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.”


Quotes from the Masters: Bacon

“We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand–and melting like a snowflake.”

Sir Francis Bacon

The above is Robin’s latest blogging challenge on Bringing Europe Home, and I must admit that when I read it, although I liked it, I couldn’t think of a photograph to use for it.

I left it for a few days, and when I re-read it this morning a vision of chocolate jumped straight into my head.

Chocolate lasts but a moment, and certainly melts like a snowflake as soon as I’ve popped it into my mouth, especially if combined with a slurp of hot tea:

Marks and Spencer

I don’t know if you have a Marks and Spencer cafe near you, but my closest one is in Perth and it’s somewhere I like to pop into before a bit of shopping, since it’s well placed on the High Street and serves excellent tea and coffee, and superb toasted teacakes. What’s more, they have a ‘buy 9 get 1 free’ drinks offer where you can get one of their cards stamped every time you buy a hot drink, and since I frequent the place I’ve managed to fill a couple of these cards and benefit from the odd hot drink absolutely free of charge, gratis and for nowt. Marvellous!

I wish I had a photo of the teacake but the other day when I went I wasn’t very hungry and just went for tea and a shared piece of fruit cake:

The standard tea on offer is a fairtrade one called Gold Blend, and I have never been disappointed by it – quite the opposite, in fact. When I want a really good cup of tea, I know I’ll get it in Markies, served in a lovely little bulging white china teapot. The saucer comes with a small and meltingly delicious buttery biscuit in it and I like the teacups, which have large handles and very wide tops that allow the tea to cool down to drinkable temperature quite quickly:

The fruit cake, which has slivered almonds on top, is rather nice too:

What’s more, I’ve found the service to be excellent, and I can vouch for the Perth branch being full of friendly, helpful, smiling staff.

Well done Markies, keep up the good work!

Tea and books

Yesterday I re-visited a tearoom in Perth I wasn’t at all sure I was going to include in my little guide book. I don’t know quite why I was so reluctant, because I’ve visited it a number of times before and as far as I can recall have never been disappointed with what I’ve ordered. Thanks to my dad, who is a staunch supporter of said tearoom and thought it really ought to go into the book, I gave it another chance yesterday and I’m very glad I did.

There’s a strong literary connection with this tearoom, and that is certainly one of its charms. It was given a make-over a while ago, possibly a couple of years ago now, and was transformed from what I used to think of as rather a dingy school dinners sort of place into a welcoming and inspiring place to take tea and indulge in a little light reading. Quotations from famous authors on the subject of tea and coffee line the walls, and there are shelves of second-hand books for sale at the bargain price of 50p a pop.

Fairtrade tea and coffee (of above average quality, in my opinion) is served, alongside a variety of cold drinks, including smoothies. There’s a good range of traybakes, sponge cakes, biscuits and scones, and everything is very reasonably priced. The location, perhaps more than anything else, attracts a wide age range, and because they haven’t packed the place with as many tables as could be squeezed in, there’s plenty of room for buggies and prams, and for wheelchairs to manoeuvre in and out.

I would like to whet your appetite with a photograph of the tea and scones consumed there yesterday morning, but unfortunately I forgot to take my camera with me.