Here we pick some of our top dog-friendly attractions and visitor experiences for a great day out while on your seaside holiday, from railway journeys and historic dockyards, to lost gardens and epic coastal walks
Words: Anne-Claire Heels
FOR… A LOST GARDEN IN CORNWALL
Romantic and mysterious, Heligan near Mevagissey was a Cornish secret garden for decades, lost to overgrowth and neglect. Now restored and home to a unique National Collection of camellias and rhododendrons dating from the 19th century, The Lost Gardens of Heligan welcomes dogs all year round too. Managing director George Elworthy says: ‘For many, a dog is a very important family member, and people – particularly if they’re visiting the Southwest on holiday – are loathe to leave them behind. We hope allowing well-behaved dogs will enable more people to enjoy the Lost Gardens.’ Dogs must be kept on leads but there are miles of pathways to explore, and on arrival you’ll be given a handy free map, which also shows where dog waste bins are located (heligan.com).
Read next 10 Best Things to Do in Cornwall
FOR… A RAILWAY JOURNEY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is one of the oldest, longest, narrow gauge railways in England, carrying passengers from Ravenglass, the only coastal village in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Lake District National Park, to Dalegarth, 210ft above sea level. And dogs are more than welcome on all trains, which have a mix of open and covered carriages (around £1.50 for an all-day dog ticket), and are also allowed in some buildings. You must keep your dog on a lead while travelling, but there are loads of great walks at either end of the line (don’t miss the amazing Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall), water bowls at both main stations, and your dog receives a welcome pack upon arrival. Dogs are not allowed at some special events, so do check before booking. Otherwise, all aboard… (ravenglass-railway.co.uk)
FOR… AN EPIC COASTAL WALK IN THE SOUTH WEST
For a walk to top all walks, it’s got to be The South West Coast Path. Ok, so you won’t be doing the whole 630 miles admittedly, but dogs are permitted on the entire path, with its spellbinding scenery, running from the Somerset coast around Devon and Cornwall to Dorset, and on the website there are recommendations for particularly good dog walks (those passing by a dog-friendly pub and beach) which you can find using the Walkfinder tool. There’s also essential safety advice – walking on cliff-top paths will not be ideal for every dog – which is definitely essential reading before you embark (southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walk-coast-path/days-out/dogs-coastpath).
FOR… CASTLE & MODEL VILLAGE ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT
If being king of the castle is your thing, then Carisbrooke on family favourite, the Isle of Wight, will fit the bill. This Norman fortress has been both a royal prison and a royal residence in its 800 years, and has the beautiful Edwardian-style Princess Beatrice Garden too. There is plenty for children to do, from dressing up as Norman soldiers to meeting the resident donkeys, traditionally used to draw water from the well. Dogs on leads are allowed everywhere, apart from the museum (english-heritage.org.uk). Nearby you’ll find Godshill Model Village, which welcomes well-behaved dogs on a short lead, and provides bins and water bowls to cater for them. So if you ever fancied an Insta-worthy pic of your pooch looking like a giant, this is the one for you… (modelvillagegodshill.co.uk)
Read next 50 Best Dog-Friendly Holidays by the Sea
FOR… BEACHES & BOATS IN SUFFOLK
Like many UK beaches, Suffolk has several where restrictions apply in summer, but some where they don’t too. You and your dog are welcome all year round at Dunwich – where there’s sand and heathland for a good walk, as well as a splash in the sea – and The Ship Inn will see your four-legged friend right with a biscuit and a drink. Covehithe is also dog-friendly, and quiet, and if you fancy a boat trip on local rivers Waveney River Tours at Oulton Broad welcomes humans and canines on 100-seater passenger boats to take in the waterside scenery and wildlife. Music and antique-lovers’ haunt Snape Maltings does not allow dogs indoors, but as it’s right in an area popular with dog walkers there are water bowls around the site if you are planning a visit (thesuffolkcoast.co.uk).
FOR… VINTAGE TRANSPORT IN BLACKPOOL
The traditional Fylde Coast seaside town of Blackpool has a bus and tram system that’s entirely dog-friendly, including the iconic Heritage Trams. Dogs must be on a lead for the whole of the journey and they are not allowed on seats. You can even buy (we love this) a money-saving 7-Day Rover ticket for your dog if you’re staying a while, and of course guide dogs or other assistance dogs travel free on both buses and trams. There are restrictions on the main beach from May to September, but ‘a stroll along the prom-prom-prom’ is still an option, and for dog-friendly cafés and shops around town go to visitfyldecoast.info.
FOR… ANCIENT HISTORY IN SCOTLAND
If you love to lose yourself marvelling at monuments left by our ancestors, then you just can’t visit Scotland’s Western Isles without taking in the famous Standing Stones at Calanais on the Isle of Lewis. These 5,000-year-old stones are even older than the pyramids in Egypt, and the Calanais Visitor Centre is home to an interactive exhibition exploring their fascinating history. Well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome at this enigmatic Hebridean site on the island’s west coast (calanaisvisitorcentre.co.uk)
FOR… A HISTORIC DOCKYARD IN KENT
For nautical adventure it’s hard to beat Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent. From visiting 1870s warship HMS Gannet or 1960s submarine Ocelot to the Victorian Ropery and the RNLI Lifeboat Collection, there’s loads to do here, and that’s without special events such as the regular railway weekends and the popular Salute to the 40s annual vintage festival (which many people bring their dogs to, some even in costume!) Dogs are allowed on site for event days and general days, but must be kept on a lead at all times. They aren’t allowed in the museums or on the historic ships, but as an 80-acre site there is lots of open space to wander around for a good walk, and on event days there is a lot more going on outside that visitors with dogs can access. Call the Midwife is filmed here too, so there are also location tours for this much-loved BBC drama (thedockyard.co.uk)
FOR… A WILD ISLAND IN WALES
Unspoilt Anglesey is great for coastal walks with splendid views when you follow the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path (and there are plenty of dog-friendly pubs too, like The White Eagle at Rhoscolyn). Even inland you can both get plenty of fresh air at the Dingle/Nant y Pandy Local Nature Reserve, a 25-acre wooded valley of wildlife, geology and history. This oak, ash and cherry woodland has an abundance of ferns, mosses and wildflowers, a wooden boardwalk that winds its way along the River Cefni, three bridges, interesting sculptures, plus benches and picnic tables. Dogs can go everywhere – you’re only asked to keep them under control and dispose of waste responsibly. We predict mucky paws… (visitanglesey.co.uk)
Check out our Dog of the Year gallery here.