You are not allowed to have BBQs or open fires anywhere in the Lake District because of the fire risk, as well as risk to wildlife, environmental risks and increased chances of littering. Instead, why not grab your picnic blanket and pick up some home-made food from a local café or shop? There are lots of tasty treats on offer!
Top 10 picnic spots
For a completely unspoilt Lake District experience, take the 4.5-mile route around Buttermere. There's a particularly lovely spot at which to indulge in a picnic at the southwestern tip of the lake. Kids will adore the stone Hassness Tunnel on the east side of the lake. It was created as a passage through the rock to allow a former landowner the ability to walk around the water with ease.
Local information: Car parking is available in Buttermere, or catch a free shuttle bus from Cockermouth. The pathway connects with a roadway for a short section of its length.
Tarn Hows, near Coniston
At the heart of the Lake District, Tarn Hows, near Coniston, forms a part of the Monk Coniston Estate, which is preserved by Beatrix Potter and the National Trust: it's a beautiful location with a short circular walk (2 miles) and there are several lovely places along the trail where you can set down your blanket and enjoy a spot of lunch.
Local information: There is a pay-and-display car park with WCs at the head of the path.
Easedale Tarn, Grasmere
There's something magical about settling down to a tasty picnic lunch by this beautiful Lake District tarn. If you fancy working up an appetite with a good walk before you eat, Easedale Tarn, near Coniston, is the perfect prospect. The route up to the tarn takes you along Sour Milk Ghyll and past eye-catching, frothy cascades. It can be rather breezy at the tarn, so make sure you take an extra layer just in case!
Local information: The complete circuit between the village of Grasmere and the tarn itself is nearly 5.5 miles and of moderate difficulty.
Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater
It was on the western shore of Ullswater, near Glencoyne Bay, that William and Dorothy Wordsworth came across the fabled ‘host of golden daffodils’ that inspired his famous poem. Visit in spring to see the carpets of daffodils for yourselves. Many visitors come for Glencoyne’s pebble beach, which makes for an ideal picnic spot. While you tuck into your lunch, take in the view across the lake to Place Fell and down to Barton Fell; the scenery at Ullswater is truly dramatic.
Local information: There's a National Trust pay-and-display car park on the opposite side of the road to the lakeshore. The nearest WCs are 1 mile away at Aira Force’s car park.
Muncaster Castle Gardens
If you're looking for a great-value day out, a visit to Muncaster Castle, near Ravenglass, certainly won't disappoint you. Stroll around 77 acres of castle grounds during your visit, including The Hawk and Owl Centre, the Enchanted Trail and the Meadow Vole Maze. There is an endless choice of places within the estate to enjoy an impromptu lunch as well as a designated picnic area.
Local information: The children's adventure playground is situated next to the playground lawn, which has lots of benches as well as picnic tables for a handy lunch stop.
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Wray Castle, near Ambleside
It's no coincidence that you can find so many of our favourite picnic areas by water in the Lake District. However, at Wray Castle, near Ambleside, you’ll have a few alternative location choices too. There are some picnic benches outside the faux-Gothic castle, with fabulous views across rolling fields to the hills. There are also further benches overlooking the stone pathway down to the lake. Although there aren't any seats by the lake itself, one of our favourite things is to take a rug and choose a spot along the expanse of grass and small stone beaches - it's so relaxing to listen to the peaceful sound of water lapping against the shore while you eat.
Local information: There is a play park, parking, and WCs for public use.
Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick
Prepare the ultimate picnic and seek out this wonderful situation set against a dramatic mountain backdrop; we think Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick, makes for an excellent stop-off. The light here is never the same two days running, and Castlerigg is one of Britain's earliest stone circles, dating back to around 3,000 BC!
Local information: There is a small amount of car parking at the stone circle. It's also possible to walk from Keswick.
On the western shore of Derwentwater, Brandlehow Park is recognised as the birthplace of the National Trust in the Lake District. The estate was purchased at the beginning of the 1900s with money raised through public subscription. The beaches along this edge of Derwentwater make it an alluring destination for a lakeside feast. Keep a watchful eye for otters; you'll need to be quiet and very patient to be in with a chance of seeing them, they are very timid and wild.
Local information: Why not take a trip to the beach via the Keswick Launch (from Keswick) to arrive in style?
