Here in the UK, we are picnic connoisseurs. Perhaps it's the changeable weather that hones our skill, makes us ready to pounce at any picnicking opportunity, but we just know how to do it right. It helps, too, that we have so many inspiring landscapes in which to enjoy our outdoor dining. The UK's National Parks certainly offer a number of premium locations.
To encourage you to get out and enjoy both the landscapes and what they produce we've put together a list of 15 relatively secret picnic spots in the national parks.
Brecon Beacons' waterfalls are a popular place to be on a hot day, but along the footpaths there are plenty of perfect spots to set up for an al fresco experience. Bring your swimsuit.
Follow the boardwalk for a mysterious journey of discovery into a lost world which has remained isolated for half a century. The mystery trail leads through swampy, wildlife-filled carr woodland, with resting places and tapping edges along the way, and emerges to give a surprise panoramic view over Barton Broad, a national nature reserve owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
Wander down a rough track to the Old College of Scalan. The building is open all year for visitors to savour how ‘with courage and dogged perseverance’ the Catholic faith survived amid persecution in the 18th century.
Sharpitor, near Princetown
You’ll be assured of a quiet spot to enjoy your picnic at Sharpitor as it requires some effort to walk up to the tor, but here you will be rewarded with wide reaching views across the Walkham Valley to one side and down to Burrator Reservoir and surrounding moorland to the other. It also makes a great location to watch the sunset and get some photos of the landscape bathed in a golden light.
A lovely picnic spot on Weir Water, accessible via a narrow, steep and winding road from the A39 near the top of Porlock Hill or the equally narrow road from Oare. There is a tiny road bridge, reputed to be the site of a Doone robbery.
Head to Coniston, for a picnic on the shore of one of England’s most beautiful lakes. There are plenty of picnic benches where you can relax and enjoy stunning views of the Coniston Fells. If you’re feeling energetic you can take a stroll along the lake shore or hire a bike, or take to the water by hiring a rowing boat, kayak, canoe, paddle board or electric boat to explore the lake.
This site, overlooking Loch Lubnaig, is nestled between the shrubs in a natural hollow in the ground. 'Sloc' is Scots Gaelic for 'grassy hollow', and 'Sìtheanach' represents 'faerie people', who according to local mythology reside at places of peace and tranquility. The specialist metalwork at your feet in the hollow features a verse by local bard Alexander Campbell.
Nestled in the trees, this shady car park is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic whilst listening to the sounds of woodland wildlife all around.
Hareshaw Linn is a Site of Special Scientific Interest designated for its rare ferns and lichen. More than 300 different types of mosses, liverworts and lichen can be found. The "Linn" is also home to red squirrel, great spotted woodpecker, wood warbler, spotted flycatcher, badger and Daubenton's bat.
Tucked away at the end of a wooded valley in a secret cove. Its beach of coloured pebbles is a paradise for children and adults alike. Dramatic, almost sheer cliffs covered with dense vegetation are a backdrop to this very special place. Hayburn Wyke's mixed woodland is visited by roe deer, fox and badger. Over 30 species of breeding birds have been recorded, and in spring and summer you may well catch a glimpse of redstart, blackcap and spotted flycatcher.
National Park car parks
So obvious they're effectively a secret. The national park car parks at Hartington Station, Millers Dale, Parsley Hay, Tideswell Dale and Tissington offer perfect picnic stops for anyone wishing to stroll or cycle along the glorious traffic-free Monsal, High Peak and Tissington trails. All four pay-and-display car parks have toilet facilities.
Walk from Roch Bridge
If you want to confuse Google Maps, have a go at searching for Roch in the Pembrokeshire Coast. Once you find the right spot, though, you'll be rewarded with a section of the Wales Coast Path that feels like it's all your own. Head toward the functioning Roch Mill waterwheel mill.
Coedydd Abergwynant, near Dolgellau
Follow the Mawddach Trail through the Abergwynant Woods, an ancient woodland since at least the 17th century. During the 1960s conifer trees were planted there and most of the native trees were cleared. The site was acquired by the Snowdonia National Park Authority in 1996 and since then, work has been done to bring the rhododendron ponticum under control, remove the conifer trees and restore the native trees like the sessile oak, birch and holly.
Picnic in the shade of the fantastically contorted ancient yews of Kingley Vale and imagine the lives of the tribes that lived in the South Downs National Park 3,000 years ago. Explore the summit of Bow Hill where the tribal chieftains were buried in barrows and spot signs of Celtic, Roman and medieval people who once lived in the area. Today Kingley Vale is an important nature reserve with nightingales, grasshopper warblers, blackcaps, marsh tits and green woodpeckers all to be seen in the wild wood that includes oak, ash, holly and hawthorn as well as its very famous yews – some of the oldest trees in the country.
Sit alongside the upper reaches of the River Wharfe in Langstrothdale. Right in the heart of the National Park, surrounded by magnificent upland scenery and away from it all. No better spot to enjoy your ‘pack-up’. Just sit and relax by the sparkling waters or take a break from a walk in the hills. Wonderful!
The above are, of course, just starting points. To really find the absolute best secret picnic spot you'll have to get out and do some exploring. And, of course, you'll have to keep it a secret! It's alright, we won't tell.
When you do find that perfect place it will have been worth the effort. To give you some ideas on where to explore in the UK's National Parks check out our Walking page.