Member Spotlight: National Picnic Month

Welcome to the July Member Spotlight, where we are celebrating National Picnic Month with highlights from some of our members’ fantastic outdoor spaces. Featuring spectacular gardens, historic trails, hidden gems and family friendly activities, read on to find the perfect picnic spot this summer.

1. Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

Home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a World Heritage Site that boasts over 300 years of history, more than 2000 acres of landscaped Parkland and Formal Gardens, and a wealth of events, tours and exhibitions throughout the year.

This summer, enjoy a picture perfect day out at Britain’s Greatest Palace. With a whole host of events and activities, our new exhibitions and our stunning gardens and parkland there is so much to see and do for the whole family. Re-connect with you family this summer and capture memories to be treasured. From bushcraft activities and rowing boats to open-air cinemas and food festivals, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Family friendly activities and entertainment will be available throughout the weekend in the Walled Garden plus the stunning parkland is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic of food and drink from our advanced order range this National Picnic Month.

New for 2021, Blenheim Palace welcomes two major new exhibitions ‘Churchill’ and ‘The Stables’, both using interactive displays, never-seen-before artefacts and fascinating stories into the life of our most famous wartime leader and the history into the vital role hoses have played across the estate.

Click here for more information on all activities at Blenheim Palace.

2. Historic Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces

Hampton Court Palace has 60 acres of spectacular formal gardens and 750 acres (304 hectares) of parkland, all set within a loop of the River Thames and summer is a special time to experience our beautiful gardens:

  • The Great Fountain Garden – Relax in the shade of the historic yew trees, marvel at the glistening fountain or take a stroll along the Broad Walk. At 580 metres it is the longest herbaceous mixed flower border in Britain.
  • Queen Mary II Exoticks – Our famous collection of Queen Mary II’s Exoticks is recognised as a Heritage Collection. Mary II (r1689-1694) had one of the largest private collections of plants in the world. She had plants imported from as far afield as the Mediterranean, Virginia, the Caribbean and Mauritius for display here at Hampton Court Palace. Mary’s collection comprised 2000 different species and was so vast that she employed her own botanist, Dr Leonard Plukenet, to look after them. Mary’s vast private collection contained 1000 orange trees, which were a symbol of William III’s House of Orange dynasty.
  • The Great Vine – Planted in 1768 by the celebrated gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the magnificent Great Vine is the largest in the world and still produces a yearly crop of black, sweet grapes that are sold in the palace shops.  The now 250-year-old Great Vine grapes are harvested at the end of the summer and sold in early September.
  • Kitchen Garden – All year round, our Kitchen Garden grows fruit and vegetable crops that fed the Georgian royal family in the 18th century.
  • The Privy Garden – The Privy Garden today is a restoration of William III’s baroque Privy Garden of 1702. Our gardeners have restored the grounds using the original plant varieties and the hornbeam bower and statues were all part of the King’s original design. The wrought iron screens, designed and built by Jean Tijou for William III, stand at the river end.
  • Garden history tours (restart date TBA) – Join our expert guides as they share the historical highlights of Hampton Court Gardens. Guides will lead you through the most historic parts of the gardens, covering over 500 years of history from the Privy Garden and Queen Mary’s Bower to the Orangery Garden and the Pond Gardens. Discover the Tudor beginnings of the Privy Garden and learn about Henry VIII’s favourite game at the Royal Tennis Court. Hear about the origins of the Great Vine, planted in 1768 by Master Gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Now over 250 years old, the Great Vine is the largest grape vine in the word. A garden history tour is the ideal way to begin an afternoon exploring the gardens at your leisure.

Please note: These tours are not botanical tours and will explore the history of the gardens. The tours may be cancelled due to extreme weather conditions – you may wish to bring an umbrella, water, sunhat or all three!

For further information and images please contact The Travel Trade Team at [email protected].

3. Kew Gardens

Visit Kew Gardens

Visit Kew Gardens this summer and step into the Secret World of Plants ­­­– a series of immersive art installations revealing the untold stories of our UK plants and landscapes, which will make you look again at the precious nature of the world around us.

