Best picnic spots in the UK
Feast on baba ghanoush-filled baguettes in Edinburgh’s leafy gardens, chargrilled squid on the north-east coast and artisan cheeses in Walthamstow marshes with our favourite secret picnic spots
Looking for the best picnic spots? Need some picnic ideas? Read our guide to the best picnic spots in the UK, from city centre parks to pebbly beaches. Wondering what to bring with you? Check out the olive summer supermarket awards 2022.
Picnic by the canal – Little Venice, London
Hop on the Waterbus from Camden to Little Venice and set up your picnic blanket under the willows beside Regent’s Canal’s calming waterways. For artisan picnic items, mooch up Clifton Road to get a taste of a traditional high street – stock up on crusty French baguettes, cheeses and sticky chicken wings from upmarket deli Raoul’s; organic avocados and your pick of apples from Clifton Greens greengrocer; and pastries for pud (pain aux raisins, fresh fruit brioche, swirls laced with cinnamon) from Baker and Spice.
Picnic with a view – Bath
Jump off the train at Bath (“Bath Spa” station) and head away from the crowds, taking the exit that leads out of the back of the station to cross over a little footbridge into Widcombe. Amid the shops here you’ll find Widcombe Deli (for the quiche of the day and a rainbow of salads to go), veggie bakery and café The Cakery (pick up a vegan-cheese and chutney toastie or a falafel baguette to take away, plus a signature ginger, plum and oat slice) and Bath Botanical Gin Distillery and Herbal Apothecary (grab some tonic in the Co-op around the corner then splash out on a seasonal fruit gin, such as gooseberry, to go in it).
Fully stocked, either turn east and follow the canal towpath to nearby Sydney Gardens to enjoy your picnic in the leafy hinterland of the Holburne Museum; head up Widcombe Hill to find the perfect picnic-with-a-viewpoint on the Bath Skyline Walk; or wend your way up to Prior Park Garden for a long alfresco lunch framed by elegant views down into Bath through this manicured National Trust landscape (you’ll have to pay a fee to enter unless you’re a National Trust member but it’s worth it).
Picnic on the beach – Brighton
From Brighton station, scoot down Trafalgar Street towards the trendy boutique stores of the North Laine. Stop by independent Trafalgar Wines to stock up on craft beers, Flour Pot Bakery for seeded sourdough loaves, pork and fennel sausage rolls, and chocolate, almond and honey friands, then Brighton Sausage Company for British charcuterie and cheeses galore. Then wend down to the beach – head for pebbles by the pier to get the buzz of the crowds or head west along the promenade for a bit of peace and quiet on Hove Lawns.
Picnic in the marshlands – Walthamstow, London
East Londoners in-the-know skip the saturated paths and parks of Hackney and Stoke Newington and travel to the end of the Victoria line, arriving at Walthamstow. Depending on your mood, grab a takeaway box (Holy Pepperoni with Cobble Lane pepperoni and spicy ’nduja is the best) from the city’s best, Yard Sale Pizza, or a freshly made (ridiculously cheap) nan bread from Fresh Nan Bakery amongst E17’s throbbing market (the longest in Europe).
If DIY does it for you, meander across to Walthamstow Village to the renowned Eat 17 store, the home of bacon jam and Biff’s Kitchen vegan junk food. Buy freshly baked sourdough bread with artisan cheeses, wobbly pasteis de nata, or fat sugary donuts, heavy with raspberry jam.
Then cycle through Walthamstow’s wild and wonderful protected marshes – past nettles, dandelion and hogweed, gorse flowers, hazelnuts, elderflower and blackberries (depending on the season) – and settle down for your feast.
Picnic in an abbey – Wye Valley
Drive through the Wye Valley and stop off at a wooden building between Brockweir and Hewelsfield that houses thriving community shop/café, Brockweir and Hewelsfield Village Shop. Run by 60 volunteers, it stocks a feast of local produce, from Preservation Society preserves to wild boar sausage rolls from Cinderhill Farm.
Drive on to the valley’s star attraction, Tintern Abbey, on the Welsh side, whose romantic ruins sent Wordsworth and Turner wild. Stock up on booze for your picnic at Kingstone Brewery next door, or stop off on the first Saturday of the month for stone-baked pizzas in the log-cabin taproom (try the meat feast, peppered with salami from Monmouthshire’s Trealy Farm).
