5 Short Walks in the North York Moors

We are definitely guilty of not giving the North York Moors the attention they deserve. As the Yorkshire Dales are practically on our doorstep, we have slightly neglected the wonderful walking opportunities in the Moors, something which we have started to rectify in the last few months!

The best time to visit the Moors is undoubtedly in August, when the heather which carpets the uplands is in full bloom, although you may have to contend with a few more walkers knocking about. The Moors the have spectacular views all year round, purple or not. Below I’m going to share five of my favourite shorter walks, which vary in length from an hour or two to half a day. There is a bit of a skew in this blog towards the western parts of the Moors as this is where we get out and about most often, however, don’t discount the stunning Yorkshire Coast which runs along the eastern edge of the National Park.

5. Osmotherley and Cod Beck

When I first moved to Yorkshire 4 years ago, Cod Beck reservoir was the first place where I started to go for a walk in the countryside. Since then the reservoir walk, which is a short and easy walk suitable for small children and buggies, has got more and more popular to the point where for me it is a little over crowded. I therefore now mostly stick to the quieter paths, away from the reservoir itself, which include lovely pockets of woodland and bracing stretches over the moors. There are a number of walks you can start from the reservoir car park (free, ice cream van in summer!) including paths to Mount Grace Priory, however, my favourite is to pick up this five and a half mile circular walk from the Walking Englishman website. Those who are after more of a challenge could take on the 40 mile Lyke Wake Walk which starts from the car park!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This walk has everything your dog could ever dream of! There is plenty of water and the opportunity to go for a swim as you walk along the reservoir for a short stretch. Much of the walk passes along walled grassy lanes or through woodland so much of this walk can be done off the lead. When you pass over the moor please be mindful of nesting birds and keep your dog on a lead for this short section or if you come across any livestock. The reservoir itself does get busy, particularly at weekends, but you only walk along here for a short stretch and the rest of the walk is very quiet.

4. Around Hawnby Hill

Hawnby Hill is one of those walks where you don’t have to go all of the way to the top of the hill to get a nice view! I did this walk in September when the heather was dying back, but I was still impressed by the views over the moors for little to no climbing, and I imagine it would look absolutely amazing covered in heather!

The route I followed for this walk was from my North York Moors Pocket Mountains book, which includes an optional detour to the top of the hill, but an alternative 5 mile circular route which includes the top of the hill is available on the Walking Englishman website.

There is a small-ish car park in Hawnby by the Village Hall with an honesty box or free parking in a large-ish lay-by on the way out of the village towards All Saints church. The walk itself passes through a variety of landscapes, including farmland, woodland and moor, with a few short sections of walking on quiet roads around Hawnby. The path is generally fairly level with no really steep sections of hill.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Apart from the short section through the woods, leads are required for the duration of this walk, as there is livestock (both sheep and cows) on most of the paths through fields and sheep on the moors. There is also no water on this walk, so make sure you carry some extra for your dog. I use a Ruffwear Quencher bowl which suits me best – it’s light, portable and I can clip it to the outside of my backpack with a Hyena clip.

3. The Rosedale Railway

The Rosedale railway walk will take you deeper into the moors than any of the other walks on this list, and will give you a glimpse into the industrial heritage of the National Park. Rosedale is one of the focuses of the Land of Iron project run by the North York Moors National Park, as 150 years ago, this peaceful part of the moors was a busy ironstone mine covered in smoke. A twelve mile railway was built to transport the ironstone from the kilns to its final destination – the blast furnaces of the Industrial Revolution.

A similar route to that which I followed from the Pocket Mountains guide can be found on the North York Moors website. At seven and a half miles it’s a bit of a leg stretcher, and also stretches my definition of a short walk a bit, but much of this walk is relatively flat (apart from the last kilometre or so which is a section of steeper ascent) and the views are definitely worth it!

Parking for this walk is free in a large parking area just past the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. It wasn’t at all busy when we did this walk on a sunny Tuesday right at the end of the school holidays – maybe everyone was getting ready to go back to school! There are no facilities so you will need to come prepared with lunch or you could call in at the Lion Inn at the start or end of the walk.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This is another walk where the dogs were on leads for the majority of the time due to the presence of livestock. There are sheep throughout most of this walk and you may pass through some fields with cows in when you drop away from the old railway line. You also pass through a few farmyards so please respect the public footpath and don’t let your dog run around someone else’s yard!

2. Lord Stones

At just under three miles, this walk from the North York Moors website is definitely the shortest on this list, but it is also one of my favourite local walks. It very nearly took the top spot but ended up in second as it can be busy in summer and at weekends. The route itself is very easy to navigate with good paths throughout – you pass along the Cleveland Way for a stretch and this always offers lovely walking.

Lord Stones county park is right on the edge of the national park and easily accessed from the North East, which perhaps accounts for some of its popularity. For very little effort you get wonderful views over the North East and Roseberry topping, and, according to the sign at the top, on a clear day you can see all the way to Ingleborough – although we couldn’t see it!

Parking is free but it does fill up quickly so it’s probably worth arriving early – dog walkers tend to fill up the ‘early slot’, and after around 10 o’clock, larger groups and families with children start to arrive to fill up the spaces as the dog walkers leave.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk is popular with local dog walkers and as soon as you’ve been up here you’ll understand why! It’s a very easy gentle walk with fabulous views. Most people let their dogs off here, which is fine close to the main cafe area, but when you start seeing signs about ground nesting birds leads need to go back on. Ours absolutely love this walk – Merry in particular loves zooming through the woody area at the end and throwing himself into the very smelly pond!

1. The Wainstones

This is another walk which stretches the definition of ‘short’, but it is one of my all time favourite walks in the moors, and therefore had to take the top spot on this list. The Wainstones are distinctive sandstone crags which jut out of the landscape – as soon as they come into sight as you walk across Cold Moor, you’ll know what you’re looking at!

The walk we followed was another one from the North York Moors Pocket Mountains book but pretty much exactly the same route is available on the North York Moors National Park website. At 8 miles this circular walk makes an excellent morning or afternoon adventure – there are a few short ascents but also a lot of flat stretches in between. The path does get boggy and indistinct at times, especially on Urra Moor (which is the highest point in the Moors), so make sure you watch where you put your feet!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There were a few odd sections where dogs could be let off leads, but for the most part, leads were required due to livestock on the moor (mostly sheep, some cows in one field). There was some bog water due to recent rain when we did this walk but no streams or rivers, so you’ll need to bring some water for your dog. Merry loved climbing over the stones – I’m not sure if all dogs are like this but Merry loves any chance to unleash his inner boulderer! So overall not the most dog friendly walk but still one worth doing for the great views and a very quiet walk (apart from the stones themselves).

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Making the Most of a Wet Weekend in the Peak District

We have just arrived home from a long weekend in the Staffordshire Peak District – I think everyone will know that this weekend was a bit soggy due the the arrival of Storm Alex – a bit soggy meaning very wet! However, we didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits, and we were lucky enough to still be able to get out and about for a few shorter walks. I think the dogs were probably secretly pleased to get an easier weekend as they are still pretty pooped from our trip to Scotland last week!

While our original plans for the weekend went out of the window, we still managed to find plenty to do, by checking the weather forecast religiously for potential gaps in the rain and googling for any dog friendly indoor activities for the worst of the weather! It just goes to show you should never let the weather put a downer on your excitement for any trip you have planned – there’s always something to do if you look in the right places and you’re prepared to get a bit damp!

The Roaches

Originally, we had planned a 10 mile circular walk taking in the Roaches, Lud’s Church and Hen Cloud. This had to be very quickly revised to just do one of the three and we eventually decided on the Roaches!

The Roaches are an impressive formation of rock popular with both walkers and climbers (we saw a few mountain bikers too – rather them than me!). The rain hadn’t quite arrived when we did this walk, so we managed to catch some lovely views of the surrounding countryside, including Tittesworth Reservoir. It was however very windy up on the ridge so make sure you wrap up warm in winter!

We followed a three mile circular route from our Countryside Dog Walks – Peak District South book. This is a great book with lots of shorter/easier walks – ideal if you are dashing out in-between downpours! I can’t find the route we followed online but the Roaches Tea room website has 8 walks around the Roaches of various lengths, so you are spoiled for choice!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk is very popular with dog walkers – they were pretty much the only people we saw on our walk (although that might have had something to do with the weather forecast!). We did keep ours on the lead as there were quite a few steep drops up on the ridge – better safe than sorry! There is a small area of water called the Doxey Pool on the plateau which is great for a paddle on a hot day.

Tittesworth Reservoir

On the Saturday, the weather was not on our side. We therefore decided to stay local enough to the cottage to be in easy reach of the log fire and kettle! Tittesworth Reservoir was a 10 minute drive from our cottage and has two way marked trails – and plenty of trees to keep off the worst of the rain!

We did the longer 4.5 mile circular trail which circumnavigates the reservoir. The path was refreshingly well surfaced throughout (maybe we should do more walks like this!) with no boggy or wet patches. There were a few short sections of ascent but I would say if you are reasonably fit this shouldn’t pose any challenge – and if you do get tired, there are benches every 500m, including a few with motivational quotes to keep you going!

The reservoir has a very large car park which is where both of the way marked trails start from. Parking is £3 for up to two hours (we just about managed the walk in this time) or £5 for all day. We did walk very fast though to get around the trail before the light rain turned into heavy rain! Once you’ve finished your walk the dog friendly Lazy Trout is in the nearby village of Meerbrook – we didn’t manage to get a table but all the guest book entries in the holiday cottage raved about it!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are signs up on this walk asking for dogs to be kept on leads in many places so this should be adhered to. Additionally, there are warnings that there may be blue green algae in the reservoir, so sadly there aren’t many swimming opportunities. There are however plenty of poo bins around this walk, which made a nice change to not have to carry poos with us for the entire walk! When we visited it was very quiet with only one or two other dog walkers around – however given the size of the car park I imagine in summer this walk can be pretty busy!

