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Top 10 Picnic Spots in the SW

Top 10 Picnic Spots in the SW

Cadbury Castle, Camelot Hill Fort, South Cadbury, Somerset

I’m not sure you can find a more romantic picnic spot than on the top of this Bronze and Iron Age hillfort. First there are the sweeping views of Somerset, reassuringly green and rolling from every perspective and the fact, that during many visits, I’ve never encountered anyone else. Most likely you’ll have the place to yourself. But it’s the Arthurian legend element that really clinches it for us. Here at Cadbury Castle King Arthur was said to have held his secret Camelot meetings, his chosen knights seated at his round table. Local folklore has it that every Midsummer’s Eve Arthur leads a troop of knights down the slopes of the hill. Whichever way, it’s a glorious spot to while away an afternoon, flat enough on the top for a game of football, secluded enough for lovers.  Pack lightly, it's not the moment for granny's 10k picnic set, the walk up is easy but steep. If you favour a post picnic pint, the Queen’s Arms in Corton Denham is, to our mind, one of the best pubs in England.

Hemmick, South Cornwall 

The best picnic spots invariably require a bit of effort to get to them and this outrageously pretty and wild beach near Veryan is no exception. Driving down the narrow lanes with their high hedgerows is not for the faint hearted (we've seen some foulmouthed camper van rage in our time)  and the car park is at the top of the village. Drop your picnickers at the beach first to avoid lugging down your potted shrimp and prosecco a quarter of a mile down the steep hill. But oh it’s so worth it.  This sandy beach is one of the prettiest in Cornwall but luckily the walk down puts off tourists (it’s really not that bad). What you have here is unspoilt Cornwall at its best. Bring the pooch, dogs are allowed all year round. 

Brownsea Island, Poole, Dorset

For the full Famous Five picnic hit there’s nowhere better than Brownsea which was actually the inspiration for Enid Blyton’s Whispering Island. Take a ferry from Sandbanks or Poole Harbour and feel like you’ve time travelled back fifty years or so. This place is a haven, famously home to red squirrels and Sika deers; and don’t forget your binoculars, ornithologists can get their kicks spotting sandwich terns, cormorants, gulls and waterfowl. It only takes ten minutes or so to walk around the island, there are bird hides dotted here and there, perfect trees for climbing, and a feeding station for the red squirrels. Luscombe’s Ginger Beer in the hamper? Rude not to. 

National Trust

It is a bit of a cheat to choose an entire institution of beautiful places in which to picnic but it’s impossible to select just one for this list. There is nothing nicer than a day trip to a glorious stately home, swathe of shady river bank or rugged coastline with a substantial lunch chilling in the cool box. We love to spend time exploring a NT place before finding the perfect spot for a long lunch with a view of a manor house (have never once pretended it is my house), shoreline or babbling brook. With this in mind our current recommendations are under the copper beech at Kingston Lacy, above the croquet lawn at Tyntesfield, the woods near the waterfall at Lydford Gorge and the rocky amphitheatre of Dancing Ledge. Always worth visiting the tea room for a pot of Assam and a large slab of cake before you leave. 

Monmouth Beach – as soon as the sun is out in Lyme Regis everyone dashes down to the sandy beach below the town with the backdrop of fish and chip huts and ice cream sellers. The locals, however, tend to steer clear during the holiday season and head to Monmouth beach the other side of the iconic Cobb walkway. Here you can set up camp with easy access to the car park (hidden behind a row of traditional beach huts) light fires and cook over foraged driftwood. Some of our best memories have been breakfast bbqs of eggs and bacon on brisk, sunny winter mornings and summer sundowner suppers of chargrilled freshly caught mackerel straight from the shore.

South West Coast Path – rather like the NT, this is a very long spot to include. 630 miles long to be precise from Minehead in Somerset around the coast to Poole in Dorset. No need to walk the length of it though, you can dip it at various points to enjoy stunning views and beautiful countryside. In fact the South West Coast Path team ran a competition to find the best place to picnic and have drawn up their own top 10. The winner is Kynance Cove in Cornwall and we couldn’t agree more. This cove on the Lizard Peninsula is a beauty of polished rock formations, the whitest sand and sparkling turquoise seas and makes the ideal beach or clifftop picnic location. 

Exmoor National Park

if you are looking for something wilder and more off the beaten track to lay down your picnic rug then choose this ancient moorland with woods, farms and valleys. Or head to the popular Tarr Steps where boulders create a bridge structure over the River Barle. An inspiring landscape, it is ideal for serious walkers and family groups alike with designated places to picnic as well as hidden spots.  At the quietest, most magical times you may even catch site of wild red deer.

Win Green, Dorset

Win Green Down, Dorset

Win Green on the Cranborne Chase is a favourite picnic spot of ours. Vast enough to ensure solitude and high enough to give incredible views – on a clear day you can see Bournemouth, the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury Tor, the Mendips and the Quantocks. There’s a full blown wood for meandering and dog walking  (carpeted with bluebells and wild garlic) and a spooky little copse for hide and seek (with a Blair Witch vibe for the over-imaginative). The land here skirts Guy Ritchie’s abode (once the home of Cecil Beaton) which can add a celebrity frisson to your picnic. 

Beer, East Devon

Some of the picnics most indelibly printed on our minds have happened in Beer or the neighbouring beach at Branscombe. Here is an old school fishing village which is always picture postcard ready with its flint houses, soft shingle beach and coloured wooden boats. The real joy is to be up on the clifftops with stellar views of the Jurassic coastline and the pretty village below. Those in the know head for the comforts of Jubilee Gardens at the top of the headland, just above the beach, mowed lawn and benches with jaw dropping views included. But our recommendation is to just head for Beer and see what takes your fanc. . We’ve whiled away many a hot summer’s afternoon here, supping local cider and barbecuing prawns and mackerel bought from the hut on the beach. 

Blackberry Camp – this East Devon hillfort, built during the 4thcentury BC still holds the ghosts of battles past. Now it is plundered by small children racing around the mounds and ducking in and out of the woodland. Visit at any time of year but it is especially beautiful when the bluebells are out, the summer sun is dappled through the trees or when the leaves start to turn in late September. Easy parking makes this a picnic spot that can cope with kit (I’m thinking table, chairs, candelabra) and dogs without the distractions or restrictions of more formal venues. Sausages straight off the bbq are ideal for hungry warriors returning after an adrenalin charged romp.  

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