Although the lockdown has eased somewhat, we are still sticking to local walks, so I thought I would ask our Instagram followers what they wanted to see in the blog this week. The result of the vote was a landslide victory for Raby Castle in County Durham which opened its doors to dogs for the first time last year.
As soon as I saw that Raby were allowing dogs I was desperate to go. I had already visited sans spaniel a few years ago and on that occasion we had a wander around the inside of the castle – which I would definitely recommend to history fans! In particular I was interested in Raby as it was the home of Cecily Neville, a 15th century Duchess of York, and mother of Edward IV and Richard III. These individuals were all prominent characters in the Wars of the Roses so if this is a period that interests you then Raby is definitely a place to add to your travel checklist. There is an onsite car park which is free for visitors.
The castle itself is beautiful and more intact than a lot of castle of a similar age. Needless to say the welcome to dogs does not extend to the castle interior, but dogs are welcome in the gardens, parkland and the Stables cafe, which even provides free dog treats!
The formal gardens were very impressive with an 18th century walled garden to explore, which at the time we were visiting had a scavenger trail for children, which seemed to be very popular! You can do a virtual tour of the gardens on Raby’s website which is great while the site is shut due to coronavirus. There are also around 200 acres of parkland to roam in, where you can see both red and fallow deer. Dogs do understandably need to be kept on a lead in the gardens and park, but the wider estate does have a network of footpaths which you can access for longer walks if you want to stretch your legs a bit more. This includes High Force waterfall, which has its own parking area at High Force Hotel.
High Force is accessed via a woodland walkway and the estate charges for access to the site (adults £2 children £1). The waterfall is extremely impressive, especially after rain, and it is therefore (sensibly) not permitted to enter the water. If you are looking for a longer walk, you can visit both Low Force and High Force on this five mile circular route.
The Raby estate has plenty to do for a dog walker. The park and gardens are a lovely way to spend a morning or an afternoon, followed by a stop in the stables cafe – not to mention the excellent gift shop which features lots of local products. Raby also very often run seasonal events, such as a Christmas market, which I have not attended but I have heard is excellent. Entrance to Raby is quite pricey (Historic Houses members enter free), and you do have to pay for parking on top of this, although if you love the site you can pay for an annual membership for free entry year round. Prices vary depending on where you want to visit on the site and a full list of prices is available on their website.
Overall dog friendly rating – 4/5. While dogs do need to be kept on leads in the garden and park, there are plenty of longer walks you can access with your pooch to let them stretch their legs. It’s also a lovely touch to have free dog treats in the cafe – we definitely felt very welcome! Top this off with a stroll down to High Force or around the woods on the Raby Estate and you have an almost perfect dog friendly day out.
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