Pilgrim Tearoom

Occasionally a tearoom grabs your attention from outside but inside it disappoints.

Sometimes it happens the other way round, and that was exactly my experience at the Pilgrim Tearoom in Whithorn.


Whithorn’s Pilgrim Tearoom – not, to me at least, an attractive frontage

During a recent soujourn to Dumfries and Galloway, my delightful assistants persuaded me to take morning refreshments in the Pilgrim Tearoom, a place I’m afraid to say I had previously dismissed as lacking appeal.

I mention this merely to explain my thinking, but I suspect a large part of the problem lay in the grey painted window surrounds, which struck me as dull and drab. Also, the blue sign above the tearoom seemed to me to clash with the local stone.

The delightful assistants, however, had not been put off by any of this and had visited on a number of occasions. Having found it to be very good, they were keen for me to overcome my prejudices.

The Pilgrim Tearoom is attached to an archaeological exhibition called The Whithorn Story, which is all about early Christianity in Scotland. It’s a place I feel I should have visited by now, but I’m afraid other distractions are always too plentiful during my visits to Galloway.

When we arrived I was in fairly desperate need of a scone. There were two options available, one of them being treacle (I forget what the other one was but it was either plain or fruit).


Treacle scone at the Pilgrim Tearoom, Whithorn

I eschewed my usual mid-morning beverage and dived into a hot chocolate. I took this option because it was described in the menu as Fairtrade, and every other time I’ve had Fairtrade hot chocolate it’s been very good.


Fairtrade hot chocolate at the Pilgrim Tearoom, Whithorn.

The scone was wonderfully treacley and the hot chocolate was tip-top, not too sweet but chocolately and delicious.

The delightful assistants also had scones, with coffee to accompany them, and then we trotted off for a walk at nearby Monreith beach to work up our appetites for luncheon.

We hadn’t decided where to go for lunch, but after the success of morning snacks at the Pilgrim Tearoom we opted to tootle back there.

I was encouraged by the wording on the front of the menu:


An encouraging menu at the Pilgrim Tearoom.

The menu included a surprisingly good choice for vegetarians and although there were several things I fancied, I plumped for the lentil soup, which delightful assistant no.1 had too:


Lentil soup – the menu stated: “All of our soups and are homemade and suitable for vegetarians. If you really like the recipe ask the staff for a copy.”

The waitress was apologetic about the lack of brown bread and asked if white was acceptable. My delightful assistant said it was, but I asked if I might be allowed to have oatcakes instead (I had noticed that some items on the menu came with homemade oatcakes).

I was very pleased with my choice, the oatcakes were excellent:


Delicious homemade oatcakes nestling alongside bread in a little basket.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose a dish unique to the Pilgrim Tearoom (at least, I haven’t seen anything quite like it elsewhere). It was a take on the classic Scottish dish, stovies.

I forget the details now but I seem to recall it included haggis, and the mashed potato on top had spring onions through it. He enjoyed it greatly:


Stovies with accoutrements.

There were several puddingy choices that appealed to me but, being in the neighbourhood of a first rate ice cream producer (Cream o’ Galloway), we all went for a little pot of local ice cream.

Delightful assistant no.2 got the tearoom’s sole remaining pot of Honeycomb and Choc Chip:


Delighful assistant no.1 and I went for the Real Raspberry, a flavour I’d had before and enjoyed. One of the things that often prevents me from choosing ice cream is that it’s so cold. Teaming it up with a nice hot cup of tea, however, makes it a far more appetising prospect in my book:


Raspberry ice cream with a nice cup of tea.

On many previous visits to Galloway I’ve driven through Whithorn and not stopped at the Pilgrim Tearoom, because of my unfounded fears that it would be a disappointment.

I now know, having been forced to get beyond what I considered an uninviting exterior, that it is well worth a visit for snacks or a tasty luncheon.

I hope I’ve learned a lesson from this experience, not to judge a tearoom by its exterior, although I confess I’ve had a similar experience elsewhere and apparently didn’t learn the lesson. Still, one can be a slow learner but get there in the end.

