Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest is the largest area of continuous woodland in County Durham. Planted in the 1930s, today the forest is a popular outdoor recreation location, with trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders. We’d originally planned to spend our day hiking up Skiddaw, but given that temperatures were set to soar to the high twenties, we re-evaluated and decided that an early morning walk with plenty of shade would be a much safer option for the dogs. Hamsterley has been on our radar for a while but we’d never made it a priority to visit as we know it’s a popular place and can get busy. However, we decided that as we’d be going early to beat the heat, we’d take a chance on there being not that many people around. And we were in luck!

Hamsterley was so much more than we expected. Some forests can be an unending stretch of coniferous greenery, but Hamsterley is a wonderful mix of coniferous and deciduous species, beautiful in summer but I expect would be even better in autumn. For visitors to the forest there are a selection of walking trails or you can make up your own route from the huge network of interconnecting paths criss-crossing the forest.

Most of the walks start from the main visitor centre, although the Spurlswood Valley walk we followed starts from Grove car park, a little further along the forest drive. Parking is £6 all day (£10 on bank holiday weekends) and works through Automatic Number Plate Recognition. There’s no pay and display, just pay at the pay station (cash or card) or via a parking app before you leave.

The Spurlswood Valley trail is a circular route of about 4.5 miles. The first two thirds or so of the walk follows the river and is a great shady walk for a warm summer day. While you’re in the woods for most of the walk, you wander in and out of clear areas with lovely views back over the forest, especially lovely on days with blue sky for miles like we had.

For the most part the path is level and surfaced, with the odd section slightly more bumpy with rocks and tree roots underfoot. This walk is pretty easy: there are no steep ascents or descents (although it’s not completely flat), and navigation is also simple – just follow the green way markers.

Being totally honest I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this walk as much as I did – I thought we were in for a standard wander round the woods and then home again! But this walk was a total delight and we’ll definitely be heading back to discover more of what Hamsterley has to offer. My favourite thing was the fact that despite being surrounded by trees for the whole walk, the scenery around us was constantly changing, rather than feeling like we were walking on a treadmill in the middle of a forest (which can happen sometimes!).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. How could I give this walk any other rating! Ours absolutely loved it here – quite possibly their favourite walk ever. By going early (we arrived at 7.45am) we had the forest almost entirely to ourselves – we saw one other dog walker and a handful of mountain bikers. I do think it gets busier later in the day though! There were no stiles and no road walking which was fantastic. Merry in particular loved the river being next to the path for most of the walk – he probably spent more time in the water than out of it! We had ours off lead for the whole walk and it was great to have a long walk with no worries about livestock and no being dragged around on the lead – we will definitely be making this a regular walk! I’m writing this blog about six hours after getting home and neither of them have moved since we got in – they are completely pooped from having such an amazing time!

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Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay was voted Britain’s most beautiful beach by The Times and it’s not hard to see why. The sweeping stretch of sandy beach is overlooked by a cluster of red roofed cottages, perched at the bottom of the cliff, with seagulls swooping overhead and the occasional fossil waiting to be discovered. We’d been to Runswick Bay once before and hadn’t been able to see further than about two feet in front of us due to the sea haar (otherwise known as fog if you’re not from Yorkshire), so we decided to head back on a better weather day to see what we’d missed out on the first time.

We decided to head over to the coast as it was the only place in a two hour radius with a decent weather forecast. Usually we go to Robin Hood’s Bay, but it’s been fairly busy there recently, so instead we had a flick through our North York Moors Pocket Mountains guide for some coastal inspiration.

We settled on a circular walk from Runswick Bay to Kettleness, a tiny hamlet further down the coast. The walk is around five and a half miles and follows a circular route, starting out along the Cleveland Way, before returning inland along an old railway track. There is a similar walk available online on the Happy Hiker website.

This walk was a pleasure in every way: easy to navigate, easy walking and fantastic views. Starting out along the beach you can investigate a series of caves, said to be inhabited by a Hob, a malevolent household spirit. You then quickly pick up the Cleveland Way with a short but steep climb up some steps to gain the clifftop, where you are rewarded almost immediately with a fantastic view back to the village.

