After a restricted autumn and winter, it’s going to be a long spring of walks, swims – and picnics. Here are some of the most underrated pockets of British countryside to take a basket and a bottle:
Pembrokeshire: Bosherston Lily Ponds
© Visit Pembrokeshire
This soporific little spot forms part of the National Trust’s Stackpole Estate, with enchanting walking trails such as the ‘Freshwater Magic Walk’ to enjoy before you settle down with your sandwiches. Less well known (so quieter) than their neighbour Broadhaven Beach, these flooded valleys topped with glossy lily pads have a stillness that’s only disturbed by the odd flick of an otter tail, or a dragonfly flitting past – and of course, the clink of your glasses.
Stay nearby at Grove at Narberth
Southern Scotland: Lauriston Castle
© Visit Britain / Rod Edwards
A family-friendly spot 15 minutes’ drive from central Edinburgh, the grounds of this 16th-century tower house yield different delights every season – carpets of daffodils in spring, fiery-red maples in autumn – but always feel verdant and grand. Best of all, the lavishly-decorated house (which you can tour), lays on creepy crawly hunts and arts and crafts workshops for little ones, so parents can kick back and enjoy. Spread your blanket on the grounds facing the Firth of Forth for the most meditative view.
Sussex: Birling Gap
© Visit Britain / Kiyoshi Sakasai
We love a picnic with a sea backdrop, and there are few more dramatic than the coastline around the Seven Sisters – the frill of stark white, chalky cliffs that trims the South Downs National Park. Pack a backpack with flasks and Tupperware and walk the hour’s loop from Birling Gap, up Lookout Hill, returning to the starting point for your picnic. Tucking in on the grassy slopes above the cliff edge, you’ll be rewarded with postcard-perfect views of the white cliffs, and ‒ on a clear day ‒ luminous blue sea.
Yorkshire: Roseberry Topping
It’s a bit of an uphill climb to this lofty peak, at the north fringe of North York Moors National Park, but it’s worth it for the views. On a clear day you can see for miles around, with the patchwork of apple-green Yorkshire fields all around, as well as mauve carpets of heather and, in spring, bluebells. Stock up on Yorkshire’s famously high-quality products and produce for your picnic spread – the area’s market towns, such as nearby Guisborough, have charming traditional markets touting fantastic cheeses, meats and breads.
Berkshire: Windsor Great Park
Closer to London, Windsor Great Park is so vast that there are multiple snacking spots to choose from. But our pick of the picnic spots is the leafy, lakeside patch known as Virginia Water. An ornamental garden landscaped in the 1930s, it feels sultry and glamorous on a hot day, and has rocky cascades, ornamental bridges, Roman ruins and a play area to seek out if you’re feeling restless. Quality food and drink kiosks within the park mean you can stock up on refreshments once you’re there, too.
Stay nearby at The Vineyard Hotel & Spa
Leicestershire: Rutland Water
View of Rutland Water from Hambleton Hall
A sprawling waterside pleasure park most famous for walking, cycling and family days out, this tranquil reservoir – surrounded by landscaped gardens and cycling trails – is a heart-lifting place for a picnic. The star view is from the slopes leading down to the photogenic, waterside Normanton Church, and there’s a petite beach for paddlers in peak summer, but you’ll find quieter spots elsewhere around the water. With families cycling past and dogs frolicking freely, it all feels rather Famous Five – lashings of ginger beer optional.
Stay nearby at Hambleton Hall
Lake District: Buttermere Lake
It’s no secret that the Lake District has some of Britain’s most rugged and dazzling landscapes – even Taylor Swift has penned entire love songs to the area. As such, it’s spoilt for ravishing picnic spots, but you’ll melt at the sight of Buttermere: thanks to an absence of tourist boats and accommodation, the forested slopes and pebbly drifts around this glassy lake are some of the most au naturel picnic spots in the area. Like Yorkshire, the Lake District’s towns excel at authentic food shops, too, so don’t settle for supermarket sarnies.
Stay nearby at Armathwaite Hotel & Spa
© Visit Britain / Rod Edwards
History buffs will gobble up the tales of hidden royals and Braveheart battles on this site but, the truth is, most come to Dunnottar for the view. Make the drive from Aberdeen or the Cairngorms to spread your al fresco feast out on the east-facing, grassy cliffs above the castle, and you’ll be treated to a view of romantic, Medieval ruins spread across a cinematic peninsula, stretching out towards the North Sea. Wildflower meadows and higgledy-piggledy stone steps make for a hearty walk before or after your picnic.
Stay nearby at The Fife Arms
Article written by Lucy Thackray.