Katherine Brand finally succumbs to temptation, taking a spin to Tintern’s famous Old Station. Turns out it’s the perfect location for a sunny stop in the Wye Valley.
I must admit, I feel somewhat ashamed at the number of times I rode past Tintern Old Station before venturing down the woodland road that leads you to its wonderful tea rooms. The impressive variety of well-proportioned cakes and beautiful sun-drenched outdoor garden appear to have been designed with cycling groups of all shapes and sizes in mind.
I’m relieved to say that the cafe’s absence from our regular haunts in and around the Wye Valley has now been fully rectified.
On this overdue visit to the award-winning Old Station, my companion and I had already taken in a good fifty miles, including some decent climbing, before allowing ourselves a cake stop and a good sit down.
It was left to your interminably indecisive reviewer to make the all important decision of where we would take tea. And after much deliberation I finally plucked up the courage to deviate from our old favourite – The White Monk – and try somewhere new.
The Old Station’s tea rooms are situated in the fine railway station building that lies on the, now disused, Wye Valley Railway line. When the line closed in the 1960s, after nearly a century of use, the station was bought by Monmouthshire County Council, who refurbished and opened it as a visitor attraction.
So, while you devour your sugar-laden fuel of choice and soak up some rays, you can still admire the old train carriages, and imagine the bustling Victorian railway station that once lay beneath your feet.
Should you be the inquisitive sort, or just in need of a few more moments respite before resuming your ride, you can even climb aboard one the the aforementioned carriages and peruse the exhibition area.
But that’s enough history. Onto the food. The first thing that struck me upon entering the station was the high ceiling. It gives the cafe an airy, open feeling, which I love. The waitresses who greeted us from behind the counter were particularly cheerful, leading me to all but forget the miles we’d ridden, and focus on the marvellous array of baked-goods before us.
There’s certainly a lot to choose from at The Old Station, with plenty of hearty savoury meals including paninis, sandwiches and soups on the menu. When it comes to cake, there’s something for everyone; from a classic cream tea, to a slice of a chocolatey-looking number.
Rocky road and bread pudding were our confections of choice, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The sun had decided to put its proverbial hat on for us as we sat and appreciatively devoured them.
“The rocky road was rich and quite dark, with plentiful lumps of marshmallow ensconced within…”
The rocky road was rich and quite dark, with plentiful lumps of marshmallow ensconced within. The fruity bread pudding, with its generous sprinkling of crunchy brown sugar, made for a nice contrast.
The slices we were given would probably have nourished a small giant for a day, but that’s no bad thing when you’re feeding two hungry cyclists!
Washed down with a proper pot of tea and a decent cappuccino, we were two highly satisfied customers, ready and raring to take on the ascent south and out of Tintern. For less than ten pounds all-in, we didn’t leave feeling too light-of-purse either.
The Old Station certainly isn’t your average cake stop. Especially on a sunny day, the garden is a hidden oasis, surrounded by woods and steeped in history. Indeed, we lingered a little longer than is usual on a mid-ride refuel.
Departure became necessary only when the temptation posed by the scrumptious-looking cones of ice cream being purveyed across the lawn became almost too much; we decided to save those for next time!