1. Durlston Country Park

Durlston Country Park

Durlston is awash with wildlife throughout the year but the summer brings a heady mix of wildflowers and sea birds, well worth a visit! Picnic options are plentiful too depending on how far you want to walk … but all guarantee great sea views.

For a short walk from the main car park, head down hill past the Castle to The Great Globe, where you will find picnic benches and walls to perch on. The Great Globe is one of the biggest stone spheres in the world and was commissioned by George Burt in 1887, who wanted to give something back to the local area.

For a longer walk, head west along the South West Coast Path for a clifftop walk through the country park then open meadows with many options for the perfect picnic pitch!

Or on a very hot day, enjoy the shade of the former Durlston pleasure grounds, currently being renovated by the Ranger team. Benches have been placed along the level path and glades cut into the woodland.

Visit the Durlston Country Park website for the latest wildlife sightings, access information, including public transport from Swanage, parking and hire of Tramper rough terrain mobility scooters.

2. Eggardon Hill

Eggardon Hill at Sunrise

Stunning 360 degree views across West Dorset and the Jurassic Coast make Eggardon Hill a great place to picnic – a feast for the eyes as well as your stomach! Once you’ve had your fill, there’s plenty of space to fly a kite (there’s usually a good breeze up there) and lots of space to hare around. In summer, you’ll find a good selection of wildflowers on the steep rampart sides, with plenty of butterflies enjoying the sheltered slopes too.

Owned in part by the National Trust, Eggardon was an Iron Age hillfort on a grand scale. While you walk along the ramparts, look out for the small octagonal earthwork in the centre, originally dug to protect a small plantation of trees. These were thought to be planted by famous Dorset smuggler Isaac Gulliver and would act as a seamark for his ships.

The National Trust part of the hill fort has open access and footpaths around the hillfort ramparts, find out more on the National Trust website.

3. Black Down and The Hardy Monument

Black Down by ©Tony Gill

On a fine day, you can see Black Down and The Hardy Monument for miles around … so it’s no surprise that a picnic here will give you panoramic views of the unique Fleet, Chesil Beach and the Jurassic Coast to the south and the rolling Dorset Downs to the north. You can get an even better view from The Hardy Monument, erected 1844 in memory of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Flag-Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and now owned by the National Trust.

Picnic options are plentiful. Park at the new Black Down car park (free) and make use of the new picnic benches, sheltered by dry stone walls. The benches were designed by architect and artist Amanda Moore who also designed the new stone circle near the car park.

If you want to work up an appetite before you eat, follow the path from the car park past the stone circle and head left for walks down to the woodland, where you will find grassy glades and patches of heathland to sit. Or take the right hand path which leads the Hardy Monument, where you will find picnic benches and seats, lots of grass and sometimes an ice cream or coffee van too!

4. Maiden Castle

Maiden Castle by ©Tony Gill

This iron age hill fort on the edge of Dorchester is one of the largest in northern Europe – so plenty of room to spread out your picnic blanket!

Take a short walk from the car park, through the extensive ramparts to find the level hill fort top, once home to South Dorset Ridgeway people thousands of years ago. Once you’ve had your picnic, follow the trail of display boards across the site for information about Maiden Castle’s rich and colourful history.

5. Kingcombe Meadows, near Toller Porcorum

Kingcombe Meadows by ©Mark Heighes

Owned by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, this nature reserve comes alive in the summer and it’s ‘step back in time’ feel makes it the perfect spot for picnicking.

The nature reserve is managed as a working farm, grazed by cows & sheep, without the use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers and other modern agricultural practices. The result is a patchwork of fields of unimproved flower-rich grassland, broken up by thick hedges, streams, ponds, ancient green lanes & wooded areas spreading up the valley either side of the River Hooke.

You can use the picnic benches near the centre or wander along the footpaths across the meadows to find you perfect picnic spot. Or if you’ve run out of picnic ingredients, just go for a wander then refuel at the Kingcombe Centre tearoom, great views of the gardens and exceptional cake!