Think of the Cotswolds, and you think of quintessentially English villages and, of course, picturesque tea rooms. Whilst Devon and Cornwall may be home to the cream tea, there aren’t many places in England that quite encapsulate the afternoon tea vibe in the way that the Cotswolds does. Indeed, you could say that unless you’ve had afternoon tea in the Cotswolds, then you’ve not really had the full afternoon tea experience!
A classic afternoon tea is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds. Especially considering that this area of the country is bursting with fine hotels in historical houses and estates.
So, where is the best place for afternoon tea in the Cotswolds? Well, with so many contenders, that’s tricky to answer, but here are some of my favourites. Pick a place depending on your mood and luxury level and you won’t be disappointed.
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1. No. 131
Making it into my list of the best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds, and also high on the agenda for food, is hotel No. 131. Found in the bustling and sought-after town of Cheltenham, enjoying afternoon tea in this Grade II Georgian townhouse will transport you to times gone by. Indeed, a shopping trip to Cheltenham would not be completed without stopping for afternoon tea.
A delicious afternoon here is a way to enjoy the hotel in its leisurely and sedate form, before the hotel’s bar, Gin and Juice, livens up on a weekend evening.
2. Dormy House
Dormy House is a luxury boutique hotel and spa serving up an indulgent afternoon tea in The Potting Shed. If you want to combine an afternoon tea with a spa treat, then this is the best afternoon tea to be found in the Cotswolds for you.
Choose between Champagne Charlie and the slightly less-refined but equally delicious Farmhouse Tea. Expect classic sarnies like cheese and pickle alongside tasty sweets like blackcurrant pistachio tart.
3. Blenheim Palace
If grand is what you’re after then you aren’t going to do better than afternoon tea at Blenheim Palace in The Orangery. You’ll feel completely at home in the luxury style, sipping champagne and snaffling a macaroon or two.
As you’d expect, the afternoon tea here is formal, delicate and beautiful. Expect an afternoon of indulgence. Service is second to none and the atmosphere is impressive.
You can always walk off some of the calories by exploring the 11,500 estate afterwards. Between formal gardens and characterful parkland, you’ll certainly be able to walk for miles.
Huffkins dates back to 1890 and you can expect to find one of the best afternoon teas in the Cotswolds in any of its branches – Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham, Witney and Stratford-upon-Avon. Classic homemade goodies are the order of the day here, and it’s no surprise that this afternoon tea was named by Country Life Magazine as one of the top afternoon teas in the area.
I particularly recommend the Stow-on-the-Wold branch. The bakery is housed in a wonderful 17th century building within one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. Enjoy your top-notch fare!
5. The Painswick Hotel
A gorgeous boutique hotel in Stroud, The Painswick serves up a wonderful afternoon tea. The setting is classic, with 18th century architecture and interiors, but they take a modern pick and mix approach to afternoon tea. This is fantastic as you get to eye up what you fancy most from the delectable buffet. Then enjoy it with a glass of fizz or a pot of tea – whatever takes your fancy.
This is an excellent afternoon tea option for you if the classic sandwiches, scones and cakes leaves you uncomfortably full and you’d rather be more exclusive with your choices.
6. Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa
Just outside of Bath, nestled in the rolling Cotswolds landscape, you can find a luxury afternoon tea in the grand mansion of the Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa.
Expect dainty delights and exquisite tastes as you imagine this being your country home. Every element of the experience is considered and you’ll feel very spoilt.
In the summer, I recommend enjoying your afternoon tea out on the terrace.
7. Barnsley House
Barnsley House, which you’ll find near Stow-on-the-Wold, is a charming Tudor manor house and home to the Potager restaurant, where you can enjoy afternoon tea. From here, there are relaxing views over the gardens, and a fine choice of sandwiches, scones, cake and, of course, tea!
In the summer, and for a real English summery treat, why not choose the Pimms Cream Tea? The experience won’t get much more iconic than this!