The walk along the cliffs to Kettleness is gentle and follows a clearly defined path which is almost completely flat. When you reach the village there’s a bench where we enjoyed a nice sit down and our lunch, before heading back to Runswick Bay along the also very flat and well surfaced inland path.

There are a couple of car parks in Runswick Bay. The smaller car park at the bottom of the hill fills up early, however, there is usually plenty of space in the large car park at the top of the hill. This car park is run by Scarborough Borough Council and you can pay cash or via a parking app – it cost us £5 to park for 6 hours. I know this might sound pricey but we are always happy to pay for parking on our walks – really, if you bring your own lunch, parking is your only expense, when you could easily pay a lot more money to enter a local attraction!

There are toilets in the car park but no other facilities apart from a hotel at the top of the hill – if you fancy the obligatory seaside fish and chips I’d recommend popping down the coast to Whitby where you’ll have plenty of choice.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is a great walk for dogs. The beach at Runswick Bay is dog friendly all year round and ours absolutely loved haring around and swimming in the sea. It was surprisingly quiet for a beach which has had lots of media focus in the last year or so, but that’s fine by us!

Along the cliffs we did choose to keep ours on a lead just for safety reasons, and there are signs up on the inland track asking for dogs to be kept on leads. A big bonus on this walk is that there are no stiles and very little road walking – although I’m sure the dog’s favourite part was the beach!

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Binsey: Small Hill, Big Views

Last weekend we both fancied a walk on the easier end of the scale. Sam was still getting over the Spine Challenger, while I had foolishly worn high heels to work for the first time in a year and a half, with the raw heels to prove it. We therefore decided to take a trip over to the Lakes to tick off Binsey, a small fell on the northern fringes of the Lake District, described by Wainwright as ‘a viewpoint of outstanding merit’. Our previous excursions to the slopes of Castle Crag and Sale Fell have proven to us that the best views of the bigger fells can be enjoyed from the summits of their smaller (and easier) counterparts, so we set off full of expectation of an easy morning well rewarded, and we were absolutely right.

Binsey had previously been recommended to me as a walk with great views for minimal effort. It had therefore been bumped up my to do list and we chose the very easy to follow linear route up to the summit from Binsey Lodge (free roadside parking), which we found on the WalkLakes website.

At only 447 metres Binsey is one of the smaller Wainwrights, and the ascent from Binsey Lodge is by far the easiest route to the summit of a Wainwright that we’ve followed to date. The walk is a steady incline up a grassy path, not particularly steep but enough to get your heart pumping, before arriving at the summit in a surprisingly short period of time: it took us about 25 minutes to get from the car to the summit, with plenty of stops to take photos.

The views, both on your way up and on the summit, are spectacular. Save this one for a clear day as all of the enjoyment is from being able to soak in the marvellous Lakeland scenery which surrounds you. On the ascent/descent, the views towards Skiddaw are impressive enough to have convinced us that when we tackle Skiddaw, we will be doing so from the north to get more of these views.

The panoramic views don’t stop there: in the distance the treetops of Whinlatter are visible, or look westwards for views towards Buttermere. From the summit, look over the Solway Firth to clearly see the hills of Dumfries and Galloway.

Navigation was very easy, with the broad grassy path taking you straight to the summit. This was a pleasure in summer but I imagine it could get pretty boggy after wet weather! We got there early and had the fell pretty much to ourselves, but we did start to see a few people arriving on our way back down. As this is such a short hike though I can’t imagine it will ever be massively busy (like Scafell Pike is) as by the time the next lot of people arrive, the previous lot will be finishing up and heading home!

As we still had plenty of time before needing to head home we decided to head to the Craggs Coffee Shop (cash only) a short drive away where there was an excellent choice of cakes! There was plenty of inside seating but as we had the dogs we chose to sit outside in the small garden area so we didn’t have to leave them in the car.

Dog friendly rating: 3/5. This is a short walk and great for popping out on a summer morning before it gets too hot. There’s no water along the way (at least not when we were there, apparently there’s a small stream in winter) so carry extra for your dog or at least have some waiting for them in the car. As with most Lake District walks, there are sheep grazing on the hillside, so dogs should be under close control (preferably on a lead).