Treak Cliff Caverns

On the Saturday afternoon we conceded defeat and decided to look for an inside activity. There was a leaflet in the cottage for the Treak Cliff Cavern, a working Blue John Stone mine and show cave, which was also dog friendly! We pre-booked tickets to the mine online and downloaded their app which takes you around the self-guided tour. The caves all have very cool names and the tour explains how they came to get these, as well as telling you lots of facts about the formation of the caves and the history of the mine. The cave pictured is Aladdin’s Cave, named by the miners who discovered it, due to the brightly coloured stone which reminded them of a pantomime set! Sadly the colours haven’t come out brilliantly in the photograph so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was very impressive. At the end of the tour, if you want, you can pay a bit extra and polish your own Blue John stone.

When driving to the Cavern, follow the Sat Nav, and not the road signs! I ignored the Sat Nav (and Sam) and followed the signs for Blue John Cavern – this is actually a different cave! So make sure you only follow signs for Treak Cliff or stick to the Sat Nav.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. We were allowed to bring the dogs on this tour which was fab! I’ve just knocked off a point as some dogs may not like being underground – ours were fine, but we did see another dog who had sat down and was refusing to move! Dogs also obviously need to be on leads in the mine, just in case they were to run off and get lost!

Higger Tor

We were very lucky on the day we headed home – the weather actually defied the forecast and brightened up into a beautiful day! We met up with some family on the way home to do a 5 mile circular walk from the Upper Burbage Bridge car park. Again I can’t find the exact route we followed online but there is a similar route which is a few miles longer available on Peak District Walks.

In terms of views this was probably the best walk we did the whole weekend – the Northern Peak District is just that bit more wild and rugged than the South. We had lovely views over the valley, including views of Mam Tor, Stanage Edge and Castleton.

We did see quite a lot of cows on this walk, however, they weren’t remotely bothered by us or the dogs – they must be used to people passing by! At the very end of the walk, just before you reach the car park, you need to cross some stepping stones next to a bridge over the river. Everyone else managed to get across clean and dry, but on my turn to cross, three separate cars drove through puddles on the bridge – each one sending water over the side and drenching me from head to toe! (I’m not exaggerating, it looked like someone had poured a jug of water on my head). The bridge was high enough that the drivers wouldn’t have been able to see me so I’ll let them off – it did make for a bit of a soggy drive back though! (At least it was at the end of the walk and not the start!).

The path generally was uneven in places, but shouldn’t present too much of a problem for those with sturdy boots. The car park seemed to fill up pretty quickly despite the weather forecast, as did the nearby parking lay-by, however we were still fine getting a space at 10 o’clock.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. This was a great walk for the dogs – the ground wasn’t too uneven for them and there were no really steep ascents or descents. We did keep the dogs on the lead as there was livestock (cows) around, but we did also go through some wooded areas where we would have been able to let them off the lead if we wanted to. Merry especially loved the section along the river and tried his hardest to pull me in for a swim!

Where we stayed

We stayed in the absolutely wonderful Hen Cottage near Leek and I couldn’t recommend it more. When the rain abated enough for us to see the view from our bedroom window (which happened the morning we left!), we could see across to the Roaches and to Hen Cloud, the hill which gives the cottage its name. The view was stunning, and the inside of the cottage was equally lovely, being brightly decorated but tasteful at the same time. We especially loved the extremely comfortable super king size bed (I now want to buy a new bed) and the wood burner with a big basket of logs – it definitely made the rainy afternoons extra cosy!

There are two cottages here, Hen Cottage (where we stayed, ground floor) and Cloud Loft (first floor). The cottages are attached to the farm house at Whitehouse Farm, and despite only being a 10 minute drive from Leek, feel completely away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Dog friendly rating – 4.5/5. This cottage was absolutely wonderful for the dogs! Coal absolutely loved curling up in front of the fire and Merry loved the tasty chews which we found waiting for us in the kitchen. There is even a bag hanging up in the hall which has both Peak District Countryside Dog Walks books, a torch and a dog towel! The cottage only allows one dog (we booked this before we got Coal) but the owners very kindly let us bring two. The only reason I have knocked off half a point is because the garden is shared with Cloud Loft, so you may need to keep your dog on a lead in the garden if they are liable to run off like ours are!

I hope you managed to make the most of the weekend wherever you are! If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog today make sure that you subscribe below:

Fàilte gu Asainte: Welcome to Assynt

We are just home from an absolutely incredible week exploring Assynt in the Scottish Highlands. We were meant to travel in April, but had to postpone due to Coronavirus – however, we were still able to have our holiday (just a few months later than planned!) so we are very grateful! This was our second trip to the North West Highlands and there is so much to see and do that we still haven’t managed to tick everything off the list – I think a third trip is on the cards…

Assynt

Driving through Assynt is an experience quite unlike any other. One of our walking books states that the Norse Gods created the landscape of Assynt as a practice before moving onto other, bigger ranges, and I can definitely see why you would think that! Assynt is part of the North West Highlands Geopark and the whole area is absolutely breath taking. Mountains rise up all around you in a vast array of shapes, sizes and colours, including Stac Pollaidh, Quinag (pictured) and Suilven. Lochs and castles dot the landscape and it is pretty much impossible to drive anywhere without pulling over to stop and enjoy the view! Visitors to Assynt can also enjoy exploring the region’s many sandy beaches and tumbling waterfalls – you don’t have to be a mountain climber to enjoy visiting this area!

Assynt is home to a range of flora and fauna, including a vast array of birds, marine life and not least, deer. Deer stalking takes place every year and it is worth checking if any of your walks will cross into stalking areas – the Scottish Outdoor Access code states that you must minimise your chances of disturbing deer stalking – there is lots of useful information on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website. We did do some walks where stalking was active and it didn’t impact on us at all – there were just a few signs up requesting that walkers stuck to the paths, which we did, so we didn’t have any problems.

The Bone Caves

Assynt is also home to a number of caves, some of which can be explored. One such cave system is the Bone Caves, a series of caves formed about 200,000 years ago, when melting glaciers in the last Ice Age started to dissolve the limestone rock on the sides of the valley. The remains of lynx, reindeer and even possibly a polar bear have been found in the caves! The antechambers of the caves can be explored on foot and are a perfect place to sit down and enjoy the views! The walk we followed was a linear route from our Caithness and Sutherland Pocket Mountains book (which we used loads!), but if you don’t have this book a similar walk can be found on Walkhighlands. The walk is around 3 miles and takes a few hours – the path is generally pretty flat but can but quite rocky in places, with a steeper section on the approach to the caves. Watch out for the slippery surface outside the caves – Merry wanted to say hello to another dog and nearly sent me flying!

The colours on this walk were amazing – the last of the heather was still clinging on while the bracken had started to die back and turn orange. The greens, purples and oranges were stunning and none of the photos I took really did it justice!

This was probably one of the busier walks we did but ‘busy’ is a relative term – there were generally one or two other walkers in sight at any given time, and a few people having lunch up at the caves, but that was it! I think the car park does tend to fill up on sunny days as this is a stop off on the NC500 but we had no trouble getting a space at around 2pm.

Parking is free in a roadside car park sign posted with a small wooden fingerpost from the road. There are some interesting information boards at the start which are definitely worth a read to find out more about the caves!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. We had the dogs off the lead for most of this walk and they had a great time exploring the area. We did put them back on the lead as we approached the caves – just in case! There are sections of this walk where you pass along the river so there are also opportunities for your dog to have a paddle and a drink. Don’t forget to check your dog for ticks when you get home as deer are plentiful in this area!

The Inchnadamph Caves

About a five minute drive from the Bone Caves car park is the starting point for the walk to the Inchnadamph Caves (properly named the Traligill Caves). Again, we used the Pocket Mountains book for this walk, with a similar walk available on Walkhighlands. The Traligill Caves can be visited on a walk of about 2-2.5 hours which follows a linear route up the glen and which gives great views of the surrounding area. This is probably a slightly easier route than that to the Bone Caves, but in my opinion the caves aren’t quite as impressive, so it’s all swings and roundabouts!

The caves here mark the entrance of one of the largest cave systems in Scotland. There are two cave entrances visible, the first of which cannot be accessed by passers by, and the second which can be. The name of the first cave, Uamh An Tartair, translates to the Cave of the Roaring, which is very apt as if you stand by the entrance you can hear the water rushing through the cave below!

Parking is free in a small car park close to the Inchnadamph Hotel, however, there is a donations box for Assynt mountain rescue so please contribute! You walk along the verge for a very short section at the start (less than 100m) and then the rest of this walk is all off road.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk was very similar to the Bone Caves – we were able to let the dogs off the lead away from the entrance to the caves and there was water along the way for them to splash in. Merry especially loved the river here as it was full of rocks for him to fish out! This walk was also much quieter than the Bone Caves and we only saw a handful of other people – I’m not sure why as this is also a stop on the NC500 – maybe we were just there before the crowds arrived!

Ardvreck Castle

As you drive along the road from Inchnadamph to Lochinver you will pass an exceptionally eye catching ruin on a small promontory jutting into Loch Assynt. This ruin is Ardvreck Castle, once the seat of the Macleod Clan, and abandoned at the end of the 17th Century. You can clearly see the castle from several parking areas along the road, and if you want to see it up close, the castle can easily be reached on foot.

Like many ruined castles, Ardvreck is said to be haunted. Legend has it that a daughter of the Macleod clan was fooled into marrying the Devil and threw herself into the loch rather than live with her new husband. She remained hiding in the caves under the loch until she transformed into a mermaid, and it is said that when the waters of the loch rise, it is her tears which have caused the flood.

Leitir Easaidh

The Leitir Easaidh walk follows an accessible path to provide a lovely short walk of around 1.5 miles. You pass three pretty lochs and get wonderful views of Quinag, and if you make the small and easy climb to the viewing point, views of Suilven and Canisp.

Parking is free and signed by a finger post saying ‘accessible path’. There are two eco-friendly composting toilets which are powered by both wind and sun – unfortunately they were closed on our visit so I can’t vouch for their cleanliness, but their thatched roofs were very charming!

