Where to enjoyTea and cakes car-freearound the UK

Here is a baker’s dozen of venues to enjoy tea and cakes car-free. All in really remarkable locations, but accessible by bus, train, bike or foot. Getting to some of these fabulous cafés car-free might involve a few more steps than driving, which gives you a better excuse to eat cake when you get there! Other sites are very close to the station or bus stop, like Leighton Moss RSPB reserve (just five minutes from Silverdale - see 8 below) or the East Anglian Railway Museum, which is right on Chappel & Wakes Colne station (see 12 below). And no apologies for the fact that four of these places are in Yorkshire. The county is home to the six world-famous Bettys tearooms, after all, and the North York Moors national park recently declared itself Britain’s “Capital of Cake”.

  • County: around the UK
  • Great for: art | cakes | food and drink | forests | gardens | local food | palaces | scenic bus and train | TV locations | walking | wildlife |
  • Refreshments: some extraordinary cafes and tea rooms at Great Britain's best attractions
  • Please note: researched/updated in November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 4. Jupiter Artland

    Another fabulous place to enjoy tea and cakes car-free is the brightly-painted Cafe Party at the heart of Jupiter Artland‘s magical sculpture park.

    • Tea time? The legendary Edinburgh restaurant Fhior, specialising in modern Scottish cuisine, has introduced a fresh menu to the cafe for 2019, including seasonal homemade cakes, fruit scones or dark chocolate brownies. And to reinforce the link between food and art, Jupiter hosted a cake-decorating masterclass earlier this year!
    • Get there: Follow Good Journey’s directions
    • Walk it off: There are more than 100 acres of fields and woods in the grounds at Jupiter Artland, with views across rolling countryside to the Pentland hills or as far as the Forth Bridges.
  1. 5. Harewood House

    In late May, Harewood House staged the Great British Food Festival, featuring cookery lessons, chef demos and a cake competition. At any time of year, this classic country house showcases British culture: Chippendale furniture, portraits by Gainsborough, grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, a choice of cafés and half price entry when you arrive by bus…

    • New this Autumn, Harewood are launching a Royal Afternoon Tea to celebrate an exhibition about Princess Mary and the movie of Downton Abbey (which was partly filmed at Harewood).
    • Time for tea?  Have an elegant meal in the Terrace Tearooms or sit outside in fine weather, admiring views across the formal gardens (designed by the Houses of Parliament architect, Charles Barry).
    • Something more casual? Try a locally produced ice cream from the kiosk near the playground. The cafés use organic fruit, veg and herbs from Harewood’s own walled garden, including rhubarb and strawberries in season. The Horse Box near the walled garden serves up cream teas with a view of the lake.
    • Get there: Follow the Good Journey directions
    • Walk it off: A new booklet of walks shows you great ways to explore the surrounding countryside.
    • In the area: Back in Leeds, take the water taxi to the Royal Armouries museum. Or catch bus 36 onwards to Harrogate to visit Harlow Carr gardens (see 6 below).
  1. 6. RHS Harlow Carr

    The beautiful gardens at Harlow Carr will soon be spectacular with autumn colour. To avoid the roadworks nearby, you could stroll through Valley Gardens to reach this oasis of trees and water. Then spend the money you save for arriving car-free on fat rascals from the on-site Bettys tea room. These traditional buns are decorated with almonds and glace cherries.

    • Get there: Follow Good Journey’s directions
    • Walk it off: Strolling through Valley Gardens means you will also pass the Japanese garden and through the pinewoods with their mix of different trees.
  1. 7. Siskins café, Whinlatter forest

    There’s plenty of scope for working up at appetite in this Lake District forest. Whinlatter has spectacular hilly trails for walkers and mountain bikers and the Whinlatter WildPlay trail has nine different play areas, taking you on a forest adventure with water features, swings and secret paths. Climb up to the viewpoints to see Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwent Water, Skiddaw and Grisedale Pike.

    • Tea time? Home cooked food at Siskins cafe includes fresh soups and salads. Customers have mentioned the “yummy sticky ginger cake” and sweet offerings often include vegan tray bakes like date slices.
    • Get there: Follow the Good Journey directions
    • In the area: 40 minutes away on the comfortable X4 or X5 buses, Penrith is a great hub for car-free travellers.
  1. 8. RSPB Leighton Moss

    The legendary cakes at Leighton Moss were featured by Chris Packham on Autumn Watch. Home made sticky toffee and apple, carrot, or orange drizzle cakes sound just the thing for the fruitful season.

    • What to see in autumn? It’s the time to spot murmurations of starling as well as wading birds and shy bearded tits, occasionally venturing out into the late sunshine. You might also be able to watch red deer, otters, butterflies and lots more besides. These wild and culinary delights are just a five-minute walk from Silverdale station.
    • Get there: Follow Good Journey’s directions. You might well spot egrets and other waterbirds in the pools and reed beds outside the train window before you even arrive. Enhanced wildlife-spotting opportunities are yet another thing that’s great about not being in a car! Thanks to Alice Hadley (RSPB) for the robin and cake photo.
  1. 9. Centre for Alternative Technology

    Deep in the green slaty hills outside Machynlleth, the Centre for Alternative Technology  is a magnet for eco-conscious visitors. From examples of environmentally-sustainable houses to blooming organic gardens, the attraction explores and demonstrates greener ways to live.

