How far will I go to sample great tea in great surroundings? All the way to the end of the country, and then a bit further!
The Birsay Bay Tearoom lies at the western tip of the Orkney Islands "mainland", near to the spectacular Brough of Birsay and the remains of the historical Earl's Palace. Both of these are worth some of your time (especially the Brough, which is beautiful, though you might want to time your visit with the tides, so that you can get out across the causeway, but that's another story...) Anyway, once you've worked up a bit of a thirst, why not retreat to the Birsay Bay Tearoom for some light refreshment?
The tearoom itself is accessed up the small lane that runs past Earl's Palace - at one point you come to a little sign that informs you the tearoom is 100 metres further on - well, if so it's the longest 100 metres I've ever walked, but it really isn't far, and is certainly worth the stroll.
In common with much of the more recent building in the Orkneys, the outside of the tearoom really isn't much to look at (see picture, left) but don't let that put you off. Inside, a fine range of tea is served, with fruit and herbal teas offered, green tea available and, yes, decaff too. The nice thing about these is that they are all offered in pots for 1, 2 or 3 people. Other drinks are served as big or "peedie", peedie being Orcadian for small. There's a reasonable selection of cakes to accompany your cuppa too, plus a snack food menu, with jacket potatoes and the like (or baked tatties, as they are called in that part of the world). A word of caution if you opt for a baked tatty - you get to choose three options of accompanying salad, which sounds great. In reality, the portion of each is tiny - one of my choices was cucumber... and I got three slices of it. Oh well. Too much of a good thing, maybe...
In addition to the food and drink, artwork is displayed on the walls - this is available to buy from a nearby gallery. The tearoom also sells produce from the adjacent farm shop too. All well and good...
...but what really makes this place stand out, and quality it for inclusion here, is how it makes the most of its location. Big windows look out towards the Brough of Birsay, and binoculars are lined up along the window-sills for patrons to look out and watch the wildlife. Little guide books are also provided, so you can identify and learn about what you're seeing. You're certainly see plenty of oystercatchers at this time of year, but beyond that it's a real wildlife haven - for some, sitting in the warm and dry with a cup of tea and a slice of cake is probably one of the better ways to watch wildlife.
Pretty fine tea then, in a great natural location, with bincoluars and spotters' guides thrown in. Don't forget to take your camera.