This walk would be the perfect place to stop for a picnic, as there are a few benches with spectacular views (please make sure you take all litter home!).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The whole area is enclosed by a deer fence so you can let your dog off the lead with no fear of them escaping onto the road. There is an abundance of water on this walk for water loving dogs, and no steep drops or caves to worry about! Please pick up poos and take them away with you for disposal on all walks.

Carbisdale Castle

On the third day of our visit the heavens opened (maybe it was that mermaid at Ardvreck castle) and it seemed like it was pouring down everywhere in Assynt. We therefore headed inland to do a lovely woodland walk around Carbisdale Castle. The walk itself was much better than I expected (I’m more of a beach than woodland fan) and had great views over the Kyle of Sutherland, as well as passing Carbisdale Castle itself.

Carbisdale Castle is privately owned and is not open to the public, but you do pass the front gates on this walk. The castle was built at the start of the 20th Century following a dispute between the widow of the Duke of Sutherland and the rest of his family – to cut a long story short, the family took the Sutherland estate and in return agreed to build the widowed Duchess a castle, on the condition that the castle was located outside of Sutherland. Carbisdale castle is therefore right on the edge of the county boundary and is actually located in Ross-shire (just!)

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. I was so close to giving this walk a 100% dog friendly rating – the dogs were off the lead for nearly all of this walk and absolutely loved it! There is even a small waterfall with a pool in front of it which is perfect for swimming. We saw absolutely no other people on this walk which is always a bonus! The only reason that I have knocked off a point is because you are required to traverse a metal footbridge to cross the Kyle of Sutherland at the start/end of this walk. This would have been fine, except that it was one of those bridges with lots of gaps, and the dogs’ paws couldn’t walk over the bridge. We therefore had to carry them across the bridge – it felt a lot further than it actually was, especially for Sam, with Coal weighing well over 25kg now!

Dornoch Beach

After we’d finished the walk at Carbisdale we decided to head over to the East Sutherland coast as it was only half an hour away. We stopped at Dornoch, a fairly large town (for the area!), which has a hotel, a cathedral and quite a few shops and cafes. Most importantly, it also has a beach, and we headed straight here with the dogs to let them have a run around while we enjoyed a gentle stroll!

There is free parking in the centre of Dornoch if you want to visit the local amenities, or alternatively, you can park for free by the beach if you want to save yourself the 15 minute walk to get to the shore (I wish we’d known it was there!). The beach is a blue flag beach and you can see a variety of sea birds here, and possibly even seals and dolphins, although sadly we didn’t see any on our visit.

Dornoch was also the location of the final witch burning in the UK in 1727 – you can visit the Witches Stone which commemorates the occasion (although the date on the stone is 1722, which is wrong). For more things to do in Dornoch I would recommend the Visit Dornoch website’s 10 things to do in Dornoch.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The beach at Dornoch is dog friendly year round and ours absolutely loved charging around here! There are poo bins in Dornoch so make sure you dispose of any poos to keep the beach nice for the next walker.

Clashnessie Beach and Falls

We actually found Clashnessie beach completely by accident. We had been looking on the Visit Scotland website (which is a really good way of finding places to stay and things to do) for local waterfalls and just drove to the village expecting to do a short walk to the falls. We were not expecting the amazing beach which we had entirely to ourselves! It was also the only beach we visited which had no jellyfish but I think this was just a coincidence.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This was my favourite beach stop of the entire trip! The dogs agreed and spent a fab half an hour zooming across the sand and splashing in the sea (Coal was very brave until he tried to jump through a big wave, less brave after that).

Clashnessie is a very small community and I think that the majority of visitors come to see the magnificent Clashnessie Falls. Sadly I think lots of people leave litter and worse after their visit, and there are signs up in the village requesting that visitors take all rubbish away with them.

The falls are easily reached by a short walk from the main road (park in the large lay-by parking area just outside the village). Follow the path indicated by a fingerpost for 10-15 minutes to arrive at the falls. The path can be wet and boggy, and you will need to cross some stepping stones which can be slippery, so sensible footwear is recommended! The short walk is definitely worth it though, with the falls being very impressive whatever the weather.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. I’ve given this quite a low score compared to other walks purely due to the length of the walk – it’s very short and probably won’t tire your dog out. The path was also starting to get a bit busier by the time we left, and it was a bit tricky getting the dogs to climb up the side of the path to move out of people’s way. As always though Merry absolutely loved the stepping stone crossing and the opportunity to have a swim around!

The Point of Stoer

This was my favourite walk of the whole trip. It was another one that we found in the Pocket Mountains book, but again, a similar route is available on Walkhighlands. The walk is just over 4 miles and took us about 3 hours to complete, including plenty of stops to enjoy the magnificent views of Stoer Lighthouse and the Old Man of Stoer (pictured). It’s probably worth noting that we had absolutely amazing weather for this walk – I’m not sure I would have enjoyed such an exposed walk if it was raining or windy!

There is free parking at the start of the walk by Stoer Lighthouse and a public toilet which is 50p to use. I put in my 50p and then had a panic because I couldn’t get the door to open – persevere, the handle is stiff but it does open eventually! The inside of the toilet won’t be featuring in my ‘top ten cleanest public toilets’, but it was better than nothing. Slightly more scary was the cow that was waiting outside the door when I opened it on my way out, but I think the cow was more scared of me than the other way around!

Bovine toilet manager

Thanks to the fact that the sun was fully shining, the sea was tropical blue rather than grey, although the sea up here always seems blue to me whatever the weather! The views were outstanding and it was so clear that we could even sea across to the Isle of Lewis!

The walk out to the Old Man of Stoer was much busier than the sections we did to the Point of Stoer and the return inland. This is a shame because the views from the Point and from the summit of Sithean Mor are fantastic – you get a panoramic vista which includes pretty much every distinctive mountain in Assynt!

The path out to the Point of Stoer along the coast is pretty wet and boggy, although this could be due to the amount of rain we’d had the day before. The return inland after the summit of Sithean Mor was much drier, but I would still recommend sturdy footwear (and watch out for cow pats!). There were some cows hanging around at the start of the walk but they were all very chilled out and took no notice of us whatsoever.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This wasn’t the most dog friendly walk we did – there was no fresh water really, and the steep drops off the cliffs meant they needed to be kept on leads all the way around. There was however no road walking and after an afternoon of bracing sea air they both spent the whole evening fast asleep!

Clachtoll

Clachtoll is a tiny hamlet with a sizeable campsite and pretty beach. The sea here is turquoise whatever the weather and by climbing the small rise away from the beach you get great views of the mountains rising up from the beach.

There is also an Iron Age broch located a short walk from the beach, thought to be the remains of a tower around 2,000 years old. It is one of the most complete Iron Age buildings I’ve ever visited and you can actually climb into the broch itself, but please be careful not to damage the site. The broch can be reached via a short walk from the beach car park which is sign posted along the way – you can return either in land along the road or back the way you came along the coast.

The coastal path you follow to get to the broch is very faint, but keep the sea on your left and you will get there eventually! We chose to return the way we had come and the views coming back are even better than on the way out. Parking at the beach car park is free but there is a donation box for the Highland Ranger service if you wish to contribute,

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The beach is slightly smaller than Clashnessie (which we visited on the same day) and had quite a few more people (but I think the total number of people on the beach was still less than 20). As with a lot of the beaches we visited, there were jellyfish on the shore, so keep an eye on your dog and what they might be eating!

Kylesku

The final walk we did was part of the linear walk from Kylestrome to Glendhu Bothy. We had originally planned to do the whole walk but ended up having to drive to Ullapool to sort out a car issue in the morning (massive thank you to Loch Broom garage for squeezing us in, I couldn’t recommend them more). Consequently we only had about an hour and a half left to walk, so we just started along the track and turned around after 45 minutes. And I’m so glad we decided not to go for a shorter walk somewhere else!

The views of the mountains were incredible, especially Quinag, but what will make this walk stay with me forever is that we were lucky enough to spot some seals! They were very well camouflaged so you might not be able to spot them in the photo – you will just have to trust me that they were there!

As well as the seals sunbathing on the shore, we also spotted quite a few swimming in the water. This was actually how we first noticed them, as we originally wondered why there was a dog swimming in the loch with no owner in sight! When we saw the ‘dog’ disappear below the surface and reappear somewhere else we realised that it was actually a seal – amazing! Having dogs I have always resigned myself to being very unlikely to spot much wildlife so this was an incredible experience.

In addition to the seals, we saw a huge array of birds and three young stags grazing next to the car park when we finished the walk. The stags were really skittish so I only managed to catch one on camera – and even that is pretty far away!

There is a good path throughout this walk which is well surfaced, even if the terrain does undulate up and down a little! There are sections where you will need to cross water via stepping stones but these are infrequent and the water around the stones isn’t deep. Parking is free in a car park just off the A894 – be warned that it is really difficult to find if you don’t know where it is, as it isn’t visible from the road, nor is it sign posted. Definitely worth looking at a GPX file or similar before you set off!

Once you’ve finished your walk I would definitely recommend heading to the dog friendly Kylesku Hotel for lunch. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, including plenty of fresh sea food options which I would highly recommend! As with all restaurants now it is definitely worth calling ahead to book a table to make sure you don’t get turned away.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. While much of this walk would have been perfect for the dogs, we decided to keep them on leads for the majority of the time, just in case Merry charged down to the water and ended up disturbing the seals. However, they both still enjoyed it, and there are areas where the water crosses the path and is deep enough for a little paddle!

Wailing Widow Falls

Not long after our visit to the Far North West in 2018, photos of Wailing Widow Falls started popping up on my Instagram. The Falls get their name from a local legend which says that a hunter chasing a deer into the night ran over the edge of the cliff and fell to his death in the gorge. The next day his mother, a widow, saw his body in the gorge and lamented his death from the cliff top, before throwing herself into the gorge to join her son in death.

I’m not sure how true the legend is, but the waterfall is an impressive sight regardless. The classic shots from Instagram show both the loch above the waterfall and the falls themselves, however, it would be pretty impossible to get this view without a drone or similar – sorry to disappoint!

