Devon’s vast coastline and craggy countryside is unique, and there is no finer way to unlock the simple pleasures than with a quintessentially British picnic. Fresh air, great-to-eat-treats and the rugged outdoors are the perfect escape from the routine. To help, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 picnic settings. Come rain or shine, on sun-baked grass or wind-lashed beaches, we have all the inspiration you need to seize a blanket, pack some delicious picnic fodder and get out into the great outdoors.
Boringdon Hall Hotel is just a short trot from the world-famous Dartmoor National Park. Which is, essentially, one large picnic spot. Its majestic tors, meandering lakes, hills, forests and stunning panoramas were made for admiring. Hence, it is no surprise that the first three of our handpicked picnic spots in Devon come from this unspoilt moorland. Dare to dream…
1. Burrator Reservoir
Surrounded by mixed woodland, undisturbed Burrator Reservoir sharply contrasts with the open moorland. From a distance you would be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled across a traditionally Swiss landscape - with its tors, pine trees, and gorgeously clear water. At first glance, it appears that you can’t get close to the water but a little perseverance pays off here - take the little road round the reservoir and stop by the moss covered trees and small car park. You’ll notice a beautiful spot with a stone bridge, look a little harder and you’ll see there is a stile over the fence. Using the stream as your guide, you will be able to trek to the reservoir. Pick a pretty spot and hunker down to devour your al fresco delights – you are likely to enjoy perfect peace and quiet here.
If you prefer to stay on the beaten track, there is a circular walk that follows the lanes around the water. Ideal for families, it is easy going and flat. It will take between 1.5 - 2 hours to complete and is approximately 3.5 miles.
Burrator Reservoir, near Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6PE
8.6 miles from Boringdon Hall and 26 minutes by car
A place for all seasons, Spitchwick Common on Dartmoor is wild in winter, low and playful in the summer. The main Spitchwick Common is home to one of the best swimming spots on the River Dart and frequented by villagers and visitors alike. The water, which has an orangey brown hue thanks to Dartmoor’s peaty soil, is impressively clean. Located in a sunny clearing, it is a popular destination for families as it has more than enough space for a competitive round of cricket.
Given, Spitchwick can be busy on a summer’s day, so go exploring to find a secluded spot. For a romantic escape, head to the Sharrah Pool, which is a little further away but hidden among the granite rocks and thick forest.
1 Newbridge Hill, Dartmoor National Park, Ashburton, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ13 7NT
23.0 miles from Boringdon Hall and 37 mins by car
Please note that Spitchwick isn’t signposted so head towards Ashburton, turn off for the River Dart Country Park, keep going over the Dart Bridge, past the large moors car park as you head up the hill turn right. The Common is a fantastic expanse of open area right by the side of the river; it is suitable for large parties and picnic tables are available but get there early because parking is limited.
3. Lydford Gorge
Lydford Gorge is one of the most quixotic places to visit on Dartmoor. Nestled in the north-western reaches of the moor, and owned by the National Trust, the oak tree lined gorge is the deepest in the South West, stretching 1.5 miles from Lydford Village. It’s a mysterious and beautiful place – at times wild and at others, meditatively calm.
Travel light and take the three and a half mile round walk, high above the gorge, to reach the majestic White Lady Waterfall which cascades magnificently into the chasm below. It's only a meter wide, but 27.2m deep, thereby making it really rather special. As with every beautiful place, there is also a legend. If you fall into the river and see a lady in white standing in the waterfall, you will not drown. Due to the fierce currents in some places, it is unadvisable to try the experiment yourself.
Lydford Gorge does become busy later in the day. If you want to be sure to have the romantic location to yourself, the best time to visit is shortly after it opens in the morning. Pack a picnic rug, freshly baked scones, lashings of clotted cream, sticky jam and a flask of tea for a naughty-but-nice al fresco elevensies. While dining in the orchard or woodland, be sure to look out for the dippers and wagtails that can be seen flying low over the river.
Lydford, Okehampton, Devon EX20 4BH
23.3 miles from Boringdon Hall and 53 minutes by car
4. Plymouth Hoe
Despite being an urban centre, the marine city of Plymouth is impressively green with parks, open spaces, woodlands and no less than eight nature reserves to uncover. That said, no visit is complete with out a visit to the Hoe. It is the perfect picnic spot in Devon if you love seascapes – the views across Plymouth Sound are breathtaking.
Pack a picnic of all your favourites and leave the hustle and bustle of the main city behind. Park up and pop to the Hoe on a summer’s evening for a lovely post-dinner stroll; on a clear day the sunsets here are utterly unmissable.
Plymouth Hoe, 14 Athenaeum Street, Plymouth, Devon PL1
6.0 miles from Boringdon Hall and 19 minutes by car
© Martin Bodman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
5. Wonwell Sands Beach
Within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wonwell Sands Beach is situated on the east bank of the river Erme. It is one of the few sandy beaches in Devon that remains totally untouched by commercial activity so pack a picnic and be prepared for an adventure! The views are divine, and the peace and tranquillity is unrivalled but the parking can be a bit hit and miss so do plan to arrive early.
The beach itself is nice and big when the tide's out. We'd recommend walking the South West Coast Path for views across to the famous Burgh Island and Bigbury-on-Sea Beach. Wonwell Sands Beach is a heady mix of divine beauty and utter relaxation so pack for the day and prepare to chill-out.
Wonwell Sands Beach, PL8 1LD
11.3 miles from Boringdon Hall and 39 minutes by car and foot (0.2 miles approx. walk from car park to beach).