    • Ride the water-powered cliff railway and wander through the woods, learn more about renewable energy or play in the adventure playground.
    • Tea time? The vegetarian cafe uses produce from the garden: apples, peaches or figs, cabbage, pumpkins or peppers. Try courgette cake with home grown courgettes and other sustainable specialities. The cafe also serves organic wines and locally brewed beer.
    • Get there: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
  1. 10. Beechenhurst café

    Deep in the Forest of Dean’s Beechenhurst wood, but reachable by bus from Gloucester and elsewhere, Beechenhurst offers woodland trails, arty sculptures, huge slabs of fruit cake and more…

    • Tea time? The bright, colourful cafe is open every day serving fresh, local, seasonal food. Sit outside in good weather or inside by the log stove if it’s cold. Visitors recommend the home made lemon sponge, chocolate, carrot or coffee and fudge cakes.
    • Get there: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • Walk it off: Plenty off woodland walks to explore including the Forest of Dean’s four-mile sculpture trail, inspired by the surrounding trees and wildlife and the area’s interesting industrial past. A new permanent artwork by Natasha Rosling arrived earlier this year, drawing on the history of iron and ochre mining at nearby Clearwell Caves.
  1. 11. De La Warr Pavilion

    The location is hard to beat – the curving balcony of an iconic modernist building, facing the sunny Sussex seafront. The cafe in the De La Warr Pavilion has exceptional food too, sourcing local produce to provide some really tasty dishes. And – as if that wasn’t enough – the whole building is a free art gallery with cutting edge modern and contemporary shows, curated with style and passion.

    • Tea time? The lunch menu is crowned by chocolate brownies with white chocolate ice cream and raspberry sauce. But – wait! – there are afternoon tea special events too… you can order tea, coffee and sandwiches with a “scone of the day” (and clotted cream and jam, of course) and a selection of mini cakes, freshly baked in the De La Warr kitchen.
    • Get there: bus 99 generally stops right outside. Just follow the Good Journey directions.
    • Walk it off: You could stroll left along the beach for six miles to visit Hastings Contemporary for more great food and art. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • In the area: There’s plenty to see along this interesting stretch of coast, which is easy to explore without a car. Thirty-six memorable local places – vineyards, landscapes, galleries and more – have created Sussex Modern, a celebration of the county’s unique cultural and natural treasures.
  1. 12. Chapell Station Cafe, East Anglian Railway Museum

    Travel back in time to the days of steam with this cafe in a vintage dining carriage at the East Anglian Railway Museum. Or sit outside on the station platform to enjoy a cream tea in the late summer sunshine (Thanks to EARM and Tia Cook photography for the photo).

    • Get there: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • In the area: Take a stroll to see the 32-arch Chappel viaduct or a short train journey to the former house of artist Thomas Gainsborough in Sudbury.
  1. 13. Waddesdon Manor

    Last but not least in this baker’s dozen of fab tea and cakes car-free venues is the wonderful Waddesdon Manor. With a new walking or cycle route, its picturesque grounds are now linked with the nearest station.

    • Get there: In September 2018, Waddesdon Greenway opened to provide a safe cross-country journey from Aylesbury Vale Parkway to the manor. You can also arrive by bus or shuttle bus – just follow Good Journey’s directions to enjoy formal gardens, wooded valleys and ornate interiors. (Thanks to Chris Lacey and the National Trust for the photo of Waddesdon Manor’s lavish dining room).
    • Time for tea? Visitors are spoilt for choice at Waddesdon with all kinds of eating places, from an ice cream kiosk to fresh but traditional fine dining at the Manor Restaurant. In the family friendly Stables café, you can try lemon and blueberry drizzle or banana, chocolate and pecan cake. Go for the full monty with the Manor Restaurant’s afternoon tea and you can opt for a glass of Waddesdon English sparkling wine. Besides a selection of sandwiches and a cream tea, you can try: apple crumble pannacotta, mango and passion fruit macaron, pistachio and cherry opera cake, mini black tea and honey cake and a lime and coconut meringue tart!
    • Walk it off: Waddesdon has a choice of five different walking routes (each awarded a wellie factor for difficulty), from a pushchair-friendly toddle past the woodland playground to a longer hike up Windmill Hill.
  • Vegan chocolate cake - eaten on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Afternoon tea - eaten on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Tea and cakes at Harewood House - eaten on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Fat rascals at Betty's - eaten on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Siskins cafe - part of our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Cake and a robin - spotted on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Children chatting at the centre for alternative technology - on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Beechenhurst - on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Delicious pastries - eaten on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • De la Warr Pavilion - stop off on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Tea and cakes next to a train - eaten on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Waddesdon Manor - part of our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues
  • Cake with green icing - eaten on our tour of tea and cakes car-free venues