The falls are accessed from a small lay-by off the A894 near Newton – again, there is no indication that this is anything other than a lay-by, so look it up before you go! The falls are a popular stop off on the NC500 and the lay-by can get pretty full, so make sure you park considerately (unlike someone who had just abandoned their car at the front of the parking area when we visited, blocking about 5 spaces! Grrr). The track down to the falls is muddy and very uneven so make you wear appropriate footwear. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the parking area to the falls, so it’s not a long stop, and definitely worth it if you’re passing by.

Where we stayed

We stayed in Heather Cottage on the lovely Cathair Dhubh estate on the Lochinver/Kylesku coastal road. All of the cottages overlook the sea and are within walking distance of a number of beaches, including Achmelvich. Achmelvich has seasonal dog restrictions but the rest of the beaches you can access from the cottage are fine for dogs year round – our favourite was the sandy Vestey’s beach about 20 minutes walk from the cottage.

Inside the cottage was very cosy, with stunning views over the sea from the living room, and a view point with a bench perfect for watching the sunset a stone’s throw from the cottage. The location was absolutely perfect for us with the majority of the walks we did being less than an hour away – ideal when you’ve had a long drive to get there in the first place! It’s worth noting that the WiFi here isn’t the most reliable, and there isn’t much in the way of mobile signal, so use this as an opportunity to socially distance yourself from your phone – you might enjoy it!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are five cottages at Cathair Dhubh and all are dog friendly – we came across quite a few other dogs running down to the beach from their cottages with their owners running behind! There was plenty of space inside the cottage we stayed in too, so it was ideal for getting ready to go out without the dog under your feet all the time! I have just knocked off a point as there is no enclosed garden area, so when we took the dogs out for a last bedtime wee we needed to put their leads on and go out with them. In the grand scheme of things though I feel like that is being a bit pedantic when the beach is walking distance!

I think this might be the record for the longest blog post I’ve ever written – I certainly feel like we managed to pack a lot in to our week! If Assynt looks like the kind of place you’d like to explore I honestly couldn’t recommend it any more – we absolutely adore it.

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5 Classic Lake District Walks

What makes a Lake District walk a classic? To be honest, this is totally down to personal opinion, but the walks I’m going to share below all offer magnificent views even if the sun doesn’t come out! For this reason they are all quite popular with walkers, but don’t let the chance of encountering a few more walkers than normal put you off – everyone should try all of these walks at least once!

5. Grasmere

In the sunshine, a walk around Grasmere is as pleasant a stroll as you are likely to find anywhere in the country. In the rain, it is eerily atmospheric, and the trees along the shore at least provide you with a bit of shelter from the rain!

Grasmere can be walked alongside neighbouring Rydal Water to make a circular walk of about five and a half miles. The scenery along this walk is as quintessentially Lakeland as it comes, with the fells rising dramatically from the foot of the lake in every direction. Every time I have done this walk it has absolutely bucketed it down but that has never diminished my enjoyment of it. If you are lucky the sun might come out for five minutes!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There is plenty of water on this walk as you would imagine! We actually had to walk away from the lake, and leave Merry swimming around to get him to come out of the lake, he was having so much fun! There is also a woody area by Grasmere with no livestock where Merry has spent many hours charging around following exciting smells and jumping/climbing over fallen logs (he’s part spaniel, part three day eventer). Whatever the weather this is a perfect walk for dog owners – I’d just recommend taking a water proof coat – just in case!.

4. Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows is somewhere I’d always seen people talking about and posting pictures of, but that I’d never managed to get to. We rectified that in February this year on a weekend trip where the weather forecast was a bit too ‘unfavourable’ to head up on to the fells.

This walk had it all – mountain views, a beautiful tarn and an optional detour to the Tom Gill waterfall. The walk around the tarn is a very easy 2 mile circular route starting from the Tarn Hows car park (National Trust members park free, charges apply for non members).

The tarn was originally three smaller natural tarns which were combined to form the single body of water you can see today. The site is an important habitat for a range of species and as such is a designated SSSI. As part of the ongoing conservation on the site, the National Trust graze both Herdwick sheep and Belted Galloway cattle. We only saw the cows on our trip and they definitely weren’t remotely interested in us, I’m sure many readers will be relieved to hear, probably as they see so many people everyday that it’s not that exciting anymore!

The path is level and pretty flat all the way around (not on the detour to the waterfall though), and it is perfect for an easy stroll if you don’t want an arduous trek, but still want nice views. Because it is so accessible it can be pretty busy but it wasn’t too bad when we visited – albeit in-between storms in February!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Merry loved this walk! There is a slightly wooded section which offers plenty of exciting smells as well as the chance to have a swim at times. I’ve just knocked off a point as the site can be pretty busy and around livestock leads should be on.

3. Scafell Pike

I couldn’t write a blog called ‘5 Classic Lake District Walks’ and not include Scafell Pike. Probably the most heavily trodden route in the Lake District, England’s highest mountain gets more than its fair share of visitors. As such it’s not my favourite as you do feel a bit like you’re on a conveyor belt with other walkers constantly passing in both directions. However, the views from the summit on a clear day are spectacular and you soon stop worrying about all the other people knocking about!

The most popular route and the one that we did starts from Wasdale Head. Many people assume that as it is so heavily walked, the route to the top is easy and requires no map reading or navigation skills – think again! Wasdale Mountain rescue have a really helpful page dedicated to Scafell Pike which includes maps of the different routes to take and things to bear in mind before setting off, and this is definitely worth a read before heading up the mountain.

Lots of people who hike up Scafell are heading up there as a box ticker for highest mountain in England or as part of the 3 Peaks Challenge. If you want the great views but less people, try neighbouring Great Gable, where the views are almost the same (or better if you follow the route including Kirk Fell) and the summit is nowhere near as crowded.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. For fit dogs, this is a great walk, but it might be a bit much for older dogs and would definitely be too far for puppies. There is a water crossing on the way which Merry loved splashing around in, but there are also long stretches with no water, (and no shade if you are walking on a hot day), so take something for your dog to drink. There is livestock all the way up and down on this walk so keep your dog on a lead and pick up poos – so many people walk this route that someone is definitely going to step in it if you don’t and it’s the last thing anyone wants at the end of a long hike!

2. Derwentwater Round

Starting from the bustling and popular town of Keswick, the 10 mile Derwentwater round is perfect for those looking for a long walk with great views, but who don’t want a strenuous climb.

I walked this on my own as my first solo hike and it was perfect – if you’re a woman and unsure about starting off on your own like I was – the walk is popular enough that you won’t feel isolated and navigation is pretty easy by making sure you keep the lake to one side! I wasn’t totally alone as Merry accompanied me, as always.

There are lots of interesting features and viewpoints along this walk, including Friar’s Crag, and Lodore Falls can be easily incorporated through a quick detour. Lodore Falls are located just behind the Lodore Falls Hotel and Spa and are a relatively quiet spot, and and this was roughly half way on the circuit I did, It was the perfect place to stop for lunch. The hotel was a bit out of my price range so it was a packed lunch only for me!

Once you arrive back in Keswick, why not call into one of the many dog friendly cafes to recover your energy. Two of my favourites are Java Coffee Shop and Jasper’s Coffee House, both of which are dog friendly. The lovely people at the Java Coffee Shop let me stretch out a hot chocolate and piece of cake for about two hours while I was waiting for Sam at the Keswick checkpoint on the Cumbria Way Ultra, and Jasper’s Coffee House is nowhere near as busy as other coffee shops because it’s not on the main road with all the outdoor shops.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are plenty of sections on this walk where your dog can be let off the lead, as well as lots of swimming spots, so Merry loved this walk. There is a small amount of road walking in places and a few fields with livestock in. However, don’t let this put you off, as this is a fab walk and well worth the effort!

1. Blencathra

Blencathra, a.k.a. Saddleback, is one of the mostly northerly fells of the Lake District, and we’d driven past it dozens of times before deciding to stop off on our way home at the end of a weekend away last year. And I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner!

The views from the summit are cracking, and I don’t know if it was just the light on the day we visited of if other people experience the same feeling when they climb Blencathra, but for me it was like looking through a series of windows into other places. On a clear day you can see a number of ranges in the Lakes, the Forest of Bowland, the Cheviots and the distant mountains of Galloway in Scotland. You also get awesome views of the mountain itself on your ascent/descent – we chose not to walk Sharp Edge which meant we got a great view of it on our way down!

Blencathra is a very popular walk, but we chose a less well trodden route starting from Mungrisdale, and we barely saw anyone until we reached the summit itself. Our return via Souther Fell was equally quiet and we only saw one or two fell runners on this path. A similar route to the one we followed is this 11 mile circular walk on Lake District Walks. I have to say this is one of my favourite walks in the Lakes – the views are so varied and ever changing, and away from the summit it’s so quiet you could be a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of peaks like Scafell Pike and Helvellyn.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Like the majority of fell walks in the Lake District there are sheep throughout this walk, so keep your dog under close control, preferably on a lead. We did take an extending lead with us on this walk as large sections of the path were flat and grassy, so Merry still got to run up and down, without us having to worry about him chasing any sheep! There was very little water on the route so you will need to carry extra for your dog, especially as this is a bit of a longer walk. I would definitely recommend avoiding Sharp Edge if you are taking your dog on this walk – lots of dogs can and do manage the ridge – but I am always aware with Merry that all it would take is one puddle that looks big enough to swim in at the bottom and I’d be pulled straight down the side!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today! For those looking for a quieter walk in the Lakes, have a look at my post 5 Undiscovered Lake District Walks. If you don’t want to miss our next post make sure that you subscribe below:

Semerwater

Semerwater has previously been called ‘the Atlantis of the Dales’. One of only three natural lakes in North Yorkshire, legend has it that the village of Semer was lost to a flood after a travelling hermit (who was also a sorcerer) cursed the village for refusing to offer him shelter. The only villagers to escape the rising waters were a family living in a shepherd’s hut higher up the dale, who were the only ones to offer the traveller a place to stay…

The lake is popular for a variety of water sports, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing and SUP – more details can be found on the Lake Semerwater website for those with their own equipment. Alternatively a number of companies such as Alfresco Adventures offer water sports courses/equipment hire on the lake.

