Brig o' Turk Tea Room

 

Cycling is thirsty work and so in the middle of a long ride there’s nothing more motivating than looking forward to that next pot of tea and a cake.  Ride for a couple of hours, stop for a cuppa, ride for a couple more, have another …

Cycling cafes are a bit of a tradition.  I’ve often noticed groups of cyclists at particular cafes but not until taking up cycle touring have I realised that there are certain cafes that are well-known among cycling circles.

But what makes a good cycle cafe ?  Some research suggests the following key ingredients:

  • a location that’s on popular cycling routes – cyclists aren’t likely to make long detours
  • good tea, coffee and – of course – cakes, cakes and more cakes !
  • light food including healthy options
  • a down-to-earth, cyclist-friendly atmosphere – definitely nothing too posh and somewhere tolerant of MAMILs (that’s middle aged men in lycra …)
  • the ability to borrow some tools and perhaps some chain oil
  • somewhere safe to lock up your bikes and keep an eye on them.

The combination of these elements counts out lots of places but is there a list of the most popular cycling cafes ?  I resorted to Google to try to find out.

In short, I struggled.  Much appears to be word-of-mouth with local cafes listed on some cycling club websites.  I found lists in the media which are pretty limited and focused largely on the cities (don’t most cyclists like to escape the cities ?) as well as attempts to produce UK-wide maps which have so far failed to provide comprehensive coverage (Cycling Weekly, Cyclists Welcome, the CyclistCafes.co.uk website and this article about the Bike Hub app).  (Note: I downloaded the app only to find that it doesn’t list cafes, only bike shops).

 

Brig o' Turk Tea Room

 

Being from Scotland I’m keen to track down the best Scottish cycling cafes.  The best list I can find is on the Skinny Tyres blog which features seven great cafes.  To these we can add Velocity in Inverness, Ronde in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge and the Siempre Bicycle Cafe in the West End of Glasgow.  The last two appear to cater for those – ahem –  “hip” urban cyclists … “artisan coffee and fancy pastries” indeed !!

Personally, I’m more likely to avoid anywhere that’s too trendy or just trying too hard.  Traditional cafes suit me just fine.  As a family we often eat in Corrieri’s in Stirling (great coffee, food and ice cream with pictures of 1950s Italian cycling icons adorning the walls ) but my favourite to date is most definitely the Brig O’Turk Tea Room in the Trossachs.  It’s been around since 1923 apart from a couple of year’s break until it was taken over by Csaba and Veronica Brunner in 2011.  Don’t expect luxurious surroundings – it has a yesteryear, ‘village hall’ look and feel to it.  But do expect fantastic refreshments, cakes and meals, a relaxed atmosphere and a friendly welcome.  Just the thing before – or after – you tackle the Dukes Pass over to Aberfoyle.

So my favourite cycling cafe isn’t in any list I’ve seen.  What about yours ?

 

17 Comments on “In praise of great cycling cafes

  1. I love this post! Very interesting. My ancestry is rooted in Scotland and it’s number one on my bucket list to one day visit. I’m going to make sure to work out a cycling journey and explore some cafes.

    • Great, I’m glad you like it. Hopefully I and others can list some more cycling cafes around Scotland for your trip.

      • Sounds great! Until I get to visit, I’ll be content to live vicariously through your photos and stories!

  2. Yet another post to distract me from my work! Love reading all this interesting and relevant content.
    Go south to Devon and cycle the Tarka Trail and watch out for the wonderful Fremington Quay cafe http://www.fremingtonquay.co.uk/ which we came across when cycling that beautiful estuary and coast to coast trail last year. It is friendly and relaxing, and for us gluten free cake eaters, even had a choice of cake… wonderful. The orange polenta cake was so full of almonds and butter that it sustained us for miles (and I’ve found a similar recipe for one of our now-favourites!).

    • Now now, you’re making me hungry ..! Thanks for the useful recommendations and I hope you weren’t distracted for too long.

  3. The Seaview Cafe at Port Ban, Kilberry, by Tarbert, Argyll, Scotland, on the Campbeltown to Oban Sustrans national cycling route 78, also part of the Columba Route promoted by the Dutch Cycling Club “Europafietsers”, must be in the running for a top 10 listing! Views to die for! http://www.portban.com

    • Good suggestion, Jonathan – I didn’t realise you were on a Sustrans route. I can personally vouch for the fact that Port Ban is a beautiful spot on the West Coast with fabulous views over to Jura. In fact, we’ll be cycling not too far from you when we come north in late May en route from Land’s End to JOG; we’re getting the Lochranza/Claonaig ferry then going north up to Oban and Ballachulish.

      • If you follow the Sustrans route 78 to Oban you will pass by our site and cafe. Please drop in and introduce yourself. The coffee is on us!

      • Thanks very much for the invite for coffee ! I feel really bad about this since we’ll be so near but I think we’ll have to decline your invitation this time. I’ve just checked the map and see that the coast road via Port Ban will add another 20 miles to our route. We’re already cycling 75 miles that day (our second most ‘hilliest’ day) and were planning to ride directly from Tarbert up to Lochgilphead. I think I’d need something a bit stronger than coffee to get me cycling 95 miles !!!

      • Let us know when you are about to arrive at Tarbert and we will see if we can meet or accompany you part of the way.

        Kind regards,

        Jonathan

      • Hi Jonathan, we’ll likely get to Tarbert about 9.45am on Tues 26th. It would be good to say a quick hello but it is fairly early and I’d understand if that doesn’t suit. Thanks !

      • Apologies, we were not able to rendezvous. Can’t keep up with your rapid progress. Glad the trip is going so well. Hope we can meet some other time. Port Ban will certainly make a donation.

        Jonathan

      • Thanks Jonathan. We have been on a pretty tight schedule ! We had a good breakfast in Cafe Roma (?) in Tarbert before going on to Lochgilphead, Kilmartin, Loch Melfort (lunch) and Benderloch (campsite).

      • Glad to hear the trip is going well. Maybe we can meet up and accompany you part of the way when you get to Tarbert.

  4. Flora’s cafe at Cullerlie, Aberdeenshire is very popular with cyclists and is very definitely not hip! Great traybakes and a fine cuppie, it’s very dated but I love it!

  5. I’ll add another one suggested by my Mum: Activ Cycles in Corbridge, Northumberland. Fairly recently opened but a combination of a bike shop and good cafe through the back.

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