A great place to lose yourself, this is County Durham’s largest forest with loads of opportunities for wildlife watching as well as official mountain biking and walking trails through more than 2,000 hectares of forest, including The Loop, a tricky circuit featuring rock gardens and various obstacles – not for the casual cyclist. There’s a useful visitor’s centre and café but be warned you do have to pay for parking.
Hamsterley DL13 3NL
Allen Banks and Staward Gorge
The largest area of ancient woodland in Northumberland, this 250-hectare site is great for exploring, especially in spring as the area is home to a range of flora, fauna and fungi and is famous for its carpet of bluebells and wild garlic, which cover the woodland at this time of year. If you are lucky you’ll spot red squirrels amongst the trees, and the Morralee Tarn walk is great for spotting wildlife all year round.
Hexham NE47 7BP
Where Hadrian’s Wall hangs on the very edge of the Whin Sill, this dramatic stretch of the wall is one of the highest standing sections which remains. Cawfields car park is a good place to start your walk to the impressive Milecastle 42, which was built by the Second Legion to protect what they saw as a weak spot at the aptly-named Hole Gap. The much-photographed quarry lake is teeming with wildlife and there are plenty of sheltered places to picnic beside the water.
Milecastle, Haltwhistle NE49 9NN
Low Barns Nature Reserve
Originally farmland, this wetland reserve bordered by the River Wear was redeveloped by Durham Wildlife Trust to create the popular nature reserve which is now a Site of Specific Interest. Its three lakes and interconnecting streams, ponds, roadbeds and wet pastureland play host to dragonflies, frogs and newts, and the most patient nature lovers may see otters, kingfishers, foxes, roe deer and stoat. Dogs are welcome (on a lead) and there is ample car parking, a visitor’s centre, café and designated picnic area.
Bishop Auckland DL14 0AG
Birdoswald Roman Fort
Birdoswald is the best place to see the longest still-standing stretch of Hadrian’s Wall and the fort, which is one of the best preserved of the 16 along the wall, is considered to be one of the most picturesque settings along its 73-mile length. It is also the only site where evidence of significant occupation in the post-Roman period has been found. High above the River Irthing, the Roman fort, turret and milecastle are all visible from this lofty viewpoint, and there are plenty of places to picnic here, from the Victorian Courtyard to the Southern Gatehouse viewpoint. You can explore the outside of the fort and learn about Roman life at the visitor centre.
Gilsland, Brampton CA8 7DD
Druridge Bay Country Park
The wide stretch of sandy beach here, which stretches from Amble to Cresswell, is hugely popular for walkers (and birdwatchers) and it is easy to see why, but the Country Park itself is made up of a network of paths through the dunes and meadowland which make up several nature reserves, and there’s a 100-acre lake where you can windsurf or sail. With so much space there’s plenty of choice when it comes to places to picnic, so whether you want sand with your sandwiches or not is up to you.
Red Row, Druridge Bay NE61 5BX
Malton Picnic Area
The wooded riverside path follows the River Browney in this pretty spot just east of Lanchester in County Durham, close to Malton Nature Reserve. There’s an easy circular walking route through a wildflower meadow and an area of wet woodland which is listed as a rare habitat, whilst the riverbank itself is an ideal place to spot kingfishers, dipper, tree creeper and other wildlife. There is a designated picnic area here and plenty of spaces along the river path to stop and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.
Lanchester DH7 0TH
Preston Park Museum and Grounds
In the heart of Eaglescliffe, this revamped area is close to Middlesbrough yet it still feels a million miles away. The vast grounds and a nature reserve are within easy reach for many, and there’s loads to do here to work up an appetite – from exploring the grounds, to the new children’s adventure play area and the Victorian walled kitchen garden. Head to the Quarry Wood Nature Reserve to seek out a more tranquil picnic spot.
