Speyside has become world famous for being the place for Scotch whisky. With the region home to over 50 distilleries, a lot of tourism to the charming towns and villages is driven by a love of all things whisky.
One of those towns is Dufftown, which bills itself as the "Malt Whisky Capital of the World". This is due to the town being the biggest exporter of whisky in Britain - and being home to Glenfiddich and The Balvenie distilleries.
Those looking to buy bottles from all over Scotland can do so from the Whisky Shop in the town, and there’s also a whisky museum.
One of the ways to get around part of the Malt Whisky Trail - from Keith to Dufftown - is via a volunteer-led vintage train.
And it’s here that you’ll come across the quaint Sidings cafe, which is located in an old train carriage next to the railway.
It was here where I found myself during a recent holiday in Speyside, where I booked in to try their afternoon tea after a delicious lunch.
Sidings cafe is run by Anya and Darren, who make all the food - savoury and sweet - fresh to order. Inside it’s like stepping back to the golden era of rail travel crossed with your gran’s lying room.
There’s vintage furniture, accessories and crockery, as well as railway memorabilia on the walls. An i-pod plays upbeat 50s music, making this a cosy and welcoming pit stop when in the area - whisky fan or not.
On the menu you’ll find homemade soup, sandwiches, boards (including a ploughman’s style offering), quiche and salad, as well as cakes and scones, which can be found under glass displays in the kitchen area.
Afternoon tea is available, and needs to be booked 24 hours in advance. We arrived hungry and ready for some sweet treats on a busy Thursday afternoon in mid-October.
There are some people (and I am not one of them) that favour the savouries at an afternoon tea, and often complain that there are never enough sandwiches.
These people would not be disappointed at Sidings Cafe. We were presented with a generous portion of finger sandwiches and a homemade brioche roll before the arrival of the tiered stand laden with cakes and scones.
The sandwiches were a nod to the classic afternoon tea, with egg mayo and cress; ham, cheese and tomato; chicken mayo in the brioche roll and two homemade sausage rolls, encased in lovely crisp flaky pastry.
The sandwiches were fresh and flavourful, with just enough creaminess from the mayo in the sweet roll. After devouring these, and stopping for a cup of tea (unlimited tea or coffee is provided as part of the afternoon tea), we started to tackle the cakes.
The cake vintage cake stand had, on top, two chocolate and Baileys mousse housed in a small whisky glass and a white chocolate and raspberry tart.
Below there was Malteser fudge and lemon cupcakes, while the bottom tier had two fruit scones with slabs of butter, mini jars of jam and a pot of cream.
The mousse was extremely light with the hit of creaminess from the Baileys pairing well with milk chocolate, while the tart was crisp (no soggy bottoms here) and, despite having white chocolate, not too sweet as the interior held a tart raspberry filling.
The Malteser fudge was ideal for those with a very sweet tooth, with a good mix of fudge to Malteser. A bit sweet for me, but went down well across the table.
The cupcakes were picture perfect, with frosting and decorations as well as a lace case. Another cake with a surprise inside, which this time was glossy lemon curd.
The buttercream frosting and light sponge, along with the curd was an excellent combo. Finally the buttery yet crisp fruit scones were classic - and expertly made by not being crumbly or like rock buns.
There’s a lot to enjoy during this afternoon tea, but it’s no chore to sit, chat and relax over a few cakes and tea in the cafe, while enjoying the countryside. At £16 per person it’s also excellent value for money, given the homemade nature of the tea.
Sidings Cafe is open from spring to winter (March-November) and serves afternoon tea in the cafe, as well as cream tea events on the train when available.
Keith & Dufftown Railway,
01340 525125 / 07485480740