Whether you’re looking for a dreamy setting to enjoy an al fresco supper for two or a wild and wonderous spot to work up the family’s appetite, Scotland has all the ingredients for a successful picnic.
This National Picnic Week (21-30 June) we look at the rugged cliffs and golden sands, to woodland canapes, waterside spots and magnificent adventure playgrounds, to give you just a taste of what Scotland’s breath-taking landscapes can bring to your picnic experience.
And it’s not just the stunning surroundings that makes Scotland the first pick for a picnic, the fantastic food and drink made here will leave you spoiled for choice when it comes to your outdoor spread. So pack up your basket and explore the beautiful bounty on your doorstep…
Orkney & Shetland
Recently named as one of Europe’s top destinations to visit this Summer (Lonely Planet, Best in Europe 2019), Shetland boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery. The Eshaness Cliffs are not likely to disappoint with views over changing volcanic rock features, transformed into hanging gardens of bright sea hardy wild flowers and an array of wildlife in the summer.
Alternatively, set up your blanket on The Sands of Breckon’s white glistening shell sand and grassland dunes which give the perfect oasis for catching the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. After enjoying your feast take a stroll and discover the islands unique Viking heritage which can be found around the beach.
A nature lover’s paradise, Yesnaby, found on the west coast of Orkney is a must for those looking for a dining spot to tickle all the senses. After your feast, walk along one of the best short coastal walks in Britain, past rocky inlets and Yesnaby Castle, a delicate sea-stack with a natural arch, to Gaulton Castle.
What to pack in your picnic… These rugged and exposed landscapes, together with the unique heritage and traditions of the people making them, breathe a special life into the food and drink made on both Shetland and Orkney. From Orkney Cheddar, Stockan’s Oatcakes and Orkney fudge brownies, to Shetlandeli relishes, Waas bakery breads, Shetland Farm Dairies butter, Shetland Fudge and Lerwick Brewery beer, your basket will be bulging with a spread encapsulating the essence of the islands.
Highlands and Outer Hebrides
Voted as one of Britain’s Best Picnic Spots, Loch an Eilein, nestled within the Rothiemurchus Forest, south of Aviemore, really does tick all the boxes. With views across the Cairngorm Mountains in the distance and its mysterious 13th century island castle in the middle of the loch, diners will be completely captivated by this beautiful place.
Travel north to Rosemarkie beach for a chance to see bottlenose dolphins dancing in the waves of the Moray Firth. Perfect for dog lovers, these expansive sands along the coast of the Black Isle peninsula are ideal for walking off your picnic feast.
An amazing story of colliding continents and scientific intrigue, at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve al fresco diners are guaranteed an earth moving experience. A globally important Geopark in Assynt, north of Ullapool, stunning sculptures, breathtaking scenery and a sense of Scotland’s ancient history will complete the menu.
Escape the mainland and go in search of paradise along the Clachan Sands Beach and Machairon the Isle of North Uist. A haven for wildlife, set your blanket down on the white shell sands. The machair, one of the rarest habitats in Europe, runs parallel to the beach and in the summer months is peppered with an assorted variety of wildflowers, including rare orchids. Keep a look out for the elusive corncrake on its migration journey.
What to pack in your picnic… the Highland and Outer Hebrides’ natural larder has everything to complete your picnic feast. Try some delicious smoked seafood from the Stornoway Smokehouse, including whisky-cured hot and cold smoked salmon, smoked sea trout and Stornoway Kippers, to cuts of cold meat including venison chorizo from Great Glen Charcuterie. A spread wouldn’t be complete without a bountiful cheese board from the Connage Highland Dairy, teamed with Angelic Gluten Free oat biscuits. This can all be washed down with a refreshing Highland Cordials, Black Isle Brewery craft beer or Rock Rose batch gin to name but a few.
The Cruickshank Botanic Garden, situated on the University of Aberdeen’s King College Campus, is a peaceful and beautiful garden. Enjoy a walk exploring the many rare plants before your picnic, then once you’re finished, pop into the Zoology Museum, the only international exhibition of zoological specimens in the north of Scotland.
