Published: 06:00, 30 September 2021
| Updated: 16:57, 06 October 2021
When Charles and Camilla went to Yalding near Maidstone to meet those affected by some devastating Christmas time floods in 2014, they made an 'unscheduled' visit to quirky tearoom Tea Pot Island.
So what was it that made the royal couple swerve from their scheduled activities to see a small tearoom with a bizarre yet fascinating display of thousands of teapots? If it's good enough for royalty, it's good enough for Eat My Words, so we decided to take afternoon tea there to find out.
The site, just outside Yalding village centre next to the river, is pretty unassuming.
Sandwiched between the Yalding Lees Country Park and the Boathouse pub, you have to park down the road to get there and walk up to the entrance.
It has a 1980s' summer holiday air about it. It opened in 2003 but it reminded me of my school summer holidays, when having an ice cream or lolly was a longed-for, decadent treat.
If you like things rough and ready then you've come to the right place as you head through the gate to the picnic benches outside – and the huge teapot and teacup collecting rainwater which Charles and Camilla posed with – and the cafe inside. Tea Pot Island has no airs and graces.
It wasn't possible to book online, but after this surprise for 2021, I dropped them a message on Facebook and got a reply within five minutes to say our booking had been made.
The menu was also hard to find online, but readily available on arrival, and it didn't take us long to peruse and choose our high tea, and book with the chatty lady behind the counter, who confessed, after I admitted my companion didn't actually like tea, that on the quiet she was not a fan either.
We went with coronation chicken and tuna mayonnaise, both on brown for £10.95 each, including a filled sandwich and scones with jam and cream. Plus the all-important tea for me: served in a Teapot Island teapot naturally, and a coke.
Everything was tasty, well made and produced quickly. I also was awkward and wanted a plain scone instead of fruit, and they were able to get one out of the freezer for me – and it tasted good.
We both felt like weebles afterwards, but still wobbled our way into the cafe to the entrance to the teapots, which costs £2.50 each for adults to enter.
It's a surreal experience stepping into the maze of what feels like tunnels housing the plethora of teapots through the ages everywhere you look (though the majority appear to date from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, probably when teapots were at their most popular. Who has a teapot they use regularly in their house these days?).
Every one is worthy of observation and discussion, and many are of their time or political statements. Some depict famous folk and politicians looking silly, there are also many rude ones and a surprising number of festive ones.
Some are so huge and strangely shaped that at first you can't see how they can even be teapots.
I struggled to imagine what Charles and Camilla thought of them – there were definitely some royal ones in there, but maybe they took them off display that day?
But it's safe to say it's a display you will find nowhere else in the world. When you have taken your absolute fill of looking at teapots – there is no time limit, within opening times – you head back out into the real world to try and comprehend what you've just seen.
Teapot Island has more than 8,000 teapots to mull over. If you want a quirky day out that will fill your mind and your Instagram profile, I'd highly recommend it.
It is a one of a kind. And it may not be your cup of tea, but it's one you won't experience anywhere else but in Kent.
Ratings out of five
Food: Basic but well prepared and tasty. An extra star for finding a plain scone for me ****1/2
Drink: Tea – It's builder's tea, but who doesn't like that? ****
Decor: No airs and graces – it's a caf with picnic benches outside. But it's clean and tidy ***
Staff: Very friendly. They were a ray of sunshine on a slightly grey day *****
Price: Two high teas, a coke, a pot of tea for one and entrance to the teapots came to £26.90. Seems reasonable ***