If you’re ever in the vicinity of Whithorn looking for a nice place to park yourself for refreshments, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Pilgrim Tearoom. In addition to the food and drink being of a high standard, they seem remarkably considerate and keen to make your visit enjoyable, as shown by the wording on the back of their menu:

“We wish to make your stay in Whithorn as pleasant as possible. Should you have any requests or requirements please ask a member of staff, i.e. baby food warming, colouring sheets for children, information about the area.”


39 thoughts on “Pilgrim Tearoom

  1. It actually doesn’t look like a tearoom at all, apart from the tables you can see through the windows. But I’m glad you went in! What a nice surprise. The scone looks lovely, as does your Dad’s lunch. I think a lot could be done with some flowers outside and maybe a decent sign! (Although these may be out of the picture). This is not a part of Scotland I have ever visited, and I haven’t even heard of Monreith. Is it a nice beach?

    • I think they could do with changing the colour of the paintwork outside and flowers would be an excellent addition, in hanging baskets or boxes. There were a couple of plants in pots at the doorway, but they were rather insignificant. I imagine you might be interested in Whithorn, it bills itself the ‘Cradle of Christianity’ and is apparently where St Ninian did his stuff. He predates St Columba so the archaeological site they’ve been excavating there is pretty ancient. I really must go round it some time. Monreith has an interesting history, too, I should really do a post about it. One bit of the beach is very stony with shells, and another bit is covered by a vast swathe of sand, so it certainly offers variety. Gavin Maxwell (author of “Ring of Bright Water”) grew up in Elrig House, near Monreith, and there’s a bronze otter memorial to him near the beach.

  2. I don’t know what you mean Lorna, I reckon Wren or Rennie-Mackintosh would have been very proud to have created that facade 😉 But as previously mentioned, that treacle scone looks mouth watering.

    • The inside was definitely preferable to the outside, in my opinion, but each to his own of course. 🙂 Anywhere that can serve up a decent scone gets a big thumbs up from me, regardless of its facade.

  3. I’d like to go there for lunch today – what wonderful choices! The hot chocolate sounds very good. I’d actually have to spend the day and eat all meals and snacks there… 🙂

  4. It all looked yummy except I’d pass on the haggis 🙂
    good thing you went in as it appears they care about what they are feeding others and about others if they are buying fair trade and sourcing local.

    • I like it when places source food locally and use things that are in season, and it’s excellent when they also serve Fairtrade produce. I would never have guessed from the outside that it was anything like that inside. I think they need to make more of what they’re doing, stick a board outside advertising their freshly baked scones and locally sourced ingredients. They’re doing a great job and people should know about it. Come on Pilgrim Tearoom, don’t hide your light under a bushel! 🙂

  5. Yes I agree with your other correspondents that the treacle scones look pretty decent. Even though I would only consider a treacle scone if no cheese scones were available. And the stovies don’t look too bad either. I’ve been to that treashop years ago but I don’t recall food of that standard when I was there. And I have an excellent memory for good teashops.

    • I’m pretty certain there were no cheese scones on offer. I’m interested to hear that you’ve been there and I have no doubt at all that your memory of good teashops is first rate. Perhaps it’s run by different people now? I’m impressed that you went in and hope that if you find yourself in that neck of the woods again you’ll give it another bash.

  6. Another great tea shop! What I like about your tea shops is that they have honest food, fairly simple, well prepared, and nicely presented, but without fuss. No one would dream of donning a Royal Ascot hat to visit one. I think the closest thing we have to anything that “real” is barbecue joints and taco stands or trucks…which I love, don’t get me wrong. I’d just like one “down home” tea shop!

    • I’m so sorry you don’t have a nice tearoom anywhere near you. They do tend to provide basic simple food, that’s very true, and it’s one of the things I like about them. You certainly don’t need to wear a hat, although I’m sure you could do if you felt so inclined. Perhaps that would be more appropriate for afternoon tea in a high class hotel, which is not quite the same thing as stovies in a wee tearoom. You remind me how lucky we are in Scotland, indeed throughout the UK, to have so many of these little gems.

  7. Lol, I’ve never seen you mention the dreaded H word (here) on your blog before. Being vegetarian I doubt it’s something you’ve ever indulged in, but it is quintessentially Scottish of course 😉 I agree about not judging the establishment by the cover, all in all a good recommendation speaks more than words and a great vote from your lovely two assistants didn’t go astray in procuring a yummy luncheon.

