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).
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 ?