Nyssa Langlois is currently completing an MLitt in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the United States, and spends her free time exploring Scotland on foot.
For many, picnics bring to mind an idyllic environment — a checked blanket on a grassy knoll in the middle of a park, the sun shining bright, and delectable sandwiches, treats and drinks to enjoy with friends.
But during the peak of summer, all those parks can get a bit too crowded for my taste — particularly when factoring in social distancing. I would much rather take a more adventurous route for a picnic. I love snacking with my friends in the middle of nature, particularly after taking a hike to get to a gorgeous spot.
For those looking to avoid packed parks on a sunny Scottish day (yes, they do exist!), here are three options for more remote picnics that require a bit of adventure to get to.
Off the beaten track
For those looking for an easy stroll with fantastic views, take the A9 heading towards Dunblane from Bridge of Allan.
At the Lecropt Nursery, turn right and follow the road until you reach its end, where you’ll find a trailhead. Follow the trail heading north, keeping left when it branches right.
This trail wraps around pastureland — and at the Northwest corner of the field, there’s a spot which provides really great views of Dumyat, the Wallace Monument, and Stirling Castle. In the spring, you’ll get the bonus of seeing several lambs in the pasture.
This is a really quiet area with a lot of green space where you can sit down for a solo picnic or with friends.
The Miniature Islands in the middle of Allan Water
If you’re interested in a high-risk, high-reward picnic that involves crossing a river, follow the Darn Walk just past Ben Gunn’s Cave heading north. Then, take a left at the next Bridge. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, keep left to follow the trail heading back towards Bridge of Allan — keeping to the trail closest to the river.
A bit further down the trail (approximately where Cocksburn empties into Allan Water), you’ll find two miniature islands in the middle of the river that are connected by a few downed trees. They’re both a quick scuffle from the shore when the water is high.
Keep in mind this picnic spot is not for the faint of heart. Once you’ve managed to get onto the islands, you can either eat on the plush, moss-covered trees, or set up a blanket on one of the two islands.
For this adventure, you’re going to want to pick a clear day after a stretch of dry days, as it’s going to be a bit damp if there’s been rain. I’d also recommend packing your picnic in a rucksack and hold on to it while crossing the river.
Cocksburn picnic spot
If you want to have a riverside picnic without the hassle of crossing a stream, I’d recommend going just north of Pendreich Road and the entrance to the Cocksburn Reservoir walking trail.
There’s a beautiful spot on the Cocksburn that allows you to sit right near the river. Here, you can snack to your heart’s content under the tree’s branches while taking a break from the Scottish summer heat. You can also find a patch of grass nearby to enjoy the feel of the sun while listening to the babbling stream.
Starting at Pendreich Way on campus, follow Sheriffmuir Road heading north through Arrow Passage. Then, keep left when Sheriffmuir turns right towards Dumyat. Continue going up the hill, where you can see fantastic views of Stirling Castle, the Gargunnock Hills and Ben Lomond.
Keep going past the entrance to Mine Wood, Pendreich Road, and to the entrance to the Cocksburn Reservoir Trail where roadside parking is available. Rather than following the trail, continue just a bit further until you come to a gate on the left side of the road, where you will see the picnic spot a few additional paces away.