Renowned for its wonderfully restored Victorian features such as the Band Stand, fountains and boating ponds, Duthie Park is one of Aberdeen’s most impressive parks. Work up an appetite for your picnic at one of the two play parks, followed by a stroll about the David Welch Winter Gardens.
You can find all the colours and blooming flowers amongst the peace and tranquility of Johnston Gardens. Winner of the prestigious Britain in Bloom award, this romantic setting features a stunning waterfall, glistening streams, and a rustic bridge that make the perfect setting for a picnic for two – you’ll really feel away from it all.
What to pack in your picnic… an Aberdonian spread won’t be complete without the city’s famed rowies! Aberdeen Angus Roast Beef is the perfect filling for any sandwich while the city’s coastal connections ensure that seafood, such as hot smoked salmon, mackerel pate or langoustines are readily available and an essential part of any spread.
Dundee and Angus
Enjoy the views over the glistening water of the Tay and the Tay Railway bridge from Madaglen Green, the oldest park in the city. While you tuck into your feast in this civic space the whole family will be entertained from its iconic bandstand, built in 1890, which hosts concerts on Sunday afternoons during the summer.
A perfect day out for all the family, Lunan Bay, on the dramatic Angus coastline, has all the ingredients for picnic success. Walk in the footsteps of Viking armies and re-imagine your own battles across the two miles of dramatic sand dunes. The bay is overlooked by the crumbling ruin of Red Castle, originally built for King William of Scotland to defend against Viking invaders. Take an adventure and explore the 15th century rectangular tower and the curtain wall – all that remains of this once formidable fortified house.
Offering the most dramatic backdrop for a picnic, the Reekie Linnin Glen Isla, Angus, is the most impressive waterfall in the region. Take a short (and careful) walk through picturesque and deciduous woodland and discover the Black Dub, a dark cave steeped in local legend. This spot won’t disappoint any explorer!
What to pack in your picnic… no local al fresco menu would be complete without a starter of Arbroath smokie pate to spread on your oatcake of choice, followed by a Forfar Bridie, for the perfect meal-in-one, then finished off with a sweet slice of Dundee Cake. Delicious!
One for the walkers amongst us, Inver Walk leading through the forest up to Pine Cone Point, Dunkeld is a must for a picnic with a view. With an outlook across the Tay to Dunkeld and the mountains in the north, this spectacular landscape is the perfect backdrop for your al fresco feast. A newly hand-built wooden sculpture in the shape of a pinecone also offers a great photo opportunity, while hand-crafted benches give a peaceful resting place from which to enjoy the surrounding area.
Situated to the west of Pitlochry, Loch Rannoch’s sandy beaches on the north shore are an ideal excuse for a picnic and offer some breathtaking views. Afterwards, walk off your lunch and explore the history of the region through the Clan Trail. Starting from the village of Kinloch Rannoch follow a series of story boards placed around the loch shore and learn about the fascinating tales of clans prominent in the district before the 19th and 20th centuries.
Home to wildlife, gardens, walks and art, Perth’s Norie Miller Park has something for everyone looking for the perfect escape from the pace of urban life. Overlooking the famous waters of the River Tay, enjoy your picnic underneath the beautiful indigenous trees before taking a stroll, following the public art trail. Featuring a variety of sculptures, the trail celebrates some of the most notable achievements of the city and its people - you’ll feel you’ve discovered one of Scotland’s cultural gems.
What to pack in your picnic… with the regions reputation for the quality of its food and drink picnickers will be spoilt for choice. From luscious soft fruits, fresh farm vegetables and salmon, Highland beef and venison, to fine cheese, chocolate, oatcakes and breads, not to mention gins, whisky, wines, beers and soft-drinks, a Perthshire spread can be sorted in a second by one of the many award-winning food and drink producers, retailers or farmers markets in the area.
