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Carberry Tower Mansion House and Estate
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Carberry Tower Mansion House
Carberry Tower Estate,
EH21 8PY
0131 665 3135

There are a lot of pleasant afternoon teas to be found in town; I can think of half a dozen within a mile of my front door. So it takes something special for me to drive out of town on a Sunday afternoon and see what's on offer outside Edinburgh. I was headed for tea in the historic mansion house hotel Carberry Tower, nine miles south-east of the city centre.

From the minute I pulled into the tree-lined drive, I felt it would be worth the journey. With a history dating back to the 15th century, the mansion house is full of nooks and crannies, overstuffed chairs and fireplaces, libraries and suits of armour. Autumn is the perfect time to visit since in the mansion's 40 acres of gardens and parkland, the trees were just starting to turn. There was a crispness in the air that made one think of crackling fires and cups of something warm.

We were seated in ridiculously comfortable chairs, overlooking the rose garden. Tea and coffee arrived, followed closely by food. Savouries were classic and included smoked salmon and cucumber (our favourite), ham and mustard, and an egg salad wrap.

Next, to the middle tier and the scones; fluffy, fruity, filled with candied citrus and raisins, they were served with clotted cream and were absolutely lovely. Cakes included a rich and fudgey brownie, just the right side of gooey, and a delicious chocolate tart. The carrot cake was excellent, although a strawberry shortcake was a little toothsome for me. Tiny shortbreads and fresh berries were delightful extra touches, as was the superb apple sorbet.

A classic afternoon tea: no real surprises, bar one. Tea for two comes in at £35, a rather unbelievable bargain considering the surroundings.

We followed the food with a walk through the gardens, encountering sheep, horses, and cows and little else. By this time, I honestly did not want to leave this country retreat and indulged a brief fantasy of checking in for the night in one of its elegant suites. Sadly the call of the city forced me back on the A1, but I left knowing Carberry Tower is really not that far away, and I will be back: next time with an overnight bag. (R. Edwards)  

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