The two big pluses for this walk are that there is no road walking and no stiles – the only lifting required is if you want to take a photo of your dog on the trig!

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Broadway Tower

On our way down to Cornwall in June, we stopped off for a very quick walk at Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds. The drive from Yorkshire to Cornwall was a whopping 379 miles, so we didn’t stop for long, but what we saw was enough to convince me that we’ll definitely have to return to the Cotswolds for a longer stay at some point in the future! This was another walk which was recommended to me through Instagram and I really do think this is a fantastic way to find some cracking walks: if people who live nearby think they’re great, you’re onto a winner!

Our original plan was to park up in the pretty Cotswolds village of Broadway and to follow this 4 mile circular walk. However, when we arrived in Broadway around lunchtime, it was absolutely chocca and we couldn’t get parked in any of the car parks. So instead we headed straight up to the tower in the car and walked from there – this actually worked out better as we ended up doing a shorter walk and got to join the traffic jam on the M5 a few hours earlier!

There was plenty of parking in the field right by Broadway Tower (£3 to park all day, cash only). From here we followed the short circular walk which is sign posted around the tower and surrounding fields. The tower was designed by famous landscape architect Capability Brown and is the highest castle in the Cotswolds – although I do think describing it as a castle is a bit of a stretch!

The walk is very easy and took us around 45 minutes, with lots of stopping to take photos. The path is a mix of surfaced paths and grass, with no steep climbs or drops. Being so high up you get fantastic views over the Cotswolds for no effort at all – this probably contributes to the popularity of the walk as we did see quite a lot of people (mostly concentrated around the tower and the cafe).

There were plenty of other footpaths which connected to the wider estate and beyond – so if you’ve got more time than we had, I imagine you could spend hours happily exploring around here.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. We saw plenty of people with dogs on our visit, including enjoying the sunshine outside the cafes we passed. I’ve just knocked off a point for this reason as we did end up in a few tight spots trying to squeeze Coal past a few dogs who were probably a bit too close for his comfort. However all other boxes are ticked: no road walking, no stiles, and most importantly happy dogs! Make sure you take along some water for your dog as there may not be any available on your walk, depending on where you go.

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Win Hill

We had a quick mini-break at the end of last week in the northern fringes of the Peak District. Sam had entered the Montane Spine Challenger race which starts from Edale, so we decided to pop down a few days before, to spend a few days exploring a different part of the Peak District. Arriving on Thursday lunchtime, we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our B&B, so we ventured out on a short-ish walk up Win Hill to pass a few hours. We hadn’t expected much from this hike but it was an absolute gem of a walk – the best kind of surprise!

We found this route in the newly released Pocket Mountains guide to the Peak District. The route is a 7.5km circular from Hope, however for some reason I misread the distance and we only got a parking ticket for 2 hours, leading to a realisation half way up the hill that we were going to need to jog most of the way back to the car before the ticket expired! If you don’t have this guide (and if you don’t, it’s an excellent little book with some fantastic walks), there is a slightly different online version available on Walking Britain.

There is a pay and display car park in Hope (£2.50 for 2 hours – we just made it back in time with a fair bit of running at the end), as well as a SPAR and excellent farm shop if you are needing to stock up on supplies. Sam got a steak from the farm shop and maintains it was one of the best steaks he’s ever eaten!

From looking at the various routes up Win Hill online, I think the circular we followed is probably the easiest one out there. Leaving Hope, you follow a quiet lane steadily uphill to reach Access Land, before the ascent steepens for just shy of a kilometre to bring you to the ridge for the final walk up to Win Hill Pike. The ridge is almost flat, with great views across to Castleton and the Hope Valley. The final ascent up to the trig pillar isn’t strenuous at all, with only a few steps up a rockier section of the path to navigate, before you are rewarded with a view over Ladybower reservoir to the north.

The paths along the route were generally clear and easy to see, albeit uneven, making navigation much easier. There was a short grassy section on the descent where we inevitably went left when we should have gone right – quickly rectified by my OS maps app telling me we’d gone off course – a very handy feature of the paid version of the app!