A magical combination of forest trails that dip and weave between tall trees and open sand dunes, Tentsmuir Beachis an amazing spot for nature lovers, families and dog walkers alike. As you tuck into your bountiful basket, keep an eye out for grey and common seals, both frequently spotted basking on the sandbanks. Birdlife will also keep you busy, including eider ducks and oystercatchers, that come to feed on shellfish. If you don’t fancy sitting on the sands, a park and picnic area will be a comfortable spot before exploring the woodland walks.
In the heart of Dumfermline, Pittencrieff Parkoffers visitors a surprise around every corner. Affectionately called ‘The Glen’ by locals, the beautifully kept greenhouses, gardens and woodland walks will help you switch off from the world outside, while the playpark will keep little legs entertained for hours. Enjoy wandering around the nooks ‘n’ crannies of the park and find a secluded spot for your fine finger feast. Afterwards explore the fascinating Pittencrieff House Museum or venture onto the Fife Pilgrim Way, an exciting new heritage project to be launched later this summer.
Further along The Fife Pilgrim Way, travel to Lochore Meadows Country Park, in the heart of Fife. With so much to do for all the family you’ll need a hearty feed to keep you going all day! Centred around Loch Ore enjoy some activities in or out of the water, including cycling and birdwatching or fishing and paddling, before your picnic lunch. Then work off full tummies at the adventure playground or enjoy a walk around one of the parks varied habitats, including wildflower meadows, park land and ancient woodlands .
What to pack in your picnic…offering a wide variety of local produce, your Fife picnic hamper will be bulging. Fill your rolls with Puddledub Pork or hand-made cheese from St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company. For adults, wash it down with some of Eden Brewery’s traditional Scottish ales. And for the kids, gorge on a yummy cocktail of soft fruits from Cairnie Fruit Farm including strawberries, raspberries, black/redcurrants, gooseberries, tayberries, brambles and cherries.
Edinburgh & the Lothians
Standing in the heart of one of Scotland’s most important 18th-century designed landscapes, Penicuik House offers peace and tranquility for a romantic picnic for two. Found to the south of Edinburgh, the house and 1,000 acre grounds are steeped in history of one of the most important families in Scotland’s intellectual, cultural and scientific past.
For those who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, travel towards East Lothian’s Lodge Grounds in North Berwick. A great day out for all the family, with its wide-open spaces, natural fauna and children’s play area, this scenic picnic venue has also attained the Green Flag Award for the third consecutive year. Enjoy the wide-open space of the upper ‘early Victorian’ park with its mature trees, lavender garden, wild gardens, great views of North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock, and a children’s play area or take some quiet time in the lower park’s formal garden with an aviary.
Awarded a 4-star rating from VisitScotland and the largest of West Lothian’s three country parks, Beecraigs Country Park has something for all the family. Have a short walk on one of the many trails or have a blast at the playpark before your picnic on the banks of the lake, watching the fishermen reel in their catch. Afterwards say hello to the Highland and Belted Galloway cows and calves and try to catch a glimpse of some of the park’s wildlife such as red deer.
What to pack in your picnic… Edinburgh and the Lothian’s natural larder has a reputation for quality produce so you’re picnic basket will be bulging with delicious goodies. For the sweet tooth, try some local Hoods Honey or Edinburgh preserves on your sandwiches, or for the savory, cuts of cold meat from one of the many quality local butchers in the region, and delicious creamy cheddar from I J Mellis Cheesemonger. For the grown-ups, why not accompany your picnic with a nice and refreshing gin beer or cider from one of the many local distilleries and breweries across the region.
Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire
Along the beautiful setting of the Forth & Clyde Canal, Auchinstarry Marina is the perfect spot to sit back with your snacks and take in the hustle and bustle of the canal and its colourful boats. After your lunch, if you’re feeling energetic take a walk through history to the Antonine Wall a UNESCO world heritage site. For nature enthusiasts, head in the direction of Dumbreck Marsh, home to grassland birds, including lapwing and skylarks, and the water rail.
A splendid Victorian park, Queens Park, offers picnic diners panoramic views in all directions of the city. As one of Glasgow’s oldest parks, an impressive civic space where old meets new, families can spend hours wandering the grounds and using the facilities which include a tennis centre, football pitches and miniature golf, alongside the reptile house, an interesting find for any budding paleontologists and the duck pond, always a family favourite.
