Saturday, 4 April 2015

5 Perfect Picnic Spots in the Lake District

Maybe I'm getting all excited and carried away by all the lovely warm weather, but my mind has turned to long hot summer picnics.  Now I've had many a soggy sarnie on a windswept fell top, but I'm also very partial to a proper picnic and have a very lovely posh picnic rucksack which is just about to get dusted off ready for the months ahead.  Below are five of my favourite spots, some of them are a short hop from the car whereas others require a bit of a walk, but all of them are worth a visit.  (And it should go without saying, always take all your rubbish home with you, even fruit peel, and don't light BBQs on the ground, build bonfires or do anything else which might damage the environment.)

1. Ullswater

View from the top of Hallin Fell
Now this can be a short or a long walk depending on what sort of mood you're in.  The bench in question lies along the public footpath as you head out of Howtown towards Glenridding and provides the most perfect spot from which to enjoy the comings and goings on the lake below.  If you want to make a day of it take the steamer from Glenridding all the way to Pooley Bridge and follow the lakeside footpath back to Howtown; it's a fair old walk but stunning views the whole way.  If you're planning to continue your walk all the way to Glenridding then it's the perfect excuse to pack a few extra cakes.  Of course if you're not in the mood for a long hike then simply take the steamer to Howtown; the bench is less than a 5 minute walk away from the jetty - follow the lakeside path towards Glenridding and at the top of the steps turn right.

View from the bench
If someone else has read this blog and nabbed the bench ahead of you then fear not - you have 2 options still open to you.  Option 1 - return along the footpath, keep going past the top of the steps and grab the second bench you see OR if you've packed a picnic rug (or have a jacket handy) you can take a wander up the flanks of Halin Fell and find yourself a nice little spot on the grass, just be sure to keep an eye on any boiled eggs or tomatoes lest they take flight and roll away down the hill.

2. Hol Beck/ Skelghyll Lane

Perfect picnic spot just behind that tree.
Don't let the "Skelghyll Lane" name fool you; these days it's a rather lovely old farm track winding around the bottom of Wansfell.  (It's also part of the old Roman Road which leads up and over High Street to Penrith).

This pretty little spot is a relatively gentle hike from Town End (where you'll find a couple of laybys for parking), or a slightly steeper hike from Ambleside.  From either direction it's only about a mile and for the views you get over Windermere it's well worth the effort.  When we first found this spot we stopped for our sarnies and within 5 minutes another couple came past and told us how it was their favourite picnic spot, but that's not a problem as there are plenty of rocky outcrops around so room enough for everyone.  (There are no benches here so be sure to take a rug if you don't like sitting on rocks or grass.)

As it's such a short walk from Ambleside it makes for a perfect summer evening picnic; you can watch the sun begin to set over the fells and still be back in town within half an hour or so before it gets dark.  Or maybe that's just the old romantic in me talking...

Sunset over the fells.
3. Fell Foot Park

View from the water at Fell Foot Park
If a hike and a picnic rug isn't your idea of a picnic then how about a proper park with picnic benches, toilets and a cafe?  Fell Foot Park is on the most southerly point of Windermere and is owned by the National Trust.  There's a large pay & display car park though if you're a member it's free.  I'll be honest, this place gets very busy during the summer months but at around 5pm it empties and you can pretty much have the place to yourself.  There are toilets, plenty of places to sit and, if you visit during the day, usually some attractions for the kids (details will be on their website here.).  It's also a popular place for taking a dip in the lake though remember this is still open water and boats etc. will be passing through.

4. Walna Scar Road Car Park

NOT the exact view from the car park but
pretty close
OK, I'll admit it, this doesn't sound like the prettiest picnic spot on earth, but trust me, it's the perfect way to enjoy a picnic in the fells yet only be a few yards from your car.

The car park is along a steep single track road on the hills just to the south of Coniston.  The car park is quite large but unsurfaced so expect it to be bumpy, it's free to park but does get busy, mainly with hikers.  If you're timing your visit much of the traffic is going up the single track road in the mornings and down in the afternoons, but it's far from an exact science!  Beyond the car park the broad track continues and there are many lovely open grassy spots where you can set up a decent picnic and enjoy views down over Coniston Water.

Because it's higher up and rather exposed it will generally be a little breezier here than in the picnic spots on the lake shore (of which there are many - the best of which are a series of benches around the head of the lake with views along the whole length), so pack a flask of tea and a sweatshirt just in case.

5. Raven Crag

No pain, no views like this.
OK, this one is a hefty walk but it is pretty much my favourite spot in the Lake District.  Head to the top end of Thirlmere and take the road across the dam; there you'll find a small car park.  Look up and you'll see Raven Crag looming above you (I warned you it was a hefty walk!).  If you follow the road away from the lake you'll soon find a signed footpath leading up into the forest, it rises steeply and, if you're anything like me, you'll be wanting to stop at regular intervals to catch your breath.  When you reach the broad track at the top, double back on yourself up onto the crag and keep going until you see the view in the photograph. (Though probably minus the snow.)  Despite its lofty status there is a broad, flat, grassy area protected from most of the wind and absolutely perfect for a picnic.

So there you have it; a selection of lovely picnic spots to start you off; all we need now is a long hot summer!

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