Beacock

Kirsten is the chief blogger here at lastminute.com. A former newspaper journalist (don’t hold that against her), having taken extensive trips to China, America and Australasia, she is now pouring her passion for travel into writing blogs and features for the lastminute.com website. Arriving in London via exotic Scunthorpe, Kirsten has made it her mission to try out as many pubs and restaurants as she possibly can in the capital.

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