This time with some breathtaking views across the central belt, Campsie Hills and Ben Lomond, Chatelherault Country Park, in South Lanarkshire, is a ‘Jewel in the Landscape’. Basking in the glory of the 18th century Hunting Lodge, the former Summer House for the Duke of Hamilton, enjoy your fare, then spend the rest of the day exploring the 500 acres of countryside and woodland, over ten miles of routed pathways, and an adventure playground.
What to pack in your picnic… if you’re looking to add a potato salad to the mix, look no further than Airdrie, where Albert Bartlett potatoes are grown. An assortment of chutneys and jellies are made by Miller’s Larder in Stonehouse South Lanarkshire, will make the perfect piece. And for dessert, you are spoilt for choice between the sweet treats made in the region including the famous Tunnock’s Teacakes (produced in Uddingston) and Lees’ variety of chocolate bars. And of course there are plenty of beverages made locally that will help wash your lunch down, including Irn-Bru in Cumbernauld, Tennant’s Lager and the Clydeside Distillery, both in Glasgow.
Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire
Found at the foot of the Ochil Hills is Gartmorn Dam Country Park and Nature Reserve in Clackmannanshire. While the reservoir was created to power the pumps which drained the nearby coal mines hundreds of years ago, it is now a perfect place for a picnic. You can tuck into your fare and keep an eye out for the many birds that call the area their home.
The Helix Park in Falkirk is a unique spot for some nibbles as the home of the Kelpies by Andy Scott. There are benches and grassy areas as well as a playpark and lagoon with pedalos for a relaxing way to work off your meal. There are also lots of walking and cycling routes leading from the park.
Sat on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond is the picturesque village of Rowardennan. It is an ideal base for those who enjoy walking as it is close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and the West Highland Way, and if you fancy having a picnic on the mountain side, the village is also the starting point for the most popular route up Ben Lomond.
What to pack in your picnic… stock up on some fresh fruit from Briarlands Farm just outside Stirling - you can pick your own strawberries here and buy their jam. Whet your appetite with some delicious ales from the Harviestoun Brewery, and the Williams Bros Brewing in Clackmannanshire. Sample some honey from the The Ochil Honey Company in Alloa and leave your sweet tooth well and truly satisfied with some treats from the Caledonian Cheesecake Company in Falkirk, Mrs Tilly’s Tablet from Tillicoultry and Ochil Fudge also in Alloa.
Recently making a starring role in Marvel’s latest Blockbuster Avengers Endgame, St Abbs Head in Berwickshire is the perfect summer picnic spot to give you the feeling of being somewhere wild and remote. Immerse yourself in nature exploring the delights of what this nature reserve has to offer from its wealth of stunning wildlife and surrounding waters.
Travel further south to Neidpath Castle. This remarkable 14th century castle which overlooks the River Tweed just west of Peebles is a wonderful scenic location for a good old-fashioned picnic lunch. Explore the impressive castle grounds while also embracing the great Scottish outdoors!
If you are looking for a unique and rural setting to sit back and unwind on your picnic, look no further than Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre in Jedburgh. The centre lies on St Cuthbert’s Way, one of Scotland’s most popular long-distance paths, and is a great place to go for a leisurely walk while taking in the beautiful scenery. For the little ones, a great new playpark will help them build up an appetite for their picnic.
What to pack in your picnic… Get a taste for the Scottish Borders by sourcing some of the freshest and locally sourced produce for your picnic feast! Start with some artisan organic breads and oatcakes - plain, salt & cracked black pepper and seaweed - from Bread Works. Make up the perfect sandwich filling using organic free-range eggs, Borders Eggs’ or a selection of sustainably farmed meats from Going Native Heritage Meats. To finish off, quench your thirst with some of Tempest Brewing Company’s selection of fresh craft beers, from well-made classics to unique and creative small-batch brews.
Dumfries & Galloway
Take a short climb up Bennan Hill through the woods near the picturesque village of New Galloway and you’re rewarded with a stunning view over the tranquil vista of Loch Ken. As part of the Galloway Red Kite Trail it is the perfect location to catch these magnificent birds and indulge in a spot of wildlife watching while you graze.
