10 pukka places to park your picnic
Pack your scotch eggs and lashings of ginger beer - I'm heading to these pretty outdoor beauty spots across Devon to enjoy lunch al fresco.
A beautiful wicker basket packed with fizz and crustless sandwiches or a glorified packed lunch with mountains of Tupperware and sausage rolls (guilty!). Fear not, our Muddy guide to lovely picnic spots will at least ensure the location is perfect and so is the food with £500 of free Ocado deliveries (well hello M&S Deli range).
Roll out your rug by the glorious River Lyn – when the sun shines, there’s no better sun trap. Once you’ve had your fill of vittles (handrolled spinach and feta filo borek, anyone), there is much to explore in this step-back-in-time part of the North Devon coast, from the stunning gorge, to a clifftop walk with the goats along the Valley of the Rocks or a trip up to Lynton on the cliffside funicular rail.
Dartmeet, nr Princetown
Here, where the Dartmoor’s East and West River Dart meet is ancient, with a 14th century clapper bridge still just about in-tact. Were your lunch to be in keeping with the Medieval setting, then it’d be mead and gruel all the way, but a posh picnic of Hondurian marinated king prawns and Natoora Sicilian tiger plum tomatoes would taste way better, don’t you think?
Knightshayes Court, Tiverton
If you fancy mixing your picnic with some local grandeur, National Trust Knightshayes has oodles of options, all nicely spread-out, from rolling lawns to tucked-away benches among the woodlands, or among the dipping dragonflies by the pool. It’s formal but with lots of quirk, thanks to the topiary animals ‘leaping’ along the hedges, and some plant retail therapy in the excellent little nursery where you can pick up unusual finds, like heritage toms.
Braunton Burrows, Saunton Sands
Tuck yourself out of the sea breeze among these ethereal dunes – all 1000 acres of them, one of the largest sand dune systems in the UK and a UNESCO designated Biosphere reserve, to boot. Scoff your sarnies, watch the bunnies dart about, play hide and seek with the kids or just snooze in the sun. If you fancy playing in the breakers, the Saunton Sands surf is just a quick scramble over the marram grass.
Homeyards Botanical Garden, Shaldon
As names go, ‘botanical garden’ is perhaps a bit of a stretch for this high-flung terrace above Shaldon, but it’s the perfect ‘secret’ picnic spot only locals know. The glorious views over the Teign Estuary make it worth the uphill walk, and here you’ll find picnic tables, a pretty pond, some lovely old trees and a castle folly – and it’s all free entry. If you’re nosey like me, do read the signboards for the lowdown. Apparently, the garden was created by Maria ‘Laetitia’ Kempe Homeyard in the 1930s, the widow of a wealthy inventor who made something called Liqufruta cough syrup. Curiousier and curiouser…
Lydford Gorge, Tavistock
The south-west’s deepest gorge, complete with a stunning 30m-high waterfall is perfect for delivering natural drama and a stomp along the River Lyd, maybe with a spot of wildlife and botanising. Head to the orchard by the Devil’s Cauldron entrance to unleash the picnic blanket, where there’s also a zip wire to wear out the weenies and for you, a second-hand bookshop to browse. Plus, it’s all dog-friendly and a tramper hire is available for less mobile older rellies.
The Obelisk, Haldon Forest, Mamhead
A popular dog-walking spot, this viewing point is a fab place to chow down on your picnic (I’m thinking pesto halloumi kebabs) while enjoying the 180-degree vista all the way from Exeter to your left, along the Exe Estuary and out to sea. It’s just a 10-minute flat walk from the car park, and if you track behind the viewing point, you’ll find the 40-foot pillar that gives the place its name.
Vire Island, Totnes
Another locals’ gem right on the water at the bottom of Totnes High Street – Vire Island is a leafy 2-acre peninsula perfect for a quiet rumination with a homemade picnic and an Italian coffee from The Curator.
Trenchford and Tottiford Reservoirs, Bovey Tracey, Dartmoor
Stuff your rucksack full of goodies (we can recommend the handrolled spinach and feta filo borek) and head to this beauty spot near Bovey, a series of circular reservoirs, complete with mini beaches and smooth boulders to spread out your blanket in the sunshine.
Meadfoot Beach, Torquay
Swerve touristy Torbaydos for this locals’ paddleboard and rock-pooling spot at Meadfoot. It’s pebbly underfoot so bring a thick blanket or head to the far end for views back over the beach and the double-decker blue beach chalets. You can park right opposite if you’re lucky, or leave the car at leafy Wellswood and enjoy the short walk and a nosey at the posh houses down the hill.
Pop a packed lunch in your pannier and cycle the route between Exeter and Dawlish and you’ll find plenty of waterside picnic perches, where you cool your toes in the canal and watch the swans, walkers and cyclists glide by. You can also take the little ferry across to Topsham if you fancy a jaunt around some lovely indie stores and galleries.
Your fave spot not in here? (I know, I missed out Spitchwick!!) Don’t be shy. Let us know where you like to picnic in the comments below.