    • I’m going to have to do a post about haggis, I think. In my meat eating days I did enjoy a bit of haggis, and nowadays I love the veggie version, which is a very tasty meal with some mashed potatoes and turnip. Delicious! You’re quite right that a personal recommendation is worth any amount of advertising or sprucing up of the decor. I should have had more faith in my assistants from the outset, they know a good tearoom when they find one.

  8. Definitely not an inviting facade but obviously hidden pleasures.
    My Australian husband loved haggis when we were in Scotland. He also liked skirlie.

    • Haggis has a bit of an unfortunate reputation, perhaps not surprisingly given its constituent parts, but I’m glad your husband enjoyed it, as well as skirlie. I seem to remember reading on your blog about you enjoying a bowl of cullen skink, too. I think traditional Scottish food is pretty nourishing stuff.

  9. This place sounds delightful. I have learned that you can often be surprised by what we call “a hole in the wall” eating place. Perhaps by not spending so much on the location, the owners can provide great food at a more reasonable price. So glad your assistants talked you into trying it.

    • A hole in the wall eating place? I haven’t heard that expression. You make a good point about where their priorities lie. I would far rather eat good food in a place that doesn’t wow me with its decor than get substandard fare in a beautiful palace of a place. The food is, after all, a key point. You’ve also mentioned something that I forgot to highlight, viz. the prices, which were very reasonable. In fact, I was astonished at how cheap the food was, particularly given the quality. Absolutely no complaints there!

  10. Hmmm…I’ve never heard of “stovies” before, but it looks right yummy — like real comfort food. The mention of haggis made me think of my Scottish-American neighbor. He was born and raised in Texas (before moving here to New England) and was certain he could make his fortune by selling canned haggis to us Yanks. I’m sorry to say that his business venture didn’t work out so well. He still has cases of the stuff in his cellar! My husband and I gave it a try, though. It really wasn’t bad. Oh, but I digress…:)

    • Haggis in a can? Not something I’ve tried, or would be particularly keen to try, but you never know. What a pity your neighbour didn’t make a success of his canned haggis business, perhaps he could stick the remainder on ebay? It’s astonishing the things people buy on there. Haggis is more usually bought fresh from a chiller cabinet, both the meat and veggie versions. Stovies can be veggie too and are, as you say, proper comfort food.

  11. Isn’t it funny how the outside of a business can keep us from going inside. It sounds like with homemade and locally sourced ingredients being used in the food preparation, it made for a nice stop in the day.

  12. Hi Lorna, greetings from Glasgow! I finally have a little bit of time to read blogs. (Would do so for the next three hours if I had my druthers…) How interesting to read about the Pilgrim tea room, and the giraffe tree, etc. I’m hoping to get to Dumfries and Galloway for the first time, now that we’re a bit closer.
    By the way I recently gave a copy of your tearoom guidebook to a friend and she was thrilled and delighted.
    I hope both assistants are doing very well and your mum is all better now.

    • Hi Christine, lovely to hear from you. I can imagine your life is filled to the brim with far more urgent things than reading other people’s blogs at the moment. I do hope you manage a trip to D&G some time, it is a much under-rated area, I feel. Thank you very much for the report of your delighted friend, I hope some of the tearooms might provide a little sustenance for her. The assistants are pretty good, thank you, and although my mum’s doing very well my dad has hurt his hip (too much digging in the garden, I think), but I’ve stuck him on a sofa with a hot water at his back and a cup of tea in his hand and I think he’ll survive.

      • What, no scone for your Da? 🙂 Glad to hear D.A.1 (?) is better and I hope the same for D.A.2 very soon. We are all nursing sore backs here at our house, and I gave myself a little h.w.b. treatment today too.

        • I did offer him a scone but he declined it. He did manage to put away a freshly baked bun this afternoon though, so he must be on the mend. I’m very sorry to hear about your sore backs, and I sympathise as I have quite a bit of back trouble myself. Did you get it from lifting boxes and unpacking? Glad to hear that the hwb treatment is being administered, there’s nothing quite like it to ease the muscles.

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