10 best dog walks
Some of our favourite dog walks across England, Scotland and Wales
1. Horner Wood, Exmoor National Park
Horner Wood is magical. Ancient oaks, some 500 years old, create shady avenues, crunchy with leaf litter and atmospheric with ferns and lichen. It’s a perfect place for a dog to sniff about.
A loop of around 3.5 miles starts from the National Trust car park, follows the eastern bank of Horner Water, crosses the stream and leads up to lovely look-out over the valley. If you have a very energetic pup, you could combine this with a proper leg-stretch across Dunkery Beacon. This is the highest point in Exmoor National Park, with acres of wild open moorland to explore.
2. Lyndhurst, New Forest
There are 140-plus miles of safe off-road tracks for you and your dog to discover in the New Forest National Park. You need to be mindful of grazing animals, including the park’s famed wild ponies. But well-behaved dogs will have a whale of a time.
The circular 8.5-mile Lyndhurst Parish Walk, which beats the bounds of the New Forest’s tiny ‘capital’, is a wonderfully varied route. Along the way you’ll walk via woodland glades, heather-tinged heath, open grassland, country lanes and pretty villages. There are plenty of dog-friendly pubs where you can stop for a cooling bowl of water or refreshing pint too.
3. Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire
Give yourself and your dog a delightful day out at this lofty chalk escarpment, the east of England’s highest point. There are rolling, grassy slopes to explore, as well as ancient history, from Iron Age hill forts to medieval rabbit warrens.
Head to the Chilterns Gateway Centre, where you’ll find water bowls and a dog bin, and walk from there. A 4.5-mile loop via Whipsnade combines breathtaking views with a section of the Icknield Way, the oldest road in Britain. It also passes the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, created in memory of those killed in the First World War. Dogs can enter the site but must be on leads.
4. Holt Country Park, Norfolk
The Norfolk coast draws many dog-walkers. And rightly so. Huge stretches of sand such as Old Hunstanton, Holkham and dune-backed Winterton are perfect for pups, and have no summer restrictions. However, for something a little different, look inland to Holt Country Park. Near the gorgeous Georgian town of Holt, the park is extensive and has something for everyone, including dogs. Several short circular walks weave amid the wooden sculptures, bird-filled woodland and rolling heath, where wild ponies graze. There’s a lovely tearoom too.
5. Alderley Edge, Cheshire
Alderley Edge is one of the finest vantage points in the northwest. The striking red-sandstone escarpment offers views across the Cheshire Plain towards the Peak District. Though your dog will probably be more interested in chasing squirrels through the trees instead.
Several short walks of 1-2 miles explore the Edge’s woodland, pasture, rock formations and old mining history. These are marked from the National Trust car park. For a quick runabout amid the Scots pines and beech trees, head off on the 1-mile Wizard’s Wander. Or try the longer trail into Waterfall and Clockhouse woods, to cross a stream via stepping stones. Note, it can get muddy, so be prepared for a mucky pup at the end.
6. Newtondale, North Yorkshire
The North York Moors is a dramatic place to walk your dog. But for the most relaxing day out, you’ll want to avoid the national park’s livestock-grazing areas and most fragile moorland.
Bearing that in mind, Newtondale, near Pickering, is a good choice. A 6-mile, stile-free loop weaves through this tree-cloaked valley, where pups can roam free in the Forestry England woods. The route is varied too, with both gentle valley-floor sections and a climb into a dell dripping with ferns and moss. To reach the start point at Lewisham station, hop on the steam locomotives of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Well-behaved dogs are allowed on board.
7. Gower Peninsula, south Wales
Ravishing Rhossili was voted the UK’s number-one dog-friendly beach by readers of The Times. But in truth much of the Gower is great for your four-legged friend. The beaches here tend to be big, beautiful, largely empty and open to dogs year-round. You’re spoiled for choice.
A lovely option, which combines a wide estuary beach with woodland, dunes and rolling countryside, is a 6-mile stroll via Whiteford lighthouse. Start at the dog-friendly Britannia Inn in little Llanmadoc and head into the National Trust Nature Reserve. You can walk towards the decaying cast iron beacon along the sand and back through the burrows, for a varied loop.
8. Gwydir Forest Park, Snowdonia
Vast Gwydir Forest sits at the heart of Snowdonia National Park, surrounding the handsome village of Betws-y-Coed. Its coniferous woodland is dotted with lakes and spidered by waymarked walking trails, perfect for pups. Dogs are permitted on all of the trails here, though must be on a lead for any sections on country lanes. Head to the car park at Llyn Crafnant, where there’s a seasonal cafe and a choice of exceptional walks. The easy 3-mile Llyn Crafnant Circuit makes a fine lake loop. The quieter 3-mile Crafnant View hike climbs steadily to a bench looking over the picturesque valley to the Carneddau mountains beyond.
9. Tyninghame Bay, East Lothian
Tyninghame Bay, south of North Berwick, is a brilliant place for a bracing seaside stroll. Dogs are allowed to dash about on this golden sand year-round. Plan a 3.25-mile circular from Tyninghame Links car park. This starts by skirting Links Wood, where your pup can sniff about the undergrowth. You’ll emerge onto a dramatic grassy headland, with views out to bird-flocked Bass Rock. Soon, you’ll be gallivanting about on the magnificent beach itself. The return loop runs though the dunes of Ravensheugh Sands. Visit at low tide for the best access.
10. Balmacara Estate, Highlands
Balmacara was once voted the most dog-friendly National Trust property in Scotland. There are 17 miles of trails on this free-to-enter west-coast estate. It’s such a diverse spot, combing lochs, woodland, moorland, Celtic rainforest and coral beaches.
The 3-mile route from the Kyle of Lochalsh to Balmacara Square affords fantastic views over to the Isle of Skye. Or let your pooch off the lead in the sheltered Lochalsh woodland, where they can dash amid the oaks, pines and rhododendrons.
How to be a good dog-walker
Exploring with your dog is a delight. But it takes more consideration than walking alone. Be aware of any restrictions and follow any official signs. For instance, some beaches are off-limits to dogs during summer months. Also, between 1 March and 31 July dogs must be kept on short leads on open-access land, to protect ground-nesting birds.
Regardless of the situation, your dog should always be under control and should not disturb farm animals or wildlife. And always clean up after your dog and dispose of the mess responsibly and follow the Countryside Code in England and Wales, and the Outdoor Access Code in Scotland.
We’ve got ideas for hundreds of wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website.
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