Star in your own film and escape for a picnic in the Pentlands. Rolling hills, picture-perfect streams and views worth knowing about make this an ideal spot to throw down that checkered blanket and soak up the serenity. Adventure junkies will see this as an exploration opportunity, which may or may not cut into valuable eating time. Budding romanticists, on the other hand, will see this as a blissfully remote location. Strategically placed at the foot of the Pentlands is The Secret Herb Garden. This herb nursery hosts a café filled with produce harvested on site, along with various jams, chutneys and jellies.
Those faced with a reasonable conundrum — a burning desire for a magnetic vista without the exhausting mountain hike to accompany it — will thank Calton Hill a million times over. What starts as a ridiculously brief walk to the top results in arguably one of the most hypnotic views of the city. Not to mention the hill’s many monuments (including the National Monument, Nelson Monument, and Robert Burns Monument), along with its status as a former jail, which make for ideal conversation starters. If Saturday seems like a grand day for picnicking, then swing by the Tram Stop Market near the Manuscript Of Monte Cassino sculpture. This local market will have every type of meat, bread, cheese, confectionary item, and booze option imaginable.
Arthur’s Seat may be a predictable choice and yet, it still never ceases to enrapture the people who walk it. Every time something new arises, whether it’s an added entity in the skyline or an uncharted route graced with new but equally astounding views. If lugging a picnic to the top doesn’t sound like too much of a headache, the vision of the city (and beyond) will erase all images of arduous power walking. That, and some surprisingly delicious Scottish BBQ from Reekie’s Smokehouse. Perfectly placed nearby, this family-run eatery is a winner in the meat, coffee, beer and cake game. Quick and easy, consider this a wonderfully spontaneous kind of Scottish picnic experience — no fuss, no frills — just good food and views.
The Royal Botanic Garden, with its many plants and fairytale shrubberies, is a fail-safe picnic destination. Even in times of rain, the way the droplets sparkle on the leaves are a photographer’s dream. If the wonderful eateries within the Botanics don’t quite fulfill all picnic desires, then The Blue Bear is your place. From tray bakes and hot rolls to French toast, bagels and waffles, shake things up a little and have a picnic breakfast for a late afternoon snack. Those who preach all things savoury can opt for the tasty soups, sandwiches, and salads.
Admittedly, there are times when a picnic in the park just won’t suffice. Those with a ‘get up and go’ mentality should look no further than the Lammermuir Hills. Far enough from Edinburgh to feel exhilarating but close enough of a drive, these ample hills are home to many a grouse and herds of sheep. The best part is the otherworldly heather. Whether during summer, when the heather is a vibrant punchy purple, or after it’s burned and the tones shift to soothing browns, there’s something so liberating about lying on the cushiony bushy terrain staring at the open sky. As far as the food part, swing by The Loft in Haddington. Devouring the exquisite light bites before reaching the Lammermuirs will be a challenge.
Entering into Wonderland never gets old. As one of Edinburgh’s many secret gardens, Dunbar’s Close is a hideaway suited for snacking and relaxing. Ideal for those seeking a moment’s respite, two positives stand out — the insanely central location (just off the Royal Mile) and the beautiful aesthetics. The gardens of Dunbar’s Close also happen to be a stone’s throw away from Oink, a dangerously delicious hog roast takeaway on Victoria Street. The cherry on top is Bains Retro Sweets, a welcomed blast from the past.