How to plan the perfect picnic

With the weather warming up, it’s the perfect time to grab your picnic basket, round up the family and head to a beautiful location to dine alfresco. Here are some tips for planning the perfect summer picnic…

A picnic served in the grounds of Llansantffraed Court Hotel, Monmouthshire

The perfect venue

Choosing a beautiful location is important. Here is a selection of some of the National Trust’s best coastal locations for a summer picnic:

Best of the beaches

Studland Beach, Dorset

Take the family for a fabulous day out on this golden sandy beach in Dorset. Stretching four miles from Shell Bay to Old Harry Rocks and with shallow bathing water it’s perfect for little ones. You can also visit the nearby ruins of Corfe Castle to discover over 700 years of history and relive childhood memories by seeing the inspiration behind Enid Blyton’s Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five series.

Formby, Liverpool

The glorious sandy beaches of Formby are ideal for family picnics, coastal walks, dog walking, horse riding, wave jumping, kite flying or just lazy days at the beach. Bring along a picnic and soak up the breath-taking sea views. A coffee cart and ice cream van are onsite most days, so why not enjoy a tasty treat while you watch wading birds on the shoreline.

Brancaster Beach, Norfolk

At low tide Brancaster beach offers a huge expanse of sand and seemingly endless views out to sea. During the summer months miles of golden sand make the beach a perfect spot for a barefoot walk or building sand castles. With dog-friendly areas, the whole family can enjoy a scenic picnic by the sea.

Secret coves

Soar Mill Cove, Devon

Follow the coast path down to the golden sands at Soar Mill Cove for a secluded picnic on the South Devon coastline. Only reachable by foot or boat, this is a sheltered, peaceful beach away from the summertime crowds. Take the footpath inland and you can treat yourself to a cream tea at the luxurious Soar Mill Cove Hotel.

Hayburn Wyke, Yorkshire

With its very own double waterfall tumbling down onto the shore, take a break from a walk along the Cleveland Way and find a picnic spot on this secret bay hidden away on the Yorkshire Coast. Cool off under the falls surrounded by lush green vegetation or look for hidden sea beasties in rock pools.

Barafundle, Pembrokeshire

Barafundle is a jewel of a beach hidden between limestone cliffs and backed by dunes and woods. Enjoy a real bucket and spade; sand-in-your-sandwiches experience here in the summer on this Pembrokeshire seaside spot, which is officially recognised as one of the world’s finest stretches of beach.

Coastal cafés

South Foreland Lighthouse, Dover

Mrs Knott’s tea-room

Decorated in 50s style with flowery wallpaper, chintzy décor, chiming clocks and mismatched china, Mrs Knott’s tea-room is located in the second of two lighthouse cottages next to South Foreland Lighthouse. The café uses locally-sourced produce including beetroot grown nearby for the chocolate brownies. Take a seat on the picnic benches and admire the sea view or borrow one of the picnic blankets and find your perfect spot. If you fancy a game or two you can have a go at quoits or skittles on the lawn outside the lighthouse.

Needles Old Battery, Isle of Wight

Stop for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the former Port War Signal Station, built high on the cliff as a lookout for spotting ships during World War Two. Nowadays the wide windows give panoramic views out to sea, overlooking the Needles Rocks while you enjoy a cup of tea. On the 27 June this is the perfect vantage point to watch the Round the Island Yacht Race and tuck into a tasty cooked breakfast, but book ahead as spaces fill up early.

Souter Lighthouse and The Leas, Tyne and Wear

Galley Coffee Shop

Call into Souter Lighthouse Galley Coffee Shop for a light bite or a hearty meal. Traditional dishes such as Panackelty or singing hinnies can all be found on the menu alongside more regular favourites including the humble scone. Hooped in red and white, Souter Lighthouse stands proud near a stretch of limestone cliffs midway between the Tyne and the Wear.

The perfect picnic hamper

Here are some top tips from Mike Hendry, Head Chef at luxury hotel Llansantffraed Court in Monmouthshire, on how to prepare the perfect picnic…

Keep it cool

Everything can be kept cold these days thanks to portable refrigeration technology, but this creates extra weight. I recommend sticking with products that are happy at ambient temperatures, for example cured meats and fruit. Don’t dress salads until you are ready to eat them and consider packing some pulses. Not only do they taste great and keep well at all temperatures, but they also gradually release their nutrients – just what you need if your picnic involves a long walk!

Seasonal peaks

Asparagus is in season at the moment throughout the Wye Valley. This time of year also means that lots of delicious fresh fruit and green vegetables are in full season – perfect for salads with broad beans, peas and fresh leaves.

My picnic must-haves

There’s nothing like the refreshing taste of a great wine to wash down your picnic. I always recommend investing in a quality wine as it really helps to lift the flavours in every dish. Ancre Hill Sparkling Rose complements light summer dishes really well and also helps to create a special, romantic atmosphere for your outing. For a great soft-drink alternative, elderflower is in season at the moment, so why not try making your own cordial to enjoy? I would also make sure that your picnic basket has freshly baked bread and Welsh unsalted butter – they work perfectly together.

The right tools

Make sure that you have a top-quality (and huge!) picnic blanket or rug, so that everybody can sit and enjoy the food together. I would also invest in a sharp, high- quality knife, or even a multi-tool penknife – you never know when it might come in handy!

Plan ahead for picnic perfection

Try and plan ahead, taking all of the ingredients you need for dishes with you. Part of the fun is then putting it altogether once you’ve found the right spot. It’s worth spending a bit of time before you leave checking maps and local websites for recommended spots to save you any disappointment.

Don’t forget to …

  1. Pack some wet wipes for sticky fingers or faces!
  2. Take your bottle opener.
  3. Freeze bottles of water to take with you – these can be used both as icepacks to keep food cool, and will melt for an ice cold drink later.
  4. Take some plastic bags for any rubbish.
  5. Leave food out of the sun, to avoid risk of food poisoning. Take a cool bag to store chilled foods.
  6. Pack for all outdoor scenarios – a typical British picnic may easily require sunglasses, sun cream and an umbrella!
  7. Take some form of entertainment for the kids. A frisbee or colouring book can easily be squeezed into most bags, or try picnicking near a children’s play area.


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