I love a picnic! Sometimes it’s a rug and a thermos and sometimes it’s a tablecloth, chilled white wine and itsy-bitsy smoked salmon sandwiches, but what is the point of summer if you are not out there enjoying it. One of the great thing about picnicking at heritage places is that if you want to be spontaneous, you can buy something to eat in the café and eat it outdoors or share ice creams to finish off your picnic. Last week Walpole and I got soaked at Lanercost Priory, so I dried out over a cup of coffee while he steamed in the car. Here are some of my special picnic places – where are yours?
- The Temple of Mithras, Hadrian’s Wall. Tucked down out of the wind, on a fine day you can just lie back and listen to the skylarks above. It’s quite special to remember all the soldiers from the Roman Empire who came here to worship and remember home while you eat strawberries and watch the clouds. Walpole the dog is especially fond of the sheep.
- Battle Proms at Blenheim Palace. Wow! Definitely one for chairs and wine glasses. It was great to be here so soon after the D-Day commemorations – all the patriotic music makes your heart swell, with fireworks and cannons too! There’s nothing quite like a big crowd for atmosphere though of course Walpole had to stay at home for this one. Battle Proms still have dates this year at Hatfield, Highclere and Ragley.
- Hartland Abbey. Wild Devon at its best. Take a picnic to enjoy before exploring Lady Stucley’s lovely garden or survey the sea from the Gazebo and walk on down to the jutting rocks of the little cove. Walpole had a run up the cliffs along the coast path for a view from the folly. Glorious on a fine day! We made it back in time for a cream tea as well.
- Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire. Great for stretching the legs (2 and 4) strolling through the abbey ruins and down the lovely valley for a picnic on the lawns of the Banqueting House with a view across the Moon pond to the Doric Temple. I think our Italianate picnic (mozzarella and tomato sandwiches) was just the thing!
- Tredegar House, Gwent. There were 5 grey fluffy cygnets being shepherded by a pair of proud swan parents when we were here earlier this year. Picnicking on the edge of the ornamental lake with this lovely ornate house behind while waterbirds paddle all around was quite a treat. Walpole, of course, had to be restrained.
- Crichton Castle, Lothian. Just a spit from Edinburgh and the A1, Crichton is a beautiful ruin but hardly anyone is ever here and if you picnic on the bank looking down the valley of the Tyne against the castle walls you will be at peace. But in among the wild flowers, it’s hard not to ponder on Mary, Queen of Scots dancing here with Bothwell or the reiver lords gathering to raid their neighbours’ cattle.