Explore stunning ‘plantscapes’ by artist Vaughn Bell, six immersive structures that reveal the overlooked plant habitats of the UK. You can pop up through holes within the installations for a unique view of these incredible environments, including meadows, hedgerows, sand dunes and coastal habitats.

Elsewhere in the Gardens, you’ll be amazed at the incredible sounds of nature, heard at Kew like never before. Sound artist Alex Metcalfe invites you to uncover the unheard inner workings of trees. Stand beneath one of the suspended sound domes in Kew’s incredible Arboretum and listen to the sound of water moving up through the trees. A newly commissioned composition in response to the sounds accompanies the work.

Sound artist, beatboxer and composer Jason Singh takes over the Temperate House with a fascinating look at ‘Plants as Composer’. His musical score uses technology to record the ‘voice’ of the plants, creating a beautifully melancholic soundtrack.

After exploring, rest your feet and take in the beauty of the Gardens from a different perspective on a monumental and playful seating installation by architectural designer Paul Cocksedge. A rippling wave of wood rises to form arches to walk through, and curves under to create spaces for you to sit, lie back and relax.

So, come and reconnect with nature this summer, and find out more about the Secret World of Plants.

Supported by Starling Bank

Click here for more information on all outdoor activities at Kew Gardens.

4. Leeds Castle 

Leeds Castle

For over 900 years, Leeds Castle, set within 500-acres of beautiful Kent parkland, has attracted crusaders and kings, courtiers and queens, witches and villains, world statesmen and icons of the silver screen. This summer, make your own history at this legendary Castle with visits full of excitement, glamour and fun!

Admission tickets to Leeds Castle offer excellent value for money, as they grant free repeat visits for a whole year from the date of your first visit and include a programme of fun-filled events and activities:

  • Gardens Summer is the ideal time to explore the beautifully landscaped gardens and take in vibrant colours and exotic blooms in the Culpeper Garden, Princess Alexandra Gardens and the Lady Baillie Mediterraean Garden Terraces, with its south facing aspect and superb views across the Great Water.
  • Castle Kids Obstacle Course open from 24 – 31 July. Get ready to climb and crawl through rope tunnels, under nets and swing across monkey bars at the brand-new Leeds Castle Obstacle Course. Located near the Maze and aimed at children aged 8 to 12 years, this fun new daily attraction is the ideal activity for kids full of energy during the summer holidays. Each section of the course will have instructions to follow, but only the most adventurous will be able to conquer all obstacles to become King or Queen of the Castle! Scan the QR code as you begin the course to start your virtual stopwatch and again at the end to find out your time – take up the challenge with your friends and see who is the fastest!
  • Relax in Deckchairs on the Lawn. Brand new Leeds Castle deckchairs will be available on the Pavilion Lawn all summer, so stop a while and take in the spectacular view of the historic Castle whilst enjoying the tranquillity and sound of the River Len flowing gently past.
  • Falconry Displays, breath-taking free flying falconry displays take place daily at 1.30pm and 3pm during the summer holidays, in the Falconry Arena in its new location behind the Maze. The shows feature a range of birds including Hawks, Falcons and Owls. Come and say hello to some new feathered friends!
  • Daily Fun in the Sun, families will enjoy taking a relaxing cruise across the Great Water on the Black Swan Ferry, getting lost in the Maze and exploring the fantastic children’s playgrounds. Don’t miss the chance to challenge yourself to a game of Adventure Golf!
  • Sleep at a Castle! Enjoy a summer staycation in one of Leeds Castle’s highly rated accommodation options. Choose from staying in a brightly coloured medieval styled glamping pavilion, B&B room in the 1930s Stable Courtyard, self-catering holiday cottage or for a truly memorable experience, sleep in Tudor opulence in one of the five bedrooms set within the 16th-century Maiden’s Tower adjacent to the Castle.

Visit to pre-book your tickets and for more information on any of the above events and activities.

5. Nottingham Castle

Summer fun at Nottingham Castle

Located in the heart of the East Midlands, Nottingham Castle is a world-class cultural destination in the city’s regenerated Castle Quarter. Towering over the streets below, the hand of history has never strayed far from this enduring landmark, which is visible for miles around.

