Summer Picnic Hotspots
If you’re starting to think about plans for the summer holidays, then look no further than the amazing picnicking backdrop of the South. From Dorset to Wiltshire and Somerset to Hampshire, English Heritage and National Trust sites which boast the most beautiful gardens and have their gates open wide for families and dogs to come and soak up some culture whilst eating your sandwiches.
Situated just outside of the historical city of Salisbury, Old Sarum provides a wealth of history to get your teeth into. The sheer size of the site means that there is plenty of space for both children and dogs to run around, and you won’t be short of a spot to lay down your blanket and eat your picnic. The castle, run by English Heritage, is open from 10am to 6pm until the end of September. The site combines a royal castle and cathedral within an Iron Age fortification, and for 150 years was a major centre of both secular and ecclesiastical government. The onsite gift shop sells drinks and snacks, and also offers English Heritage wine tasting if you fancy a nice tipple to go in your picnic hamper.
Situated in East Dorset on the main road between Shaftesbury and Wimborne, National Trust site Badbury Rings is the perfect family spot for picnicking and dog walking. Originally part of the nearby Kingston Lacy estate, Badbury Rings is an ancient Iron Age hill fort sitting 327 feet (100m) above sea level, making it the ideal place to fly a kite. There is normally an ice cream van on site to refresh you after a good long dog walk, and occasionally, there is even a Roman centurion on hand to answer any historical questions.
Hopping back over the border into Somerset again offers a truly beautiful Elizabethan masterpiece in the form of National Trust property Montacute House. The house features a wonderful Long Gallery, which is the longest of its kind in England and houses over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. The picturesque gardens offer an extensive area for picnicking and are a wonderful place for kids to play hide and seek. Dogs are welcome in the grounds and the onsite cafe offers refreshment for afternoon tea if you have room for cake later in the day. The house is open throughout the summer from 11am to 4.30pm and the gardens are open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Farleigh Hungerford Castle
In a beautiful valley of the river Frome, on the border between Wiltshire and Somerset and only nine miles from Bath stands the remains of this impressive castle. Started in the 14th Century, the fortified mansion, now in the care of English Heritage, was occupied by the Hungerford family. The grounds offer plenty of places to picnic and the castle ruins are great for the children to explore whilst you take some time out to sit and have a flask of tea or coffee. Dogs are welcome on a lead and with a complimentary audio guide, the site will keep you occupied all afternoon. The castle is open from 10am to 6pm until the end of September and you can find out further details on the English Heritage website.
A summer holiday really isn’t complete without a trip to the beach, and Friars Cliff in South Dorset offers the ultimate dog-friendly experience. Their cafe provides water bowls for thirsty dogs and also sells doggy ice cream. Dogs are only allowed access to the left hand side of the beach during the summer, but it means that the whole family can enjoy a day at the seaside. There is a car park nearby off Seaway Avenue and there are also cafe and toilet facilities within easy reach of the beach.