Ten of the best picnic spots in North East England
PUBLISHED: 11:46 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 12:15 08 October 2015
With its dramatic coastline, magnificent castles and picturesque gardens, there is no shortage of places to picnic in the North East
Spring has well and truly sprung and it's about time to get out and about and spend some quality time in the region's beauty spots. We've picked out ten iconic spots which have the edge when it comes to picking the perfect place to have a picnic.
The Angel of the North, Gateshead
In terms of unique picnic spots, this is hard to beat, especially if you are driving past on the A1. Pitch up on the hill, at the foot of the sculpture and enjoy the spectacular views over Gateshead.
While the monument is seen by more than 90,000 drivers a day, few actually stop to examine it close up. The Angel of the North stands 20 metres tall and is as much a feat of engineering as a work of art. It has a greater wingspan than a Boeing 757 and can withstand winds of over 100mph.
Hopefully, there'll be nothing more than a light breeze if you do decide to stop for a picnic.
Marsden Bay, South Tyneside
A favourite picnic spot since Edwardian times, Marsden Bay is a real sun trap and sheltered from the winds. The limestone cliffs are home to numerous caves, including one that was once inhabited by a hermit, while the bay is dominated by the 139ft high Marsden Rock, known for its seabird colonies.
The Marsden Grotto set in the foot of the cliffs has spectacular views. It's also a good spot to enjoy a drink and mull over the tale of 'John The Jibber', who suffered a slow death, suspended in a bucket half way down the cliff face, after betraying his fellow smugglers.
Dating back to 1688, Wallington boasts a magnificent interior and fascinating collection of dolls houses, as well as a great picnic spot in the central courtyard. The central lawn provides plenty of room for children to run around, while the east lawn offers a quirky alternative alongside the mysterious stone griffin heads.
If it's a hot day and you're craving some shade, seek out the tall Golden Yews on the West Lawn and China ponds in the East Woods.
Alnwick Garden, Northumberland
The lawns in front of The Grand Cascade in the lower part of Alnwick Garden are perfect for a family picnic as kids can paddle in the fountains and collect water in the mini-tractors.
Keep them amused with a game of hide and seek in the Bamboo Labyrinth or on The Treehouse's wobbly rope bridges. The garden also offers plenty for adults, housing the county's largest collection of European plants (including the infamous Poison Garden) and stunning water sculptures. Once the picnic basket's empty, check out the Treehouse Restaurant, tucked away in one of the world's largest wooden tree houses. www.alnwickgarden.com
Gibside, Newcastle upon Tyne
This spectacular 18th century forest garden has everything from red squirrels, red kites and rabbits to guided tours in authentic costume.
Located beside the River Derwent, there is plenty of open space to roll out a rug and lots of streams to paddle in. Take a stroll around the orangery and down the oak-lined Long Walk where the dramatic Column of Liberty towers above the treetops at over 40 metres high. If the picnic basket is running low, pop into the Gibside Larder, which sells some of the region's finest award-winning food.
Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland
Surrounded by magnificent flower beds and the colourful displays of Rhododendrons (until the end of June), the forest garden at Cragside is a beautiful place for a picnic.
The 1000 acre estate is made up lakes, streams and some of England's tallest trees, so plenty of shade on a sweltering hot day too. Cragside House, the former home of inventor William Lord Armstrong, is famous for being the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity in 1878. There's also an adventure playground for children.
Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland
On a warm sunny day, there's no better place to escape the crowds than the golden sands of Bamburgh.
Unlike some of the more touristy spots, there is no danger of not finding a space as the 40 mile beach stretches from Tynemouth to Berwick upon Tweed. Take a dip in the sea to cool off or meander up to Bamburgh Castle to learn more about its legends, its resident ghosts and The First Lord Armstrong.
Raby Castle, Staindrop, County Durham
Tuck into a picnic with the magnificent backdrop of Raby Castle which dates back to the 11th Century. The castle is well worth a visit for its fine furniture and elaborate architecture in the halls and chambers, and don't miss the splendid collection of 18th and 19th century coaches and carriages.
With a 200 acre deer park, Ornamental Walled Garden and a woodland adventure playground, there's also plenty for children.
Leazes Park , Newcastle upon Tyne
In the heart of Newcastle, nestling between St James's Park and the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Leazes Park is the oldest green space in the city. It offers a refuge for city workers, hospital visitors, students in the nearby university halls of residence and families. The park has recently been restored and refurbished in sympathy with the its original designs following painstaking research.
There is a boating lake and the restoration includes the reintroduction of two ornate gateways into the park and cast iron boundary railings, substantial tree and shrub planting and the creation of a new memorial garden for the 15th/19th Hussars. The park provides a tranquil oasis.
High Force, Upper Teesdale
Follow the path through the woodland, down a gentle slope and prepare yourself as the muffled rumble turns into a roar and the trickle turns into High Force - England's largest waterfall.
The sight is breathtaking as the water suddenly plummets 50ft into a plunge pool below. The Hanging Shaw picnic site and car park is a good place to take a break, before continuing the footpath on to Dale Cottage and Middle Moor Riggs farm.
Six ways to keep kids entertained on a picnic
1 Make use of any hard-boiled eggs left over from the picnic and hold an Egg and Spoon race. Give smaller children bigger spoons and the first to the finishing line wins a prize.
2 Take a small radio or cassette player and hold a game of Hot Potato. Everyone sits in a circle and passes around a potato and when the music stops, whoever is holding the potato is out of the game.
3 Take some old pillow cases and keep them amused with an old-fashioned sack race. First to the finishing line without falling over wins an ice cream.
4 Test their sense of smell with a game of 'Scented bubbles'. Prepare some bubble solution before you set out (mix 500ml of water with 125ml of washing up liquid and 175 ml of glycerine). Pour into some small recycled bottles, adding a different extract to each (eg. orange, lemon, mint etc). Then get everyone to guess which bubbles are which.
5 If it's a really hot day, cool down with a game of Blind Shooter. One person stands in the middle of the group, blind-folded, holding a water pistol, they then have to try and shoot the others, who have to dodge and duck for cover in a marked space. Remember to take some spare dry clothes to change into.
6 Treat them to a game of skittles. Before setting out, collect some empty plastic juice bottles, fill with water or sand until they are a third full, then get the children to decorate the bottles, drawing a member of the family or their favourite pet on each. Everyone can then enjoy a bespoke game of skittles. Simple and fun.