There’s no better way to celebrate summer than packing a picnic and catching up with friends and family. With miles of coastline and acres of countryside, the National Trust cares for some of the best spots in the country for eating al fresco and enjoying stunning views.
For those whose picnic preparation isn’t quite up to scratch, there are also plenty of ways to make it extra-special with the delicious seasonal food on offer at National Trust cafés and shops.
Here are some of the top picnic spots and places to stop for a tasty treat:
If you’re looking to picnic in historical surroundings then Avebury is the perfect spot. The pretty village is partially encompassed by the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, now a World Heritage Site. There’s plenty of green space to throw your rug down and little ones will love rolling down the surrounding hills and banks. On the edge of the village stands Avebury Manor, which was recently transformed in a partnership between the National Trust and the BBC. The Manor creates a hands-on experience that celebrates and reflects the lives of the people who once lived in Avebury; the perfect educational accompaniment to a glorious picnic.
Lanhydrock estate covers 1,000 acres, with parkland, ancient woodland and riverside paths. Pack a rucksack and go on a family adventure to find your perfect spot. The estate has lots of cycle trails and even has bikes to hire, so you can plan a day full of exploration. Once you’ve had your fill of sandwiches and adventures, why not relax in the gardens and take in the beautiful scents of blooming herbaceous borders.
For information on bicycle hire, please call: 01208 265975
Studland Beach, Dorset
Take the children for a good old fashioned day out on this golden sandy beach that stretches four miles from South Haven Point to Old Harry Rocks. It’s an ideal place to enjoy the simple pleasures of beach picnics and tumbling sandcastles. And with shallow bathing water it’s perfect for paddling with the little ones. You can also visit the nearby ruins of Corfe Castle to discover over 1,000 years of history and relive childhood memories by seeing the inspiration behind Enid Blyton’s Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five.
A family enjoys a picnic on the lawn at Polesden Lacey, Surrey ©National Trust Images Stuart Cox
Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Lazy Jazz Sundays, every Sunday June – September & Bank Holiday Monday 29 August, 2pm – 4pm
Unwind on the lush green grass of Polesden Lacey’s South Lawn to the melodious tones of live jazz music. You can fill up your hamper with treats at the café which will be offering pick-up-and-go food for impromptu picnics. Every penny you spend in the café helps the National Trust care for special places like Polesden Lacey for summers to come. Afterwards take a stroll through the gardens and estate where stunning displays of climbing roses and double herbaceous borders will be in full bloom.
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
For more information, please call: 01372 452048
Morden Hall Park, London
Jazzy June Evenings, 17 & 24 June, 8pm – 10pm
Morden Hall Park is green oasis, giving you a taste of the country at the end of the Northern Line. Every Friday throughout June, Morden will be staying open late and playing host to an evening of jazz in the historic stable yard. A different group will be performing each week, so bring a picnic, grab a glass of Pimm’s and take the chance to dance the night away.
Price: £8 in advance, £10 on the gate (booking essential)
Woman relaxing beside the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Stowe is a place of such scale and beauty that it has attracted visitors for over 300 years. This timeless landscape, created by the celebrated gardener ‘Capability’ Brown, is full of picture-perfect viewpoints, winding paths, lakeside walks and classical temples. Drop by the café to add an extra homemade treat to your hamper. There’s everything from mouth-watering cheese scones and sausage rolls to indulgent slices of cake, so all you need to do is bring a rug and choose a spot to enjoy the view.
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
With a shimmering lake, shady woodland, colourful garden and rolling green parkland, you’re never far from an idyllic picnic spot at Blickling. Take a stroll around the grounds to find your picture-perfect setting. After tucking in, set the kids loose in the secret garden and ancient temple, and smell the wonderful citrus trees in the orangery. The whole family can also hire bikes and segways to explore the park, with every penny going towards conserving the beautiful landscape.
Flatford Mill is right in the middle of Dedham Vale, part of the rolling Essex landscapes that inspired Constable’s idyllic rural paintings. This is great walking countryside, so why not pack a rucksack full of treats and head out onto the trails for a day of family fun. There are plenty of spots along the way to relax by the water’s edge and enjoy your feast. Or you can even hire a boat from the nearby boathouse and row down river to see the beautiful surroundings from a new perspective.
Admire the views of the recently restored Gothic Tower at Wimpole Estate with a picnic in the north park. The 18th-century tower, designed to look like a picturesque medieval ruin, makes a picture-perfect backdrop for any picnic. You’ll be able to see right across the estate as you enjoy the peace and tranquillity of your surroundings. Afterwards, take a stroll around the gardens and woodland and find out how Wimpole’s gardeners are using greener gardening techniques to safeguard the future of this glorious estate.
Visitors at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Berrington Hall, Herefordshire
Enjoy the splendour of Berrington Hall’s ‘Capability’ Brown parkland from the comfort of your picnic rug this summer. The lake at the centre of the park is a haven for wildlife, carefully cared for by Berrington’s gardeners and rangers. Herons, mute swans, great-crested grebes and much more live there so there’s always something to see. Afterwards take a stroll around the walled garden to see the flourishing orchard, flower borders and vegetable patch.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and take the time to get closer to nature at Clumber Park. Whether it’s cycling, orienteering or a gentle stroll you’re after, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun with all the family. Afterwards you can enjoy a shady picnic in the woodlands or overlooking the glittering lake. The kids can climb, swing and run around in the play park, try out some of the ‘50 things’ activities or pick up a family tracker pack to see what they can find.