8. Whatley Manor
For a truly luxurious afternoon tea, you won’t go wrong by selecting Whatley Manor in Malmesbury. The characterful 18th century house offers a remarkable setting to enjoy this classic delicious feast. With delicate finger sandwiches and perfectly hand-crafted treats, this is a wonderful afternoon tea. Elegance is the order of the day here!
After tea, make sure you leave time to amble through the 12 acres of Cotswolds gardens steeped in old world charm.
9. Lords of the Manor
Enjoying afternoon tea here, in Cheltenham, you’ll certainly feel like lords and ladies of the manor! Come early to explore the eight acres of gardens and grounds, and work up an appetite.
Everything is beautifully made at Lords of the Manor – that’s no surprise given that this hotel kitchen has been awarded a Michelin star. Indeed, many would say that this is the best afternoon tea in the Cotswolds, and as such, make sure you plan your booking in plenty of time.
The loose leaf tea menu will have you amazed, so even the biggest tea drinkers will have ample choice. Or, choose to have a glass of Taittinger too.
Be sure to explore the beautiful villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter.
10. Thornbury Castle
Thornbury Castle is a boutique hotel steeped in Tudor opulence. As you pass through the gateway, expect grand fireplaces and extravagant comfort. It’s well worth heading to this former home of Henry VIII to enjoy afternoon tea, which is served daily.
Choose whether to enjoy your tea in one of the dining rooms or, if you prefer, one of the lounges. Whilst the menu contains classics, such as smoked salmon and horseradish cream sandwiches, the delicate cakes are always seasonally fitting.
11. Highgrove House
Indulge in an experience like royalty and book onto a luxurious Champagne Tea Tour at Highgrove estate, the home of HRH The Prince of Wales. In the spring and summer, you can walk the peaceful gardens, led by an experienced guide. See for yourself how the Prince’s passion for the Cotswold landscape is evident. Once your tour is complete, you’ll then enjoy a Champagne tea afterwards. Alternatively, skip the tour and go straight to enjoying afternoon tea in The Orchard restaurant.
12. The Tea Set
Beautifully and aptly named, The Tea Set in Chipping Norton serves up generous afternoon teas in traditional tea sets. Expect an abundance of floral cake stands, vintage tea cups, and gold rimmed milk jugs.
The macaroons are well worth your attention, but you’ll be spoilt overall. Even if you’re not a tea drinker, this one’s for you as the coffee menu is equally bursting with choice.
13. Tisanes Tea Rooms
Tisanes Tea Rooms, snugly housed in a classic 17th century stone building, offer a classic way to enjoy afternoon tea in the pretty village of Broadway. There’s a small stonewalled garden if you’d prefer to tuck in outside.
Boasting a menu of 40 loose leaf teas, choose afternoon tea here for fabulous flavours and a warm welcome. Don’t expect refinement, but do expect afternoon tea done generously and deliciously.
14. Ellenborough Park
Describing itself as the finest afternoon tea in Cheltenham, you’re certainly in for beautifully crafted treats that look almost too good to eat. Ellenborough Park is a stately venue, with much of its 15th century charm retained, but contemporary elegance at its finest
Afternoon tea is served seven days a week at this luxurious hotel and spa. This is certainly an indulgent afternoon tea to enjoy. Your cakes are even served up on silver cake stands.
15. The Kitchen
The Kitchen is a charming, quaint, and bijou tea room found in Minchinhampton. There are three choices: classic, traditional, and vintage afternoon tea. Expect the vintage option to be served up in fine vintage china on a table bedecked with a linen tablecloth and flowers!
This heavenly little spot won’t compete with the hotels and country estates for elegance. But it most certainly does compete in terms of exceptional food made with locally-sourced seasonal ingredients.
A visit to the Cotswolds is surely not complete with a decadent or homely afternoon tea thrown in. There is so much choice – from elegant and refined boutique hotels to classic tea rooms with welcoming hosts. You’re sure to find the best place for afternoon tea in the Cotswolds that fits in with your plans and location.
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