In praise of picnics…


From May onwards, most of our weekends feature at least one meal eaten outdoors. I'm not such a fan of barbecues at home (the beach is so much more scenic than my pitiful back garden), but I love proper picnics.

Fortunately, Flea shares my love of eating outdoors – for her, any day out becomes at least 50 times more enjoyable if it involves our trusty picnic blanket and a cool bag. In fact, if Flea knows we’re carrying a picnic, she’s unable to focus on anything else until the picnic has been served. We have lots of conversations like this:

“Gosh, I’m feeling a little bit hungry now. What time is it?”

“It’s 10am, Flea. You just had breakfast 15 minutes ago.”


“When we get there will it be time for our picnic then?”

“No, we’ll get on the boat, sail to the beach, then it will be time for our picnic.”

“What if I’m hungry on the boat?”

“You won’t be hungry on the boat.”

“I might be.”

“Flea, would you like to have your picnic before we go on the boat?”

“Ooh, that’s a brilliant plan, Mummy.”

Our favourite picnic spots are free, which also helps.

If you’re in the North of England, the river bank at Bolton Abbey is great for paddling and finding crayfish, and you can have a walk in the Strid woods after eating (during December you can picnic here and then visit Santa in the woods, which is pretty cool).

We live just down the road from St Annes, which has a great beach in the summer. I love hanging out on the beach and sometimes we top up the picnic with barbecued sausages or grilled kebabs (we just bought a portable Outback gas barbecue for a bargain £30, which is rapidly becoming my favourite ever summer buy). If I take Flea's bike, a football, and a good book, we can be perfectly happy there all day.

Another of our favourite spots is Brockhole on Windermere, which has an amazing adventure playground and a lovely walk down to the lake, and you can usually find a quiet spot for picnic by the water’s edge. In summer, they also have a range of kids’ sporting and climbing activities, and on the way home, we drive right by the Lakeland Limited store, which is always a bonus.

Flea2 This weekend, we headed off to Skipton Castle, which isn’t quite free, but it was only £6 for the pair of us, which isn't bad. Skipton is a great castle for kids because it’s all unfurnished and open, with all the rooms leading off a central courtyard, so you can turn the kids loose and they can just run off and play knights for the day. Be warned, the guide thinks it's the height of humour to turn off the lights while you're in the dungeon. Ho ho. When they're worn out, there’s a lovely picnic spot in the grounds with views over Skipton Woods and the town. 

I'm really looking forward to getting out and about some more now the weather finally, finally seems to be looking up. So, would you mind sharing your top picnic destinations? Or do you have a must-have picnic recipe that we could try out?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.


  1. Liz@VioletPosy
    18th April 2010 / 8:51 pm

    Pimms in a flask with ice and fruit – just take a bottle of lemonade with you so it doesn’t go flat. And obviously get some other sucker to drive!

  2. Julia
    18th April 2010 / 9:10 pm

    We are lucky enough to live near the beach in Dorset so that’s our favourite picnic destination (Studland is great for unspoilt, uncommercialised beaches with dunes). My top beach picnic tip, rather than a recipe, is to fill a bucket up with sea water before you start – makes a handy sink for washing sandy mitts, and great for the inevitable sandwich dropped in sand moment.

  3. 18th April 2010 / 8:48 pm

    I have seen a recipe for an amazing sandwich which i can not wait to try out.
    You buy one of the large crusy buns (the big ones) slice the top off, scoop out the bread. Make the bread into breadcrumbs and mix with pesto. Then inside the hollow bun make layers with pretty much anything you want, mozerella, ham, tomatoes and the pesto/crumb mixture until it is full. Replace the “lid” and take on your picnic where you then serve wedges of the “sandwich”.
    We love picnics too, we have breakfast picnics and picnics in the winter, we spread out blanket out on the floor in the living room and voila – picnic time.

  4. 18th April 2010 / 8:50 pm

    Don’t really have any recommendations as such – I live in a different part of the country to you – but was just going to say that my top tip is avoid the wasps. Not hugely helpful I know…. sorry.
    Your little girl really is very sweet. I hope she enjoys lots of wonderful picnics with her mum this summer.

  5. 18th April 2010 / 9:23 pm

    Mmm. we like pesto bread in this house, might be worth a try! Thanks.

  6. 18th April 2010 / 9:25 pm

    Yes, we’re Northern natives, although I have lots of favourite spots in Sussex, too – although you’re spoiled for choice there, I think.
    I make a wicked wasp trap out of an empty coke bottle, I keep a couple in the car for when the wasps are troublesome. For anyone who’s not used them before – slice the top 1/4 off a coke bottle with a drop of coke in the bottom. Turn the top portion upside down, put it inside the rest of the bottle. Wasps fly in but can’t get out. Hey presto – perfect wasp trap.

  7. 18th April 2010 / 9:26 pm

    Studland is one of my favourite beaches EVER – just beautiful, isn’t it? You lucky thing, having it on your doorstep.
    Nice tip on the bucket, too – thanks!

