Five places to enjoy afternoon tea on the Conwy Valley Railway
What springs to mind when you imagine afternoon tea?
For most, it’s images of elegance and indulgence – cake-stands piled high with dainty finger sandwiches, scrumptious cakes and flaky pastries, perhaps a freshly-baked scone with lashings of jam and cream. And to top it all off, a cup of the finest tea in delicate bone china cups.
A brief history of afternoon tea
If this is how you imagine a traditional afternoon tea, you’re not far wrong. But, did you know, when the first afternoon teas were served they were actually a light snack to ease the pangs of hunger between lunch and evening meal?
Although the custom of drinking tea has been around since the 1660’s, when King Charles II and his wife introduced it to the masses, afternoon tea is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, is reputed to have transformed afternoon tea into a formal social occasion. Complaining of a ‘sinking feeling’ between breakfast and dinner (something akin to our modern ‘3pm slump’), the Duchess understandably felt peckish in between meals and so invited friends to join her for tea and light refreshments.
Like many trends it rapidly grew in popularity but unlike many trends it endured – probably because it appealed to both the upper (who took ‘low’ or ‘afternoon tea’ mid-afternoon) and lower classes (who took ‘high tea’ after work, around 6pm).
Afternoon teas are also distinctively regional and vary in content depending on where you are in the UK. A typical one consists of a pot of tea with light finger sandwiches, with fillings such as cucumber, egg mayonnaise and cress, salmon and cream cheese, and ham and mustard. Sandwiches are followed by a selection of cakes or pastries. Some establishments even include champagne and canapes as part of an afternoon tea.
The food on offer is such a treat and so varied – we think this is what sets afternoon tea apart from other meals!
North Wales has an abundance of hotels, tea rooms and restaurants offering their own interpretation of afternoon tea. Many are made with the finest, locally-sourced ingredients and vary throughout the year to reflect what’s in season.
Feeling peckish too? Round off your next trip on the Conwy Valley Railway with afternoon tea at one of these lip-smacking establishments.
Characters is a charming, vintage-style tea room in Llandudno, about ten minutes walk from the station. This family-run business prides itself on a real ‘home-from-home’ experience, accompanied by delicious homemade dishes.
With a good selection of teas, cakes and pastries to choose from, it really captures the elegance and grace of a traditional afternoon tea. Whilst you’re waiting for tea to be served, why not have a mooch at the quirky things on sale around the tea rooms?
Jump on the train and request a stop at Glan Conwy station for this little gem in the heart of the Conwy Valley (you’ll need to hop on the bus, to check the timetable click here).
The Furnace Tea Shop, serves afternoon tea using the finest local ingredients. The dairy products are made from milk that comes from cows grazing less than a mile away and the bread and cakes are freshly baked on site every day. All this makes for an afternoon tea that is a real taste of Wales.
Situated half a mile from the station in Llanrwst, the Tu Hwnt i’r Bont is an historic and oft-photographed building right on the river’s edge. It was built in 1480 and started life, not as a tea room, but as the courthouse for Llanrwst. Many a criminal has eaten his final meal here but we think you’ll be coming back again and again!
Tu Hwnt i’r Bont is famous for its delicious scones but the recipe is a very closely guarded secret. It serves a full ‘Welsh’ afternoon tea, that includes traditional Bara Brith (a type of fruit bread) and, of course, those yummy scones!
A short and pleasant walk from the Betws stop on the Conwy Valley Railway, the Craig-y-Derwen is a four star, award-winning hotel that boasts jaw-dropping views of the Afon Conwy. It’s a picture-perfect spot to relax and enjoy afternoon tea.
Naturally, the ingredients come from local producers and the afternoon tea menu includes delights such as warm griddled Welsh cakes (small fruit pancakes), scones with cream and preserves, Bara Brith and speciality teas.
At the very end of the Conwy Valley line in Blaenau Ffestiniog, travellers will find Isallt, a delightful Victorian B&B. It serves the simplest of afternoon teas – with a view.
You won’t find sandwiches and scones here, but you’ll be treated to the perfect cup of tea and a selection or moreish, homemade cakes. The views of the grey and brooding Moelwyn Mountains from the terrace are unforgettable.
Now you know where we go for a scrumptious afternoon tea treat, we want you to tell us your favourite spots for a cuppa and a cake. Share your recommendations and afternoon tea pictures on social media and we may feature them in a future blog!