The descent back down into Hope is fairly gradual for the most part, although steep in places. I imagine this walk would be even more impressive later in the summer when the heather is in full bloom, as it covers most of the ridge you walk across to reach the summit.

If you’re taking your own food on this walk and fancy an easy hike with hot food at the summit, or a spot of wild camping, make sure you are aware of the latest rules around fire in the countryside. There is currently a no fire order in place for the whole of the Peak District national park, meaning that as well as disposable BBQs, camping stoves are also banned. This has been put in place following a series of wildfires caused by irresponsible countryside users – please, please think about how your actions can impact on the landscape around you.

Dog friendly rating: 2.5/5. While there is a section of road walking, the stretch out of Hope is along a pavement, and the lane to reach the Access Land is so quiet we only saw about three cars. However, there are no sections of this walk where I would have felt comfortable letting ours off the lead: Access Land requires dogs to be on a lead at all times at certain times of year and around livestock, and nearly every field we crossed had sheep in. If you’re confused by the rules around dogs and access land, there’s a really useful guide on the Harringtons website. Additionally, it’s worth noting that there are no drinking points for dogs, so take extra water along with you. The big plus on this walk is that all of the stiles were easily manageable for the dogs on their own without help from us – and to be honest that’s one of the most important things for me! There’s nothing quite as likely to start an argument as working out the best way to get a Labrador over a ladder stile…

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From Coast to Camelot: A Week in North Cornwall

We have just arrived home from an amazing week in North Cornwall. We managed to visit some wonderful places and I’m not sure where I should begin! Cornwall has been on my travel ‘bucket list’ for a while and I’d eventually booked a trip there for June last year. As you can probably guess, the trip was postponed by Covid, so it was a long two year wait from when we booked to when we eventually arrived at our cottage! It was worth the wait to finally see some of the places I’d been drooling over on Instagram in real life. We stayed on the north coast of the county, close to Camelford, which meant that places I’d wanted to visit for years like Tintagel, Trevose Head and Pentire Point were just a stone’s throw away.

Tintagel

Tintagel was at the absolute top of my list of places I wanted to go while we were in Cornwall – legend has it that this was the birthplace of King Arthur, and a potential location of Camelot, home of the Knights of the Round Table.

Regardless of how much stock you put into the legends, Tintagel has a rich history, with evidence of settlements on the island as early as the 5th Century. The site is now managed by English Heritage, and for a rather pricey admission fee you can cross the footbridge connecting the two halves of the castle – one on the island and one on the mainland.

Rather than just calling in to the castle, we did a short circular walk from Tintagel, which passes through Bossiney and along the South West Coast Path before rewarding you with a breath taking view of the castle and bridge at the end of the walk. For such a short easy walk the views are incredible: it took us ages to get around, not because there are lots of steep ascents, but because we had to keep stopping to admire the views. The amount of flowers like sea pinks and fox gloves bursting into life all along the coast path amazed me – I’ve never seen so much colour on a coastal walk.

The path down to Bossiney Haven was closed due to a rock fall, so we couldn’t walk down to this stretch of beach, and we continued along the coast path to reach the headland at Willapark. This spur of land was an Iron Age settlement and gives great views along the coast in both directions. From here its a short stroll to the next headland, Barras Nose, where you get the iconic view of Tintagel Castle.

We followed the route from our Cicerone guide to Cornwall, which has a great variety of routes across the county. If you don’t have this guide, a similar route is available online on iWalkCornwall. There are a few car parks in Tintagel: we parked at the Visitor Centre car park which was £3.50 for up to 3 hours. There were plenty of spaces when we arrived at 9am on a Saturday morning at the end of half term, and still a few left when we arrived back at the car two hours later.

If you want to hang around for a little longer, there are plenty of shops and cafes to explore in Tintagel, or you could walk further down the coast to reach the village of Boscastle. Don’t miss a walk past the charming Tintagel Old Post Office with it’s wavy roof on your way around the village. If you’re hungry, we stopped off at Slice Tintagel to pick up two Cornish Pasties, and I can confirm that they were the best Cornish pasties we’ve ever had. The smells wafting from the shop were so delicious that I actually went back to the car to get my face mask so I could go in to get some!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The first 1.5km of this walk was along a road on pavement, before picking up the coast path for the remainder of the walk. We kept ours on leads along the coast path due to cliff edges and sea gulls flapping near the edge – too tempting for a gundog to resist! Tintagel Haven is accessible from the coast path if your dog fancies a paddle, but make sure you take some water along for your dog, as you won’t pass any fresh water. A great thing about this walk is that there are no stiles whatsoever – woohoo – just a few kissing gates. There might be livestock in some of the fields you cross so this is something to keep an eye out for.