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Fell Foot Park, near Newby Bridge
At the southern end of Lake Windermere, Fell Foot Park is a fantastic place to take a family lunch, whilst having all the facilities you might need close at hand. Settle down to a delicious picnic on the park's grassy slopes, enjoy a paddle at the lake's edge, or hire a rowing boat if you're feeling particularly energetic! You can relax while children go wild on Fell Foot's adventure playground, and there's a café on-site if you forget anything.
Local information: The pay-and-display car park is free to National Trust members.
Ulpha Bridge, Duddon Valley
The Duddon Valley is a lesser-known area of the Lake District with pretty beaches, winding lanes, sea views and ancient woodland. Ulpha Bridge is something of a hidden gem for visitors to the Lake District and offers the intrepid adventurer some lovely, secluded spots for a picnic. Supplement your picnic with an ice cream from Ulpha Bridge’s post office after exploring the rambling ruins of Duddon Bridge’s old ironworks.
Local information: There is plenty of parking in Ulpha Bridge.
What food to include in a Lake District picnic
We’d be remiss not to talk about the goodies in a Lake District picnic in this blog, so here’s the low-down on some of the best locally made products and delicacies that you could include in your hampers and cool bags.
Many of the larger villages have their own bakeries: we’d recommend Bryson’s in Keswick for delicious crusty loaves and floury rolls.
Meat and fish
Stop by RB Woodall’s butchers for Cumberland sausages and hams. He is the official supplier for the Queen of England. If you love pate, then seek out Bessy Beck’s at the local supermarkets and village shops. We’d recommend the smoked trout pate but there are many different ones to choose from.
The Lake District is well-represented for locally made cheeses. Check the delicatessens and cheese counters for the collection of wares that originate in the area, namely Appleby Creamery and the Lake District Cheese Company. The former are loved for their black dub blue, organic brie, and ewe’s milk cheese. Some cheeses are enhanced by chutney, so if you are a sucker for tracklements, then look out for Hawkshead Relish at the shops.
The Lake District is the place to go for an imaginative pie, from diminutive pork pies to giant pies with elaborate latticework on the top. The local posh pies come from Burbush’s and the locals vouch for Stillfield Farm’s delicious range of meat, vegetarian, and fruit pies. For quiches, try out the handmade ones from J&J Graham’s in Penrith.
For sweet tooths
How about a few after-dinner treats? Cumbria is chock-full of sweet and chocolate makers. Try Ye Olde Friar’s in Keswick for a wide selection of locally made chocolates, mint cake and traditional sweets. Kennedy’s in Orton is the ultimate place to go for the best chocolates around or you can try another one of the Queen’s favourites, fudge and toffee from the Penrith Toffee Shop.
Head to Grasmere where there is a shop that sells Grasmere Gingerbread®, it’s the only place in the world where you can buy it! Bryson’s the baker is the place to raid for freshly baked cakes and biscuits - we’d recommend the fruit cakes which are absolutely scrummy. Go back to J&J Graham’s for their endless selection of cheesecakes, Florentines, flapjacks, and shortbreads.
There are lots of jam-makers in the area to top a scone to perfection – try Claire’s Handmade. Many Cumbrians would always go for traditional rum butter on their scone, so why not give it a try? Quiggin’s rum butter is our favourite.
The Hawkshead Brewery make a delicious and interesting selection of ales such as Lakeland Gold bitter and Red Ale. Jennings’ Beer has been brewed in Cockermouth for generations; try their Cumberland Ale.
Tea and coffee
If your picnic hamper is equipped with a flask, we’d recommend Farrer’s teas and coffees or Cumbrian Tea's Rambler's Brew. There’s nothing quite like a warming drink to invigorate you whilst out on the trail!
Where to buy
Booths is the Lake District’s leading supermarket chain, and they are the main stockist for just about all of the local brands, from the smallest to the biggest. The main branches are found in Keswick, Kendal and Windermere. Also worth a visit is Cranstons Food Hall, in Penrith, Orton Grange, Carlisle or Brampton (special offers available for Sally's Cottages' guests), and Rheged’s Taste shop. There are farmers’ markets in Cockermouth, Egremont, Kendal, Milnthorpe, Orton, Penrith, Pooley Bridge, Sedbergh and Ulverston.
We hope you've been inspired by our family picnic suggestions, and we’d love to see your photos - why not share pictures of your favourite picnic spots with us over on Instagram and Facebook?
Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in the Lake District
At Sally’s we have some superb self-catering holiday cottages for you to choose from. Our collection of properties are located throughout the region in stunning remote situations or within the Lake District’s quaint villages and market towns. Browse our collection today to find the ultimate backdrop for your Lake District adventure.