When checking out the latest exhibitions around the coast, stop for an artisan coffee or a cream tea at one of these seaside gallery cafés. Words: Alex Reece

The Art Café, West Mersea, Essex

In 2003, artist James Weaver and his chef wife Maggie pooled their talents to found The Art Café on Mersea Island. The business now also employs their daughter Jenny Rolfe and has expanded to include a deli next door as well as a sister café in Colchester. The gallery is known for inexpensive art with an emphasis on coastal themes. You might find etchings by Mersea artist Elizabeth Morris, nautical linocuts by Wivenhoe-based James Dodds, and James Weaver’s own watercolours of local beaches and saltmarshes. Food is Modern British – homemade drop scones with bacon and maple syrup make for a hearty breakfast, while red pepper and chorizo hash is popular for lunch. Open daily, 9am-5pm (islandartcafe.com)

Wiveton Hall Café, Wiveton, Norfolk

This colourful café at Wiveton Hall – a Jacobean manor house surrounded by a fruit farm and attractive gardens – has views across the marshes to the North Sea. All the food is fresh and seasonal, made using locally sourced ingredients, many of them from the farm. The Wiveton Salad is legendary, and might feature couscous, farm tomatoes, potato salad, beans and herbs from the kitchen garden. There is rustic-style hot food available, too, and cakes and desserts made on site. The café has regular exhibitions, as does the designated Art Barn. Open 9.30am-5pm daily.

Crail Harbour Gallery, Crail, Fife

East Neuk artist DS Mackie and husband Alan Stamper opened this gallery/café in the cellar of their 17-century fisherman’s cottage in 2005. The gallery has exposed stone walls, flagstone floors and a sheltered courtyard outside, with views over the Firth of Forth. Stop for locally caught dressed crab, panini lunches, handmade cakes and scones. On the walls are originals and prints by the resident artist, who works in mixed media and specialises in seascapes. Also on sale is a selection of local photography, homewares and gifts. On wintry days, blankets are provided for those wanting to sit outside and listen to the sound of the sea. Open daily, 10am-5.30pm (crailharbourgallery.co.uk)

The Bakery, The Atkinson, Southport, Merseyside

The Atkinson arts complex in Southport might have an imposing Victorian facade, but its cultural offering – following a 2013 redevelopment – is up to the minute, spanning music, theatre, art, poetry, literature and history. The Bakery has a contemporary feel and serves up Real Bread Campaign-certified sourdoughs and loaves. For lunch, choose one of the hand-raised pork pies or artisan quiches, followed by local ice cream or millionaire’s shortbread. Customers are also encouraged to take their coffees into the library to enjoy with a book. Open 10am-4pm Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays. (theatkinson.co.uk)

Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent

Photo: Lee Thompson
The all-day dining coffee bar and restaurant at Turner contemporary is operated by local restaurant group Barletta, who are comitted to using local and seasonal produce. Enjoy plenty of cakes, cookies and sweet treats as well as tasty salads and sandwiches. Meanwhile the harbour view restaurant has a more elevated food and drink offering, with a cocktail and wine menu. Open Tue – Sun: 10am-5pm (last food orders at 3.30pm, coffee and cake served until 4.30pm). Dine in the gallery after hours Thu – Sun: 6pm-9.30pm 


Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

From the award-winning main café, you can look out over the town, its 13th-century castle and Cardigan Bay. But should you ever tire of this vista, the eating place has a viewing box showing short films, plus its own gallery. Food is predominantly Welsh, ethically sourced, and there are imaginative vegetarian dishes, such as nut roast with goat’s cheese and pear. Open Mon-Sat, 10am-7pm; Sun 12pm-5pm (aberystwythartscentre.co.uk)

Café Bar & Kitchen, The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

The curvilinear balcony of the Grade I-listed De La Warr Pavilion wraps around the Café Bar & Kitchen, allowing visitors to this multi-arts centre to sip coffee or beer while seemingly hovering over the English Channel. Lunches range from £8-£14, and are locally and organically sourced where possible – warm up with beer-battered fish and chips or chill out over a De La Warr cream tea. Open daily, 10am-4:30pm (dlwp.com).

The Old School Gallery, Alnmouth, Northumberland

After a spell living in Brighton, Dale Maloney and Penny Morrison returned with their children to the North East two years ago to set up The Old School Gallery in Alnmouth by the Northumberland coast. The 1873 school building is now home to resident artist Sue Fenlon (Penny’s mother), whose paintings are influenced by the local shoreline, along with a gallery and café, selling coffee and homemade cake. The gallery hosts four exhibitions a year and sells affordable prints by local artists. Order a slice of lemon and polenta, and sit outside at one of the tables in the school yard. Open daily, 10am-5pm (theoldschoolgallery.co.uk).

Coffee Yard and Yard Gallery, Holywood, Co Down

A 10-minute walk from Holywood waterfront is this purpose-built gallery and coffee shop, set up by Jim, Nicki and Chris Beattie more than a decade ago. The café is as far from high-street chains as you can get, with coffee supplied by local artisan roaster Bailies. On the menu are homemade soups and stews, plus a variety of breakfast dishes and snacks. The eclectic art shown across two floors is intentionally accessible, and priced mainly in the £25-£50 bracket. Works by local artists Keith Drury and Cupar Pilson are sought after, and the display is refreshed monthly. Open Mon-Sat, 8-4pm (coffeeyard.com)

Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn, Cornwall

From the Studio Café’s panoramic window there are exhilarating views of St Michael’s Mount, Newlyn Green and Pier, and local artist Tom Leaper’s bronze and granite statue, The Newlyn Fisherman. This light-filled venue is the perfect spot to enjoy locally made cakes, salads or sandwiches. Carry a glass of wine outside and relax on one of the oval pebble seats in the secluded garden. Open Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm. (newlynartgallery.co.uk)

Liked this? Check out more coastal guides here or take a look at the monthly magazine.

Liked this? Check out more coastal guides here or take a look at the monthly magazine.