Picnic in a castle – Carmarthenshire, Wales
Work up an appetite for lunch in the grounds of Dinefwr Castle with a pitstop at Ginahus deli, a dinky shop that stocks more than 400 gins. Pop in for a takeaway and leave laden with homemade quiches, pork pies and baguettes filled with everything from goat’s cheese and beetroot to brie, tomato and pesto. If it’s a little chilly, pots of soup with toasted flatbreads are there to keep you toasty. Make your way to Dinefwr National Nature Reserve (you’ll have to pay a fee to enter unless you’re a National Trust member) and choose your spot in the bluebell-dappled field.
Fish and chip picnic by the Tynemouth – Northumberland
Picnics don’t have to mean sandwiches and scotch eggs, so join the queue at Riley’s Fish Shack for fish and chips as fresh as they get. Those in the know will go in a team, with one bagging the deck chairs on the beach and the other placing the order.
Get there before they open (queues can stretch for a couple of hours in peak times and, as with seafood, when the fish is gone, it’s gone) and work your way through the daily changing menu, trying mackerel wraps cooked in a wood-fired oven, chargrilled squid and hot garlic potatoes. Order a pint of ale from local Almasty Brewing Co. to sip on as you feast.
Picnic on a cliff – South Devon
Build up an appetite for lunch with a bracing coastal walk along the South Devon cliffs. Make Gara Rock your starting point and stock up on pasties and sausage rolls from the retro Citroën van parked on the cliff edge before heading west. After a quick ride on the passenger ferry, visit Salcombe Dairy for a refreshing scoop of blackcurrant sorbet to fuel your journey home.
Picnic in a vineyard – Penzance
Polgoon is a vineyard and orchard just outside Penzance that offers tours and wine tastings on a 24-acre estate. Owners Kim and John Coulson battle against the Cornish climate to produce up to 30,000 bottles of wines a year, as well as a range of ciders and juices. Sit under the dappled shade of the site’s vine-wrapped courtyard café and sip chilled bacchus and eat a chunky wedge of crab sandwich.
Breakfast picnic in a vineyard – Chichester
If laid-back picnics are more your style, book a night at Tinwood Estate Lodges where you’ll be brought a breakfast hamper come morning. Hunker down on the decking outside with views of the tranquil vineyard and tuck into jars of fruit salad, warm croissants, yogurts and cereals.
Picnic on a pebbly beach – Whistable
Hop off the train at Whitstable station and make your way down Albert Street, turning left to make a pitstop at David Brown’s Deli. Inside you’ll find shelves laden with pasta, tinned sardines, bottles of olive oil and breadsticks, but make a beeline for the fresh counters and pile your basket high with plump olives, Serrano ham and loaves of bread. For dessert? Its signature flaky pasteis de natas are a must. Stroll down the road to The Cheese Box and choose a couple of chunks to takeaway (anything from Dark Horse Ancient Ashmore to Kentish Blue) before setting up camp on the pebbly beach.
In Green Park with an Italian hamper – Soho, London
For an oasis of calm in central London, wander to Green Park (one of eight Royal Parks in London) and explore its 40 acres. First, pop to Soho’s historic Italian deli, Lina Stores and order charcuterie, cheeses, antipasti and breads to takeaway. There’s plenty to choose from, and feel free to try before you buy, from porchetta to prosciutto di Parma, pecorino to provolone piccante. Buy a loaf of sourdough for makeshift sarnies, and be sure to pick up a ricotta and pistachio cannolo or two before you leave.
Picnic in botanical gardens – Edinburgh
Just one mile north of the city centre, Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden makes the perfect spot for a long, lazy lunch. Entry is free, and with over 70 acres and 100,000 plants, there’s plenty of lush greenery to explore. Before you find your shady spot, visit Twelve Triangles, a bakery focusing on slow-ferment, cold-prove doughs. A 30-minute walk from the gardens is the Duke Street site, selling sandwiches and pastries to takeaway, so stock up on baguettes filled with crushed peas, avocado and feta; baba ghanoush, smoky roast carrots and dukkah; or butternut satay with pickled Asian slaw. Satisfy your sweet tooth with pistachio and cardamom-flecked pastries.