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Best picnic spot in Cumbria?

Oct 18 2018, 1:30 AM

There are absolutely loads of places in the Lake District where you can pull up your car, throw down a rug and enjoy a bit of fresh air and great scenery with your cheese and pickle sandwiches.  Drive alongside almost all of the lakes and you will find car parks and laybys with beaches full of people doing just that.  And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Except for the road.  And the crowds.

When I asked a friend where her favourite picnic spot is she replied, "Somewhere far from the madding crowd that you have to walk to get to."  And that's probably the essence of a fantastic picnic place - somewhere that no-one else knows about and is utterly peaceful.  If you're a walker, you already know that the best picnics are eaten at the top of a fell - or preferably just off the top where it's a bit quieter.....

But failing that, here's a few places which are slightly off the beaten track but still very accessible by car.

The Duddon Valley

Having negotiated Wrynose Pass, resist the temptation to tackle Hardknott and turn left at Cockley Bank.  You are now following the gorgeous River Duddon and will shortly come across Birks Bridge picnic area (Forestry Commission).  It's a lovely quiet spot with picnic benches, just right for listening to the sound of the river and the birds in the trees.  Continue on the road and, in May, you will come across this wonderful area of bluebells.  There are one or two places to stop the car and just enjoy the spectacle.

Holehird Garden

Owned by the Lakeland Horticultural Society and run entirely by volunteers, Holehird is on the Kirkstone Road just up from the Cooks Corner roundabout (south of Windermere).  With its elevated position it has stunning views of Windermere and the central Lakeland fells including the Langdale Pikes.  Not forgetting the plants of course!  It's a wonderful place at any time of the year and you will always find something new to enjoy. There are plenty of benches to sit and admire the plants and the views and also a paddock where you can spread a rug.  No dogs allowed (except assistance dogs) and donations are requested to help keep the garden running.  Well worth it.


Never heard of it?  Just because it's not in the Lake District National Park doesn't mean it's not beautiful!  Running between Garsdale and Kirkby Stephen, Mallerstang is wild, peaceful and very very quiet.  In the area around Pendragon Castle there are various places where you can pull off the road.  Here I parked in a layby, crossed the road, walked down a very short track, crossed a pretty bridge and found all this lovely grass to sit on.  Not a soul around.

Sandscale Haws

A proper sandy beach?  Cumbria?  Yes - head to the Furness Peninsula and not far from Dalton-in-Furness you will find this lovely beach.  If you've got small children who need to run off some excess energy before tucking into their treats, then this will do nicely.  There isn't any shade or shelter so you need to pick your day for this one but if the weather is right then this is the place to be - and there's plenty of space for everyone!


Looking for something slightly more sedate?  Silloth is really popular and deservedly so.  If you want some flat walking to build up an appetite - or just want to go a few steps from the car, there is still more space than you will get in the central Lakes. Plenty of places to sit and listen to the sea here.

St Bees

If you like your coastline slightly more rugged then try St Bees.  With a massive car park and beach cafe it is popular in the summer.  However, the shingle beach is large so there are plenty of options for finding your own patch.  The headland is great for a walk either pre or post lunch.  Whilst there, make sure you visit the very interesting St Bees Priory.

Wet Sleddale Reservoir

Not the most promising of names but a wonderful 'hidden' lake.  Just south of Shap on the A6, look for the dam and head down the road towards it.  At the end you will find a car park in a lovely quiet location and right next to the dam.  Just a few steps from the car and you will find some grass to sit on or you could wander down the very good track for a bit first.  The whole walk around the reservoir is only 3 miles but if you just want to sit and soak up the quiet atmosphere, take your blanket or chairs and enjoy the solitude.


Yes, it's the central Lake District and yes it will be busy.  But it's not Bowness and it's not near a road (or at least only a very minor one).  Park your car at Ferry Nab and use the ferry as a foot passenger to cross to the quieter west side of Windermere.  A short walk north of the ferry landing will bring you to this lovely stretch of grass and beach.  You won't have it to yourself in the summer - but it's a little more peaceful than most places on the east side of the lake.

When I finished this I realised that all my favourite picnic places involved water - whether it is a lake, river, the sea or even just a small stream or pond.  There's something inherently relaxing about being near water and the way it reflects the sky and the plants around it adds to our feeling of well-being.

I asked my parents where their favourite picnic place is and they were very cagey!  If you've got a favourite spot, you probably want to keep it to yourself - but if you've got a 'second favourite' that you're happy to share, feel free to leave a comment!




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And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils

William Wordsworth »