Boasting unrivalled views of Nottingham city and beautifully restored grounds, there’s plenty for the whole family to experience at the Castle on the Rock this summer:

  • Become King for the day in Hood’s Hideout. Set within the dry moat of the Castle, Hood’s Hideout is Nottingham’s newest outdoor adventure playground, providing hours of fun and discovery. Journey up ‘The King’s Road’ toward the Castle but be wary of those that may be hiding in tree walkways above! Will your little rebels storm the Castle, or will they uphold the law of the land with the Sheriff of Nottingham? Whoever’s side you’re on, we’re sure your children will love to swing, slide, climb and jump through history on the creative timber play structures.
  • Discover outdoor family trails and explore the Castle’s glorious grounds. Looking for ways to keep your little ‘uns entertained? Grab a family trail from the Visitor Centre and go exploring! From ‘Hero in the Green Hat’ to ‘Up Close with Nature’, there’s lots to discover in the Castle’s historic grounds.
  • Enjoy lunch with a view at the Terrace Café. Take time out from exploring the Castle and its grounds to enjoy a light lunch or a delicious homemade meal, surrounded by spectacular views of the city. Fancy a picnic? The Terrace Café also offers healthy children’s lunch boxes and takeaway options, so you can refuel in the Castle’s green spaces.
  • Sunbathe in style on the Castle’s medieval Baileys. If you want to soak up the sun whilst you explore, you’re in luck! The Castle has fabulous new deckchairs across the Middle and Lower Baileys, so you can top up your tan during your visit. They’ve even strategically placed them near the historic bandstand so you can keep an eye on your little ones as they enjoy Hood’s Hideout.
  • See history come alive with Black Knight Historical. Black Knight Historical have returned to Nottingham Castle! Meet Vikings and Early Medieval settlers, discover more about the War of the Roses and decide whose side you’ll take in the infamous English Civil War. Check out the full living history events programme on the What’s On section of the website.
  • Summer events and exhibitions at the Castle. The British weather is notoriously changeable. Luckily, Nottingham Castle has a bursting calendar of events, world-class exhibitions, and fantastic new galleries to explore on rainy days.

Click here to find out more information on all activities at Nottingham Castle.

6. Old Royal Naval College 

Old Royal Naval College

Our beautiful riverside location at the Old Royal Naval College is the perfect setting for visitors to treat themselves to a fresh seasonal picnic or afternoon tea on the lawns; in fact, they can spread out on the very spot where the Tudor Palace of Placentia once stood, the birthplace of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Mary I.

Visitors are freely welcome to bring a blanket and enjoy their own picnics, alternatively they can pre-order a delicious picnic or outdoor afternoon tea to purchase from the Painted Hall Café. No picnic blanket? Colourful picnic blankets are available to buy from one of the two shops on site. There really is no better place to relax within the UNESCO World Heritage site with the long view of the colonnades, the Queens House up the hill and the Water Gates looking out onto the River Thames.

This summer there will be plenty of activities to entertain families alongside a picnic, including historical Greenwich lawn games by the river. Children of all ages can join in with costumed performers and have a go at games such as skittles, cricket and quoits that the Greenwich Pensioners used to play here over 200 years ago. The Summer Skittles lawn games will be free to play and held on Wednesdays throughout the holidays in August. Alternatively consider combining a picnic with a ticket to take one of the new Film Tours at what has been described by Empire Magazine as possibly “the most popular filming location in the world.” The Old Royal Naval College has and continues to be the setting for hundreds of blockbuster films and TV series including Pirates of the Caribbean, Les Misérables, The Crown, Cruella and Poldark, to name a few.

All we ask is that you help us to keep our grounds tidy and throw away your litter in one of the designated bins.

As part of a trip to the Old Royal Naval College, visitors are welcomed to take the opportunity to purchase an annual pass to see the Painted Hall, the Chapel or to take an architectural tour with one of our experienced guides.

