The world is wide, and we want to see (and eat) all of it. We've partnered with VisitBritain to take a closer look at the foods, producers, restaurants, and regions that make Great Britain a top destination for food-loving travelers.
Elsewhere, I think, it is not standard for one’s national parks system (or any cultural institutions, really) to serve a dignified snack, or anything beyond what you might find in a vending machine. Not so in Britain, where the country’s 500-and-then-some National Trust properties offer interesting and usually delicious scones as reliably as they do historic houses, parks, and estates. This is reason enough to travel through Britain, munching your way through scone after scone while seeing the country and learning about its history.
That is what Sarah Clelland decided to do in 2013, on the cusp of her 39th birthday: She got a membership to the National Trust, but found herself overwhelmed by antiques vases and beautiful gardens and educational pamphlets. As she writes on her blog National Trust Scones, she needed a mission—some specific goal to help find her way through the National Trust—and she found it in the properties’ scones. She had Earl Grey scones in Surrey, Wet Nelly (a regional kind of bread pudding) scones in Liverpool, Shropshire Blue and Fig scones in Shropshire, Christmas Pudding scones in Oxfordshire.
In a country known for its love and reverence of tea—the drink itself and the ritual of teatime and all it entails—and for generating the cult hit "The Great British Bake Off," perhaps it should come as no surprise that the guardian organization of some of the country’s most beloved cultural and historical sites is also responsible for seriously delicious scones. And for a place where a scone is as common as a croissant is in France, and where it is simply what you have with a cup of tea, its scones are often memorable ones.
Sarah began recording her visits to the National Trust properties on her blog: She relays memorable details, then reviews the scone she ate there. Then she rates both the property and the scone. Over the course of four years, she’s visited 159 properties, and, thusly, eaten 159 scones, 58 of which she’s awarded her medal of distinction, the Scone d’Or—and she’s written a cookbook, The National Trust Book of Scones, so those of us who can’t zip over to Suffolk for the afternoon can still have a proper scone at home.
Should you be getting ready for your own trip across the pond, with either scones or cultural historic sites or both on the mind and the to-see list, for your consideration: five of the scones Sarah ate—the recipes of which we’re gratefully reprinting from her wonderful book, so you can make them from home if you’re not headed to the U.K.!—and the National Trust properties she visited.
Warwickshire is smack-dab in the middle of England, about two hours northwest of London. It’s known for being where Shakespeare was born—but it’s also where Sarah grew up and, she writes, where a man (later sainted!) named Nicholas Owen famously built “priest holes”: hideaways that priests could duck into when Catholics were persecuted in England. At Baddesley Clinton, “a lovely moated manor house,” Sarah sees three of them. She also learns of the property’s colorful history of murdered inhabitants and eats a Ploughman’s Scone, which has cubes of apple, chopped pickled onion, and lots of Cheddar baked in.
At the tip of Cornwall’s craggy finger, which points towards the Atlantic, you'll find St. Michael’s Mount. The medieval castle and church sit atop a stony island formed, as Sarah writes, “when the Cornubian Batholith was formed following the cooling of magma” (!!!). Though Cornwall is a trek from most parts of England, St. Michael’s Mount is, according to Sarah, the 13th most-visited National Trust site—perhaps partially for the views of the coast, perhaps partially for the scones, perhaps partially for the Cornish fudge in the gift shop.
“I need only three words to explain why I came to Goddards today," writes Sarah. "TERRY'S CHOCOLATE ORANGE. Because Goddards was the home of Noel Goddard Terry, creator of that most genius of products.” Who can disagree with that? (You have had a chocolate orange, haven’t you?) Sarah loved this particular property—stunning 1920s home! tales from the family chocolate factory! a bottle of sherry guests can, for an honesty-system fee of £2, pour themselves nips from! What’s not to love? And what better reason to visit North Yorkshire, one of the northernmost counties in England?
To the east lies the county of Suffolk, and in it the village of Dunwich, and therein Dunwich Heath and its seaside, hiking trails, and wildlife habitat. That is what brings many to Dunwich, but it was Dunwich Heath’s Sconeathon that brought Sarah. From the Dunwich Heath baker came 20 varieties of scone, all of which astounded Sarah. These Stollen scones, inspired by the Christmas bread, have a tuft of marzipan baked into the middle.
Chartwell was the National Trust property that launched a thousand scone ventures—that is, where Sarah purchased her membership. It’s also the home of Winston Churchill, and his personal family artifacts are throughout. As is the spirit of Jock the ginger-colored cat, a cat so beloved by Churchill that he “decreed that Chartwell should always have a ginger cat named Jock in residence.” Kent, where Chartwell is located, is in England’s southeast, and is sometimes called the Garden of England because of its farmlands. These particular scones make excellent hors d’oeuvres.
What's your favorite scone? Let us know in the comments!
We've partnered with VisitBritain to take a closer look at the foods, producers, restaurants, and regions that make Great Britain a top destination for food-loving travelers. Follow along on Instagram to see what's going on across the pond at @lovegreatbritain and what Great Britain is eating at @greatbritishfood.