Tales from the forest

Inspiration, stories and an insider's glimpse into the world of Scotland's forests

Top ten perfect picnic spots

family picnic

They say you should plan your meals, but never a picnic - and this is doubly true in Scotland, where even during peak summer time our weather can be changeable! Below, we've got suggestions for easy-to-access picnic spots near you, suggestions for snacks, main meals and drinks, and even some ideas for alternative activities and destinations, in case it starts to rain cats and dogs.

Find the perfect picnic place

The key to planning your picnic is to pack light - take only what you need, and what's easy to carry. Because picnic planning is usually weather-dependent, and often a spontaneous decision spurred on by promising blue skies, we've tried to make your life simple with a few suggestions - make sure you’ve got the essentials ready for a truly great day out.

Picnic essentials

Healthy, delicious food

Obviously you’re going to need something to eat…well that’s the whole point, isn’t it? For picnics, food that causes the least mess is ideal. There's a lot to be said for eating healthy, fresh food outdoors - as opposed to pre-bought snacks full of empty calories. Why not prepare some wraps and sandwiches at home, or cook something easy to transport, like quiche, pasta salad, or dishes using healthy staples like couscouscous or quinoa.

If you are taking the kids, make sure you have some energy-packed snacks to keep them going on the trail - fruits and nuts are a perfect alternative to crisps or chocolate. Feeling adventurous, or want something a bit more substantial for the grown-ups? Try something exotic, like chicken satay strips, cauliflower and squash fritters with mint and feta dip, or you could try your hand at home-making these lean Scotch eggs.

A fruit salad makes a refreshing dessert, while strawberries and cream are always an indulgent picnic treat - and you could add to both of these with berries you find in the woods. Check out our guide to foraging in the woods for tips on which ones are the tastiest, and which to avoid. If you’re feeling truly domesticated, whip up some home-made lemonade to take with you – summer in a glass.

Checklist

Don’t forget some other bits n’ bobs you’ll need. Here’s a handy checklist…

checklist

family picnic

No-one knows the best picnic spots better than the people who look after them! We consulted our colleagues in the districts throughout Scotland, and they've given us some suggestions for destinations and activities to suit all tastes, from tree-climbing beside spectacular lochs, to beautiful beach-side picnic spots, and even a few ideas about where to track down local delicacies, spot captivating wildlife, and find stunning scenery for selfie-hunters and nature lovers alike. Take a look at our top ten picnic hotspots near you.

Our top ten picnic spots…

Ae forest, near Dumfries

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Take a wander along the Link Path by the lovely water of Ae river, you’re sure to find the perfect picnic spot. The kids can burn off some energy on the mountain biking trails too. If its a good day for a longer walk, there is a hillwalking route to explore, and perfect paths for horse riding - the Forest of Ae serves as the start of the British Horse Society's Countryside Trail, too.

Ae Forest is one of the UK's largest afforested areas, covering an area about the size of 10,000 football pitches. It's a working forest, as well as a stunning destination - nearby Ae Village itself was fact built by the Forestry Commission in 1947, to house forest workers employed in the timber industry. Nearby Mabie Forest is another beautiful place to visit, with even more trails, picnic and barbecue spots, and miles and miles more of the world-famous 7stanes mountain bike trails for the adrenaline-chasers in the family.

Otters Pool, in Galloway Forest Park

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Halfway along the Raiders’ Road Forest Drive you’ll find this beautifully secluded spot by babbling waters - absolutely idyllic for a picnic in the summer months. Watch out for red and roe deer grazing amongst the trees, crossbills and siskins feeding on conifer seeds, and keep an eye on the skies for buzzards, sparrowhawks and of course, red kites, often spotted on the 40km-long Galloway Kite Trail, of which the Raiders Road forms a part.

A forest drive of stunning beauty, the Raiders Road features in local author Samuel Rutherford Crockett's 1894 novel 'The Raiders.' The surrounding area also features a surprising amount of contemporary works of art, often inspired by the forests, lochs and open spaces. The Raiders’ Road features artworks like the Labyrinth, a giant maze; a stone otter at Otter Pool, and a wooden sculpture of a red kite at Mossdale on the Buzzard Trail. Loch Stroan, near Brennan, is well-known for its fishing, and you are very near the Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre, where you can get a coffee, and find out about other events and attractions, like stargazing in the UK's first (and still the biggest) Dark Sky Park.

Boden Boo, near the Erskine Bridge

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You don’t have to go far to enjoy a riverside picnic on the banks of the Clyde at Boden Boo. A small woodland with 3km of informal, unmarked trails, this is a great spot for kids, with broad paths suitable for buggies, and only a handful of steep slopes to climb. The woods here are one of Glasgow's Paths For Health walks - a section of the Clyde Walkway, leading to the New Lanark Mills World Heritage site.

Situated just beneath the Erskine Bridge, these small but perfectly-formed woods are ideal for a spur-of-the-moment picnic plan, if you're based in Glasgow or the surrounding areas - and a great spot to stop for a short break and a stretch of the legs while on your way to Loch Lomond, or Galloway Forest Park.

Rowardennan, on the banks of Loch Lomond

Ben Lomond from Rowardennaan

Tranquil Loch Lomond is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. A visit to the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park begins with a paddle at Rowardennan - after which you can dry off and unpack your picnic goodies. The Ben Lomond Memorial Trail is a short, easy walk, ending at the Ben Lomond Memorial Park, where you can see the beautiful sculpture by award-winning artist Doug Cocker, framing the peak of Ben Lomond. If you want to explore further, there's camping nearby at Sallochy.

