The National Trust Top Ten Picnic Spots For Summer

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 28 July 2006
a photograph of afamily pincicking in a wooded glade

Holnicote Estate © NTPL/Jennie Woodcock

There's no better way to celebrate summer than packing a picnic and chilling out with family and friends – especially when your picnic spot is magically beautiful.

With their sweeping vistas and historic settings, the National Trust’s inspiring houses and parkland provide the perfect location for the Great British picnic.

Fancy picnicking in a historic park? On an island? Or in the grounds of an atmospheric abbey or castle ruin? The National Trust offers the lot with a unique variety of perfect picnic spots.

Here’s the National Trust’s pick of the top ten idyllic Picnic Hot Spots – each of them ideal for celebrating summer in style.

a phtograph of a smooth sea surface with a wooded island with a beach in the distance

Brownsea Island © NTPL/Joe Cornish

Brownsea Island

Take a boat to Brownsea Island, Dorset and you will discover an old haunt of smugglers that is now a beautiful nature reserve. As well as beautiful beaches and peaceful vistas you get to see red squirrels, deer and seabirds diving into the sea and spectacular views of Old Harry Rocks and the Purbeck Hills.

A new cliff-top walk has been recently added whilst kids might like to take part in the Smugglers’ Trail to the treasure chest.

This blissfully car-free island is a real getaway and you can take your picnic anywhere. Children’s lunchboxes are available from the restaurant. Admission £4.40 per adult, £2.00 per child, family £11, family (one adult) £6.50. £6.50 Ferry. Tel 01202 707744 for more information.

a photograph of formal colourful gardens with a stately home in the distance

Lyme Park © NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

Lyme Park

Lyme Park, Cheshire, which played a starring role as Jane Austen’s ‘Pemberley’ in the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is a breathtakingly beautiful place for a picnic.

Lovers of the TV adaptation may know the park as the setting for the famous scene where Mr Darcy runs into Elizabeth Bennett after a quick dip in the lake, but for those of a more chaste disposition a tranquil Victorian garden, with roses, reflection lake and sunken parterre offer a perfect escape from the rigours of the modern world.

There is plenty of room to choose a picnic spot as the park covers 1,400 acres over a vast medieval deer park, moorland and woodland estate. There is also an early 18th century hunting tower (The Cage).

Entry to the estate is £4.50 per car, which can be refunded against an adult ticket to the Garden & House at £6.50 per adult and £3.30 per child. Tel: 01663 762023

a photograph of a view across a small lake and woodland avenue towards a house in the distance

Wallington © NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

Wallington

At Wallington in Northumberland, you can picnic on a number of lawns including a central lawn in the courtyard where children can let off steam.

Or place your rug near some stone griffin heads, which look like something out of Harry Potter, or for a more secluded spot, walk through the formal gardens to the bottom of the walled garden and choose a grassy area near the pond, under the shelter of trees.

Once you have fed and watered perhaps you might like to take a peek inside the house which boasts a series Pre-Raphaelite paintings by William Bell Scott. There is also a collection of dolls’ houses.

To finish off you can walk through the estate, which encompasses wooded valleys and high moorland, including land around the recently reacquired folly at Rothley Castle.

Admission £8 per adult, £4 per child, family £20. Tel: 01691 777701

a photograph of a greek style ruin with arches and colums set within a tree lined parkland

Gibside Chapel and Avenue © NTPL/John Garrett

Gibside

Families can picnic in a ‘forest garden’ and there are many miles of woodland walks by the River Derwent at Gibside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

A former residence of the Bowes-Lyon family from which the former Queen Mother came, Gibside’s vast estate boasts streams to paddle in, woods to explore and open spaces to run around or play a game of footie in. There are also several outstanding buildings, including a Palladian chapel, a column to liberty, greenhouse and stables.

The estate is a Site of Special Scientific Interest – so look out for red squirrels, kingfishers, rabbits and other wildlife. Entrance is £5 per adult, £3 per child, £15 per family, one adult family £10. Tel: 0207 261 6691

a photograph of a man fishing beside a lake with a folly in the distance

Stowe Landscape Gardens © NTPL/David Levenson

Stowe Landscape Garden

Stowe Landscape Garden, Bucks – is the perfect setting for a family picnic and with more than 40 monuments, temples and secret corners to explore and 750 acres of parkland. It’s also a great place to while away a summer's day.

Choose from a picnic spot in a Grecian Valley full of wild flowers, or by the Temple of Venus overlooking the lake, beside lakeside pavilions and drink in the panoramic views. The gardens’ impressive woodland walks give way to Palladian bridges and grottos as classical statues vie with pleasantly appealing pavilions.

Many of the garden buildings have recently been restored and the addition of thousands of new trees and shrubs has restored the gardens into something representing its original glory as the quintessential and idealised English Arcadia.

Kids will love to play in its wide open spaces and magical corners; even parents can find rare moments of peace and tranquillity here. Garden admission £6 per adult, £3 per child, family £15. Tel: 01280 822850

a photograph of rolling hills with the ruins of a castle on the summit

Corfe Castle Estate © NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle is one of the most picturesque castle ruins to be found anywhere in the UK. Dating back to the time of William the Conqueror, the castle was designed to control the gateway through the Purbeck Hills and was an important stronghold until its partial destruction in the 17th century.

