A historical water-meadow best known as being the place where the Magna Carta was signed, Runnymede sits alongside the River Thames, and is framed by rolling hills and open meadows. In the summer, it’s bursting with colourful wildflowers, making it an idyllic spot for a summer's afternoon spent butterfly spotting. If you walk through the meadows, you can also see two major artworks, while little ones can follow a tree trump trail to find hidden stumps around the estate. If you don’t want to bring a hamper, The Magna Carta tea-room is open during weekends and sells a range of hot drinks and snacks.
Kew Gardens, Richmond
When the sun comes out, heading to Kew Gardens is always a good idea. Once you’ve paid entry to the grounds, head to the main botanical gardens where there are over 500 acres of woodland to explore. The Rose Garden, currently home to 170 different species of rose, is a great place to lay your blanket, as is The Arboretum which has plenty of shady spots. For a romantic day trip, make a beeline for the Mediterranean Garden where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the sun-kissed landscape of southern Europe. If you’re still peckish in the afternoon, head to The Botanical restaurant to enjoy light plates or a traditional afternoon tea.
Hughenden Manor Gardens, High Wycombe
National Trust-owned Hughenden Manor was once home to Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the vast parkland and forest surrounding the manor is a lovely setting for a picnic – especially as such activities aren't permitted in the formal gardens. There are over 680 acres to explore, but some of the best spots can be found along the Boundary walking route which has beautiful views of the Chiltern Hills.
Bookham Common, Surrey
This designated Site of Special Scientific Interest was mentioned in the Domesday Book and is now looked after by the National Trust. Framed by ancient oak woods, grassy plains, and serene ponds, it’s home to an abundance of wildlife, including herons, dragonflies and the rare purple emperor butterfly. The best picnic spots can be found next to the oak woods by Kelsey’s Pond or in the Eastern Plain area. It’s also a great place for walking your dog, while little ones can follow an activity trail through the woods which passes grassland plains, marshy ponds and wetlands.
Ranmore Common, Surrey
Ranmore is a beautiful area in the North Downs, near Dorking. Ideal for a family picnic, head towards the top of the hill for the best views where you can spot the pretty village of Westcott in the distance. If you want to head on a walk after lunch, follow the route towards Denbies Wine Estate, one of the most beautiful vineyards in the UK. Here, you can stop for a glass of English sparkling wine or drop into one of the many events that run during the summer months – this year, the estate’s food festival is taking place from Saturday 4th to Sunday 5th September.
Hatfield House & Grounds, Hertfordshire
Once the home of Henry VIII, Hatfield House is a Jacobean manor complete with five immaculately kept gardens, a private park and forestland. Embark on one of the woodland walks or tackle the garden maze before rewarding yourself with some pre-packed treats. Left your hamper at home? The on-site Coach House Kitchen offers a deli-style menu available for takeaway. Romantic and evocative of fairy-tales, it’s an ideal choice for an afternoon date.
Verulamium Park, St Albans
Commuter city St Albans sits right on the London border. Once a Roman settlement, the city’s Verlanium Park is a large open space which circles a vast lake. Home to more than 100 acres of greenery, the park is split into three areas, so there’s plenty of space for adults and little ones, alike. Wonder around the Roman ruins and visit the beach courts before tucking into your supplies.
Wanstead Park, Epping Forest
At over 6,000 acres, this former royal forest – which straddles the border between the capital and neighbouring Essex – is the largest open space in the London area. Wanstead Park is one of the forest’s prettiest spots, with a bluebell wood, three ponds and a child-friendly cycling trail. Easily reached from central London, the park also has a lovely café which sells sandwiches, ice-cream and hot drinks. After a picnic, follow the signposts to Strawberry Hill in Loughton for a scenic walking route.
Emmetts Garden, Sevenoaks
This National Trust Edwardian estate is home to an extensive range of exotic plants and tropical trees from around the world. Located on one of the highest spots in Kent, the gardens offer panoramic views over the Weald, and there are plenty of activities for families to enjoy. Find a quiet spot in the picnic grounds at lunchtime, then walk through the Fairy Kingdom where children can head on an adventure to meet the Fairy Queen, before exploring the wild play area.
Ayot St Lawrence Church & Grounds, Hertfordshire
Ayot St Lawrence is a tiny village in Hertfordshire, the former home of playwright George Bernard Shaw. An eerie graveyard now lies in ruin in the centre of the village, while a neoclassical style church sits among the neighbouring fields and meadows. Visitors can learn about history of the village before following the path into the rural open fields to enjoy a picnic in peace. If you want to stop off at a pub before heading home, book a table at The Red Lion.
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Sevenoaks
This beautiful and historic 12-acre garden offers expansive views across the Weald of Kent. With five different gardens to choose from, you’re guaranteed some peace and quiet. Ideal for a romantic picnic for two, take advantage of the picnic benches and tables dotted around the gardens, or borrow a rug from the on-site cafe, which is currently serving lunches, hot drinks, ice cream and homemade cakes on a takeaway basis.
Richmond Park, London
The largest of London’s Royal Parks, Richmond Park is teaming with wildlife and has countless places to stop for a picnic. Ideal for a romantic day trip or family outing, take shade under one of the huge oak trees before tucking into your food. If you have little ones in tow, head to the deer park, and if you want to make a day for it, follow the circular walking route towards Ham House. For a longer walk, follow the Tamsin Trail, a guided perimeter of the park which can be completed in four hours.
Whitstable Castle Gardens, Kent
Easily reached from London via a 90-minute train journey, Whitstable is a favourite seaside spot for good reason. If you don’t want to relax with fish and chips on the shingle beach, head to the castle to sit in its beautiful gardens. There’s also a small park just across the road, which has great views of the beach and beyond. Be sure to swing by one of the seafront huts to pick up some oysters and local beer to enjoy during your picnic.
Aylesford Riverbank, Kent
Aylesford is a pretty, riverside village in Kent perched on the river Medway. Once you arrive, head to the Medieval bridge to secure a picnic spot on the grassy riverbank. The Medway Towpath is an ideal cycle route for those keen to work up an appetite before lunch, while the wooden footbridge leads to a leisurely riverside walk.
Basildon Park, Reading
Basildon Park is 400 acres of historic parkland and gardens in reading. During the early summer months, the woodland becomes awash with bluebells, while the landscaped gardens can be appreciated year-round. Little ones can search for wildlife deep in the woods, while adults can enjoy the views from the seated area atop the outdoor terrace. If you don’t want to bring food from home, the on-site tea rooms serve a range of sandwiches, drinks and light snacks.
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