Croome was Capability Brown’s first landscape garden and it’s the ideal place to relax with some tasty treats. When it comes to picnicking you’ll be spoilt for choice with tranquil spots overlooking lakes and rivers, next to statues, bridges, follies or classical temples. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained too, including a natural play area with den building and an exciting programme of walking trails to explore.
Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey, Wales. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Chirk Castle is packed full of fantastic places to picnic, each with their own charm. Relax in the Kitchen Garden with far-reaching views along Offa’s Dyke and into the Ceiriog Valley below, or up at the castle you can picnic and play in the meadow with views for miles across the Cheshire plain. Why not spread a blanket on the grass in the courtyard, or if it’s tranquillity you’re after then head to the terrace at the bottom of the gardens for beautiful views across Shropshire from the ha-ha.
Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire
Settle down for sandwiches at Dinefwr Park and keep an eye out for the resident fallow deer that have been roaming the land for 1000 years. What better place to lay down your picnic blanket than the only parkland National Nature Reserve in Wales. Stop beneath an old oak tree or next to a flower-rich hay meadow cared for by National Trust rangers and watch the world go by. There are some designated picnic benches on the estate too.
Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey
With atmospheric views across the Menai Strait and to Snowdonia’s mountains, and beautiful blooming gardens throughout the summer, it’s never hard to find a perfect picnic spot at Plas Newydd. Settle down with a hamper on the lawns to the north of the mansion and you’ll be rewarded with views of the Italianate Terrace, where hot borders are a virtual furnace of reds and oranges, including canna, rudbeckia and dahlia.
Fountains Abbey, ©National Trust Images Andrew Butler
Borrowdale and Derwent Water, Cumbria
Just five minutes’ walk from the quaint market town of Keswick, the Borrowdale Valley is a great place to get an introduction to walking in the Lake District. There are plenty of trails up onto the fells, or you can stick to exploring the pebbly shores around Derwent Water. Brandelhow on the western edge of the lake makes the perfect picnic location, with far-reaching views across the water and loads of space for the kids to run around in.
Quarry Bank, Cheshire
Picnic on the Mill Meadow at Quarry Bank, set against the backdrop of the 18th-century Georgian cotton mill in the valley of the River Bollin. With scenic panoramic views and plenty of space to play in, it’s the ideal place for a day of fun in the sun. Quarry Bank even welcomes four-legged furry friends to its woodlands and gardens, so you can explore the estate as a whole family.
Wray Castle, Cumbria
Perched on the shores of Lake Windermere, this mock-Gothic castle with turrets and towers provides a great backdrop for a family day out. Settle down with a feast at the picnic tables just outside the castle and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views in all directions. Little visitors will be excited to know that there’s now a mini ‘treecastle’ in the outdoors play area, so after you’ve had your fill of feast why not head out for an adventure?
Visitors in the grounds to the south front of Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Yorkshire and North East
Beningbrough Hall, York
Beningbrough’s gardens are full of secret nooks where you can picnic surrounded by flowers and wildlife. Or if you prefer a bit more space, why not throw the rug down on the south facing lawns and soak up some summer sun? If you’re hoping to build an appetite first you can borrow a bike for the day. There’s a selection of bikes and trikes on offer, and even one with a picnic-carrying carriage so you can tow along your lunch to your perfect destination.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire
On a glorious sunny day you can’t beat packing a picnic and heading for the abbey green. With acres of lush green grass and the stunning 800 year old abbey ruins as a backdrop, it’s not hard to find a picture-perfect spot. Afterwards, take a stroll among the trees on the edge of Studley Royal deer park or along the banks of the river Skell and see if you can spot some of the 500 wild red, fallow and Sika deer.
A family day at Wallington isn’t complete without the chance to play games in the outdoors. Bring your Frisbee or football or set off towards the West Woods for a wild adventure. If you’re looking for a quieter spot to relax then why not set out a blanket and tuck into a picnic on the lawn at the end of the walled garden. Overlooking the little pond, it’s the perfect hide away for a tranquil afternoon.
Rowallane Garden, County Down
Just a short drive from Belfast, Rowallane is a beautiful setting for a walk and picnic. During the summer the walled garden is brimming with colour, from egg-yolk yellow hypericum to bright pink shrub roses. There are plenty of picnic benches around the grounds, or you can take a blanket and find your own hidden corner among the blooms. Head to the garden café for extra treats, where every penny you spend goes towards conserving places like Rowallane for summers to come.
The Argory, County Armagh
Deep in the green County Armagh countryside is a place where the mist rolls down to the River Blackwater and time stands still. Enjoy peaceful views of the river, running wild in the woods and adventure playground, and mulling over the sun dial. The Courtyard Coffee Shop is full of fresh, home-baked scones, sandwiches and cakes so you can grab an impromptu picnic while you’re there.
Florence Court, County Fermanagh
Build up an appetite for a picnic with a day of adventures at Florence Court. There are miles of glorious walks and cycle trails through the forest, a playground for little explorers and the opportunity to discover more about nature with adventure tracker packs. Take a stroll to visit the blacksmith’s forge and carpenters workshop, then relax with a picnic in the peaceful gardens and enjoy the mountain views.
Every single visit supports the National Trust’s conservation work, looking after special places for people to enjoy for years to come.