Wouldn’t it be great to revive the Leyburn Shawl Tea Festival? After all, there’s a tea room in town that specialises in loose-leaf; there’s a tea pottery just outside Leyburn; and Yorkshire has lots of top people with tea expertise from the Yorkshire Tea guys at Taylors of Harrogate through to specialists like Lulin Teas near Selby and Cygnet Teas in Helmsley.
We surely have the ingredients to revive what was a Leyburn tradition at the height of Victorian times in the 1850s.
The Leyburn Shawl is such a beautiful spot, looking out over the Yorkshire Dales. Must have been a fantastic place for a big marquee, a drop of tea and a chance to drink in the views.
Some say it got its name from Mary Queen of Scots who is supposed to have dropped her shawl here as she tried to escape from Bolton Castle. But the less romantic historians say the name probably derives from something more banal in the Norse language.
Whatever the truth is, it’s a great place for a stroll among the local sheep, the dog walkers, and if you time it right, a chat with one of those lucky people whose houses look straight out onto the Shawl.
Before we make time for tea, there’s also the little matter of seeking out the place for coffee in Leyburn. Chambers Coffee House has a prime location, right in the middle of the Market Place, with seating outside and in, scones just out of the oven, and coffee from Caffe Vinci – it’s not 3rd wave, but in the hands of the right barista it can do a decent cappuccino.
There’s a friendly team working here under the guidance of new owner Ruth (who used to work here herself, so there’s a nice bit of continuity) – a good vibe to the place and a decent cuppa with very nice scones!
If you’ve walked from the Shawl to Chambers, you might as well carry on to the outskirts of town, where there’s the train station on the Wensleydale Railway. Lots of railway enthusiasts here to watch the old rolling stock – sometimes steam – er… rolling past.
And just a bit further down the same road out of Leyburn is the Tea Pottery. Here you can watch tea pots being made, from the lump of clay or ceramic through the moulding to the glazing and the final object, ready for sale and for pouring!
There are tea pots of all shapes and sizes here, from the conventional ‘Bettys’ through to quirky VW camper vans and Aga oven-shaped ones.
This is a great little business, with eight members of staff, all of whom you can watch at work, so it’s a bit like a tea pottery museum too. And they will do you a pot of Yorkshire Tea, served on their own tea sets of course, if you come here thirsty.
The Tea Pottery may have the best tea pots in town, but the best loose-leaf tea option in Leyburn must surely be at the Posthorn Tea Room on the Market Place.
Owner Tony has recently taken over from his Mum, but he has cannily kept her on with the cake-baking. And these cakes were absolutely delicious. The ginger and date loaf won a close-fought battle with the Old Peculier Fruit Loaf. It all went down very easily with a fine pot of loose-leaf Ceylon Tea (from Taylors of Harrogate, in case you were wondering).
So Leyburn surprised me in a pleasant way. I had it down as one of those Yorkshire Dales towns loved by coachloads of pensioners wanting a cuppa that isn’t too dear, so I was worried that the tea rooms and coffee shops might be a little bit average.
But I should have known that the venue for the Dales Festival of Food and Drink would have a touch of class too. And speaking of that existing festival: wouldn’t it be good to see tea taking a higher priority on the menu for the festival; a kind of stepping stone to bringing back that Victorian tea tradition on the Leyburn Shawl…