Marketing director Sarah Merker, 49, is the mastermind behind a blog called nationaltrustscones.com, where she has documented a decade-long journey trying the baked treats at 244 National Trust locations. And she says Dudmaston Hall near Bridgnorth offers the best scones of any of National Trust sites in this region, according to one woman who has now sampled scones at every one of the trust’s locations.
In her journey, over ten years, she visited dozens of National Trust properties including Attingham Park outside Shrewsbury, Carding Mill Valley near Shrewsbury, Sunnycroft in Wellington and Dudmaston Hall near Quatt.
The 17th Century country house Dudmaston Hall took top spot in Shropshire, scoring 5 out of 5 with Sarah. “The scone was indisputably fantastic,” Sarah, from London, said after a visit to the hall in 2019: “It was light, fresh, and fluffy and a very good size.”
In a close second, Carding Mill Valley’s scone was awarded 4.5 out of 5 after a visit in December 2015.
Sarah said: “The scone itself was very nice, it looked the part and it tasted good.
“And I got to eat it listening to Christmas carols next to a Christmas tree, which doesn’t happen very often for obvious reasons.” Attingham, the National Trust’s fourth most popular property, was next, and awarded 4 out of five 5 following a summer visit back in 2015.
“Regular viewers will know the Scone Blogger’s Theorem: the more popular the property, the poorer the scone,” Sarah said: “And although the scone at Attingham was alright, it didn’t feel like very good value for money.“Attingham is the fourth most popular National Trust property, and I expected better if I’m very honest. But it tasted OK and the tea was lovely.”
Victorian villa Sunnycroft in Wellington brought up the rear with 3.5 out of 5 back in 2016. Whilst Sunnycroft got high praise for its beauty and homeliness, the baked goods left the author wanting.
“I have to say that it tasted a lot better than it looked. I’m not sure why, but shop-bought scones always remind me of someone that has been a little bit too fond of their sunbed.
“It was also a bit dry and metallic-tasting. But I enjoyed it. They had other cake options too, and the tearoom was fabulous.”
Just over the Welsh border, Chirk Castle, near Wrexham, was awarded third place in the running for Scone of The Year 2018.
Sarah awarded both the castle and the cake 5 out of 5.
“The Chirk scone was like the castle itself,” she wrote: “Hefty.
“And that’s always a slight concern to me, as I’ve had a couple of dry scones where I’ve eaten half, looked down at my plate, and realised with something approaching horror that I still have half to go.
“But fear not, readers, as the Chirk scone was excellent - it was fresh as anything with a slightly crunchy exterior and fluffiness within. Top marks.”
Powis Castle also had a visit from Sarah in October 2015.
The castle scored highly, with Sarah praising the “fantastic” medieval castle. The scone also did reasonably, scoring 4 out of 5.
Sarah’s blog has even been turned into a book, The National Trust Book of Scones.