“ Address: Selworthy, Somerset TA24 8TP / Tea rooms run by the National Trust „
Whether you're a scone, rhyming with gone, or a scone, rhyming with bone, kind of a person the best way to eat them has to be smothered with copious amounts of strawberry jam and the freshest of clotted cream. The location to eat a cream tea is a matter of considerable importance; eat them at home and they taste ok, quite a bit better sat on a picnic rug accompanied by strawberries out in the open air, but to maximise the cream tea experience a tearoom situated in beautiful West Country surroundings is what is really needed.
Periwinkle tearooms, in the tiny hamlet of Selworthy in Somerset, is my all time favourite place to eat a cream tea. I was first introduced to 'Selworthy cream teas' by my great Aunt and Uncle when they retired to Porlock thirty years ago and over the years a visit to the tearooms was always a must when we were in the area. I'm now fortunate enough to have a good friend with a static caravan near Minehead so am able to continue paying visits to my favourite part of the country, Exmoor, and my favourite tearoom. We were there for my birthday this year and I decided that a cream tea would make my ideal birthday lunch, and this then prompted me to write a review of the tearooms.
**Where are they?**
There's something special about driving over the brow of the hill on the A39, as you drive between Minehead and Porlock, and suddenly Exmoor with Dunkery Beacon is on your left and Selworthy Beacon and Bossington Hill on your right. I really feel like I've arrived at the best place on Earth. Immediately we take a right turn up a short but very steep and narrow lane to Selworthy. It's no more than a ten minute drive from either Minehead or Porlock, so is easily accessable to many holiday makers. Pass by a few beautiful cottages and ahead is a church painted in brilliant white; it's really quite unusual and can be seen from quite a distance away. There is a small carpark opposite the church, which can be used except for when services are on, but there is also a larger overflow carpark a short distance further along.
For the more energetic the tearooms lie near to where the path from Selworthy Beacon reaches the village and what better end to a walk up on the moors could there be than a stop off for tea and cake. There is a parking area at the top of the Beacon accessed by driving up North hill in Minehead that could make a good start to this walk or if you're feeling energetic you could walk right the way from Minehead. I wouldn't want to walk back up that hill after devouring the goodies in this tearoom though, so maybe a circular walk is best after all.
The tearooms themselves are then just a short walk back towards the houses, down a steep winding path; the setting of one of life's more embarrassing moments when I tripped over and landed on the ground. It is uneven and extremely steep so I would not recommend trying to negotiate this if mobility is very difficult, although my aunt and uncle still visited right into very old age. I watched with horror this year as a man struggled to push a wheelchair and it ran away from him, very scary, but fortunately no one was hurt.
Does anyone remember the children's TV programme of 15 years ago, Tots TV - the one with Tilly, Tom and Tiny and naughty Furryboo? The walk down this path through beautiful cottage gardens onto a small village green with brook babbling and surrounded by dark yellow painted cottages, reminds me so completely of the setting of this programme. When my daughter was a toddler we walked her through this area and up into the woods, calling out and looking for the characters. She still calls the National Trust shop next door to the tearooms the Tots TV house.
The hamlet forms part of the Holnicote Estate that is managed by the National Trust and as mentioned they have a small gift shop in the village and this year the tearooms have also come under the realms of the National Trust. I really hoped that this would not have ruined the atmosphere of the tearooms which had felt very much a family run business up until then. Fortunately I noticed no difference in quality at all. It is immaculately clean, the food is of excellent quality with large portions and the staff go out of their way to make sure everything is just right for you.
As it was a beautiful sunny day we chose to sit outdoors so that we could look out over the cottage garden, across rolling green English countryside and towards the moors. This is a view that I could sit and look at forever. We arrived at 12.30 and had a choice of tables in both sun and shade. The tables are painted iron ones with green plastic chairs, all quite old, but clean and functional. Indoors there are 8 tables with pretty plastic table cloths and there is also a display case containing an outstanding array of homemade cakes and slices and of course the scones. Whoever bakes is very skilled as everything is huge and well risen and slices are also very generous. There is just one toilet, again clean, but stagger your comfort breaks throughout your visit or you'll have a long wait.
**The Cream Tea**
The menu is extensive, but I didn't need to look at it - I knew what I was having, but the choice for me was one scone or two. Greedy as I am I chose two, but I couldn't eat it all and my daughter who had chosen a cheese toasty for her main course was pleased to be able to finish the last half for her pudding. The rest of us had cream teas which arrived on one big plate with dishes containing ample cream and jam. My husband's tea arrived in a rosebud teapot to match our bone china plates, all part of a very English West Country experience. The staff were more than accommodating of my request to replace tea with lemonade and I had a refreshing bottle of old fashioned lemonade with a hint of ginger. The girls both chose milkshakes, which arrived in enormous glasses with chocolate flakes and straws, but the banana one proved to be too big and sweet to cope with, so we were able to request a well needed glass of water for her. The cheese toasty was pronounced to be delicious. It appeared to be cooked to perfection with plenty of filling and came served with a fresh side salad. Needless to say after eating all of this we didn't have room to try the cakes out.
Our two scone cream tea came to £5.30 each with one scone reducing the bill to £4.30 and the cheese toastie was £4.50. The tearooms also serve a range of salads and ploughmans for about £7.00 each and sandwiches ranging from £3.40 - £5.00 and there is also a specials board, but I failed to look at this. Drinks are also reasonably priced with the milkshakes costing £2.30, soft drinks about £2.00 and a pot of tea for one being £1.65 and £1.85 for coffee. There seems to be quite a variety of types of tea and coffee to choose from.
The tearooms don't have a website to check details, but they are open every day and I believe they closed at 5.00 and were definitely open when we arrived at 12.30.
This made a perfect birthday lunch out and we all thoroughly enjoyed our meal, naughty as it was. The scones were enormous, as were the portions of everything and we felt that it represented excellent value for money. This combined with the idyllic setting within the beautiful Exmoor countryside and the staff who have always been so helpful and welcoming mean that it is somewhere that we will continue to look forward to visiting long into the future.
By the way, why do we always have that conversation about how you pronounce the word scone? - we did while we were waiting for our meals to arrive. We have 2 of each in our family and I'm a gone type scone!