Defended during the Civil War by the prudent and virtuous Lady Bankes, the castle fell to treachery from within, and was substantially destroyed afterwards by the Parliamentarians. Today this evocative ruin boasts extensive grounds – making it an ideal spot for a summer picnic.

The castle is also a great place for a ‘Famous Five’ picnic, as it was Enid Blyton’s inspiration for Kirren Castle.

Take a hamper and rug and find a grassy spot in the outer bailey and west bailey within the Castle. From here you can cast your eye across the beautiful Dorset countryside or watch trains on the Swanage Railway - Dorset's premier standard gauge preserved railway - steam through this gentle and historic landscape.

Admission £5.00 per adult, £2.50 per child £12.50 family. Family (one adult) £7.50. Discount offered to paying visitors arriving by public transport. Tel: 01929 481294

a phtograph of a couple sat on a grassy bank which leads towards a large lake or river with a beautiful arched bridge set at the centre of it

Stourhead © NTPL/Ian Shaw

Stourhead

Enchanting temples, monuments and rare planting around a tranquil lake - these are just some of the rewards waiting if you take your picnic basket to Stourhead, Wiltshire.

The Georgian mansion of Stourhead is set within 100 acres of landscaped garden – so the chances are you can place your picnic rug in a secluded spot in the grounds, by the lake or in front of temples.

Once you have enjoyed your picnic and possibly had a nap under the shade of a tree there are lots of things to do at Stourhead.

The mature woodland boasts a collection of some of the most exotic trees you’re likely to encounter in the UK, whilst those with a head for heights are rewarded with a stunning view from the top of Alfred's Tower, one of the Trust's finest follies. There are also two interesting Iron Age hillforts to explore.

Garden admission £6.20 per adult, £3.40 per child. Tel: 01747 841152

a photograph of a parkland with a stately house in the distance

Kedleston Hall and Park © NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

Kedleston Hall

If it’s a mixture of exercise and relaxation you’re after, Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire is the place for you.

Four new walks in the park offer short and long walks round the lakeside, the wider wilderness and the extensive woodland. Just the thing to build up an appetite before settling down to a classic British picnic in a classic British setting.

The house is crammed with artefacts and a museum of Eastern art but this summer it’s Kedleston’s lovely gardens that will be the big draw for people looking to enjoy the fine weather.

Rightly celebrated for their displays of azaleas and rhododendrons, the gardens have been restored, in part, to an 18th-century 'pleasure ground’. The surrounding park, which like the house was designed by Robert Adam, includes a fine ornamental bridge, fishing pavilion and series of lakes and cascades.

All Saints' Church (in the ownership of the Churches Conservation Trust) is the only survivor of the medieval village of Kedleston and contains a collection of monuments and memorials to the Curzon family, who built Kedleston between 1759 and 1765.

Park and garden charge £3.10 pp, £1.55 child. Tel: 01332 842191

a photograph of a circular folly set within a woodland

Petworth House © NTPL/Rupert Truman

Petworth Park

Take your picnic to Petworth Park and you’ll be enjoying the splendours of a beautiful newly restored 18th century, Capability Brown-inspired ‘Pleasure Ground’.

A gentle stroll round this 30-acre wooded garden will lead you to wonders such as the Doric Temple and the Rotunda built in the style of a Greek Ionic temple. It marks the highest point on the Estate, overlooking not only the Pleasure Ground to the east but also the huge expanse of Petworth Park to the west.

You can saunter along gently undulating paths then sit and picnic al fresco and enjoy the views.

The entrance ticket is £3 and £1.50 and includes access to the Servants Quarters and Restaurant and Shop. Tel: 017983 342207

photo shows a stream with an old abbey in the background

Fountains Abbey/Studley Royal © NTPL/Andrew Butler

Fountains Abbey

Soak up the atmosphere in the Georgian water garden at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, with its lakes, cascades and temples.

The 360-acre park is grazed today by 500 deer, whilst the nearby St Mary's Church, a William Burgess masterpiece with fabulous stained glass, offers the chance for cool reflection after soaking up the sun.

Why not spread a rug beneath the monumental ruins and gothic arches of this Cistercian abbey and watermill? After all, it’s not everyday you can eat your sandwiches at the heart of a world heritage site.

Children’s lunchboxes are available from the Restaurant. Admission £6.50 per person, £3.50 per child, family £17.50. Tel: 01765 608888

If you don’t have time to pack a picnic, you could always pick up a lunch box from a National Trust café. And if the weather lets you down there’s always a warm welcome at a National Trust tea room or restaurant nearby.

For more ideas of what to do at National Trust properties this summer, see the Trust's downloadable wall planner with 42 action packed days of things to do with the kids at Trust properties.

Covering 12 regions, the maps include details of outdoor play areas, trails, quizzes and much more that will bring history to life for young people.

Find out where you can go to a Pirates Fun Day, take a ghost tour of a haunted county house and see gladiators in action at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/summersussed.

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