13 spots for a British picnic
From National Parks to hidden gardens, Susie Maggie Thorne discovers where you can enjoy a romantic picnic in the UK
Britain is home to some of the world’s most incredible and beautiful parks and gardens so pack up a hamper, a blanket (and a brolly!) and enjoy the typically on-off weather.
1. Grosvenor Park, Chester
These small, quaint gardens are in the centre of the historic town of Chester. Here among the pretty flowerbeds you’ll find an amphitheatre as well as Roman Gardens. Take a walk and spot the ruins of a monastery, a miniature railway, all alongside the River Dee.
Cobblestone pathways and ice-cream huts make for an original English setting followed by rowing or, in the summer, a spot of Shakespeare in the open-air theatre.
2. Loggerheads Country Park, North Wales
North Wales is known for its unspoiled scenery and Loggerheads is no exception. Relatively little known outside of its local community, this hilly park provides hours of scenic meandering and timeless beauty. Throw in some pastries from the local bakery and you’ve got yourself a warm-hearted (and probably windy) Welsh retreat.
3. Creag Dubh, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Afternoon tea at an altitude. Creag Dubh is part of Britain’s highest and most expansive mountain range. Although 2,500 feet may seem a big old climb for a wee picnic, there’s a chairlift at the Glencoe Mountain Resort to make life a little easier. Climb up a further three-quarters of a mile to the Creag Dubh summit where, on clear days, views reach as far as Ben Nevis. Celebrate the Year of Natural Scotland and head north for some real breathing space.
4. Bute Park and Arboretum, Cardiff, South Wales
Get a little lost in this green dream. The 56 hectares nestled into Wales’ capital is flanked by the River Taff, Sophia Gardens, Pontcanna Fields and Cardiff Castle. There’s never a problem finding a quiet spot for your picnic blanket even in the height of summer when the students are in out in packs. Shady oak trees and riverbanks set the scene for a Welsh-cake and cheese butty.
5. Kyoto Gardens, London
For city dwellers, London’s ‘Kyoto Gardens’ offer an idyllic retreat. Waterfalls, greenery and a piece of “peace and tranquillity” in The Big Smoke. The Japanese themed garden is located in the 17th century, 22 hectare Holland Park in the Borough of Chelsea and Kensington. The park is a flowery champion, winning a Gold award at the 2012 London in Bloom awards.
6. Highdown Gardens, Worthing, Sussex
For a floral background to your afternoon meal, Highdown Gardens has an impressive array of flora and fauna. The some eight hectares of park were created from a chalk-pit where the soil was supposed to be infertile.
The park’s website explains: “The Chalk Garden at Highdown is the achievement of Sir Frederick and Lady Stern who worked for 50 years to prove that plants would grow on chalk. This was during a period when many expeditions were going out to China and the Himalayan regions collecting rare and beautiful plants.”
7. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, South Wales
Sandwiches with a sea view, this is Britain’s only national park to be (almost) entirely coastal. It’s home to the infamous Tenby Beach and the mythical Preseli Mountains, where the blue stones from Stonehenge supposedly hail from.
Picnickers can easily find a good spot, especially if you pop over to Skomer or Skokholm, tiny islands off the mainland, for puffin spotting.
8. Dartmoor National Park, Devon
The infamous setting for Sherlock Holmes adventure Hound of the Baskervilles boasts some of the best views in the south of England. These moors have “sprawling open scenery interspersed with valleys, rivers and unusual woodland areas”. Perfect for picnickers who fancy some traditional English tucker as well as hikers and birdwatchers wishing to make to most of nature’s offerings.
9. Northumberland National Park, Northumberland
On the park’s website, the area is described as “England’s most tranquil place” which can only be a good thing when it comes to a nice day out with a picnic hamper. This mountainous park sits along the Scottish border and is home to an array of exciting wildlife. Northumberland’s coast is worth a visit too if you don’t mind getting some sand in your sandwiches.
10. Thetford Forest Park, Norfolk
One of the flattest and greenest parts of England, Norfolk is home to a variety of parks. Thetford Forest has the added advantage of unusual flora and fauna, a woody setting for a picnic, as well as activities for family days out. Walking and cycling trails sprawl across the park for active visitors, while children can enjoy the nearby Go Ape for a forest adventure.
11. Sandwick Bay, Ullswater, The Lake District
This famously stunning region isn’t just easy on the eye, it also has great services for cycling, walking, fishing, birdwatching and kayaking, to name a few. Ullswater is one of Cumbria’s biggest, but most serene, lakes. The path around it twists through wooded areas to pebbly beaches such as Sandwick Bay, at the foot of Hallin Fell.
12. Chatsworth House and Gardens, Peak District
The pride of the North, the Peak District covers six counties. Said to be Jane Austen’s inspiration behind Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice, the park has various landscapes including rolling hills, valleys and lakes.
For those looking for more than a pristine setting for a picnic, the country’s first National Park has events and activities all year round.
13. Glenelly Valley, Sperrins Region, County Derry
Northern Ireland’s offering has a mix of heritage sites, forest parks and outdoors activities. The Glenelly Valley “is carved by the glacial flows of the Ice Age, it is a diverse and stunning landscapes and features picturesque walking and cycling routes, peaceful picnic sites and mysterious archaeological remains”.