With spring in the air, thoughts inevitably turn to picnics – there are, after all, few al fresco pastimes more enjoyable. From a champagne picnic on a grassy riverbank to an afternoon tea picnic in a secluded cove with the local seals for company, here are eight superb spots to indulge in the quintessentially British pursuit of picnicking:
Devon: picnic with seals at Mattiscombe Beach, Start Point
Walk along the rugged and rocky cliff-top footpath at Start Point in the serene South Hams and you’ll be rewarded by finding a secluded sandy beach where, in springtime, pink-headed thrift grows on the cliffs, cirl buntings call from the bushes and, if well timed, inquisitive grey seals bask and frolic by the rocks. Nearby Buckland Tout-Saints can prepare a wicker hamper filled with a mix of scones, mini cakes and fancies, and a savoury selection of finger sandwiches. A bottle of Prosecco is optional.
The Cotswolds: picnic with a view at Broadway Tower
Take a scenic stroll to Broadway Tower for spectacular soaring views across the Evesham Vale into Wales. Re-fuel at this remote and enchanting spot by the iconic Cotswolds’ landmark which rises majestically from Fish Hill. Lovingly prepared and presented in a wicker hamper (or a walk-friendly rucksack), the Dormy House hamper includes smoked salmon, cooked ham, cheddar & pickles, chicory, apple, walnut & goat’s cheese salad, pasta with pesto & sundried tomato, cake, strawberries and seasonal fruit.
Cornwall: picnic on a boat on the Fal River, The Roseland Peninsula
This beautiful Cornish river – with its secluded coves, tree-lined banks and picturesque views of rolling fields – runs through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Guests staying at The Nare can enjoy a picnic lunch aboard Alice Rose, the hotel’s classic motor launch. Departing from Smuggler’s Cottage, Alice Rose picnics include delicious delights such as smoked salmon, homemade bread with butter rosettes, local Cornish cheeses, Waldorf salad, fresh berries and Bakewell Tart – plus drinks from the well-stocked bar on board.
London: indulge in a luxury hamper at St James’s Park
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and picnic on the grass in this picturesque royal park. From the central lake – home to a colony of pelicans (a gift from a Russian Ambassador in 1664) – you’ll glimpse tree-framed views of Buckingham Palace. Landmark hotel The Goring’s Luxury Hamper (prepared by Executive Chef Shay Cooper) is the perfect picnic companion. Inside, you’ll find decadent delights such as Oscietra caviar, Frank Hederman beech smoked salmon, Hereford beef and horseradish brioche rolls, an array of fine wines and Bollinger Champagne. The other picknickers in St James’s Park will be looking on with wide-eyed envy.
Devon: enjoy a seafood hamper at Yarmer Sands, Thurlestone
The stunning South West Coast Path has rugged cliffs, old smugglers’ haunts and secluded coves galore, but this small stretch with its fine sand and shallow water – perfect for paddling – is our pick. Indulge, between bathing and sandcastle making, with a seafood hamper from nearby Thurlestone Hotel, packed with local seafood specialities and, including home-baked Thurlestone ham, South Devon crab, soused mackerel with rhubarb and apple relish, West Country cheeses, home-made cakes and juices.
Scottish Highlands: have a heavenly homemade hamper at Clach Thoull, Port Appin
Follow the path to the end of the headland at Clach Thoull, and you’ll find a perfectly-positioned bench from which to soak up the calming views across Loch Linnhe towards the isle of Lismore and the Morvern mountains beyond – watch for sailing boats, basking seals and foraging otters. There are tempting local and homemade treats galore in The Airds’ homemade hamper: choose from a range of sandwiches (cucumber, Scottish beef and horseradish, local Inverawe smoked salmon, and Isle of Mull cheese and chutney), homemade fruit cake and shortbread, vegetable crisps, fruit and a flask of tea or coffee.
Sussex: kitchen garden hamper at Whitestone Woods, West Hoathly
There’s a particular spot on the High Weald Landscape Trail by Whitestone Woods which affords splendid valley views towards the Gravetye Estate and the North Downs. Take the footpath by The Cat Inn through woods and up the hill to the open field beyond. Gravetye Manor provides picnics brimming with fresh, seasonal produce. Delights include fruit and vegetables harvested from the hotel’s own kitchen garden. Inside, picnickers will also find yummy sandwiches, homemade cake and a bottle of English sparkling wine from nearby vineyards.
Constable country: strawberries and champagne picnic by the River Stour, Dedham
The rolling farmland, meadows and ancient woodlands on the banks of the River Stour have inspired artists for centuries – in fact, the picturesque landscapes feature in many of John Constable’s masterpieces. Take in the traditional English lowland landscape from your rowing boat while gliding from Dedham Mill to Flatford – it’s an idyllic stretch of river for a picnic in the heart of Constable Country. Nearby Maison Talbooth’s hamper includes a selection of cold meats, cheeses, seasonal salads, juicy local strawberries and, most importantly, a bottle of Taittinger champagne.