"The afternoon tea is well and truly back in vogue in 2012!"
Afternoon tea is said to have been invented by the 7th Duchess of Bedford in 1841, who found herself hungry in the long gap between lunch and dinner - and who are we to argue? Few things can compare to the delicate decadence of a proper British afternoon tea. From cosy cafes with pots of strong-brewed tea and lop-sided scones to chintzy hotels offering crust-free cucumber sandwiches, they come in all shapes and sizes. Happily, the afternoon tea is well and truly back in vogue in 2012, and there are loads of fantastic places right here on the network which offer the very finest in locally-sourced ingredients and the very best culinary expertise. So, head to one of our top five spots or tell us about your favourites…
1. Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York
If it's high-end teatime you're after, then the Cedar Court Grand in York is the place to be. Offering views of the historic city wall and a chic atmosphere to match, the feast of treats on offer will make you feel like royalty. Neatly trimmed sandwiches, homemade pastries and divine scones are all accompanied by your choice of freshly brewed tea in fine china cups. Dress for the occasion, and while away the afternoon in pure decadence. Downton Abbey, eat your heart out!
Go by train: York
2. Palm Court at the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
For those who like their tea shaken, not stirred, why not experience a stylish brassiere which gives afternoon tea a contemporary twist? Palm Court won the Tea Guild Award of Excellence in 2011, so you know you're in safe hands at this Edinburgh institution. With a regular harpist and pianist performing, afternoon tea here comprises the finest ingredients with a nod to your location: Scottish beef sandwiches with red onion marmalade and heather honey scones are both on the menu, as is Balmoral Shortbread. Scottish fare at its finest.
Go by train: Edinburgh Waverley
3. Bettys, Northallerton and York
Folk have flocked to Bettys for years and after you've indulged in their delicious traditional afternoon tea you'll see why. Something of a northern institution, Bettys does things properly - and their signature afternoon tea is no exception. Alongside the silver cake stands bursting with freshly prepared scones and clotted cream are hot pots of Yorkshire brew or, if you're really celebrating, glasses of chilled Champagne.
Go by train: Northallerton / York
4. Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow
Both branches of the Willow Tea Rooms lie on Glasgow's 'style mile' and stand out in Charles Rennie Mackintosh's instantly distinguishable design. Dripping with Edwardian splendour, the experience continues inside with a vast range of mouth-watering cakes, pastries and beverages. Afternoon tea here comprises not only the traditional scones and sandwiches, but home-baked buttered shortbread and fresh ground coffee for those after a caffeine hit. More of a tea fiend? There are 25 loose-leaf varieties to choose from including green, fruit and roobush.
Go by train: Glasgow Central
5. Gillam's Tea Rooms, Ulverston
Since 1892, generations of Gillam's have provided Ulverston with a charming and unique tearoom that boasts both quality fare and excellent service. Full of character, this family business relies of local produce to stock its full larder, and the proof is in the tasting: freshly iced cakes and sandwiches on locally baked bread are to die for. If you fancy something other than afternoon tea the menu takes full advantage of local Cumbrian fare and changes daily, but it's the quaint surroundings which will keep you coming back for more.
Go by train: Ulverston