Dining Al Fresco – Ireland’s best picnic spots

A thick, soft blanket with an ugly pattern; a flask filled with tea; “sangwiches” in tinfoil; biscuits, both fresh and soft; and an Irish summer’s day. We all know the ingredients for a great Irish picnic, but where are the best spots to eat?

Slieve League, Irelands highest sea cliffs, located in south west Donegal along this magnificent costal driving route.

Ireland has an abundance of lovely places to picnic, from parks to forests and lakesides. We’ve listed some of our favourites, taking in spots in Dublin, Wicklow, Donegal, Clare, Offaly, Meath and Sligo.

Our first choice is so big, that we included two locations within it…

Phoenix Park, Dublin

This magnificent park is a minor miracle: Acres of public land in major capital city. As you might expect, there are more than a few places to eat outdoors, but we especially recommend the Visitors’ Centre. It’s got picnic tables and benches and it’s secluded from traffic, so it’s very child-friendly.

Kids will enjoy the miniature hedge maze, there’s a playground nearby, a small museum about the park itself and a café (just in case the coffee you brought isn’t up to scratch!).

A little further north, closer to Castleknock, sits Farmleigh. It’s best known for its Irish State guest house (which is magnificent), but it also has plenty of greenery to picnic on, beautiful horses to admire and a lovely walled garden.

Powerscourt, Wicklow

A splendid estate, Powerscourt boasts immaculate gardens, an abundance of wide-open spaces and a fabulous, fascinating central building. Locals and visitors flock to Powerscourt, especially in the spring and summer when the abundant flowers are in bloom. Across the 47 acres of gardens, you’ll notice benches and gazebos, a variety of fauna and a range of gardening styles, from Italian to Japanese.

Strandhill Beach, Sligo

At the foot of Knocknarea Mountain and just 7 kilometres from Sligo town, this is a deservedly popular spot, but don’t worry – there’s plenty of space for you, your loved ones and your food! The rugged coastline is lovely and varied, so some visitors opt to picnic in the hills overlooking the beach, or on the soft sand itself. There are also cafes and ice cream shops in the charming village of Strandhill, so nobody will go hungry!

The Burren, County Clare

The Burren has several stone surfaces on which to sit and dine – though none of them are man-made. There is nowhere on Earth like The Burren, with its limestone setting and untamed plants. It’s a sometimes-surreal place, resembling the surface of the moon in parts. But with its views of the ocean and abundance of weird and wild plants (both Arctic and European), this is a picnic spot to remember. The Burren is also a mecca for a certain strain of TV fans: Father Ted picnicked here in one episode.

Glenveagh National Park, Donegal

An especially scenic location, Glenveagh National Park offers incredible landscapes to take in while you snack. For some, this might be a little off the beaten track, but you’ll be rewarded with a serene, varied and picturesque location. Some visitors favour the gardens of Glenveagh Castle, while others might want to picnic while overlooking the handsome Lough Veagh from any one of the hills throughout this vast space.

Lough Key, Roscommon

This is a great place for combining picnicking with adventuring. Yes, there are numerous picnic tables and benches throughout Lough Key Forest. And a lovely forest it is, with wildflowers like lilacs, bluebells and yellow iris blooming among the ash, oak and sycamore trees. It’s an attractive setting, and you might be able to see the pretty lake and its islands while you eat, depending on where you decide to picnic.

Before or after eating, there’s plenty to do, from ziplining to boating and even woodland Segway tours.

Lough Boora Discovery Park, Offaly

There’s no shortage of picnic benches and tables at this park, but that’s only the beginning. Dotted throughout the park are sculptures that blend the natural world with the man-made one, many of which are great picnic spots: These include “60 Degrees”, which uses old railway tracks to form vast triangles that change appearance with the position of the sun; “Tippler Bridge”, a tunnel bridge of steel for pedestrians; and “Rhythms of Time”, which consists of circles of all sizes.

Additionally, the Lough itself reflects the sky beautifully and the park has plenty of nature walks and birdwatching spots.

Loughcrew, Meath

This site is of immense historical interest, as well as being one of great natural splendour. The megalithic tombs date back centuries, and it’s worth your while taking a step into history while you’re there.

It’s also a great picnic spot. Thanks to its altitude and a range of easily scalable hills, there are plenty of places to put your rug. The views of the lough, hills and mountains from any of these hills is glorious.

Ireland has no shortage of beautiful outdoor spaces, especially if you’re looking for a beach, a bench or a field to sit with your picnic basket.

Whether you want to picnic, adventure or just inhale some gloriously fresh air, OSi will help you find the right place. Visit our Online Store, the Picnic spots mentioned in this post can be found with the aid of the Discovery series maps below.

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