Tea in the Park

17 January 2019

Loch Katrine

Loch Katrine by GeorgeP via CC

Having a picnic in the park is one of life’s great pleasures, fortunately Scotland is blessed with some of the most scenic national parks, nature reserves and retreats anywhere in the world. On your next holiday why don’t you check out some of these ideas for spots to relax and have a snack. The great outdoors in Scotland doesn’t have to be wild and remote and many of these spots offer peace and tranquillity while still being suitable for children as they are only a short walk from where you can park your car.

The Cairngorms is the most majestic of Scotland’s National Parks, taking in the impressive peak of Ben Macdui, the second highest in the UK. It’s a haven for outdoors pursuits but is big enough that it still has many quiet corners where you can get away from it all. The shores of Loch Morlich are easily accessible by car and have their own picnic benches provided. In the summer the water is suitable for swimming and you can have the fantastic experience of bathing with a view of the mountains. Stock up at Mountain Café in Aviemore beforehand. It is an essential stop for anyone planning a picnic with freshly prepared range of speciality sourdoughs and vast array of gluten free and vegan cakes. If it’s a blazing summer, like 2018, then adults can enjoy a Cairngorm ale instead of a cuppa because it just seems to taste better outside in the sun. Clach Beag is a romantic spot for couples just south of Aviemore but still within the park boundary. There is nature on the doorstep and fabulous walks in every direction.

Loch Lomond is one of the most famous destinations in Scotland and the National Park that surrounds it takes in not just the loch itself but large chunks of the Trossachs and surrounding hills. The most popular path here is The West Highland Way but there are many other, just as scenic, options where you can avoid the crowds. Loch Katrine is a personal favourite. It’s particularly suitable for younger children just starting out on their bikes as the road around the loch is closed to vehicles. Bike hire is available at the pier if you don’t want to bring your own. Keen Outlander fans will already know that this is the location from the second season where Brianna and Rodger have a picnic. It’s particularly easy to follow in their footsteps and find a quiet spot to take in the surroundings with some cake. On bad weather days you can still take a boat trip down the loch on a 118 year old paddle steamer named after Sir Walter Scott whose poem The Lady of the Lake helped popularise the area. The Old Farmhouse is a short drive away and has spectacular views of Loch Lomond, it is perfect for access to the water and for exploring all the fascinating corners of this National Park and all it has to offer.

Galloway Forest Park is unique in that there are things to occupy yourself 24-7 and so there is just as much of a reason to have a midnight feast as opposed to a regular daytime picnic. During the day there are the usual selection of hikes, history, art and quiet bike rides to occupy yourself but when the sun goes down the forest comes into its own as one of the world’s premier dark skies parks. The remote location and lack of light pollution makes stargazing here a truly mesmerising experience. The best vantage points are close to where you can park your car, just remember to wrap up well and bring a flask to enjoy a cuppa or some hot soup to sustain you. Craigie Knowes is located a short drive from the southernmost entrance to the park and a fabulously comfortable spot to retire to after a long night. It’s a relaxing small village next to the coast that is excellent for families.

Beinn Eighe in the north west of Scotland holds the distinction of being Britain’s very first National Nature Reserve, if there was ever a place to enjoy a picnic in the shadow of some of the most awe-inspiring peaks in the country then this is it. The trails here offer something for everyone, whatever the weather but even if you don’t want to venture far from the car then you can still immerse yourself in this magical environment. The visitor centre has interpretive panels, a car park, picnic benches and toilets. For those looking for a longer walk, the woodland trail explores over 1.5 km of ancient pine forest with a myriad of sheltered picnic opportunities, while the 6km mountain trail offers a more challenging opportunity to venture into the mountain environment. Beinn Alligin, a luxury cottage by Loch Torridon, sits right in the heart of this landscape with brilliant vistas over the surrounding mountains. It makes a perfect base for hikers to explore the rocky summits of Torridon as well as the easier low-level rambles along the rugged coastline.