We’ve rounded up our favourite characterful cafés to complete a great day out, from vintage tea rooms to bookish coffee shops. Words: Alex Reece

Our favourite spots around the UK where you can have a frothy latte, slice of homemade cake, full English breakfast or light lunch:
Alf Resco’s, Dartmouth, Devon
Kate and Peter Ryder of Alf Resco’s have always been passionate about supporting local producers and the food served in their café is a true taste of South Devon. Bread from the Sloping Deck bakery (Dartmouth), Westaways Sausages (Newton Abbot) and Sharpham cheese (Totnes) are just a few of the ingredients that combine to make their legendary brunch menu. Everything is made on the premises – a 19th-century former workshop, quirkily decorated with Dartmouth memorabilia and newspapers dating back to the Coronation. The café comes alive at night during Regatta Week (August), Dartmouth Music Festival (May), and for regular fundraising quiz nights. Open daily, 7am-2pm cafealfresco.co.uk. Photo: Craig Howarth
Barter Books Station Buffet, Alnwick, Northumberland
A five-minute drive from the Northumberland coast, Barter Books is a vast emporium of pre-loved literature, selling everything from Ladybird books to rare first editions and medieval texts. Housed in Alnwick’s Victorian station building, the bookshop’s Station Buffet encompasses the former passenger waiting rooms. Head chef Elaine Oliver’s specialities include home baking and comfort food, such as bacon sandwiches or hearty soups (broccoli and Stilton, white bean and chorizo). You can help yourself to filter coffee and ginger parkin in the shop, where there’s an honesty box. Open daily, 9am-7pm (summer) 9am-5pm (winter) barterbooks.co.uk.
Stiffkey Stores, Stiffkey, Norfolk
Andy Griffin and Alice Burnet bought this former coach house on the North Norfolk coast in 2006, when they were both 24 and living in London. Today, Stiffkey Stores is an inspiring blend of café, general store and interiors shop, selling cakes, groceries, gifts and homewares. The couple bake the cakes daily in an oven behind the counter (the peanut butter blondie is a particular favourite), and there are sandwiches and local pork pies to eat at the large table inside the shop. As well as courtyard seating outdoors, there are two beach huts to cosy up inside. Open Monday-Saturday, 8am-5pm; Sunday, 9am-1pm facebook.com/Stiffkey-Stores-313635290395/
Mad Hatter’s Tea Room, La Rosa Hotel, Whitby, North Yorkshire
Take a break from reality in this tea room, based in an early Victorian, seaward-facing building (now La Rosa Hotel), where Lewis Carroll stayed on his frequent visits to Whitby. Before looking at the menu, take in the surroundings: every corner is festooned with vintage finds. All the soups, bread and cakes are made either locally or on site. Tea parties are also popular, featuring sandwiches, scones and cakes, with lashings of edible glitter, accompanied by either tea or Champagne. Open daily, 11am-5pm, and for private parties larosa.co.uk/hotel.
Windy Corner Stores, Whitstable, Kent
A corner shop that does all the things the big chains can’t, Windy Corner Stores is the place to buy groceries, newspapers or a Full English made with local ingredients and artisan bread (courtesy of Whitstable-based baker, Tobias Schwenn). It’s a hub for community events, too, such as seasonal art markets and storytelling for children. Though its location, just one street back from the sea, is off the beaten track, those making the journey will be rewarded with Micro Roastery coffee from Faversham to partner with oven-fresh bruschetta, or Monkshill Farm roast dinners on Sundays. Open daily, 8am-5pm; until 4.30pm on Sundays facebook.com/windycornerstoresandcafe.
Mimi’s Bakehouse, Leith, Edinburgh
This family-run bakehouse has enjoyed great success since it opened in the Shore area of Leith in 2010. Michelle Phillips (aka Mimi) and her daughter Gemma are descended from a long line of bakers. They offer old-school classics, such as Victoria sponge filled with butter cream icing and homemade raspberry jam, alongside innovative treats (their Creme Egg brownies were a Facebook sensation). There are now several bakehouses in central Edinburgh. Open weekdays, 9am-5pm; weekends, 9am-6pm mimisbakehouse.com.
The Greedy Cow, Margate, Kent
Opened in 2011, The Greedy Cow embodies the new, boho spirit of Margate’s Old Town. The café also represents a lifestyle change for its proprietors. Rachel Hunt left a career in retail management to launch the business in her hometown with chef husband Pete. His homebaked cheesecakes are well-loved, as are, for lunch, the handmade burgers. Check out Facebook for the regular comedy nights held at this listed building locale. Open Tuesday-Friday and Sundays, 10am-4pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; closed Mondays thegreedycow.co.uk.
Browse more food and drink stories and coastal guides or pick up a copy of the magazine.

8 best independent cafes by the sea

1. For a laid-back brunch – Alf Resco’s, Dartmouth, Devon

2. For a literary lunch – Barter Books Station Buffet, Alnwick, Northumberland

3. For brownies and beach huts – Stiffkey Stores, Stiffkey, Norfolk

4. For vintage tea parties – Mad Hatter’s Tea Room, La Rosa Hotel, Whitby, North Yorkshire

5. For a full english breakfast – Windy Corner Stores, Whitstable, Kent

6. For decadent baking – Mimi’s Bakehouse, Leith, Edinburgh

7. For comedy nights – The Greedy Cow, Margate, Kent

Browse more food and drink stories and coastal guides or pick up a copy of the magazine.