Commissioned as a memorial to those who gave their lives in the two World Wars, this peaceful spot is also the start of a rough and rugged hill path to the top of the iconic peak of Ben Lomond, commanding magnificent views over one of the country's most beautiful lochs. The trail is not waymarked, and is a round trip of nearly 12km, so it is more suited to experienced climbers and hillwalkers - you will need a map and compass. As Scotland's most southerly Munro, it's a popular destination for keen climbers, and an area of exceptional natural beauty, also cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

Tentsmuir, just north of St Andrews

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A pine forest steeped in history and alive with wildlife, Tentsmuir is beautiful no matter the season - but in Spring and Summer, it's an ideal picnic destination too. With picnic tables by the children's play area and car park, take the Seashell Trail to the nearby beach for some paddling or even swimming! The beach at Tentsmuir is long and sandy, and a popular spot with locals as well as visitors.

The Morton Lochs, on the western edge of the woods, are part of the Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. Visit four different hides, tucked away in the undergrowth, and catch a glimpse of red squirrels or pine martens, as well as birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other animals. Down on the beach, some lucky folk have even spotted seals basking on the rocks!

Fearnoch, near Oban

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The view from the picnic tables at Fearnoch is impressive - looking out over an old quarry, you can see right to the peak of Argyll's tallest peak, Ben Cruachan. After lunch, explore two waymarked trails - the Ceum nan Seangan is Gaelic for the Path of the Ants - this path takes its name from these busy woodland workers. You might see roe deer and red squirrels amongst the trees too.

The Tri Drochaidean or Three Bridges trail is a gentle tour of the forest, travelling alongside the sparkling River Luachragan. National Cycle Route 78, from Oban to Campbelltown, passes through Fearnoch, with stretches ideal for a family excursion - and the trails are perfect for horse-riding too. From here, you can explore the National Nature Reserve at Glen Nant, or head north towards Fort William, perhaps stopping to see the falls at beautiful Beinn Lora.

Loch Linnhe and Glen Righ, near Fort William

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Popular with tourists for its heart-stopping natural beauty, Loch Linnhe is just off the A82, south of Fort William. On a fine day, there are few places in Scotland more impressive, and a holiday snap or two here is an absolute essential. It's a popular spot with professional and keen photographers, so if you're planning on taking some pictures, pick a time of day with the most beautiful light conditions.

A few miles down the road at Glen Righ, The Abhainn Righ cascades down the hill in a series of steps, forming eight mighty waterfalls, which are particularly impressive after heavy rain. The nearby forests at Inchree offer a good chance to see red squirrels in the wild, with a viewing screen near the car park to get you even closer to nature.

Roseisle, near Elgin

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Plan a packed day out to Roseisle - one advantage it has over other spots is the chance to barbecue, meaning you can bring some food and cook in the great outdoors. There's a children's play area right by the picnic tables, and trails to explore after you've eaten. Roseisle is also popular with cyclists and horse riders, with miles of unmarked trails to explore if you're looking for a more adventurous activity.

It's also one of the sites of strategic importance on the Scottish coastline during World War Two - take a walk down to the beach, and you will see tank traps, pillboxes and the remnants of gun emplacements, constantly being buried and then uncovered by the shifting sands. It's just one of a number of World War Two sites to visit, and a great spot for a history-enriched walk on a beautiful day.

Loch Morlich Beach, in Glenmore Forest Park

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Popular during the summer months with sunbathers, windsurfers and families, Loch Morlich's sandy beach is famous for being the most elevated beach in Britain. It's also the winner of a Rural Beach Award, ensuring it is one of Scotland's cleanest and most beautiful beaches. The winding trails leave from Glenmore car park, with plenty of quiet picnic spots along the way. If you get caught in the rain, the Glenmore Forest Park Visitor Centre is on hand with ice cream and indoor activities.

Looking for some adrenaline-pumping adventure on the water? Loch Morlich Watersports will rent you a canoe, a windsurfing board or even a small boat, and they offer lessons for beginners. To learn some local history, head to the picturesque village of Nethybridge to visit Explore Abernethy, or visit Aviemore, gateway to the Cairngorms National Park. Alternatively, just while away the whole day at Loch Morlich... what could be more appealing than a beautiful beach and quiet, meandering trails, alive with the sounds of wildlife?

Loch Achilty, a short drive from Inverness

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Not far from Contin, there are plenty of hidden picnic spots amongst the rowan and silver birch at this charming loch. With picnic tables and a pebble beach, it's a quiet alternative to Loch Morlich, and looks particularly spectacular in autumn months, as the still loch reflects the riot of colours. Blooming with butterflies and wildflowers in warmer months, this is a great place for a family stroll, or for some much needed peace and quiet.

In the middle of the water, you will see a small artificial island or crannog, close to the south shore of the loch. Made of evenly-coursed stones, this platform might have served as a family home - archaeologists believe crannogs were built and used in Scotland for thousands of years, right up until as recently as the 18th century. Nearby, you'll find the spectacular Rogie Falls, or you can explore the Touchstone Maze at Blackmuir Wood.

kids eating ice cream


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