The Eden Project

Sam had always wanted to visit the Eden Project, so adding it to our itinerary was a no brainer. It was just over an hour from our cottage but this is no distance at all compared to the drive down to Cornwall from North Yorkshire!

The Eden Project, who run a number of ecological projects, is sited close to St Austell. The main attraction of the Eden Project is undoubtedly the two biomes: one for Mediterranean plants and one for rainforest plants. Outside the biomes there are a number of smaller outdoor garden features, although a lot of these weren’t quite in full bloom when we visited.

There were quite a lot of people visiting at the same time as us: the Eden Project seems to be a popular day out for families. It was actually quite crowded in places and we ended up trying to find some quieter parts of the site – it sometimes felt like being in the queue for a rollercoaster! It was a whopping £65 for us both to get in (pre-booked only) which, to be honest, I think is a bit off a rip off. You can no longer book day tickets and have to buy an annual pass – which, at £32.50 each, isn’t (in my opinion) very good value for money for people visiting from further afield.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Dogs are allowed on to the site, but not in the biomes. As the rest of the site is actually quite small, there’s not more than an hour or two’s worth of gardens to explore. It was also very, very busy – not ideal when you’ve got a dog, especially when there are lots of small children who want to come and say hello to them! I’d therefore say if you are looking for a dog friendly day out, go for one of the many other gardens in the area, and only go to the Eden Project if there’s something here that you specifically want to see.

Lantic Bay

After giving up exploring the Eden Project, we made the most of the sunshine to head along the coast to the absolutely stunning Lantic Bay. As National Trust members we were able to get the most out of our membership by using lots of National Trust car parks – Lantic Bay is one of these, so if you’re a National Trust member, you can park for free.

From the car park it’s a five minute walk to pick up the South West Coast path. You can turn left and walk for five or so miles to reach Polperro, turn right and make the short walk to Polruan, or head down the steep steps to reach the beach.

There are two small, shingly beaches you can choose from: big beach or little beach, although they’re both pretty compact! To get to the bigger stretch of sand, keep right on your descent, or to go to the smaller beach, head left through a gate with a National Trust finger post.

The view of Lantic Bay from the coast path has to be up there with my favourite views from the holiday. The sea was sparkling turquoise and the path was bursting with flowers, something which I noticed was a characteristic of all the walks we did. Even driving along country lanes, the verges were made up of ferns and foxgloves rather than long grass, making it feel like you are driving through the jungle.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Lantic Bay is dog friendly all year round (something which you need to check as some beaches have dog restrictions – Cornwall Beaches is a really great place to check which beaches do or don’t have restrictions). There may be livestock grazing in the fields you cross to get from the car park to the beach, but once you’re clear of these, dogs can zoom around to their heart’s content on the beach (please be considerate of other beach users). There is no road walking, apart from crossing the road to the car park, and no stiles. Again, remember to take along some water for your dog, as there is no fresh water on the way to or from the beach.

Brown Willy and Rough Tor

When you think of Cornwall, I bet you think of crashing waves and turquoise seas, or maybe fishing harbours with boats bobbing in the water. I expect very few people think of the wild, rugged upland which is Bodmin Moor.

This was another walk which we found in our Cicerone guide, although an online alternative can be found on iWalkCornwall. It’s roughly 5 miles on a circular route, starting from the free Forestry Commission car park at the end of Rough Tor Road, and is pretty easy walking with no very steep sections. When I say ‘easy’ I am purely referring to gradient – navigation skills are a must for any walk on Bodmin Moor, where paths are pretty much non-existent, and you will need to be able to navigate yourself from A to B. We made sure to pick a day when the weather forecast was completely clear to do this walk – it would be horrendously difficult to navigate in fog.

