Baskets at the Ready: Devon’s Top Picnic Spots
In life, there are what we call ‘simple pleasures’ – things that cost next to nothing, but whose satisfying effects can turn an average day into a great one. Like the feeling of being warm and cosy inside as the rain patters on the roof or the smell of freshly laundered sheets, for example. But few simple pleasures can compare with eating outdoors on a sunny day. Somehow, the food tastes better. And when the setting is exceptional, a picnic is hard to beat. Devon has many exceptional picnic spots so make the most of the summer by packing your blanket, your basket and your family for a day spent eating and soaking up the sun.
At the western edge of Dartmoor, this National Trust-owned site serves up all the necessary ingredients for a great picnic. Work up an appetite with a walk through the woods, checking out the 30-meter high White Lady Waterfall and the swirling Devil’s Cauldron whirlpool as you go. Then spread out a rug on the grassy refuge amid the wildflowers, rushing waterfall and ancient woodland, and enjoy your al fresco feast. Just watch out that the woodland birds don’t swoop down and snatch your sandwich. If you’ve forgotten any vital picnic foods, head to the shop and tea room where you can pick up extra supplies.
For a picnic with a blast of sea air and sweeping sea views, try Little Dartmouth. Fire up your appetite with a hunger-inducing ramble around a 45-minute circular walking route – a stretch of the spectacular South West Coast Path. Once you’ve completed the circuit, settle down for a feed in the picnic area on the hillside near the carpark. This region is part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it shows. In summer, the surrounding grasslands are ablaze with wildflowers. You’ll be able to see down to the water and perhaps even taste the tang of the sea. Pick up picnic food in nearby Dartmouth. A farmers’ market is held there on the second Saturday of each month, but if that doesn’t suit, the town’s farm shops and artisan delis will provide ample picnic provisions.
When you are picnicking with young kids in tow, convenience is an important factor. An idyllic setting is preferable, of course, but having toilet facilities, parking and other amenities can make the difference between a stressful excursion and a pleasurable one. Blackpool Sands near Dartmouth is ideal for families. When the sun shines, the clean cerulean water and golden shores look positively Mediterranean, which is sure to please the adults among your group. The little ones, on the other hand, will enjoy playing in the sand pits, splashing around in the sea and perhaps even trying water sports, such as boogie boarding and snorkelling. Plus, there are toilets, showers and a shop. Prepare a picnic back in your holiday home or just buy some organic, locally produced food from the café here.
If you’re craving a truly off-the-beaten path picnic, North Devon’s Mouthmill Beach can deliver. Leave your car at the National Trust car park at Brownsham and follow the pathway from here. The trail passes through woodland following a trickling stream, before opening out to the remote and oft-deserted cove of Mouthmill. This rugged and rocky Atlantic beach is home to a wind- and wave-battered natural arch known as Black Church Rock. The best place to lay out a picnic is on the grassy tops of surrounding headland. They provide a more comfortable foundation that the pebbly beach and have stunning views to boot. It’s very likely you won’t encounter another soul here nor will you find a shop so come prepared and bring all the necessary picnic essentials with you.
If the purpose of your picnic is to escape – to find peace, quiet and nature – then a daytrip to Lundy Island is a must. Owned by the National Trust, this little isle is only a dozen or so miles from the mainland, but it feels a world away. Take the ferry over from Ilfracombe and amble around the unspoiled terrain. Be on the lookout for the spectacular wildlife: puffins nest on its cliffs and seals play in its waters. Choose a picnic spot on the gentle slopes of the sheltered east coast – the wild Atlantic winds that pound the west coastline will make it difficult to keep your sandwiches sand free. Later, catch the ferry back to your holiday home on the mainland.
Peace Park, Mount Pleasant
If a name alone could tempt you to a picnic spot, then surely this place would top the list. Peace Park is a tranquil grassy knoll overlooking the gorgeous blue sweep of Bideford Bay. Leafy branches from trees frame the sea views, while a World War I memorial in the park’s centre dominates the scene on land. The park is small, though usually crowd-free and there are seats here. Wander the steep winding streets of the adjacent harbour-side hamlet of Clovelly for extra picnic treats. The Visitor Centre shops sells local produce, including delicious Clovelly fudge. It’s worth noting that an entrance fee is required to enter the traditional village, though this covers parking and admission to its heritage museums.
Dartmeet is superb picnic spot where – as its name hints – the east and west branches of the River Dart merge. En route, stop by Ashburton’s indoor farmers market for picnic goods, such as artisan cheeses, freshly baked breads and preserves. Once you’ve filled your basket, continue west into the heart of Dartmoor. Dartmeet is perennially popular, and on a summer’s day, you’ll have to arrive early to secure a good spot. Prime picnic spots can be found near the sun-dappled banks and include views of the ancient clapper bridge. After eating, skip over the river’s stepping stones and embark on a woodland or riverside walk.