And now for a recent feature that I wrote for MSN Travel’s ‘Summer Breaks’ section on the site…
There’s nothing better than the sizzle of burgers and sausages cooking in the great outdoors. We list the prettiest – and, more importantly, legal – places to light your fire
You may have to keep one eye firmly fixed on the sky, but cooking alfresco is one of the most satisfying summer pleasures, if the weather holds out. Most local parks ban barbecuing, but a new list of official places reveal where you can grill your meat outdoors – some even provide all the equipment. From sand dunes to leafy forests, we’ve served up a beautiful view to go with your bangers – take your pick!
Afan Forest, West Glamorgan
In south-west Wales, this little hilly valley is a cyclist’s paradise, with myriad trails twisting and turning through the land. A barbecue spot can be found at the old Cynonville station, heralded by the old stone bridge that’s becoming engulfed by the bushes.
Remnants of the forest’s long-abandoned mining industry lie nestled among the scenery. And, while the trains are no more, the old railway line of Rheilffordd runs the length of the valley.
Ardentinny, Argyll Forest Park, Argyll
Try not to create too much smoke while cooking – you don’t want that staggeringly beautiful view interrupted: Argyll Forest Park is full of rugged and beautiful mountains, lochs and glens. Set up on the sandy beach of the loch by the picnic area. Afterwards, head to the tranquil village of Ardentinny, which is home to pretty, white-washed buildings set on the side of Loch Long.
Cromer Beach, Norfolk
Barbecued crab and lobster are reasons alone to head to Norfolk. The quaint town of Cromer is famed for its tasty crustaceans, which can be picked up fresh from town before ambling past the Victorian and Georgian architecture down to the seafront.
A stroll along the pier with its old-fashioned gas lamps is the perfect dinner pre-amble. Back on dry land, turn left from the pier and walk along the wide beach until you’ve reached the barbecue area between the adjacent North Lodge Park and Coastguard Lookout.
West Wittering Beach, Sussex
West Wittering delivers the quintessential British seaside holiday: sandcastles, ice cream and wooden beach huts. You can set up your barbecue on the golden sand, amid the pretty dunes and one tiny cafe. A word of warning: day-trippers coming by car should try to get here early, as queues for the car park can build up.
Hamsterley Forest, County Durham
Hamsterley Forest, located in the Pennines, is an official area of outstanding beauty. Carpeted with conifers, it attracts mountain bikers, adventurous hikers and barbecue enthusiasts. Unlike the lively raucousness of seaside locations, this is a great spot for peace and quiet.
Make sure you set it up in the correct area – there’s a risk of wild fires if you don’t follow guidelines.
Beechenhurst Lodge, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Art-meets-nature-meets-grilled-meat at Beechenhurst Lodge, set in the heart of the Forest of Dean. The lodge marks the start and finish of a free walking trail that takes in three-and-a-half miles of scintillating sculptures set among the trees. Our favourite is Cathedral, a beautiful giant stained glass window hanging in the branches. After your stroll, head back to the picnic area, where you can hire a charcoal hearth for barbecuing.
Sandbanks Beach, Poole
Sandbanks is famous for its well-heeled locals – it is one of the most expensive areas to own property in the world. Even if you aren’t fat of pocket, the delights of this beautiful little sandy peninsula are free: you can set up your barbecue on a stretch of the beach.
On the way there, have a look at the gleaming yachts moored in the marina. Then, light those coals and sink your toes into the golden sand of the wide, flat beach that has been awarded the coveted Blue Flag mark more times than any other beach in the UK.
Ferry Meadows, Nene Park, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
Leave the zorbing, windsurfing and canoeing to the adrenaline junkies, we prefer scoffing homemade burgers and then walking off the calories with a sedate stroll through the 500 acres of meadows and woodland.
For the little ones, there is a delightful miniature railway that chugs around the park and by the lakes. There are two barbecue areas in Ferry Meadows: one by the watersports centre and the other by the coach park. Personal barbecues with stands are welcome.
Lydiard Park, Swindon, Wiltshire
Unlike other stately homes where you are allowed to press your nose against the glass but not venture in, you can, least for a day, make yourself at home at Lydiard Park. In the ornamental walled, landscaped garden of the grand 18th Century house, you can set up your picnic and barbecue on the manicured lawns.
Barbecues need to be booked, with slots available at lunchtimes and in the evenings. For those who like to gather a big group, Lydiard Park’s large grills can cater for up to 40 people.
London Fields, Hackney, London
It is illegal to have barbecues in most London parks, but an exception is London Fields park in Hackney, where you can toss your best meat in the designated area. If it all goes horribly wrong, fear not. Broadway Market sits at the southern end with stalls of foodie treats.
To see this article in full on MSN Travel’s site, click here.