Brown Willy and Rough Tor are the two highest points in Cornwall and are on a mix of privately owned and access land. While the views aren’t quite the same as the drama of the South West Coast Path, don’t let that put you off exploring Bodmin: there’s a wildness here that you don’t find with the very popular coast. Bodmin Moor is in fact a part of Cornwall’s AONB – something I didn’t even know existed until I spied the logo on a fingerpost at the start of the walk.

Make sure you wear sturdy boots on this walk, as the ground is either rocky or marshy. If you’re feeling athletic, climbing to the top of the rocks on Showery Tor is a great photo opportunity!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Please stick to access land rules and keep your dog on a lead – there are livestock grazing on the moor, as well as ground nesting birds, so please respect the land and keep leads on. We came across cows, sheep and ponies on this walk, as well as seeing a number of different kinds of bird.

There were a couple of stiles which we needed to cross but these weren’t too difficult to get the dogs over – they mostly managed to get across by themselves with a bit of help from us. You cross the river a few times which provides the opportunity to have a paddle, but it’s worth taking extra water on a hot day. This walk was a lot quieter than all of the walks we did on the coast, so this might be a good option for you if you have a reactive dog who likes extra personal space.

Pentire Point

The walk we did around Pentire Point was hands down my favourite walk of the holiday. We did a 10 mile circular walk which we found in our Day Walks in Cornwall book, although we adapted it slightly to start from Pentireglaze National Trust car park where we could park for free as members, rather than starting in Rock. I can’t find any similar routes online, so if you like the sound of this walk, you’ll either have to plot it yourself with a map or invest in the book!

This walk just knocks the views out of the park. Starting along an impressive stretch of the coast path, you then head inland to visit St. Enodoc’s church (burial place of the poet John Betjeman), before climbing Brea Hill for panoramic views across Daymer Bay beach, dropping down to the beach to follow the coast path to Polzeath and then continuing on to pass the incredible promontory of the Rumps.

By the time we arrived in the bustling sea side town of Polzeath, our tummies were rumbling and our legs were starting to get a bit achey. We therefore decided that a pit stop was in order and picked up a few giant sandwiches from Flo’s Kitchen, just off the route through Polzeath. It took a lot of self control not to pick up some of the tasty looking cakes on offer too!

This was probably the toughest walk we did, with lots of steeper up and down sections, but the views were so so worth it. My favourite view has to be a toss up between the Daymer Bay panorama from the top of Brea Hill or the spectacular view walking alongside the Rumps. We had a beautiful sunny day for this walk and the views were all we could want and more.

Looking back across the Rumps

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is an absolute cracker of a walk and should more than satisfy any dog’s exercise needs! Ours certainly flopped down and didn’t move until the next day when we got home. The inland section of the walk is very quiet, and we saw zero walkers away from the coast path. We did pass through fields with sheep and cows, as well as across a golf course, so while the dogs needed to be on leads for large sections of the walk, this is more than compensated by the opportunity to have a run on the stunning, and quiet, Daymer Bay. There is also a mile or two of road walking on this hike, but aside from a hundred metre or so stretch along a busy road (which we jogged), the roads were very very quiet with hardly any cars. There were one or two stiles, but both of ours managed to get over these without any assistance from us. Ours also loved the stop at Flo’s kitchen and finishing off our sandwiches! Make sure you take plenty of water for your dogs – ours drank nearly two litres on this hike.

Trevose Head

The original plan for the penultimate day of our holiday was to go and walk along the coast at Godrevy, however, the weather forecast changed and quickly put that idea out of the window. We therefore opted to head down to Trevose Head, which was close enough to the cottage that we would be able to follow the coast path for a while and then head back to the car before the rain arrived!

Rather than following a set route, we parked up at the National Trust’s Trevose Head car park (another one where we could use our membership for free parking), and followed the coast path to just beyond the lighthouse. Not far after this there is a little bench on a spur of land which looks across to Polzeath – we sat and enjoyed the view here for 10 minutes or so before turning around to retrace our steps.

