Pic(nic) A Good Spot

by Jim Coulson

The best summer picnic locations in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Summer is here and thoughts naturally turn to cramming a whole load of food into a slightly-too-small bag and heading to a clearing to eat it in the open air for the few minutes of sunshine we get up north. Ignore the ants, waft away the wasps, slyly dispose of the banana you accidentally smushed under the heavy sandwich box and enjoy the excitement of al fresco dining. Here are a host of great places to eat picnics around Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Set in 500 acres of parkland at Bretton Hall near Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a firm family favourite for a day out. Featuring outdoor artworks by the likes of locals Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, who also happen to be two of the most important artists of the 20th century, you can spend all day exploring the grounds and taking in the stunning and enticing sculptures.

At some point you will need to eat and, although there is a perfectly lovely cafe on site, there are also plenty of places to unfurl a rug and crack open the egg mayo sarnies. Of course, there are parts of the park where sheep and cows graze freely, so you might find yourself with company as you dine, but it is such a gorgeous expanse of land that you can distance yourself from the beasts and other visitors with great ease.

Whether you want to munch in a meadow or wolf down your grub in the woods, partaking in a picnic at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a fine way to refuel before heading off to explore more art.

Cow and Calf at Ilkley

High above the West Yorkshire spa town of Ilkley stand the Cow and Calf rocks. One of Yorkshire’s most iconic natural landmarks, they mark the beginning and end of many a trek across the beautiful Ilkley Moor. Trudging over the rugged
moorland, finding the Badger Stone, the Hanging Stones, the Twelve Apostles and everything else this gorgeous landscape has to offer can be a hungry job, so the answer is to bring a pack-up with you.

There are plenty of places around the Cow and Calf to lay down your blanket and bring out your banquet, but if it’s not that busy and you’re not going to get in anybody’s way, you should devour the pork pies and cheesy Wotsits on the flat top of the cow itself.

The views down to Ilkley and then in either direction along the Wharfe Valley are simply stunning. You can see the edge of the Yorkshire Dales in one direction and Almscliffe Crag and the Arthington Viaduct in the other. Not a bad location to satisfy your rumbling tummy.

Bempton Cliffs

The Yorkshire coast has some absolutely stunning locations and none more so than Bempton Cliffs. The chalk cliffs themselves run from Flamborough towards Filey and are a paradise for birdwatchers. They are most famous for providing homes for gannets, kittiwakes and puffins at various points in the year, with tourists flooding into Bempton from all over in order to catch a sight of their favourite feathered friends.

Why not set off from Flamborough Head, rucksack brimming with delicious bounty, and walk the six miles to Bempton? When you arrive, get your fill of the avian extravaganza and then get stuck into the tucker in your bag at the picnic area by the RSPB visitor centre. Perfect.

Turton Tower

Turton Tower lies between Blackburn and Bolton and is a time capsule of life in the north west, thanks to the multiple owners over its 600-year history each adding their own flourishes and touches over time. You can visit the tower itself to marvel at its exquisite artwork and historical furniture, as well as to find out about its rich heritage. There is also an adjoining adventure playground for the kids to use and let off some steam.

When you visit, think about bringing a picnic to devour in the beautiful woodland grounds, but remember that, even though there is a kitchen garden, it is polite to bring your own herbs and spices to give your dinner that special zing.

Lytham St Annes

The great thing about visiting Lytham St Annes is that you get to explore two places in one. Yes, the two towns come together due to geography, but each has its own landmarks, quirks and intricacies that make them worth a day trip. In fact, the trouble you will have is with settling on exactly where to locate your lunch. There is almost too much choice.

You could serve up your sustenance on the beach, in the shadow of the Victorian St Annes Pier, or in the 78-acre grounds of the grandiose Lytham Hall. There is also Lowther Gardens, Ashton Gardens, Witch Wood and all manner of other places to explore in order to find that perfect picnic place.

Another great thing about picnicking in this demure stretch of the Fylde Coast is that, when the sandwiches are demolished and the hardboiled eggs consumed, you are never far away from someone selling a monstrously large ice cream to round the meal off nicely.

Ball Grove Park

As you head out of Colne towards Laneshawbridge, you come to Trawden, set in the stunning Lancastrian countryside. Part of what makes it such a gorgeous location is Ball Grove Park. However, it hasn’t always been this picture of bucolic loveliness. For more than 100 years, it was the site of a major tannery, in fact one of the largest in Europe, before it was demolished in 1974.

It is now a nature reserve spanning two hectares and which is home to a host of trees, plants, fish and birds. You might even catch the odd mole, brown hare or roe deer as you explore this extraordinary habitat.

One of the areas that formed a large part of the renovation of the site is the fantastic picnic site, where nature fans can relax, unwind and watch the wildlife going about its business around them as they tuck into their fish paste baguettes. Certainly one of the most tranquil places around Yorkshire and Lancashire to have a picnic on a day out.