The best summer picnic accessories
On a normal sunny spring or summer day in Sydney, every available green space or strip of sand is dotted with groups of picnickers. Maybe it’s the haunting mystery of Hanging Rock or simply the fact that for more than 300 days a year the sun shines on the city. So it’s no surprise that when I was living in Australia many years ago, I became a seasoned picnicker with all sorts of cooler gear and collapsible accessories.
I haven’t had so many sunny picnics in Ireland. I remember one that had great potential until a seagull ruined our spread, causing me to spill a plastic cup of tea on my creamy egg salad sandwiches and, worse, the Tayto. But is there anything better than when the stars align on a beautiful Irish beach and you manage to take off that Aran jumper for over an hour and enjoy a sand sandwich (and without tea) and in the sun? In the words of Somerset Maugham: “There are few things so enjoyable as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort.”
Choosing a good picnic blanket with plenty of room to sit and spread out food is key to comfort. There are plenty of affordable, waterproof options (Tiger, Penneys, H&M Home, Mountain Warehouse). For a more traditional wool raincoat option, try one of Heating and Plumbing’s easy-to-carry wool blankets with a polyester backing which are available in bright orange, yellow, blue, pink and gray (available from Wolf & Badger) .
A small, compact and lightweight sun lounger is a great beach accessory (Smallable) with a beach tent or umbrella.
Business and Pleasure Co offers a range of stylish umbrellas and tents that are a more sheltered version of the classic beach umbrella that gives you more protection.
You can pack it all in a carry bag and go, but investing in a good quality picnic basket, or a backpack if you’re planning a picnic hike, even makes a few sandwiches a little more special. Most wicker baskets hold the essentials: plates, acrylic glasses and cutlery, some often include blankets and cooler bags.
There is plenty to choose from with retailers The Kitchen Whisk, Avoca, TK Maxx, Oliver Bonas, Carraig Donn and Harvey Norman offering a good selection of options. If you’re on the go, try the Bronx Backpack for Four with included cooler bag, plates and cutlery — available from Next.
They also offer a wide range of picnic accessories, from shatterproof glassware and drink dispensers to folding pasture tables and picnic pouches.
We Irish love a barbecue, especially a beach kitchen, so if you’re planning to up the ante on egg sandwiches, consider a handy portable barbecue like the mini Sahara from Joyce’s Hardware, Wexford, which runs on propane , or a lightweight easy-to-carry charcoal from TK Maxx. The retail giant manages to cover all the bases with plenty of acrylic picnic utensils, blankets, and cooler bag options.
If you can handle the pace and the crowds, Decathlon is a go-to center for all things outdoors, especially its camping section which has plenty of handy picnic accessories and a wide range of insulated backpacks from different sizes.
When I think of the famous painting by Manet from the 19th century Luncheon on the Grassin which several people are resting in the sun around a blanket strewn with wine and food among the trees, it feels like the height of earthly pleasure, lazing and grazing under the summer sun.
Today’s picnic is a little less pastoral with gritty cheese sambos and empty crisp packets falling on the sand, but with the right props it can be heavenly, even with a few sand sandwiches… things just taste better on the outside.