There are two beautiful beaches easily accessible from this stretch of the coast path: Booby’s Bay and Mother Ivey’s Bay. Both of these beaches are dog friendly year round and both were extremely quiet when we visited – although that might have had something to do with the >95% chance of heavy rain all day that the Met Office was forecasting! For a wonderful view across to Booby’s Bay, it’s worth the short detour up the Dinas Head promontory, which has views for miles in both directions.

The path on this walk is similar to much of the South West Coast path: generally a clear path, but with uneven terrain and steep in places. I managed to put my foot down a hole when I wasn’t looking where I was going and went flying!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This has many of the same positives as other coastal walks on this post: spacious beaches for zoomies being the main one, no stiles being a close second (at least not on the section we walked along). There is no road walking on this section of the coast path, you go through a gate in the car park and it’s all off road from here. I would definitely advise keeping your dog on a lead along the cliffs if they are likely to chase birds: Coal couldn’t take his eyes off the sea gulls and quite clearly had no idea where he was walking! Similarly to other walks, there is no fresh water available, so again make sure you take some extra for your dog.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

If the Eden Project was a massive let down, the Lost Gardens of Heligan were a wonderful surprise. Just down the road from the Eden Project, close to St Austell, Heligan is much more reasonably priced and has much better established gardens to explore.

In addition to the maze of formal gardens, there is also the Lost Valley and the Jungle, part of the wider estate which has been recovered after falling into disrepair and becoming extremely overgrown during the 20th century. Following a visit from an archaeologist in the 1990s, a massive garden restoration project ensued, and what you see today is a testament to the hard work of the estate team who have brought the gardens back to life.

The Jungle was definitely our favourite part of the gardens, with mirror pools, exotic plants and the infinitely instagrammable rope bridge (dogs not permitted to use this, sensibly). There’s something for all the family though, with a small farmyard section where you can see pigs, sheep, goats and an array of rare breed poultry birds. Look out as well for a variety of sculptures by local artists around the site, including the Mud Maid, which is slightly reminiscent of Te Fiti from the Disney film Moana.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This is a rating based on comparison with other similar attractions – not countryside walks (as I’m sure the dogs enjoyed the coastal walks I’ve given slightly lower ratings to more!). Dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere at Heligan, apart from on the rope bridge for safety reasons, and there are plenty of poo bins and water bowls dotted around the site. The gardens were also much less busy than Eden, which meant it was much less stressful trying to squeeze past people on narrow paths.

Where we stayed

We stayed in the absolutely beautiful Tye-Ki, which is beautifully decorated and ideally located in the hamlet of Trewalder about 10 minutes away from Camelford (if you fancy a takeaway, Peckish fish and chips in Camelford was amazing – I recommend the Scampi). The cottage sleeps two and has everything you could need for your week away, including a log burner for cosy winter evenings and a BBQ for those gorgeous summer evenings. Sam particularly loved the dartboard in the shed!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The cottage was perfect for the dogs: no carpet downstairs, a fully enclosed and secure garden, and a welcome pack of dog biscuits on the table when we arrived! The owners have also helpfully provided a spare set of dog bowls and a bed in case you realise you’ve forgotten something when you arrive – what more could you ask for!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip to Cornwall – it was definitely a lot of fun and it was my first time ever visiting the South West! I’ve now got the post holiday blues and I’m already wondering where we should book for our next trip…

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Gargrave and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The weather forecast for Bank Holiday Monday was for a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to head down to Gargrave for a nice easy stroll along the Pennine Way, before heading back along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. This walk can be completed as a short circuit of about three and a half miles or extended for an extra few miles, depending on how far you want to go. This is definitely a walk to consider if you want to experience the variety on offer in this part of the Dales: the start along the Pennine Way will take you through gently rolling fields with the occasional tumbledown barn, before you experience a completely different type of walk returning to Gargrave along the canal tow path.

We found this route in our AA Yorkshire Dales walking book, but if you’re looking for an online version, this 6.5 mile walk on the National Trail website is pretty similar (we just followed the bridleway between points 5 and 10 so didn’t go quite as far). The walk we did was a hybrid of the two, as where we were originally meant to cut across to the canal path, there was an extremely curious herd of cows clustered around the gate! We didn’t fancy risking it / I point blank refused to go in the field with the dogs, so we just added a few extra miles on to go around the field.