  8. Insomniac Mummy
    18th April 2010 / 11:09 pm

    We love Bolton Abbey but haven’t taken the kids to Skipton Castle yet.
    Our favourite places for picnics are Harrogate Park or on the Stray, Roundhay Park, Whitby & Filey on the beach, Grassington, Ilkley and most recently Fountains Abbey.
    I think from that info it’s pretty easy to decipher that we live in Yorkshire. And glad we are, ’tis a beautiful place to be!

  9. 18th April 2010 / 10:11 pm

    We love picnics too – we were at Bolton Abbey just last week – happy days indeed x

  10. 19th April 2010 / 12:17 am

    Picnic people here too. Not just fair weather, I often fill a flash with beans and sausage or hotdogs and onions and we will eat them too out of the boot of the car on the North Yorkshire Moors. We are lucky that we have coast, moors and lots of castles nearby and the boys would rather be out than in. English Herritage membership is great, espeically as you can use your Tesco Vouchers. Come April I alter what is in the boot of mu car and wet suits, towels, pond nets and all sorts of other stuff takes up the boot.

  11. Steve Earl
    19th April 2010 / 10:13 am

    I always keep back the more attractive food of the picnic until last – stops them running off out of my sight. Also grapes are great, they can self-feed and they’re relatively mess-free.

  12. 19th April 2010 / 9:41 am

    better way to deal with the spectre of waspses is to get a brown paper bag, blow it up, and then tie it to a tree. you DO then have to eat your picnic under the tree, but the waspses avoid you because they think the brown paper bag is another waspses’ nest, and being territorial, as well as aggressive and evil little bastards, they steer well clear. leaving you to have your lovely picnic in the shade. 🙂

  13. 19th April 2010 / 11:11 am

    That is a genius idea for a wasp trap! I’m going to go and write it down.
    I don’t come from anywhere near Sussex though…(?)

  14. 19th April 2010 / 11:32 am

    Instead of making sandwiches or rolls before you go (far too much hassle), we take a pack of wraps, filling like ham or cooked chicken or cheese, a bag of salad and assemble when we’re ready to eat. Everyone gets what filling they like and nothing gets soggy or limp.

  15. 19th April 2010 / 11:44 am

    Sadly, the North and Sussex is where my geographical knowledge begins and ends, so I have no useful recommendations to offer!

  16. 19th April 2010 / 11:45 am

    Top tip, I’ll have to look into that, thanks!

  17. 19th April 2010 / 11:46 am

    This presupposes that some of my food counts as “attractive” of course…

  18. 19th April 2010 / 12:06 pm

    Mum used to combine picnics with fruit picking – we all used to love it picking and of course eating loads of strawberries then running around the fields. There’s a great Frut Fram in Suffolk called Alder Carr where you can do just that! they also have the most delicious ice cream ever and a great deli…my boys love it.

  19. 19th April 2010 / 5:45 pm

    I adore Bolton Abbey – very nearly moved there at one point.

  20. 19th April 2010 / 5:46 pm

    Harrogate is gorgeous for a day out, I love Betty’s, too (of course) and Ilkley Moor is worth a visit, too, I reckon. If you ever pop over the border into enemy territory, Clitheroe is a great spot for a picnic, too.

  21. 19th April 2010 / 5:46 pm

    Flea loves tortillas, so we’ll definitely give that a try, thanks!

  22. 19th April 2010 / 5:47 pm

    I’ve not taken Flea fruit picking yet but would love to – is 4 old enough, do you think?

  23. Nikki
    19th April 2010 / 6:41 pm

    Defo Sally, I took my two (Jenni was just 4 and Matthew 3 at the time) asparagus picking last year – better to chose a food that they weren’t going to eat – one for me, one for the basket LOL. Taking them raspberry picking this year (not strawbs as they’d no doubt tread on a few by accident!!)

  24. 19th April 2010 / 7:21 pm

    I don’t have a favourite picnic spot, anywhere with a bit of grass or even just a park bench will do! We’ve picniced at many of the parks featured on my blog (ahem, quick plug there!). I’m all for keeping the picnic simple too, so some bread, some cheese and a knife is ideal. Finish it off with a punnet of strawberries, washed and stalks chopped off and shoved back in the punnet – ideal. I must confess though, sometimes (often) our picnics are whatever random scraps I can find lurking in the corner of the fridge – slightly stale pittas,the remains of some hummous and a few sultanas have sustained us in the past.

  25. 20th April 2010 / 4:53 am

    We looooove picnics over here too. Sounds like you guys have found some really sweet spots. For my boys, even picnicing in the back yard (which is nothing special really) is a big event. They get all excited just to be eating outdoors. Of course, they also end up consuming quite a bit of sand as well, thanks to their deep love for the sandbox and my inability to keep them out of it for the duration of the “picnic.” Oh well. A little sand never hurt anyone, right?

  26. 20th April 2010 / 9:43 pm

    Any meal eaten sitting on the floor and preferably with fingers gets at least 3 votes in this house. Also, with the boy’s nut allergy, we don’t eat in cafes anymore so it’s either fast food or a picnic. I’d rather go the picnic route.
    We’ll picnic wherever we are – no real favourites for us.

  27. 21st April 2010 / 10:05 pm

    I didn’t realise we lived so close.
    I don’t really have picnic tips but we really got into bento lunches last year, they’re so fun but if you’re walking a long way they don’t always look as great by the time you get to your destination!

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