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Let's face it, sometimes it's just nice to take some time out and indulge in a little ‘you’ time. What better way, of course, than to participate in that great British pastime – afternoon tea?
The perfect pick-me-up, afternoon tea has been fortifying the nation for over 150 years, and is still very much alive in the 21st century. Here's our top ten pick of the UK's finest locations for a spot of high tea, where this treasured pastime can be enjoyed in all its traditional splendour.
A selection of fine blended teas, home-made sandwiches, cakes and scones smeared with jam and clotted cream - all served on the finest spode china. This vision of high tea heaven is completed by a wonderful selection of rooms in which to enjoy your experience – from the ornate splendour of the Italian Lounge to the Grey Lounge with its commanding view of the surrounding grounds. This grand Victorian country hotel is also a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Fancy a spot of afternoon tea with musical accompaniment? This sleek ode to modern city chic lies within walking distance from Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Afternoon tea is served in the celebrated Chinoiserie restaurant – the perfect place to relax to the soothing notes of the resident harpist. Champagne and strawberries complete this modern take on fine tradition.
Home to the renowned Crewe Tea, the magnificent Crewe Hall was once the seat of the Earl of Crewe and is owned by the Queen as part of the estate of the Duchy of Lancaster. Afternoon tea is served in the opulent Sheridan Lounge featuring a wonderfully ornate, carved oak screen. You may need to consider booking ahead, however, particularly during the popular summer months.
Served in one of the hotel's lavish lounges or, during the warmer months, al fresco overlooking wonderful grounds – afternoon tea at this Grade 1 listed Elizabethan manor house never fails to impress. Afterwards, take a stroll through the renowned and wonderfully aromatic Herb Garden, a working garden influenced as much by the Head Chef as the Gardener.
Fancy a spot of afternoon tea with a difference? Head on down to The Berkeley Hotel for some mouth-watering Prêt-a-Portea delicacies with a fashionista twist. What does all this mean? In short - designer afternoon tea. Inspired by themes and colours from the world of fashion, a seasonal menu is served in the Caramel Room year round, offering a fine selection of loose leaf teas and herbal infusions.
Set deep in the heart of the stunning Peak District, Chatsworth House stands as one of the finest examples of English aristocratic splendour. Work up an appetite with a walk around the Capability Brown-designed 105-acre garden, or peruse one of the many shops on site. The Cavendish rooms form part of the old stables, with six types of premium tea available to choose from - including their very own house blend.
Enjoying a wonderfully privileged setting, this award-winning hotel sits perched on the banks of the River Thames and overlooks the delightful Marlow weir. Enjoy a traditional full afternoon tea, cream tea or even celebration tea (with a glass of bubbly) in the two AA Rosette Bowaters Restaurant. Why not make it a quintessentially-English experience by taking to the water for a spot of boating afterwards?
Pennyhill Hill Park is really something quite special, and has rightly earned a place amongst our recommended family of Exclusive Hotels, all of which serve afternoon tea. Tea is served in the up-market Ascot Bar or on the terrace during the warmer months, where guests can enjoy views over the 120-acre grounds. Exclusive Hotels is the AA Small Hotel Group of the Year and AA Members can enjoy 5% discount on stays at all four locations.
John Wood's masterpiece of fine Georgian architecture provides the setting for this elegant five star hotel in the centre of the world famous Royal Crescent in Bath. Sample the Georgian high-life by taking tea amongst the lush gardens or in any one of the cosy lounges throughout. For an extra slice of upper-crust elegance, book a table at the opulent Dower House Restaurant.
Afternoon tea at The Ritz is an institution. The luxurious grandeur that pervades this great British icon draws visitors from all over the world. Members of the Tea Council’s prestigious Tea Guild, afternoon tea here is an experience in every sense of the word. Served in the magnificent Palm Court, a wonderful choice of teas and mouth-watering menu make for a memorable event. Such popularity comes at a price, and visitors are advised to book at least 12 weeks in advance.
Featuring all of the above locations and many more besides, Afternoon Tea is the quintessential guide to this great British institution. Ideal as a coffee-table conversation piece or a gift for the foodie in your life.
Updated September 2012