Yarm Road, Eaglescliffe TS18 3RH
Bakethin Nature Reserve
Bakethin, at the northern end of Kielder Water, is a well known haven for wildlife covering 140 hectares of land. Paths lead through the woods to the historic viaduct, Kielder Castle and the Salmon Centre, and to the waterside where visitors are often greeted by tufted ducks, goldeneye, goosander and mallards. Seeing the wildlife on the water has become even easier since the addition of a viewing hide which allows you a unique waterside viewpoint. There’s an information point and seating beside the main car park, or picnic in the forest clearing where the kids can explore the bug hotel and bug periscope.
Kielder Reservoir, Butteryhaugh Bridge NE48 1HF
On the edge of the National Park, this is a mosaic of different habitats; woodlands, wetlands and grassland, all home to abundant wildlife. There are two play areas, a fun trim trail, a sculpture trail and plenty of mapped walks and bike trails to keep you busy. There is a visitor centre, plenty of parking, a café and picnic area too, but you can easily get away from the popular spots to find quieter places to enjoy your picnic.
Pinchinthorpe, Guisborough TS14 8HD
These grade II-listed gardens in Harrogate provide a secluded escape from the hustle and bustle of the town. There are 17 acres of woodland, known as The Pinewoods, dozens of mineral springs, captivating gardens, tennis courts, a pitch and putt golf course, crazy golf, a boating pool, paddling pool and a children’s play area.
Valley Drive, Harrogate HG1 2SZ
This oriental-themed park with its tranquil lake, dragon boats, intriguing pagodas, bandstand, natural glen and array of rare and unusual trees, feels a million miles away from busy Scarborough but is actually just a few minutes’ walk from the town centre. Offering a beautiful system of streams and waterfalls, mini bridges and mystical gardens this really is the spot for the whole family to enjoy.
North Bay, Scarborough YO12 7TR
Overlooking the River Nidd, this medieval stronghold is an ideal place to relax and refuel on a day’s excursion to the historic town of Knaresborough. Roam the grounds, or simply take in the views of the viaduct built in 1851 before you unpack your picnic on the castle lawn.
Castle Yard, Knaresborough HG5 8AS
Ravenscar is one of the most intriguing places on the Yorkshire coast for those interested in history. Its dramatic clifftop location made it the ideal site for a string of Roman signal stations and The Raven Hall Hotel, perched broodingly on the clifftop, was once owned by King. If you’re not a history scholar, this is still a picturesque picnic spot with far-reaching sea views.
Scarborough YO13 0ET
This North Sheffield reservoir is great for paddling and there’s an accessible, flat, three-mile walk if you feel like working off your picnic. It also has the closest thing to a beach you’re probably going to find in South Yorkshire, with a ribbon of sand and stones marking the waterline.
Loxley Valley, South Yorkshire S6 6SQ
Wentworth Castle Gardens
Once known as ‘the finest garden in England’, you’ll discover a peaceful, relaxing ambience in these spectacular gardens which today are South Yorkshire’s only Grade-I registered landscape. Find a triple treat in the vast gardens, woodland and parkland, all ready for you to explore.
Park Drive, Barnsley S75 3EN
Malham is a small, pretty village surrounded by limestone dry-stone walls and bisected by a stream. Nearby Malham Cove is a good picnic choice, with its huge curving amphitheatre of rock soaring 260ft high, or head to nearby Janet’s Foss, where you can cool off in the plunge pool on a hot day if the mood takes you.
Malham, Skipton BD23 4DJ
Stroll among the castle ruins and pick your spot to set down your basket. This popular English Heritage site allows you to set down your picnic rug anywhere in the grounds except the medieval floor tiles. Parking is limited to only nine cars but if you travel half a mile south towards Coxwold, The Abbey Inn offers more spaces. Entry is free.
Coxwold, North Yorkshire YO61 4BD
Beside the racecourse and just minutes from the town centre, find unspoilt acres – complete with grazing cattle – for families to relax in, play games, run around and generally blow off a bit of steam. Why not pull out your picnic rug after the perfect stroll across the pasture? Chalk, taken from the area, was used for the very foundation of Beverley’s streets.