Further south and the formidable Threave Castle comes into view. This massive tower house on the banks of the River Dee was built in the late 14th century by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway and became the stronghold of the Black Douglases. Enjoy a picnic by the river followed by a picturesque walk through the fields and woods to a small jetty – you can only access the castle by boat.
For that ocean breeze, take the South West Coastal 300 to the West and the charming Killantringan Bay near Portpatrick. Soak up the sea view on the golden sands or head along the coast to the nearby Killantringan lighthouse, designed by David Alan Stevenson, cousin of author Robert Louis Stephenson, which featured in the Gerard Butler-starring 2019 film, The Vanishing. Why not relax with a few pages from Treasure Island?
What to pack in your picnic… Dumfries and Galloway offer tasty treats to dine out and about on. To stock up on local delicacies, head to the historic market town of Castle Douglas which has been designated a “Food Town” due to it housing around 50 local businesses producing or selling food and drink. A picnic wouldn’t be a picnic without a slice of quiche and so why not make your own using the delicious Cream O’Galloway cheese? For those with a sweet tooth, the traditional Moffat Toffee, still produced in the town of Moffat, is the answer. Made to an old Blacklock family recipe dating back to the late 19th century, the toffee offers a boiled sweet with a tangy centre.
Argyll & the Isles
Located three miles south of Taynuilt, Glen Nant Nature Reserve has a rich woodland of native trees which blanket the slopes of the glen. Find the perfect spot for your picnic under the rich forest canape of the oak, ash, alder and birch trees which dominate in different parts of the reserve. Perfect for wildife watching, the sunny glades in the open woodland attract butterflies and moths, and listen out for warblers and woodpeckers in the trees. If you’re lucky you may even spot deer and red squirrels.
Steeped in Scottish history, dine in awe of the impressive Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel, a four-star visitor attraction, which guards the seaward approach from the Firth of Lorn to the Pass of Brander, and thereby the heart of Scotland. Situated north of Oban, Dunstaffnage is one of the oldest standing castle remains in Scotland. After lunch, discover more about this mighty stronghold of the MacDougalls, built before 1240, and its capture by Robert the Bruce in 1308. You’ll also learned about how the castle played a key role in the story of Flora MacDonald, one of Scotland's most enduring and romantic heroines.
The Isles of Bute is home to Mount Stuart makes the perfect setting for a romantic picnic for two. Surrounded by 300 acres of gloriously maintained grounds and gardens, marvel at the magnificent Victorian Gothic architecture and design, together with contemporary craftsmanship of the award-winning, 19th century country manor house.
What to pack in your picnic… Oban, known as Scotland’s Seafood Capital, together with the entire region, boasts a remarkable offering of unrivalled seafood experiences. With the Atlantic Ocean on its doorstep and fresh mountain waters aplenty, picnickers can put some of the world’s finest langoustine, crab, lobster and fish on their al fresco menu. The Isle of Mull is famous for many things, including its traditional artisan farmhouse cheese, known as the ‘King of Scottish Cheddars’. It is a traditional cheese with an ivory and somewhat soft pate and perfectly completes any cheese board or picnic sandwich.
With spectacular views over the Ayrshire Coast, Brodick Castle and Country Park is an incredible place to stop for a bite to eat. The quintessential island castle provides the perfect family day out with something for all ages. After fueling up with your picnic, explore formal gardens, woodland, and waterfalls. And be sure to bring any four-legged friends along too as the park is pet friendly.
Tucked away within the Galloway Forest Park is the stunning Loch Doon. It boasts incredible scenery and a variety of wildlife to look out for while you relax on its banks with a delicious spread. Located close to Dalmellington in Ayrshire, the loch also has its own castle to explore and the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is nearby if you fancy staying after dark and staring at the stars – but be sure to pre-book a visit.
