It’s time to unroll the blankets and dust-off the hampers in time for National Family Week (31 May – 6 June), the UK’s biggest celebration of family life. With over 5000 great events and activities running across the country, there’s something for every family to enjoy throughout the first week of the summer half term holidays – on Saturday 5 June you can even join the UK’s bid to win the Guinness World Record for the Largest Simultaneous Three-Legged Race.
Top Ten Picnic Spots
1. Padley Gorge, Peak District
Magical twining tree roots, foaming waters and gigantic boulders make Padley Gorge richly enchanting – certainly a spot for fairies and goblins. The peaty streams are perfect for paddlers to search for mythical creatures as parents relax in the earthy aromas under the trees. The fairytale gorge is home to many species of scientific interest, including rare birds and hairy ants, which dwell in the vast woodland and grassy plains. There are heaps of clearings and flat leafy areas, making Padley a popular picnic spot in all seasons.
Admission is free, carpark and WC available, with a visitor’s centre and tearoom at Longshaw, open 10.30-5.00. 01433 637904.
2. Dunstable Downs
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.
Open year-round, with a visitor’s centre from 10-4pm daily. Admission is free, with carpark and WC facilities available, dogs welcome. 01582 500920.
3. North Pennines
As a UNESCO Geopark, the vast heather moors, luscious woodland and tumbling rivers of the North Pennines promise a great day out. Young explorers will marvel at the gushing waters, gigantic rock formations and colourful scenery, which form a never-ending natural playground. The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty occupies a fluctuating landscape, with plenty of picnic spots to suit all tastes – from meadows to woodlands, hilltops to valleys and grasslands to rocky plains.
Admission free, Tourist Information Centres are located throughout the area. 01388 528801.
4. Brownsea Island
Nestled in the arc of Poole Harbour, the car-free island is a peaceful escape from the mainland noise. The ferry ride to its pretty sandy beaches adds to the fun, and the grassy flats with harbour views make an ideal picnic spot. As birthplace to scouts and guides, the island is no stranger to young adventurers, offering a range of outdoor pursuits including archery, canoeing and orienteering to keep children busy whilst lunch is set up.
Ferries run from Poole Quay and Sandbanks Jetty run from 10-5pm (call 01929 462383 for ticket information).
5. Barafundle Beach, Pembrokeshire
Considered among the best beaches in the world, little-known Barafundle boasts golden, sugary sands and shallow lapping waters – ideal for families. Reachable only by footpath, the beach sits between sturdy cliffs and is backed by dunes and woodland for exploring. A fun day of paddling and burying the parents would not be complete without a seaside picnic, and Barafundle, which has been awarded a green flag for cleanliness, is just the spot for it.
Facilities nearby (not beach-side), dogs welcome.
6. Avebury Stone Circle
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 Stone Henge, Avebury can be freely explored, and the historic landscape is perfect for re-enacting battle scenes.
Free admission. A family ticket for the museum costs £10.50, open 10-6pm daily. 01672 539250.
7. Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
Vast stretches of open moorland, wildlife-rich marshes and spectacular granite tors are to be expected at Bodmin Moor. The interesting rock formations provide excellent climbing frames for youngsters, who can wonder at the mysterious shapes and faces in the wind-crafted sculptures. It’s easy to find a private picnic spot in the rich oak woodland or grassy valleys, which are perfect for nature-loving families.
8. Glenkiln Sculpture Park, Dumfries and Galloway
Keep the whole family satisfied with the interesting juxtaposition of rugged scenery and modern sculpture at Glenkiln Park. Six artworks, including creations by Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein and Auguste Rodin, are hidden throughout the park, turning the exhibition into a fun treasure hunt. The parkland is great for picnicking, with sloping hills and stunning countryside views.
9. Hardcourt Arboretum, Oxfordshire
Hardcourt Arboretum provides a family-friendly exploration of plant-life, in a magical extension of Oxford’s botanical gardens. The ten-acre woodland is easily explored with pushchair and wheelchair prepared pathways, and picnic benches are plentifully dotted throughout the park. Summer sees the blooming of 37-acres of wildflower meadow, with colourful blossoms providing a perfect picnic view.
Admission £3.50 adults, £3 concessions, open daily from 10-5pm.
10. Corfe Castle, Dorset
The crumbling ruins of Corfe Castle inspired Enid Blyton’s famous children’s book, Kirren Castle. The majestic castle is home to secret passages and hiding places – a fantastic historical playground to be explored. Picnicking under the shadow of the medieval fortress offers incredible views, and it’s easy to see how the atmospheric ruins have proved inspiring.
A family ticket costs £15.50, with the castle open daily from 10-6pm. 01929 481924.