Monday 17 April 2023

Which UK Counties Serve the Best Scones?

Now that I've completed my National Trust Scone Odyssey (you can read about my final victory visit to the Giant's Causeway here) I thought it would be good to crunch some numbers and share some data with you.

The question I wanted to answer for this post: which regions of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have served the best National Trust scones over the 10 years of the project? I'd covered 46 different counties over the past decade, so which ones had been most consistent in National Trust scone quality? (Scotland has its own NT that I haven't covered yet.)

The quick answer to that question is simple: every single National Trust scone I had in the 8 counties listed below scored an impressive 5 stars.

  • North Yorkshire (6 properties visited)
  • Staffordshire (3 properties visited)
  • Herefordshire (2 properties visited)
  • Isle of Wight (2 properties visited)
  • Nottinghamshire (2 properties visited)
  • Bedfordshire (1 property visited)
  • South Yorkshire (1 property visited)
  • Merseyside (1 property visited)

BUT. There was a big variation in the number of properties per county in the dataset. For example, I only included one property in each of Merseyside, South Yorkshire, and Bedfordshire - Speke Hall, Wentworth Castle Gardens, and Dunstable Downs respectively - so although those properties each served a fantastic scone on that one visit, I can't vouch for their consistency*. 

If we want to measure consistency, we probably need to focus on counties where I had 3 or more scones. If we go down that path, then we come to the real heroes of the project:

Counties where 3 or more NT scones were eaten and all scored 5 stars:

  • North Yorkshire (6 properties, all 5 stars)
  • Staffordshire (3 properties, all 5 stars)

Counties where 3 or more NT scones were eaten and average score was 4.5-4.9:

  • Cambridgeshire (5 properties, average 4.9)
  • Derbyshire (7 properties, average 4.7)
  • West Sussex (5 properties, average 4.7)
  • Somerset (11 properties, average 4.6)
  • Buckinghamshire (5 properties, average 4.6)
  • Northern Ireland (12 properties, average 4.5)
  • Worcestershire (5 properties, average 4.5)
  • Warwickshire (5 properties, average 4.5)
  • Hampshire (5 properties, average 4.5)

You may be wondering why neither Devon nor Cornwall are listed above. They're both world famous for their cream tea skills, and I've posted several times about the brilliant scones I've had there. This is where timing, luck and other vagaries come into play. Out of the 15 NT scones that I had in Cornwall, an amazing 9 of them scored 5 out of 5. But I hit a tricky patch in 2022 when the cafes at both Penrose and Pentire were closed on the days I visited, due to staff shortages and other issues. Both those zeros pulled Cornwall's average down. The timing of my visit also had an impact in Devon - at the very excellent Finch Foundry, for example, the scone facilities were limited and the score was lower. It subsequently closed its food and beverage service completely - if I'd visited more recently, then it wouldn't have been included.

To conclude then: there are many vagaries at play here, so any county not listed above shouldn't really be judged on that fact. 

However, a massive well done to the F&B teams in the areas that *are* mentioned above - there's no doubting your scone quality and consistency. 

*For this exercise, I only included NT properties that served refreshments of some sort. For example, the Beatles' Childhood Homes are also on Merseyside but they don't have any tea/food facilities at all and therefore scones were never possible. If I'd included them as a zero here, along with properties that could have had scones but didn't, then every single NT property would have to be added for balance. This only applies to the small number of properties I visited where it was 100% clear that scones would not be available - the others were Hill Top, Tintagel Old Post Office, Max Gate, Lindisfarne Castle, and Bath Skyline.

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