One of Scotland’s most beautiful woodlands is combined with one of its most unusual castles just outside Largs in Ayrshire. Kelburn Castle and Country Centre features a colourfully illustrated façade and the surrounding estate stretches across over 3,500 acres, so you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to a picnic spot. If you want to work up an appetite beforehand check out the numerous walks, adventure course and the fun, fortress-style Wild West Saloon.
A picnic spot with an incredible story can be found at Loudoun Hill in Ayrshire. This small bump in the lovely landscape was the site of the Battle of Loudoun Hill which took place in 1307. It was where Robert the Bruce had his first victory against the English forces and helped his campaign gain momentum. Dine out at a picnic table featuring a view of the “Spirit of Scotland” sculpture or sprawl out on the grassy plains but be sure to climb to the top too for some great views over Ayrshire to the Firth of Clyde and Arran.
What to pack in your picnic… thanks for its rugged coastlines and vast farmland, there’s no surprise that the region is famous for award-winning food and drink producers. Tuck into an Ayrshire bacon roll or a special potato salad made with acclaimed Ayrshire ‘tatties’. Arran Fine Foods’ mustards, preserves and chutneys will make any sandwich sing with flavour, while the Scottish Charcuterie Company’s range of salami and air-dried meats, will give your spread a continental feel. There is an abundance of freshly caught seafood, locally brewed beers, deliciously creamy cheese and even creamier ice cream, to make a feast to remember. Take a trip to one of the many farmers’ markets across the region and find out what culinary treats are on your door step.
East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire & Inverclyde
Pick a picnic spot with a view along the Greenock Cut, a five mile aqueduct and a Designated Ancient Monument. The area offers wonderful walks, a fantastic vista over the Clyde and, for those with an inquisitive mind, an insight into the early industrial revolution. For all the family, a shorter walk will take you on a picturesque nature trail in search of hidden wood spirits through the Shielhill Glen, criss-crossing the Kip burn.
Looking for a wild day out? Then look no further than RSPB Scotland Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve, just 30 minutes from Glasgow. This wetland reserve, teaming with wildlife and fun family drop-in activities run by the RSPB, your budding naturalist will be in their element. Dine with the local wildlife, including otters, whooper swans, wigeons and ducks, then run off your feast at the play area or explore the accessible trails.
A buzzing community space and dog lovers delight, Rouken Glen Park has all the ingredients for picnic success and a lovely day out. Enjoy a walk around the beautiful boating pond then discover the cascading waterfall before finding a perfect spot in the walled garden for your blanket. A children’s play area will help little legs run off some energy while, an outdoor gym equipment trail, skateboard park and new tennis courts will keep the rest of the family entertained.
What to pack in your picnic… if you have a sweet tooth get online and visit The New Chocolate Company to make a special order ahead of your picnic for some Florentines or handmade chocolates. Pick up some scrumptious cakes from Three Sisters Bake in Quarrier’s Village and if that isn’t enough sugar for you, there are treats from the Wee Fudge Company in Clarkston.
Hope we have given you some food for thought? Or do you have a favourite picnic spot that trumps the rest? Maybe there’s somewhere with a great trail for exploring with the kids, or a secluded spot with a view for two? Share them on the VisitScotland iknow community here and discover more of Scotland this #NationalPicnicWeek.
A wider library of images is also available here: Please just register with our Digital Media Library and you’ll be able to access the pictures selected for National Picnic Week.
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Scotland’s Themed Years
- Following an industry consultation, the Themed Years will now take place every second year to enable more time for planning and opportunities for collaboration.
- 2020 has been designated as a year in which Scotland’s Coasts and Waters will be showcased and celebrated with a programme of activity designed to support the nation’s tourism and events sectors.
- The year, led by VisitScotland will sustain and build upon the momentum of Scotland’s preceding Themed Years to spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s unrivalled Coasts and Waters, encouraging responsible engagement and participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors.
- A year-long programme of events, activities and ideas will shine a spotlight on the impact our waters have had on Scotland, from the formation of beautiful natural features to the creation of our national drink – whisky.
- Join the conversation using #YCW2020
- 2022 will be the Year of Scotland’s Stories - a celebration of our rich literature, film, oral traditions and myths and legends.