From tranquil creeks to wildflower meadows, here in the West Country we’re blessed with some of the most serene settings for picnickers. What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than with a hamper full of delicious local fare, a comfy king-size picnic blanket and a dreamy view to help you while away the hours.
If you’re heading down to stay at one of Toad Hall Cottage’s gorgeous holiday properties and feel taken by the prospect of some alfresco dining under the dappled shade of a splendid oak, then here are a few picnic site recommendations to help whet your appetite…
Soar Mill Cove, near Salcombe, South Devon
Hidden away on the spectacular South Devon coast are the golden sands of Soar Mill Cove. Follow the South West Coast Path from Bolt Head and enjoy stunning views towards Bigbury Bay past dramatic cliffs and sea stacks. This quiet smugglers’ cove is a lovely spot where you can throw down a picnic blanket and relax to the gentle ebb and flow of the tide against the foreshore.
South Milton Sands, near Thurlestone, South Devon
This long sweep of golden sand flanked by rockpools is a gorgeous setting for a picnic lunch, adored for its sparkling waters and dazzling sunsets beyond the iconic arched rock or ‘thirled stone’. Sheltered by rugged headland and sand dunes, it’s also a great place to enjoy some of South Devon’s unique wetland wildlife. Why not have a wild swim in the crystal clear waters and work up an appetite.
Burrator Reservoir, South Dartmoor
Surrounded by ancient woods and open moorland, Burrator Reservoir is a truly breath-taking setting and is home to some of Dartmoor’s most captivating wildlife and a splendid variety of flora. There are plenty of leafy walks to enjoy, plus several sites of historic interest; from cairns to prehistoric settlements – and keep an eye out for the beloved Dartmoor ponies that roam these beautiful highlands.
Spitchwick, South East Dartmoor
The tranquil banks of the majestic River Dart is the setting for Spitchwick, a popular spot for wild swimming. Surrounded by pleasant walks along footpath trails, this much-loved picnic spot is also renowned for its deep-water plunge pool and small cliff jump, ideal for some summertime high jinks. The grassy river banks at Spitchwick are surrounded by ancient woodland, while further upstream you’ll discover the beautiful Dart Gorge.
“When the weather is fine you know it’s the time
For messin’ about on the river
If you take my advice there’s nothing so nice
As messin’ about on the river”
Watermouth Cove, near Ilfracombe, North Devon
Watermouth Cove is a secluded natural harbour on the North Devon coast adored for its sparkling turquoise waters. With stunning sea views and shielded from the breakwaters, it’s the perfect spot for some alfresco dining. Here, you can explore the coastal paths that undulate along this fabulous stretch of headland and enjoy some of the most breath-taking panoramas in the region.
Cardinham Woods, near Bodmin, mid-Cornwall
With its riverside walks and leafy trails, Cardinham Woods offers stunning viewpoints and a fascinating history. The Lady Vale Walk was one of the first trails to be awarded the prestigious Millennium Miles status by the Fieldfare Trust and can be enjoyed by both walkers and cyclists. You’ll also find a wonderful picnic area in the heart of the woods which comes equipped with public barbecues that can be used free of charge.
The Bedruthan Steps, near Watergate Bay, North Cornwall
The dramatic sea stacks known as The Bedruthan Steps continue to beguile all those who gaze upon them from the clifftop paths of North Cornwall. The legend of the Giant Bedruthan is one of Cornwall’s oldest and most beloved, and his colossal stacks stand in defiance against the crashing swells of the Celtic Sea. It’s a breath-taking setting for a picnic and is sure to leave you absolutely spellbound.
The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno Bay, South West Cornwall
Carved into the cliffs of Porthcurno is one of the UK’s most amazing open-air theatres. With dramatic views of the Celtic Sea, this modern-day amphitheatre was once nothing more than a sloping gully of gorse and heather before work began on forging the lower terraces in the 1930s. The theatre also encompasses an exotic, subtropical garden providing dazzling colour to the cliffside all year round.
The Helford River, Falmouth Bay, South Cornwall
The beautiful Helford River meanders through its many creeks, home to some of Cornwall’s most cherished wildlife. Surrounded by gorgeous woodland, this idyllic corner of South Cornwall is a wonderful setting for a riverside picnic and a lazy afternoon in the sun. Further down the coast is The Lizard Peninsula, a spectacular stretch of headland that is mainland Britain’s most southerly point.
“The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Durdle Door & Lulworth Cove, Purbeck Heritage Coast
The iconic limestone arch known as Durdle Door and the clam-shaped cove at Lulworth are two of the Jurassic Coast’s natural wonders. Enjoy uplifting coastal walks and breath-taking views at every turn along this unique stretch of coastland. Lay out you picnic blanket and while away the hours with the help of a few treats from your laden picnic hamper.
Kingcombe Meadows, near Beaminster, West Dorset
Miles of grassy, butterfly-filled meadows filled with the heady scent of wildflowers and the delightful melodies of songbirds, Kingcombe Meadows remains a sanctuary for Dorset’s much-loved wildlife. Roam the acres of this unspoilt backcountry and bask under blue skies in one of the West Country’s most peaceful enclaves.
Creech Barrow Hill, near Studland Bay
If you like the idea of working up an appetite, Creech Barrow Hill is well worth the challenge. The summit of this steep, conical hill is the highest point of the spectacular Dorset Heaths and remains one of the county’s most iconic landmarks. Enjoy sweeping views all the way to Studland Bay and Poole Harbour when you reach the top, a panorama worthy of a cup of tea and a round of egg ‘n’ cress sandwiches.
Moreton Ford, near Dorchester
Moreton Ford is a quintessential waterside picnic spot surrounded by sun-dappled trees and quiet river banks. It’s a lovely place for the children to enjoy a paddle in the gentle shallows whilst trying to catch the darting tiddler fish in their nets. This tranquil corner of Dorset is a real gem.
Dancing Ledge, near Langton Matravers, Purbeck Coast
Follow one of the region’s most spectacular stretches of coastal path through kissing gates and along undulating cliff trails to discover the Dancing Ledge. This jutting ledge of flat rock lies at the bass of a small cliff and appears to dance on the incoming tide when the waves wash over its surface. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not scurry down and enjoy one of Dorset’s most characterful vantage points.
Wherever you roam be sure to help Keep Britain Tidy!