York Road, Beverley HU17 8RG
Castle Howard is the centrepiece of 1,000 acres of gardens and parklands that include woodland, temples, waterways, idyllic lakes and fountains. Stroll around the grounds, pick your spot on the lawn to lay out your blanket and then kick back and relax among the romantic scenery, which was used as a filming location for the Netflix series Bridgerton, or head to Skelf Island and let the kids enjoy a treetop adventure.
York YO60 7DA
A two-mile stretch of the Filey coast leads you to Hunmanby Gap which provides the ultimate location for your perfect seaside picnic. A couple of miles from Filey, this beach offers the best views of the bay. You could lay your picnic blanket out on the sand, or there are plenty of rock formations which offer coves for you to shelter in. Don’t miss the Hunmanby Gap Beach Café for a hot drink before you head off.
Filey YO14 9QP
Swinton Park Estate
With multiple picnic sites, from lake shores to rock formations, Swinton Park offers 200 acres of heritagelisted lakes and gardens. We recommend you try their very own Deluxe Swinton Hamper, which you can preorder for collection, and head to their top lake for an extensive walking route through an 18th century listed landscape. With miles of footpaths to explore, this is one of Yorkshire’s hidden gems. Don’t miss it.
Swinton, Ripon HG4 4JH
At this impressive World Heritage Site, you can enjoy a stroll among the 800-year-old ruins and then sit down and relax with your picnic platter. Don’t miss the aweinspiring water garden, with mirror-like ponds and statues galore. Green lawns lead you down to the riverside where you can picnic, and the park full of resident Red, Fallow and Silka deer offers a rare chance to observe them up close.
Ripon HG4 3DY
In the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors, known as the ‘Daffodil Dale’, this is a particularly good picnic spot in spring, when the banks of the River Dove are covered in bright yellow blooms. We recommend picking up a walking leaflet at the National Park’s mobile information point at Low Mill car park and following the recommended route. The daffodil walk takes you through a magnificent wildflower display. According to locals, medieval monks from Rievaulx Abbey planted the very first daffodil bulbs here.
Farndale YO62 7UY
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Sit among the modern art sculptures as you unpack your picnic basket. Observe open air galleries featuring sculpture work from Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, and especially look out for Solitário, a seven-metre-high ring made of golden car wheel rims topped with a huge diamond
crafted from crystal whisky glasses.
West Bretton WF43 4LG
This Edwardian country estate, hall and wildlife park boasts expansive grounds on the outskirts of Leeds. Lotherton covers eight acres, including a walled garden with rose beds and herbaceous borders of scented flowers and perennials. Perfect for a springtime walk, followed by a picnic in the garden, although you will need to buy a ticket to enter the extensive grounds.
Lotherton Lane, Aberford LS25 3EB
One of Yorkshire’s finest historic houses located in the North York Moors National Park, this estate offers 450 acres of nature reserve. No pre-booking is required for the parkland and gardens. You can also stop by The National Centre for Birds of Prey to observe Steller’s Sea Eagles, just make sure you’ve packed away your picnic food. Don’t forget to stop off en route in Helmsley for the ultimate deli picks from Mannions, a local independent café which offers takeout coffees and picnic produce galore.
Helmsley YO62 5EB
Climb atop these giant rock formations and lay out your blanket for a stunning view of geological wonders which were carved by a pre-historic river tumbling through the rocks, a million years before dinosaurs walked the earth. Some of the most impressive views are only a 10-minute walk from the car park, but you could spend hours here, exploring the many intriguing rock formations.
Brimham Moor Road,
Summerbridge HG3 4DW
We are all keen to get back out and explore our amazing countryside but it is important that we all follow The Countryside Code. Please do your bit and don’t leave a mess behind. The codes includes: • Leaving no trace of your visit and taking all litter home • Not using barbecues as they risk causing wildfires Keeping dogs under control, and on a lead when you are around livestock • Leaving gates as you find them and following instructions on signs • Keeping to footpaths, bridleways and byways, and following signs where they suggest alternative routes