Click here for more information on all activities at the Old Roval Naval College

7. Buckingham Palace Garden

Buckingham Palace GardensRoyal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021

The garden at Buckingham Palace is open to visitors from 9 July to 19 September this year, allowing the grounds of Her Majesty The Queen’s official London residence to be explored through a self-guided tour for the first time. Visitors are free to explore a route through the garden that encompasses the 156-metre Herbaceous Border, plane trees planted by and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and views of the island and its beehives across the 3.5-acre lake. The unique opportunity to enjoy a picnic on one of the sweeping lawns is part of the visit.

Features in the south-west of the garden, including the Rose Garden, summer house and wildflower meadow, can be viewed through one of the guided tours that run each day. Daily talks and trails for families are included as part of the visit. Art and craft activities are available in locations throughout the garden for visitors with children on Mondays in July and August (from 19 July) and as part of two Family Festivals days on 26 and 30 August, where family tours will also be available.

The current landscape of the historic 39-acre garden dates back to the 1820s when George IV turned Buckingham House into a palace. Despite its urban location, the garden is home to a remarkable array of flora and fauna, including rare native plants seldom seen in London. The garden is a rich biodiverse habitat, with more than 1,000 trees, the National Collection of Mulberry Trees and 320 different wildflowers and grasses. Since 2008 the island in the lake has been home to five beehives, which produce around 160 jars of honey a year for use in the royal kitchens. Royal Collection Trust’s ‘Buckingham Palace Gin’ is infused with botanicals from the garden, including lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, bay leaves and mulberry leaves.

The Garden at Buckingham Palace is open from Friday 9 July to Sunday 19 September 2021. Tickets are priced at £16.50 for adults. Garden Highlights Guided Tours should be booked with the main ticket and are priced at £6.50 for adults. Tours run 12 times a day. Note: tickets are currently sold out but sometimes become available at short-notice.

Click here for more information on all activities at Buckingham Palace.

8. Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon ManorSummer at Waddesdon, the Rothschild House & Gardens

This summer, enjoy not one but two exhibitions at Waddesdon, the Rothschild House & Gardens. Gustave Moreau (1826-98) was one of the most brilliant and influential artists associated with the French Symbolist movement, and Gustave Moreau: The Fables (Wed 16 June – Sun 17 Oct 2021) aims to display some of the most important works he ever made, unseen in public for over a century. Meanwhile, down in the Coach House Gallery discover a contemporary exhibition showcasing the work of fashion photographer Nick Knight, whose career has been marked by longstanding relationships with Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. Nick Knight’s constant desire to experiment, push boundaries, and challenge his audience has led him to take up a new subject, the classic rose – but expressed in an entirely new way. Entry to Nick Knight: Roses from my Garden (Wed 19 May – Sun 31 October 2021) is free with grounds admission.

After taking in Waddesdon’s famous collection and the temporary exhibitions on offer, wander into the Waddesdon gardens, which were the vision of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Today a team of gardeners work hard to maintain the exacting standards that have come to be associated with the Waddesdon name, and this summer, to celebrate the re-opening of the Nick Knight: Roses from my Garden exhibition, roses will be the primary focus around the grounds. The formal parterre will be planted with an array of pastel shades, complemented by a more permanent herbaceous boarder and crisscross patterns of lavender. A similar cottage-garden style will be continued into the Rose Garden, where the planting of herbaceous species will bring a relaxed feel into this historic section of the gardens. In contrast, the Aviary gardens are bold and colourful this summer, planted on a theme of birds of paradise including with calla lillies, red hot pokers, blue agapanthus and hibiscus, linking to the Aviary full of rare and vibrant birds.

With plenty of picnic spots, why not indulge in one of the luxury picnics, made freshly on-site by the in-house chefs. These portable afternoon teas for two offer a selection of seasonal sandwiches and other savouries, along with assorted sweet treats including cakes and buttermilk scones (and the obligatory clotted cream and jam, of course).

Alternatively, while away a summers evening with a live jazz performance at sunset, enjoy one of the many family-friendly theatre performances taking place throughout the summer, or meet family and friends at our outdoor cinema event set against the backdrop of the French-style manor house.

Click here for more information on all activities at Waddesdon Manor.