Being within striking distance of Bakewell is one of the loveliest perks of being on the edge of the Peaks - my first proper visit was just as tourist season was kicking off. Never again. Shops were so packed that you were less a browser more a sardine, getting something to eat involved a wait long enough to grow a beard (well the men anyway) and just walking along the street was a test in agility; dodging small children, dogs on leads, walking sticks and those dawdlers who stop dead in the middle of the pavement causing pedestrian gridlock. This probably makes me sound grumpy but I'm not big on crowds and I'm really not a lover of heaving tourist spots in season.
Bakewell in September though is just my cup of tea! There is enough life and bustle, but fewer people which means plenty of time to browse and wander. My friend Lulu and I took a trip last Friday, the weather was sunny and breezy and we had a brilliant afternoon. A few doors down from one of the famous Bakewell Pudding bakeries is a little courtyard set back from the street with a handful of gorgeous shops - the Tsar Emporium (loved the name) a vintage-cum-antiques shop, a handmade chocolate shop, two shops selling handmade and shabby chic loveliness and the tearoom we were searching for; The Lavender Tearoom. I'd thought it sounded promising when I did a bit of pre-trip googling the night before and wasn't disappointed. Handwritten menus, a huge selection of teas, cakes and light lunches and the tearoom itself had that eccentric, quintessential British feel of shabby grandeur - miniature portraits on the wall, glass cake cloches on the counter, a touch of gingham and vintage crockery all against a warm cream background in an old building full of character.
Beautiful though it was inside we made the most of the weather and sat in the pretty courtyard. The wrought iron chairs and tables were flanked with greenery on one side and a path to the collection of small shops on the other, it was like sitting in a not-so-secret walled garden. We loved it. I had every intention of trying one of the specialist teas on the menu until Lulu ordered hot chocolate with 'the works' and I had to make it two. No idea what powder they use it but it was the best hot chocolate I have ever had! Shavings of dark chocolate and tons of mini marshmallows on top and I'm sure there was a sprinkling of cinnamon and honeycomb in there somewhere too as it had that extra warmth.
It wasn't until we'd ordered our food - Derbyshire rarebit for me and a stilton and cranberry sandwich for Lulu - that I clocked the 'Lavender Tea' blackboard, sounds intriguing and is on the hit list for my next visit.
We washed it all down with some dandelion & burdock and elderflower pressé before exploring the rest of the courtyard and the shops that had provided such good people-watching.
The smell coming from the chocolate shop was almost hypnotic so we had to go inside and take a closer look! I really wish I'd taken better pictures inside the shop so I could show you the range of handmade treats on offer but as the lighting wasn't brilliant my iPhone didn't do too good a job of capturing the tastiness. The window shot gives you an idea of the traditional sweets for sale at least, I came away with a bag of turkish delight for T who loves the stuff.
How gorgeous is this birdcage? I was immediately smitten and can't wait to go back - if only to pass more time in this little courtyard and take better photos :-)
Tomorrow I will draw the winner of the giveaway from the plant pot (once I've tallied up and written down all the entries!) so if you're yet to enter there is still time.