Semerwater is the source of the river Bain, which at just under four kilometres is one of the shortest rivers in England, and powers a small hydro electric dam which provides electricity to most of the properties in nearby Bainbridge.

Bainbridge is a popular starting location for those who want to walk to Semerwater. This six mile circular walk from Walking Britain offers wonderful views over Wensleydale and takes you along the Roman Cam High Road, which is a rather bleaker side of Wensleydale but equally beautiful. You don’t spend too long on this road – much of the walk passes through green meadows and the return leg follows the river back to Bainbridge.

There is roadside parking along the village green in Bainbridge – please park considerately and leave some money in the honesty box.

There are plenty of opportunities for spotting local wildlife on this walk – there were dozens of lapwings in the fields we passed through and Sam even spotted an owl when we passed through an overgrown woody area!

The walk itself is pretty hilly on the way to Semerwater but the return to Bainbridge is generally flatter. Navigation skills are required as the path is at times indistinct and turning points can be easily missed (we detoured slightly after missing the turn off the Roman road!

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Like many walks in this part of the Dales, many of the fields you walk through will contain livestock, and in these areas dogs should be kept on a lead. We didn’t go down to the lake itself as it was pretty busy with people in canoes and kayaks when we walked past, but the river Bain is accessible in places and is a great place for your pooch to have a paddle or a drink. The main section where you can let your dog off is the long walk along the Roman road, which is walled off and doesn’t have any traffic passing along. Ours both loved this walk, and as an added bonus it was very quiet with very few other dog walkers, so if you have a noisy dog like Coal there’s one less thing to worry about!

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Wallington Hall

We’ve made the day trip up to Wallington Hall a few time now – it’s a great day out with lots to see and do, and best of all, it’s dog friendly! Wallington is a National Trust property not far from Morpeth in Northumberland. It is a gorgeous house surrounded by overflowing gardens and a few longer walks around the surrounding parkland and countryside.

The house was built in the 18th century in the Palladian style and has been owned by the National Trust since 1942. The history of the house extends much further than this though, with the cellars of the house being all that remains of the medieval manor house which once stood here. The house changed hands a few times over the years before becoming the property of the National Trust but seems to have been a country escape for wealthy landowners from the Newcastle area. It’s definitely somewhere I’d be happy to have as a holiday home!

There is plenty of car parking on site and entry is free for National Trust members (charges for non-members can be found on the National Trust website). There is a cafe/tea room on site and plenty of space on the grass for a picnic!

The gardens at Wallington are a delight. Every time we have visited they have been bursting with life – and not just the borders! We saw a very cute clutch of ducklings in the stream on our first visit and there is no shortage of wildlife on the rest of the estate. There are bird hides in the grounds where you have a chance of spotting woodpeckers and red squirrels or take a stroll along the river for the chance to spot an otter.

The walled garden at Wallington is one of my favourites ever – it is so full and vibrant that it makes lots of other walled gardens elsewhere look rather drab! Every time we have visited there has been something slightly different to see – but that might be because there is simply so much there that we missed it the time before!

The Wallington estate is huge – over 20 square miles! This means that there are plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs for those who like walking. The National Trust provides details of 4 walking trails of varying length and difficulty. When we visited we did the easy 2 mile River walk, which is a lovely gentle stroll predominantly through woodland, with the opportunity to call in and see the bird hides on the way. Next time we go though I would love to explore the longer walk around Greenleighton Moor which looks a bit more challenging.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Dogs on leads are welcome in the walled garden here, and there were a few water bowls out in the courtyard for dogs to drink from when we visited which was nice. Merry absolutely loves the woods here and is always desperate for a paddle in the river! As always please pick up after your dog, there are plenty of bins here so no excuses!

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Far from the Madding Crowd – Bank Holiday Weekend in the Forest of Bowland

I booked a weekend in the Forest of Bowland rather impulsively towards the end of last year, as I’d heard that it was completely undiscovered, and it seemed like the perfect place to go for a ‘quiet’ bank holiday weekend. Cue the scenes of pandemonium which have frequented the British countryside this summer, and as our trip approached, I was feeling increasingly nervous that our quiet weekend away would be one of scrabbling to find a parking space and trying to artistically aim the camera to avoid families picnicking by a stream!

I was so wrong! The Forest of Bowland is going to be one of our new ‘go to’ weekend destinations: over the whole Bank Holiday weekend you could probably count the number of other people we saw on one hand. And what a beautiful, unspoilt part of the country! For somewhere so close to many large towns and cities, it was blissfully litter and crowd free, perhaps because people bypass it on their way to the Lake District. We had a wonderful time and cannot wait to go back – a weekend just wasn’t enough! Read on to find out more about the places which converted us to Lancashire (don’t tell any of our Yorkshire neighbours!).

The Forest of Bowland

For those who have never heard of the Forest of Bowland, you could be forgiven for thinking that the term ‘Forest’ suggests that this is somewhere with a lot of trees. This is actually incorrect, as the phrase ‘Forest’ harks back to the Middles Ages, and just means an area protected for hunting (i.e. no poaching allowed on pain of death!). Long ago the area was roamed by deer, wild boar and even wolves.

The Forest of Bowland was one such area – it was actually part of the land held by the earldom of Lancaster. Much of the land today is Access Land (rather than Public Right of Way) and therefore you will need to check before you take your dog with you – all of the walks we did were dog friendly, but if you head out on a different walk, check before you go. The North Western area (where we stayed) is where the majority of dog restrictions are but there are still plenty of walks you can do with your canine companion! The Cicerone Forest of Bowland and Pendle book has lots of walks and states explicitly in the information box which walks don’t permit dogs, which was really helpful.

The landscape of the Forest of Bowland is wonderfully varied. There are miles of rolling heather topped hills, lush valleys full of grazing livestock and pockets of green and vibrant woodland. The land is probably so vivid due to the amount of rainfall in Lancashire, but we were so lucky with the weather when we visited – sunny everyday and ‘coats off’ walking weather!

The Forest of Bowland is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, something I wholeheartedly agree with, especially in August when the heather is out! The Forest of Bowland is also one of the best places in the UK to spot Hen Harriers – so much so that the bird is the emblem of the AONB. The AONB also covers the nearby area around Pendle Hill, with a gap in the Ribble Valley between the two, although this is also a beautiful place to go walking.

Arnside & Silverdale AONB

On the first day of our visit we popped over to the neighbouring AONB of Arnside & Silverdale. This 8 mile circular walk from Where2Walk takes in all that the area has to offer: beach, woodland, rolling fields and a nice hill to finish off with! There is limited free parking along the shorefront in Arnside but we still managed to get a space at about 9.30am.

I just couldn’t get past the fact that we had the beach practically to ourselves for the whole time we were walking on it – and on a bank holiday too! I think I must have sounded like a broken record! The views across Morecambe Bay were absolutely stunning with the Lakeland Fells rising in the distance. The tide can come in extremely quickly here, make sure you stay near the shore path, so that you can scramble out of the way if necessary!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Merry and Coal had the time of their lives on this walk! You could almost hear them shouting ‘BEST. DAY. EVER!’ as they were zooming around on the beach. There is the opportunity for off-lead walks on the inland sections as well, with plenty of woodland paths, but please put them back on a lead if you encounter any livestock in the fields you pass through (we saw sheep and cows). There are poo bins in both Arnside and Silverdale, as well as a few in what must be popular spots with local dog walkers, so it makes a nice change not to have to carry any poos all the way around with you!

Central Moors

We were very lucky to witness the explosion of colour in the Central Moors, as when I booked this trip, I had no idea that there was even any moorland to explore!

This six and a half mile circular walk from the Explore Bowland website around Haredon and Langden gave us the best views of the trip. We walked for about three miles and it felt like we had arrived somewhere you would need to walk for days to reach, as it was so utterly peaceful and wild, and felt totally remote from the rest of the world. The walk takes you past both Haredon and Langden intakes – much of the land is owned by United Utilities – and I was completely gobsmacked to read that the Forest of Bowland provides 110 million litres of water to homes in the North West EVERY DAY. I know it rains a lot in the North West but I still can’t quite get my head around that fact!

The weather was definitely on our side with this walk – much of the terrain crossed is peat moorland, which would be exceptionally boggy if it had been raining. You also need to traverse a section of pathless moorland, so navigation skills are definitely required, or a good GPS app like the paid version of Ordnance Survey maps which is what we use.

We also needed to cross Langden Brook, which was easier said than done, as recent rainfall had submerged the stepping stones completely. In the end I managed to get across on my tiptoes but Sam ended up wading through – so take a spare pair of dry socks just in case!

This was another day where we turned up relatively late (9.30am on Bank Holiday Sunday) and we were the first car in the car park. I just don’t understand why people spend hours driving around the Lake District trying to park when all this is only down the road!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Dogs on leads are permitted on this walk, but they do need to be on a lead, due to the ground nesting birds they may disturb if they go romping through the heather – much of this area is a SSSI. That being said, this is a great walk for exploring lots of interesting smells, and there is water along the way for your dog to have a drink or a swim.

Bradford Fell

On the Eastern edge of the Forest of Bowland, Bradford Fell is named after the nearby village of West Bradford, rather than Bradford in West Yorkshire! This was the final walk of our trip and we weren’t sure whether to head here or somewhere else (we thought about both Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest), but decided that as it was Bank Holiday Monday, heading for the hills would be the safest bet for a nice quiet walk.

We definitely made the right choice! We saw a grand total of 3 people in the 4 hours we were walking. We followed the route from the Cicerone book but a similar route map is available on AllTrails. We started in the very picturesque village of Grindleton, where there is limited free roadside parking, arriving at 9.45am on Bank Holiday Monday and getting a space with no problem!

