As restrictions begin to ease on outdoor gatherings, picnic season is coming into full swing. If you’re planning to go alfresco this April, our top ten picks will see you through the summer when it comes to packing the perfect spread – whether you’re simply looking for inspiration on your local park platter or to bookmark these back-to-nature banquets-on-blankets for when international travel resumes.
For some Provençal perfection…Hôtel Crillon le Brave, France
Right image by @thenoisetier
The original picnic pioneers, France has been setting trends for dining dehors since the 17th century – and where better to draw inspiration from than a quintessentially French hilltop hideaway set within a charming hamlet from the same era as when the picque-nique began. One of the many delightful bespoke experiences on offer at Hôtel Crillon le Brave, designed to immerse guests in the surrounding natural beauty of Provence, is an especially prepared picnic in a rustic setting of your choice – simply create your desired menu with the hotel’s chef and the concierge will point you in the direction (bicycle optional) of lavender fields, medieval villages, and vineyards for a spot of rural dining and reclining. Baguettes and wicker baskets at the ready…
For the ultimate Moroccan mezze…Dar Ahlam, Morocco
A traditional Kasbah set in a haven of manicured lawns and fragrant almond blossom, it is easy to understand the Arabic meaning behind Dar Ahlam’s name, ‘House of Dreams’. With no menu or dedicated restaurant space, meals are crafted from local ingredients sourced from the souk or grown in the hotel’s garden, while guests are invited to dine in the dozens of private spaces dotted in and around the hotel at any time they wish. Sample the spectacular ‘1,001 Night’ dinner, take in the greenery at an alfresco lunch in the garden, or venture outside the hotel on camelback with a picnic to the Sidi Fla volcanic basalt gorges, or beneath a private tent on the shores of the Ouarzazate lake.
For a taste of the Highlands…Cromlix, Scotland
With a Chez Roux restaurant run by the famed Albert Roux OBE and a lovely setting within 34 acres of woodland and gardens in the rolling hills of the Perthshire countryside, picnics at Cromlix are as delectable as the views. Wander the grounds and visit the loch, head to the Trossachs National Park, or throw down your tartan blanket beneath Stirling Castle to enjoy your Scotch eggs with some history. The grey-stone Victorian mansion also offers private guided nature and foraging tours of the surrounding wilderness, where you can follow in the footsteps of legendary plant hunters, lairds and foresters while dining on local Scottish produce.
For farmhouse flavours…Susafa, Sicily
Get an authentic taste of Sicily from Susafa, a 200-year-old family-run farmhouse which harvests and presses its own olives and cherries, and where chefs pick herbs and vegetables from the gardens, ready for dinner. Take a stroll around the idyllic grounds of fragrant orchards, before settling down to a picnic of homemade jams, organic oils, freshly baked breads and just-picked herbs and vegetables beneath the cherry trees. If you’d like to take the ingredients home with you or learn the Sicilian art of baking, baskets of organic delicacies are available to purchase via the hotel’s e-commerce site dedicated to Susafa-grown produce – including selections for pasta, pizza, and cake lover, along with access to online cooking classes.
If you go down in the woods today…Trout Point Lodge, Canada
As woodland picnic settings go, the pine, birch, and spruce scented scenery of Trout Point Lodge provides the perfect mix of luxury in wild surrounds. The secluded nature sanctuary is nestled on the banks of the Tusket River and next to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, where you may enjoy sightings of black bear, turtles, flying squirrels, grouse, deer, beavers, owls, loons, eagles and even moose as you tuck into a hamper of authentic Nova Scotian produce – think freshly caught seafood, pristine mineral waters, edible flowers and wild woodland delicacies.
For a slice of Spanish magic…Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Organic Farm, Spain
Tapas dishes are made for sharing, making them the perfect picnic fare. And for farm fresh ingredients in a bucolic setting, look no further than Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel – where specialities including extra virgin olive oil, local cheese and pata negra are produced on the estate. Choose a sunny spot along the River Tormes, before washing a wholesome platter of organic meats and cheeses down with some wine produced on the surrounding Duero Valley vineyards.
For the dream garden gathering…Hulbert House, New Zealand
Set within beautifully kept grounds overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the Skyline Hill, Hulbert House is a boutique retreat brimming with vintage style and Victorian era elegance. The historic villa is framed by pretty white picket fencing, creating a sense of seclusion from cosmopolitan central Queenstown, which is just a short scenic stroll away. Step out from your suite to the picturesque gardens, where you’ll have ample space to sit down to some home-grown kitchen garden produce, including sourdough spread with fruity preserves.
From valley to vineyard…Les Sources de Cheverny, France
Tucked away in its own private estate, Les Sources de Cheverny is the quintessential French château. Beyond the twists and turrets of the 18th century building, beautiful lawns and gardens are waiting to be explored. And further still, the hotel’s vineyards stretch to the horizon, boughs laden with fruit soaking in the afternoon sun. In true château style, picque-nique parties can sit comfortably along a rustic bench brimming with seasonal produce – homegrown herbs season hearty, locally-sourced casseroles, while crisp white wines and robust reds are served straight from the hotel’s own vineyard.
For a traditional country house hamper…Rockliffe Hall, England
This magnificent 18th-century country house stands on the banks of the River Tees, close to the ruggedly beautiful North York Moors. Explore Rockliffe Hall’s Lewis Caroll inspired outdoor area, known as Mischmasch, with its curious cabins and nature trails. Hamper in hand filled with fizz and afternoon tea treats, while away a summer’s day in the hotel’s film-set worthy grounds.
For the royal treatment…Schlosshotel Kronberg, Germany
A fairytale castle laden with history, Schlosshotel Kronberg was built in 1893 and was home to Empress Victoria Friedrich, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. Today, guests stay here surrounded by many of the empress’ original antiques and paintings, including works by Rubens, Titian and Gainsborough. Outdoors, the castle gardens provide the perfect setting for a private picnic, hidden amongst rose bushes and flowing fountains. A German feast of rostbratwurst, freshly baked pretzels with butter, cottage bread rolls and spundekäs awaits…