You get about as a Scone Spy, with borders no boundary to scoffing. So, appetite for baking at the ready – and let’s be honest, when isn’t it? – I was on a cross-border mission following up on a tip-off.
Word had it there was fine fare to be had – and a cracking view besides – at Hauxley Wildlife Centre in Northumberland.
It sits just outside scenic Amble and the choc-a-bloc car park indicated that birds and baking were a pretty popular combo.
The panorama from the huge picture windows in the ultra-modern building overlooking the plentiful bird life was indeed sensational.
The only problem was, the popularity meant that any scones had been well and truly munched.
But scone salvation, still with a watery vista, lay in the pretty market town of Alnwick, home to the castle used in the first couple of Harry Potter films.
The first thing to be seen at The Alnwick Garden was the Grand Cascade – a tumbling, roaring water feature that tops the lot.
The perfect place to see it was the cafe just by the entrance.
It’s all glass and you can either sit fully inside, in a partially open conservatory or on a terrace beside the gardens.
Unfortunately there was still just a bit of a nip in the air so I headed inside, eyeing up the scones – cheese, fruit or plain – alongside other baked goodies as I did so.
Sandwiches, quiches, soup and jacket potatoes were also among the options on the extensive menu but sweet treats sounded really tempting.
So, a hefty slice of the Victoria sponge and a chocolate brownie went on to the plates of my dining companion and myself.
The sponge was light and flavoursome and the brownie just the right consistency.
With a couple of steaming hot drinks in hand, we settled on one of the couches that was thankfully free overlooking the Gardens.
Really, there can’t be many better places for a sip and a snack.
Apart from the Cascade, there are acres of floral delights and even a fascinating poison garden – so deadly it’s very much kept under lock and key with access by guided tours only.
As for the scone itself – I’d picked fruit – it was a pretty fine specimen indeed, especially when slathered with clotted cream and jam.
Not at all crumbly, it was just the right side of firm with raisins literally bursting out at every side.
Although busy, the cafe wasn’t overly crowded and we were in no hurry to move on.
Northumberland may not have provided the original scone with a view that I had hoped for, but by the end of a relaxing hour there were no complaints at all.
Just like for Harry Potter, Alnwick had proved simply magical.
A slick, well-honed operation. 7/10
You can easily spend hours exploring the garden wonders. 9/10
A hearty, fruit-packed beast. 8/10