This walk has something for everyone – starting on quiet country lanes (we saw one tractor and no cars), you head through fields and quickly end up on heather moorland, before briefly detouring along the edges of a forestry plantation. We then headed back onto a walled lane through the moorland, and eventually dropped down to a mixture of farmland and woodland, ending the walk in a lovely Woodland Trust wood. You get great views of Pendle Hill on this walk, and briefly walk along the Pendle Witches Way, a 48 mile long distance path which traces the historic journey of the infamous Pendle witches.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. While passing through farmland or open moorland we kept the dogs on their leads, but let them off on the walled lanes and woodland paths where they were able to let off some steam! There was surface water throughout this walk but it is probably worth taking some extra along on a hot day.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the fantastic Rooten Brook Farm, which is very well located for walks around the Forest of Bowland, with fantastic views over Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland Fells (we were glued to the sunsets every night!). The farm is a working farm with both sheep and cows as well as breeding and training sheepdogs.

There are three cottages available to book via cottages.com – don’t forget that you can use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to get up to £99 off! We stayed in Lakeland View and it was very cosy, with a large mezzanine bedroom, and an open plan kitchen/living room downstairs. There is plenty of parking and an enclosed outside space shared with the other two cottages.

The owner has gone to great lengths to make the property feel safe during the Covid-19 pandemic – all soft furnishings like throws and cushions have been removed and all cooking equipment is being washed in between guests. Most impressively, the owner isn’t cashing in on the massive demand for staycations, and is leaving 72 hours in between guests in each property. It felt super safe and we were able to relax completely.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. When we booked this trip, we only had one dog, so our new addition could have put a spanner in the works! The owner very kindly allowed us to bring along a second dog and the cottage was perfect for them. The floor is flagged downstairs which is always a weight off a dog owner’s mind! The track down to the road from the cottage was also ideal for pre- bedtime walkies, with great views for humans and great smells for the dogs. I think Merry and Coal loved our stay here just as much as we did and we would love to come back one day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog today! The Forest of Bowland was an amazing place to visit and we can’t wait to go back – if you’ve been, let me know what you thought in the comments!

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Sutton Bank

Sutton Bank is a hill on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, and one of the highest points in the Hambleton Hills. It is perhaps best known for James Herriot’s proclamation that the top of Sutton Bank offers ‘The Finest View in England’, or if you are a motorist, for the hellishly steep road that has many a 1.2 driver breaking out in a cold sweat! This barely scratches the surface of all that Sutton Bank has to offer – there is an abundance of history, nature and adventure all waiting to be discovered!

The Finest View in England

Visitors to the Sutton Bank National Park Centre can take a short walk from the car park to ‘the Finest View in England’. From the viewing platform you get extensive views over the Vales of York and Mowbray for absolutely no effort walking. While I’m not sure that I would agree with Herriot’s declaration (in my opinion there are better views elsewhere in the Moors and Dales), I can’t deny that the view is without a doubt very fine, extending for miles as far as the eye can see. ‘

Among the landmarks the you can see from the bank are Roulston Scar, Hood Hill and Gormire Lake. Roulston Scar was discovered to hold the remains of one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in the North of England and is one of a series of promontary forts in the area. Gormire Lake is one of only three natural lakes in North Yorkshire, the other two being Malham Tarn and Semerwater in the Dales, and Hood Hill was the site of a medieval Motte and Bailey castle.

There is a pay and display car park by the main building with plenty of spaces, although this can fill up quickly. The visitor centre has a cafe, bike hire station and a lovely shop, which is the perfect place to pick up a gift for friends or family (or yourself!). It has a wonderful selection of walking books, art and homeware, with lots of Yorkshire themed merchandise available!

By strolling just a little way along the bank you can reach the White Horse of Kilburn, a famous local landmark which many have driven past, but few stop to investigate more closely.

The White Horse

In the 19th century a gentleman named Thomas Taylor travelled to the South, and while he was there, saw the famous chalk hill figures. He decided, on his return to North Yorkshire, that he wanted his home village to have a drawing of its own. His idea was taken up by a local schoolmaster, and thus in 1857, the White Horse of Kilburn was born.

The White Horse was outlined by the schoolmaster and local school children, then a group of volunteers did the cutting, before finally spreading 6 tons of lime onto the rock to whiten it. To this day regular maintenance is required to keep the horse looking white, as the limestone beneath is naturally grey. The horse is visible for miles around (some say as far as north Leeds) and a well loved local landmark, although it was covered over during the Second World War, as the authorities were worried that it would be a target for German bombers!

If you don’t want to walk up any hills to reach the White Horse you can park at Sutton Bank National Park Centre and follow this 3 mile walk. Alternatively, if you don’t want to pay for parking, you can park at the Forestry England car park and follow the slightly shorter way marked White Horse trail.

It is worth pointing out that from the top of the bank you can’t actually see much of the White Horse itself due to your position at the top of it! You will however get a good view driving into Kilburn and there is a lay-by where you can stop and take a photo if you like.

The White Horse trail from the Forestry car park is very easy to follow. It starts with a steep climb up 151 steps(!), before continuing on a flat and level path along the top of the bank. This path gives you wonderful views and was much quieter than the section of path close by the visitor centre. You will also pass the Yorkshire Gliding Club, which is one of the oldest in the world. Your return to the car park is through mixed woodland which was practically deserted when I visited, but I was there very early in the morning, so it might get busier later.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The first half of this walk definitely requires dogs to be on leads – there is a steep drop to the left and the airfield is on the right, which your dog should absolutely not be allowed to run on to, as planes are active and your dog could cause a serious accident. You can however let your dog off in the woods, where there are plenty of exciting smells to explore, as well as enough room to have a good zoom around!

Gormire Lake and Garbutt Wood

The only true lake in the North York Moors, Gormire Lake is said to have been created when a village was swallowed by an earthquake, with the chimneys of the lost houses supposedly still visible at the bottom of the lake on a clear summer’s night.

The walk to Gormire Lake from the National Park Centre takes you steeply down through Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve, which is home to species such as blackcaps, redstarts and bullfinches. The walk I followed was from my constantly recommended Pocket Mountains book, but a similar walk can be found on Walking Britain.

The walk back up to the National Park Centre, whichever route you take, is diabolically steep. This was made worse by the fact that it had rained a lot the week before I visited so the path had turned into a bog in places! Once I had managed to haul myself back up to the top of the bank though I was rewarded with a cracking view of Roulston Scar and the fields below Sutton Bank.

This walk was surprisingly quiet given how busy the area around the National Park Centre can get. I only saw one other walker away from the main path at the top, although I suppose most people don’t fancy having to climb up a steep hill first thing on a Sunday morning!

I actually enjoyed this walk a lot more than I expected to. The total stillness in the woods on the way to and from the lake was a little unnerving at first, but I soon found myself hearing bird calls and songs that I’d never heard before, and probably wouldn’t have heard at all if many other people ventured away from the top of the bank to walk through the reserve.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Dogs should be on a lead for the entirety of this walk due to the sensitive nature of the site, and Gormire Lake is privately owned, with a sign stating no swimming or fishing is allowed. However, this is still a nice walk to do with your dog, and there are normally water bowls for your dog to drink from at the National Park Centre. There is plenty of shade from the trees, so this might be one to consider on a warmer day.

Hood Hill

I didn’t realise you could walk around Hood Hill until I parked at the Forestry England car park to do the White Horse trail and saw that there was a Hood Hill trail also available from this starting point. The 5km trail is pretty much all through woodland and is definitely my favourite of the three walks in this blog! The woods were completely and utterly peaceful and, while there weren’t panoramic views like those in the previous walks, I have never seen quite so many different shades of green.

The woods are thick enough to make you feel like you are somewhere totally wild, but still allow plenty of light in, so they aren’t dark or oppressive. The path is way marked but the way markers are often hidden behind overgrown ferns, so you will need to keep your eyes peeled if you want to spot them! There were a few sections where it wasn’t clear which way you needed to go, but we stuck to the rule that we went straight on unless sign posted otherwise, and we got all the way around without having to turn back.

The path was often very muddy, and I think the ground here must be quite wet all the time, so this is probably best saved for a sunny day unless you don’t mind a bit of mud! There was one section where the path was very overgrown with nettles and brambles but it wasn’t impassable – long sleeves and trousers recommended for this reason. Speaking of brambles, take a Tupperware box with you if you head here in blackberry season, as there was a section of the path with plenty of blackberry bushes.

The way markers did stop close to the end of the trail when you reach a small parking area by the road. If you cross the road and take the path on the edge of the trees running parallel to the road, this will take you back to the main car park without having to walk along the road, which has lots of hair pin bends.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. I had Coal off the lead all the way on this walk and he had an absolute ball! Merry was relegated to on lead only as there were just far too many interesting smells for him to come back when he was called. The trail is absolutely perfect for dog owners who want to be able to let their dog off the lead to let off a bit of steam. The trees are also perfect for keeping you out of the sun on a hot day, not that we experienced this in classic British Summer weather! We will definitely be making this one of our local go to walks as it was wonderful to be able to let the dogs off without having to worry about any sheep popping up around the corner!

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Super Swaledale: 6 Walks for the Uninitiated

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I bang on about Swaledale all the time. I am 100% guilty and completely unapologetic! Swaledale is my absolute favourite part of the Dales. It is more rugged than the ever-so-slightly manicured Wensleydale to the South, and much quieter than the tourist hotspots of Malhamdale and Ribblesdale. The famous logo of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a Swaledale ram – as far as I’m concerned, that’s an official declaration that Swaledale is the best of the Dales! Many of the place names are handovers from when the Vikings lived in the area, and in more recent history, the crumbling remains of lead mines can be discovered on many of the walks I will share below. We are lucky enough to have Swaledale pretty much on our doorstep, so I thought I would share some of my favourite walks – prepare to become a Swaledale convert! You’ll have to read all the way to the end to find out my favourite!

6. Richmond and Easby Abbey

Richmond is a beautiful historic town right on the edge of Swaledale. In addition to its bustling market square and independent shops, the town is also home to one of the oldest stone castles in England, which started construction in 1071. Richmond Castle is a ruin these days but can still be visited by the public, and is easily accessed in the centre of town.

