Five top picnic spots in York
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 July 2014 | UPDATED: 16:04 26 October 2015
York's top urban picnic spots for sightseeing sarnie-eaters
Whether you’ve got a hamper stuffed with lattice-crust, hand-crimped pies, vintage champagne and French fancies flown in directly from Paris or a cellophaned egg mayo bap and a bag of Wotsits, you still need the perfect picnic spot in which to enjoy your lunch.
Visit York has developed a useful urban picnic guide (visityork.org) to make sure residents and visitors alike have somewhere nice to munch their lunch. And, as the British weather is unpredictable at best, it’s included a selection of indoor as well as outdoor sarnie sites.
Here are our five favourites (we’ve tested them all and have the crumbs to prove it).
The ten-acre botanical gardens, planted in the 1830s around Yorkshire Museum, stretch from the River Ouse to York Art Gallery and from Marygate to Museum Street. There are benches galore and plenty of grass to stretch out on (watch out for the over-confident squirrels – they’ll have their paws on your cheese and pickle before you know it) but if you fancy indulging in a bit of history, you could park yourself in the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, originally built in 1088; alongside the Hospitium, a lovely black-timbered medieval barn; or within spying distance of York Observatory, built in 1832 and now the oldest working observatory in Yorkshire.
Managed by the Dean and Chapter of York Minster, this lovely little park is one of the city best-loved urban green spaces, offering magnificent views of the Minster (you could only get closer if you set up your picnic blanket on the altar).
Dean’s Park is on the north side of York’s iconic cathedral and is open from 7am to dusk every day. You could even team your picnic with a quick flick through a worthy tome in the Cathedral Library, which is open to the public from 9am-5pm.
The River Ouse winds majestically through York, offering ample opportunities for messing about in boats, barges, canoes and on tourist cruisers manned by expert guides.
If you’re more of a landlubber, you can park yourself on one of the numerous benches that pepper the riverside and watch the world float by. Our favourite spots are at the far end of Dame Judi Dench Walk (yes, there is such a place) by Lendal Bridge and down by Millennium Bridge near Rowntree Park.
National Railway Museum
This is a perfect choice for days when the weather takes a turn for the worse because you can always nip inside and get all steamed up about the giant locos in the Great Hall, including the only Bullet train outside Japan and a world class collection of Royal trains.
If you’re feeling peckish, the museum, which is free to enter, has a dedicated picnic space alongside a railway-themed children’s play area with climbing frames, slides, scramble nets and swings.
No visit to York is complete without a stroll round the beautifully preserved city walls (whether you tackle the whole 3.4km is entirely up to you).
About 2.5 million people enjoy the amazing views afforded by the longest medieval city walls in England every year, but there’s still room for you to park up with a picnic.
Just be aware that the walls close at dusk though – some people have been known to get stuck up there after the gates have been locked (yes, it was one of our staff and they were suitably embarrassed).
Where’s your favourite picnic spot? Let us know by writing to Yorkshire Life at 1200 Century Way, Leeds, LS15 8ZA, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting @Yorkshire_Life.
Pick up a picnic
If you’re looking for some tasty bits and bobs for your perfect York picnic, the Hairy Fig Deli in Fossgate sells everything from duck liver pate and aged iberico ham to truffle honey and unpasteurised organic compte cheese. They’ll even make you a bespoke hamper if you ask them nicely.
Henshelwoods Delicatessen on the edge of Newmarket Market is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of deliciousness, with more than 80 British and continental cheeses, traditional potted beef, ham hock and a daily menu of quiches. They also have cool bags and cold packs available for when the weather warms up.
For a picnic groaning with good things from Italy, try Le Langhe in Peasholme Green, where you will find bellissimo treats like limited production Cusie cheese, which is wrapped in tobacco leaves to mature, and melt-in-the-mouth air-dried bresaola della Valtellina beef.