Picnicking is a great excuse to explore the countryside – grab your sandwiches and explore 20 of our favourite picnic spots in the UK
Lydford Gorge, Devon
This is the deepest gorge in south-west England and includes beautiful ancient oak woodland; the trees’ fresh green leaves newly unfurled. A series of spectacular potholes line the gorge, the largest of which is Devil’s Cauldron.
Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire
As the highest point in the East of England, Dunstable Downs offers spectacular views across the Vale of Aylesbury and along the Chiltern Ridge. The chalky grasslands are buzzing with wildlife for young nature enthusiasts to discover, whilst the vast open space makes the downs an ideal spot for kite-flying, even home to an annual kite festival. Watch colourful gliders soar overhead, and visit the family-friendly visitor’s centre to learn about the local archaeology.
Lyndhurst, New Forest
After 1,000 years, Lyndhurst still retains much of the beauty and protection it used to enjoy as a hunting paradise for kings. Take a trip and picnic in the heart of the New Forest.
Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire
The magnificent man-made monuments of Avebury provide a spectacular and mysterious backdrop for a picnic with the past. The largest stone circle (also the biggest in the world) wraps itself around half of Avebury village, which is home to the Keiller Museum – complete with hands-on exhibits to keep the little ones happy. Unlike the restrictions of Stonehenge, Avebury can be freely explored, and the historic landscape is perfect for re-enacting battle scenes.
Mussenden Temple, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Perching precariously on a cliff-top, the Italianate Mussenden Temple, on the National Trust’s Downhill Estate in County Londonderry, offers one of Northern Ireland’s most awe-inspiring coastal views. Part of the eccentric Frederick Augustus Hervey’s 18th-century estate, the temple was built as a summer library. It’s certainly a dramatic spot to recline with a book as the waves roll in from the Atlantic and views stretch westwards towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal. An inscription on the building reads: “Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore. The rolling ship, and hear the tempest roar.” A picnic here gives you the opportunity to do just that.
Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Although it’s one of East Anglia’s most popular stretches of sand, Holkham Beach is so vast you won’t have any trouble finding a secluded spot. The three miles of flat, golden sands stretch as far as the eye can see; even the skies seem somehow bigger here. The beach is part of Holkham National Nature Reserve, and the dunes harbour natterjack toads and as well as a beautiful variety of orchids, thistles and sea lavender; offshore, little terns hover and dive for fish. If the northerly winds pick up, pitch up within the pinewoods that back onto the beach.
Seven Sisters, Seaford, East Sussex
Eat your sandwiches opposite one of the most iconic scenes in the country – the Seven Sisters. OK, so the shingle beach doesn’t make for the comfiest of meals, but the views are well worth it. The Sisters is a great place to watch the sun set because of the way the light plays over the white cliffs, and it’s also a location that’s captivated filmmakers for decades. Scenes from Atonement and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves should ring bells. Behind the famous chalk cliffs you’ll find meandering rivers, flower-rich downland and a rollercoaster path on which you can walk off your sandwiches.
Chatsworth House, Peak District
Aside from the manicured slopes, beautifully tended gardens and grand estate view that make this such a classic picnic spot, Chatsworth in Derbyshire has one resounding feature that puts it squarely on the picnic spot wish list – the farm shop is simply brilliant. Arrive with an empty basket and spend an hour filling it with a vast array of delicious home-cooked meats, pies, cheese and bread – 60 percent of which are sourced from within the estate – before finding your own patch of deer-nibbled grass on which to recline. There are no ‘keep off the grass’ signs here, so finding your own slice of Chatsworth is easy as pie.
Elterwater, Lake District
William Wordsworth likened Loughrigg Tarn, near Elterwater in the Lake District, to “Diana’s looking-glass… round and clear and bright as heaven.” Hidden in a quiet corner of the national park, this almost circular blue pool sits calmly within the ragged beauty of the Langdale Pikes. Water lilies cover its edges in summer and coots bimble around the banks, pecking at the plants and searching for insect larvae to eat. Spread your picnic blanket down beside the shore, or build up an appetite by climbing Loughrigg Fell. At 335m, it’s by no means among Lakeland’s highest peaks, but its isolated position gives it one phenomenal advantage – unhindered views over Ambleside, Windermere and the southern fells.
Kielder Water, Northumberland
Kielder Water, in Northumberland, is Europe’s largest man-made reservoir and boasts some of the darkest skies in England. According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, it is the most tranquil place in the country – ideal for an al fresco meal. To lose all sight of the beaten track, seek out the Lewisburn inlet, a cove within the forest’s most secluded valley. Cross the new Lewisburn suspension bridge and walk up the hill to Patterson’s Pause to get the most out of those views. Along the 26-mile trail that circles the lake, a unique collection of art installations provide interesting picnic backdrops, from 500 shiny disks hidden among tree branches to a beehive-shaped camera obscura that projects a moving image of the water into the chamber.