This very easy circular walk passes close by the castle as you leave Richmond, before following the river Swale to Easby Abbey, returning along a clear and flat path. There are a few places that you can park in Richmond, we usually end up using a Pay and Display as roadside parking is very limited. Easby Abbey is another ruin in the hands of English Heritage and is both free to visit and dog friendly – it’s the perfect place to stop and have lunch before walking back to Richmond. On warm days keep an eye out for the ice cream van as you arrive back into Richmond!

Dog friendly rating – 4.5/5. It would be very easy to give this walk full marks in terms of dog friendliness! The sections of the River Swale that you walk along are generally very calm and perfect for dogs to have a swim and a splash around. This walk is 99% off road with plenty of sections where you can let your dog off the lead (check there are no livestock in fields before letting your dog off). There are poo bins on this walk so no excuses for not picking up! The only reason I have knocked off half a point is because this walk does get busy, especially in Summer and at weekends, and it is very popular with dog walkers. If your dog prefers quieter walks this probably isn’t for you, but read on, as once you get away from the (relative) hustle and bustle of Richmond there is a whole Dale waiting to be explored…

5. Reeth and Marrick Priory

Most people heading to Reeth go to walk Fremington Edge and then go home. And what a missed opportunity! Reeth is my favourite town in the Dales and there are so many places to walk around here that you will see it pop up twice more later on in this list. There is parking on the the village green in Reeth, and if you park here, please put some money in the honesty box.

This walk from Reeth to Marrick Priory is from the AA 50 Walks in the Yorkshire Dales book (which I would definitely recommend to both visitors and locals looking to discover more of the countryside!), but if you don’t own this book, a similar route is available on Walk4Life. This route is shorter than the one in the book, only goes to Marrick Priory as a detour, and doesn’t give you the option to extend the walk over Fremington Edge. Therefore if you want to get the most out of this walk I would definitely recommend buying the book or using a map to connect up the footpaths from Marrick to High Fremington.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This is a lovely walk which is pretty much all off road apart from one short section. You will however need to keep your dog under close control as most of the fields you will pass through have livestock in them. There are poo bins in Reeth to dispose of any dog waste so make sure you leave the countryside as you find it!

4. Gunnerside Gill

Gunnerside Gill is the first walk on this list where you’ll get a chance to see some of Swaledale’s industrial heritage. There are remains of 19th century lead mines scattered across Swaledale, in places where it’s hard to imagine the landscape swarming with workers, and Gunnerside Gill is no exception.

One of the other things that I love about Swaledale is the way that walls appear on landscapes that look like no wall would ever stay up on them due to the undulations and ripples – prime example pictured on the right!

We did the Gunnerside Gill walk in the Yorkshire Dales Pocket Mountains book, but if you don’t have this book, there is a similar route available on the Swaledale Museum website. This is a pretty easy walk following the river. The views are typical of Swaledale all the way, although you do pass through a small wooded section at the start of the walk.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Similarly to the previous walk, there could be livestock throughout this walk. There is however the opportunity to splash in the water for a section of this walk which water loving pups like Merry will love!

3. Grinton and Maiden Castle

Grinton is the next village along from Reeth, and therefore we overlooked it for ages, carrying on to Reeth for all of our walks. We rectified that earlier this year with a walk up to Maiden Castle – the rough route we followed is available on ViewRanger. There is free roadside parking in Grinton but please park sensibly. When we walked this route it was slightly drizzly, and the higher up we got the wetter it got, but this didn’t dampen our spirits too much as the views were wonderful! I especially loved the view of Calver Hill on the walk out of Grinton (pictured).

The walk hugs the edge of High Harker Hill until you reach Maiden Castle – not the famous one in Dorset! – but still a scheduled monument which possibly dates from the Iron Age. You get lovely views over Reeth and drop down to return to Grinton along the river.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are plenty of the famous Swaledale sheep on the first half of this walk, so keep your dog under close control, especially at lambing time. The second half of this walk follows the river Swale back to Grinton and there are some sections where you will be able to let your dog off the lead as well as jumping into the river for a swim!

2. Keld to Muker

This is perhaps the most famous walk in Swaledale. Muker is home of some of the most beautiful hay meadows in the Dales, and if you are visiting in June when the wildflowers are in bloom, this walk is unmissable. In fact I would argue that it’s unmissable no matter what time of the year you visit! The walk follows the Pennine Way from Keld to Muker, offering amazing views into the valley for very little effort climbing, before descending into the hay meadows in Muker. The return on the opposite side of the valley follows the river to Keld, and you will come across the impressive Kisdon Force waterfall on your return to Keld.

For a short section of this walk you will pick up the Swaledale Corpse Way, so named, if you can’t guess, as it was the track villagers used to carry their dead from Keld to the consecrated ground in Grinton 16 miles away! This was quite obviously a very long way to carry a coffin and so large flat stones were laid along the path to enable the bearers to have a rest – see if you can spot any. Also keep your eyes peeled for the headless black dog which is said to haunt the way…

This walk is full of all the things that draw people to the Dales: spectacular views, tumble down barns, lush meadows, a winding river and a fairytale waterfall… need I go on? This is another route from the AA 50 walks in the Yorkshire Dales book, but a route starting along the river and returning on the Pennine Way is available on the Northern Echo website. There is a small-ish car park in Keld (which includes toilets) but get there early as it can fill up.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. There could be livestock throughout this walk apart from a few short sections, and you will need to keep in single file with dogs on leads when passing through the hay meadows. However, Merry absolutely ADORED the section along the river, and I literally had to drag him away from the water all of the way back! He also had an extended swim in the pool in front of Kisdon Force which was perfect for cooling him down at the end of the walk.

1. Surrender Bridge

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You prize is the knowledge of our favourite local walk, which is up at Surrender Bridge, near Reeth. There are so many walks you can do from here that I could probably write an entire blog post just about Surrender Bridge! The landscape up here is littered with the ruins of the 19th century lead mines so strongly associated with Swaledale, and the heather in bloom is absolutely stunning. You can follow the footpath from the road up to the Coast to Coast path on its way to Reeth, follow a circular walk, or invent your own walk – the footpaths up here span for miles in all directions!

The area is popular with mountain bikers but we never see more than one or two cyclists, and hardly ever any other walkers. You will instead see countless grouse and tiny birds along the river which a better twitcher than I could probably identify! The area is part of a SSSI and there is so much to explore if you know what to look for!

We tend to just wander aimlessly for a few hours, but if you want to follow a particular route, Walking Britain has a circular route which starts from Surrender Bridge (free roadside parking) and heads up to Great Pinseat. You will see plenty of lead mines up here and there are a few information boards dotted about with information about the area’s industrial heritage.

The distinctive landscape up here was formed by ‘hushing’ – torrents of water were released over the topsoil, removing the top layer, and revealing the lead veins beneath. There are so many old mining ruins that it almost seems like one day they just finished work and forgot to come back.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This area is part of a SSSI so dogs absolutely must be on a lead to avoid disturbing the local ecosystem (CCTV in operation). Despite this Merry absolutely loves coming up here – and a dip in the river is always a bonus! Please remember to pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly (bins in nearby villages).

Did you know..?

The Yorkshire Dales are famous for their tumble down stone barns, and nowhere are they more prevalent than in Swaledale. Muker has the highest density of these barns in the Dales with about 60 within 800m of the village centre!

The barns were constructed to store the hay cut and gathered in the meadows immediately surrounding them, avoiding a long walk carrying heavy bales of hay to a distant location. The hay would then be used to feed the animals which sheltered in the barn over the winter. I only found this out recently – until then I had just admired the barns and wondered why they had largely fallen into ruin. Now I know their original purpose and have realised how many there are, it makes sense that they aren’t all still in tip top condition!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Swaledale today – let me know in the comments if you’ve given any of these walks a try! If you’ve enjoyed reading this today make sure you subscribe below:

A Week in Powys

I can’t believe that it’s nearly been a whole year since we spent a week in Llandrindod Wells, a pretty spa town in Powys, Wales. It was perfectly situated for exploring the region, including adventures in the Brecon Beacons, Red Kite spotting and tea and cake at National Trust properties. We had bit of a battle with the weather but still managed to find something to occupy ourselves everyday…

View from the summit of the Sugar Loaf near Abergavenny

Where to stay

We stayed at the absolutely amazing and eco friendly Little Hill Lodges just outside of Llandrindod. There are two lodges onsite and we stayed in Siskin Lodge which is the larger of the two. The interior of the lodge has clearly had no expense spared. Particularly wonderful were the floor to ceiling windows in the bedrooms and living area, with fantastic views over the countryside surrounding the lodge. Despite being so close to the town the lodge feels totally and utterly secluded from the outside world.

The lodges are completely ‘off the grid’ and a great choice if you are looking for a green holiday option. The electricity comes from solar panels and the water from a well. Eco friendly shampoo, shower gel and washing up liquid is provided. There is a large lawn and sunken patio area (including a fire pit!) and the owner kindly provided a dog proof fence so we could let Merry off the lead outside without having to worry!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This property is perfect for dog owners who want to get away with their dog! There is plenty of outside space for dogs to run around, a wood burner to curl up in front of and the floors are easily cleaned. Merry absolutely loved it here and so did we!

Pen Y Fan

On the first day of our trip we had the only full day of sunshine we were getting that week – we therefore headed straight down to the Brecon Beacons National Park to tackle that iconic peak, Pen Y Fan. There is an absolutely fantastic horseshoe walk from Taf Fechan Forestry Commission car park which takes in Pen Y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn. The views are incomparable – standing on the summit of Corn Du and looking across to Cribyn it seems like someone has taken an ice cream scoop to the landscape. Once you get away from the honey pot of Pen Y Fan and Corn Du summits this walk is surprisingly quiet, although there are still more people around than on the other walks we explored.

