Our guide to the perfect picnic

IMG_9698June marks the beginning of the British summertime, with warmer weather and longer evenings creating the perfect conditions for a leisurely picnic with friends and loved ones.

Although relatively small in size, Wales is blessed with an abundance of breathtaking views, superb scenery and historical landmarks. At Llansantffraed Court we’re just a few miles away from medieval hotspots Raglan Castle and Tintern Abbey, with the Black Mountains and Monmouthshire’s rolling green fields all visible from our terrace.

When it comes to choosing a picnic spot that everyone can enjoy, you are officially spoilt for choice in Wales.

As the saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location. Oh, and of course, a hamper full of great food and good company helps too.

To celebrate National Picnic Week (from Saturday 13th June to Sunday 21st June), our head chef Mike Hendry has compiled a list of the five best spots to enjoy a picnic in Wales (when he’s not busy in the kitchen of course!). He also shares his expert advice on how to pack the perfect picnic.

1) Llanddwyn Island & Lighthouse, Anglesey

 Although geographically speaking Llanddwyn is not quite an island, it is one of the most magical spots in Wales. As well as being part of the Newborough Warren Nature Reserve, Llanddwyn Island has fantastic views of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula. Its rolling sand dunes and dotted historic buildings, makes it a great picnic spot for wannabe explorers.

 2) Eagles Nest, Wye Valley     

Located in an Area of Natural Beauty overlooking the Wye Valley, The Eagle’s Nest offers spectacular views high above the Wye at Wyndcliff, with the Severn River visible on the horizon. This spot has inspired many writers over the years and is accessible via several different paths, depending on how far you want to walk. A great way to earn that extra Welsh cake!   

 3) Pen-Y-Dyffryn, Shropshire

Fancy taking a break from the constant buzz of 21st century life? Switch your phone off, stock up your wicker basket and relax with a picnic overlooking steep hills and deep valleys. The Pen-Y-Dyffryn Country Hotel straddles the England-Wales border and has the perfect little summerhouse where you can enjoy your lunch in style, and in perfect peace.

4) Mount Snowdon, Snowdonia

 Picnicking in the clouds is the perfect recipe for hamper heaven. Take the train to the top of Wales’ highest peak and find a spot with spectacular sights over areas of natural beauty and unforgettable scenery. And once you’re finished with the bird’s eye view, it takes about three hours to walk back down – plenty of time to burn off all those calorific treats.

5) Llansantffraed Court Hotel, Monmouthshire

IMG_0099Rolling in at number five is yours truly. Well, we had to give ourselves a cheeky mention didn’t we? We invite you to sip champagne from your picnic blanket by our lake, and enjoy the panoramic views of the picturesque Monmouthshire countryside. I’ll even whip up a delicious selection of locally sourced picnic treats, allowing you to head off exploring our gorgeous surroundings for the day.

Chef’s top picnic tips

Keep it cool

Everything can be kept cold these days thanks to portable refrigeration technology, but this creates extra weight. I recommend sticking with products that are happy at ambient temperatures, for example cured meats and fruit. Don’t dress salads until you are ready to eat them and consider packing some pulses- not only do they taste great and are happy at all temperature, but they also gradually release their nutrients- just what you need if your picnic involves a long walk!

Seasonal peaks

Asparagus is in season at the moment throughout the Wye Valley. This time of year also means that lots of delicious fresh fruit and green vegetables are in full season – perfect for salads with broad beans, peas and fresh leaves.

My picnic must-haves

There’s nothing like the refreshing taste of a great wine to wash down your picnic. I always recommend investing in a quality wine as it really helps to lift the flavours in every dish. Ancre Hill Sparkling Rose complements light summer dishes really well and also helps to create a special, romantic atmosphere for your outing. For a great soft drink alternative, elderflower is in season at the moment, so why not try making your own cordial to enjoy. I would also make sure that your picnic basket has freshly baked bread and Welsh unsalted butter- they work perfectly together.

The right tools

Make sure that you have a top quality (and huge!) picnic blanket or rug, so that everybody can sit and enjoy the food together. I would also invest in a sharp, high quality knife, or even a multi-tool penknife – you never know when it might come in handy!

Plan ahead for picnic perfection

I would try and plan ahead, taking all of the ingredients you need for dishes with you.  Part of the fun is then putting it altogether once you’ve found ‘the right’ spot. It’s worth spending a bit of time before you leave checking maps and local websites for recommended spots to save you any disappointment.

So why not make the most of the warmer weather by packing up your hampers and blankets, and going in search of the ultimate picnic spot?

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Pictured: Our scrumptious picnic hamper containing locally sourced ingredients.

Happy picnicking!