This was my favourite walk, but I’m not sure if that was down to the views, the weather, or the fact that Sam managed to get us lost and add on an extra mountain (Fan Y Big) when his feet were already aching from running the Cumbria Way Ultra the week before! I think it’s the first time he has been more tired than me on a walk and it felt soo good to be the spritely one laughing at him being tired! I think the photo below sums up his dismay when he realised we had gone wrong:

Haha! Consulting the map on Fan Y Big with Cribyn, Corn Du and the edge of Pen Y Fan in the background

One of the other highlights of the walk for me was coming across a herd of Welsh Mountain Ponies in-between Corn Du and Cribyn. I was slightly apprehensive about passing them with a dog as they had foals, but they took no notice of us, and we spent a very enjoyable ten minutes watching the foals play. We also spotted a few Red Kites flying around as we came down Fan Y Big – a group of four who just seemed like they were riding the wind for fun!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This is a long walk which should wear out even the most athletic of pups – Merry did what we dubbed his ‘tired waddle’ for the first and only time we have ever seen on this walk! There are sheep and ponies throughout this walk so your dog will need to be under close control, preferably on a lead, especially when there are foals and lambs about. There is very little water on this walk so you will need to carry water for your dog to drink. Don’t let that put you off though as this walk really is something very special!!

Carreg Cennen

Wales has more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world. There are over 600 castles in the country and one of the most impressive is the dramatically sited ruins of 13th century Carreg Cennen Castle. There had been a castle of some form on this site for hundreds of years until the Wars of the Roses, when it was deliberately dismantled by the Yorkists after they captured it from the Lancastrian garrison. This romantic ruin is perhaps best known for being sketched by the artist Turner.

Cadw and English Heritage members receive discounted admission and entry prices are available on the castle website. There is plenty of parking on site although this was mostly empty when we visited!

While the castle today is a ruin, there is still plenty to see and do, not least the cave directly underneath the castle (take your own torch or rent one from the ticket office). There are panoramic views over the surrounding countryside from the interior of the castle, or take a stroll around one of the way marked walks to see wonderful views of the castle perched on a limestone cliff 300 feet above the river.

There are two way marked walks that start at the castle’s car park (free parking). We chose to do the longer of the two which is about 4 miles. The walk takes you through pastures, along the river and finally back up to the castle through woodland. When you reach the castle keep an eye out for their extremely photogenic herd of pedigree longhorn cattle who we glimpsed through the hedge on our way out.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The longer walk is great for dogs with water to splash in along the way and the chance to run around off the lead in the woods at the end. Dogs on leads are allowed on the ground floor of the castle so this day out is perfect for dog owners!

The National Botanic Garden of Wales

The National Botanic Garden of Wales now allows dogs on ‘Doggy Days’ (usually Mondays and Fridays but this is subject to change so check before you visit). This is a fab day out if you love gardens – the site is huge and there is a great variety of plants to see. In particular I loved the apothecary garden, where there are all sorts of plants with reputed medicinal properties, with explanations both modern and medieval in origin!

The Bird of Prey centre is also worth visiting if you get the chance. It is not dog friendly so we took turns to pop in and see the birds, and by standing at the end of the lane while the flying display was on, we still got to see the birds fly even if we couldn’t hear the commentary. We saw some beautiful birds, including the Sea Eagle pictured, and my personal favourite which was the snowy white Gyrfalcon.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. For a site that only allows dogs on certain days of the week I was really pleasantly surprised by how many places we could take Merry! The only place that was really off limits was the Bird of Prey centre and that is completely understandable. We were able to take Merry into the cafe with us, as well as the Great Glasshouse, which has one of the largest collections of Mediterranean plants in the world. Most dog friendly gardens tend to be pretty small or limit you to just parts of the garden with wide paths so this was a very nice change from the norm!

Brockhampton

In the middle of the week it was pouring with rain pretty much everywhere in Wales so we hopped over the border to Hereford. Hereford is a lovely city, with a historic cathedral, and plenty of the shops and cafes seemed to be dog friendly. We called in to Trekkit outdoor shop (dog friendly) to stock up on Nikwax re-proofing spray after being caught in one downpour too many at Carreg Cennen, and then had the rest of an afternoon to kill before heading back to the lodge. A quick Google of National Trust properties in the area revealed there was a small country manor called Brockhampton just down the road.

Brockhampton is perhaps the most charming manor house I have ever set eyes on. Everything about the exterior appeals to my old English senses, from the lily filled moat, to the timber framed wattle and daub building and the climbing rose by the front door. Entry to the site is free for National Trust members and there is also free parking on site.

The grounds were exceptionally quiet when we visited and we had a wonderful chat with the volunteer at the entrance, who told us all about the walks and the history of the house, as well as instructing us to help ourselves to sloes and apples from the orchard!

There are three way marked walks of varying lengths around the estate. We decided to do the woodland walk, which is around two miles, and I have to say this was one of my favourite walks of the holiday! Merry was able to be off lead for pretty much the whole two miles and he had an absolute whale of a time. The walk through mixed woodland was pretty muddy in places (unsurprising given the amount of rain we’d had that week!) and I did slip over when I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, but I think that was entirely my own fault!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Dogs are welcome on the estate and in the grounds around the house. Merry loved helping to ‘tidy’ up the windfall apples in the orchard and the woodland walk is ideal for a good run off the lead.

The Sugar Loaf

One of the walks that I really, really wanted to do when we visited was the Sugar Loaf near Abergavenny. It is an insta-famous location and I wanted to join the long list of people who have reached that summit!

There is a lovely National Trust walk you can do which also takes in St Mary’s Vale, a wonderfully weird wood full of trees growing in a bizarrely convoluted fashion. Walking through the wood felt a bit like walking through the set of Red Riding Hood in the scene where the wicked wolf jumps out! The walk was really quiet and we only saw another two or three walkers which really surprised me given the hill’s popularity – always a bonus to walking on a week day!

Navigation skills are required for this walk as paths in places are indistinct and hard to see. A large portion of this walk is reasonably level but be prepared for the slog up the Sugar Loaf itself as this is an unrelentingly steep climb! From the summit on a clear day you can see as far as Pen Y Fan and the Bristol channel (unfortunately it wasn’t quite clear enough for us!).

Parking for this walk is free for National Trust members at the National Trust car park. The car park is fairly small by National Trust standards but there were still plenty of spaces on the day we visited.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. If your dog is well behaved you can let it have a run around off the lead in the woods of St Mary’s vale, however, there are sheep throughout the rest of the walk so your dog will need to be on the lead for the majority of the walk. There is very little water on this walk so make sure that you take extra for your dog. As always, make sure that you pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly.

Caio Forest

We called at Caio Forest on a slightly drizzly mid-week day. There is free parking on site and three short walking trails which start from the car park. We did two out of the three and didn’t see a soul apart from a local dog walker as we were leaving.

The trees and plants in the forest were so vibrant (presumably because of all the rain we had!) that we kept having to stop to examine them. There was an abundance of blackberries and Merry taught himself how to go blackberry picking in the bushes!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This forest is perfect for letting your dog off the lead to have a good zoom around! There are no livestock and it seems to be pretty unknown apart from amongst dog walkers in the local village. The woods offer plenty of exciting smells and of course a mid-walk snack if you visit in blackberry season! If you want a longer walk you can link the walks at Caio with footpaths on the neighbouring Dolaucothi Estate.

The Dolaucothi Gold Mines

The only reason we called at the Dolaucothi Gold Mines was because it started raining hard before we could walk the third trail at Caio and we wanted to go somewhere dog friendly for a bit of shelter from the rain. And what a find! This National Trust site is amazing. It is completely dog friendly – the cafe, exhibitions and tours of the mines all allow dogs! There were some really interesting interactive displays about the history of the mines, as well as the opportunity to pan for gold, which is ideal for kids (and adults!).

Away from the centre of the site itself there are a number of walking trails to explore. We followed the Miner’s way trail which was absolutely fascinating and took you past the Roman entrances to the mines, as well as showing you the marks that miners over the centuries have left on the landscape.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere on this site which was lovely! The staff all made a big fuss of Merry too which doesn’t often happen when you have a soaking wet dog. The walking trail we followed was suitable for off lead walking in places but we did pass through a few fields with sheep where the lead went back on. I was totally blown away by this site and couldn’t recommend it more for a family or couple’s day out, dogs included!

Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station

Wales, and Powys in particular, have a strong historic association with Red Kites. Despite being widespread throughout Britain in the Medieval period, in the 19th and 20th centuries these beautiful birds suffered heavily due to raptor persecution, and their numbers dwindled until there were only a few breeding pairs remaining in the Welsh hills.

Thanks to a massive effort by volunteers (including the Welsh Kite Trust), Red Kites have made a come back, and Powys and the Brecon Beacons are the best place to go if you want to spot one. We saw Kites practically everyday that we were out and about, but if you want to see something really spectacular, head to one of the Red Kite feeding stations.

Most stations seemed to be pretty small establishments when I was googling a good place to go to see the Kites. We ended up heading to Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station as it was close enough to squeeze into a day trip with Caio Forest and the Dolaucothi Gold Mines.

They feed the birds at the same time each day so the birds learn the routine and you are guaranteed to see more Kites than you can take a photo of a once! The meat is dropped in a field in front of the hide and the birds get so close you can almost count their feathers! There were so many Kites when we visited that I gave up trying to count them after the first few minutes.

Entry was pretty cheap at £5 per person when we visited (check pricing on their website before you go) and you could stay for as long as you wanted. There is parking at a dedicated car park and you have to walk about 200m to get to the hide from the car park – not far at all and definitely worth it!

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Dogs on leads are allowed in the hide which was a really pleasant surprise for us! Merry was pretty tired from walks at both Caio and Dolaucothi earlier in the day so he just curled up and went to sleep while we watched the Kites. I’d only recommend taking your dog if they will sit quietly so that they don’t spoil the experience for you and other visitors by being noisy or boisterous. I’ve given a rating of 2/5 only because there isn’t much here for your dog to do apart from have a nap – they are more than welcoming to dogs at the site.

I think this is possibly the longest blog I have ever written! There was so much that we managed to squeeze into our week in Powys and we had the time of our lives! If you want to see where we went on a map I have plotted the locations below.

Map of Locations

  1. Little Hill Lodges, Llandrindod Wells
  2. Pen Y Fan
  3. Carreg Cennen Castle
  4. The National Botanic Garden of Wales
  5. Brockhampton National Trust
  6. Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny
  7. Caio Forest
  8. Dolaucothi Gold Mines National Trust
  9. Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station

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