We started our walk from the free car park near Gargrave village hall. There are public toilets not far from here: these are free to use, but are maintained by a community group on donations, so please donate if you can.

“You Shall Not Pass”

This walk is not taxing in the slightest, with absolutely no steep sections of ascent or descent. Following the Pennine Way the path is frequently grassy, so I imagine it could be wet in winter, but along the tow path the track is level and well surfaced. Keep your eyes peeled to spot ducks and swans enjoying the water on the canal – we saw a pair of swans with four signets which was lovely! Coal was so busy looking back at them over his shoulder that he forgot to look where he was going and walked straight into the canal. There was a lot of flailing in the five seconds it took us to fish him out!

The section along the canal was much busier than the Pennine Way – probably because it’s such a pleasant walk for minimal effort! There were plenty of canal boats to be spotted and I have to confess I was slightly tempted by the idea of a canal boat holiday! The thought of trying to keep Merry onboard and not swimming alongside was enough to put me off though.

The Leeds to Liverpool Canal began construction in the 1770s but it didn’t reach Gargrave until early in the 19th century. At 127 miles long it is the longest single waterway canal in Britain – there are a few way markers telling you how many miles left to go before you reach Liverpool dotted along the tow path. At the end of the tow path we were lucky enough to come across an ice cream van so it’s worth putting some pennies in your pocket just in case it’s there when you visit.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. There were sheep and cows in most of the fields on the first half of this walk, so make sure your dog is under close control, preferably on a lead. There were a few stiles along the Pennine Way section, but they were reasonably easy to get the dogs across, without any need to heave them over! Along the tow path we saw plenty of other dogs enjoying themselves off the lead, we chose to keep ours on as there was a bit too much going on for them, but I think for lots of dog owners this would be a nice place to let your dog off the lead for a while. There were a few poo bins in Gargrave as well as along the tow path, so no need to have to put it in the car to dispose of at home! While there were a few sections along quiet roads, we hardly saw any cars, so I won’t deduct any points for this.

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Carrock Fell and High Pike

The easing of lockdown restrictions over the last few weeks meant that we finally managed to get back over to the Lake District to continue with our challenge of climbing all the Wainwrights. As it was a bank holiday weekend we put a lot of thought into the best route to tackle: we wanted to go somewhere that wouldn’t be completely mobbed by the bank holiday crowds, preferably in the northern Lakes which are easily accessible to us via the A66, for a reasonably quick ‘up and down before the crowds arrived’. We’d never heard of Carrock Fell before we were checking our list of uncompleted summits, so it seemed like a good candidate! There are quite a few other Wainwrights that can be added to a hike up Carrock Fell, but for the sake of getting away before the A66 got too busy, we settled for just one other summit (High Pike). It was probably a good decision, as driving home on the eastbound side of the A66, the westbound side had reached a total standstill by the time we were driving home!

While you can tick off quite a few Wainwrights in one go in this area, including Great Calva and Knott, we decided to stick to this six mile circular route on WalkLakes. The walk is generally pretty easy if you can get yourself through the first mile, which is extremely steep, with loose scree sending you back one step in every three! The photo below gives a good idea of how steep it was but let’s just say I’ve not had such a sweaty back for a long time and leave it at that.

Parking for the walk is free on the roadside on Mosedale Common. It’s one of the quieter parts of the Lakes, but given that it was a bank holiday weekend, we arrived for 8.30am and got one of the last spaces.

Once you’ve hauled yourself up the hill at the start it doesn’t take long to reach the summit of Carrock Fell. I imagine the views would be pretty good on a clear day, however, it was so hazy that sadly we didn’t really get a good look at them.

Navigating across to High Pike was fairly easy as we could see it in the distance, although the path was very indistinct for a lot of the time, so this would probably be a lot trickier in poor visibility. It was also pretty boggy for quite a while coming off Carrock Fell, so wear your walking boots: my feet stayed dry, Sam wore his running trainers and ended up with wet feet!

The ascent of High Pike from this direction is very easy and gentle (although maybe that’s because I’m directly comparing it to the brutal first mile of the walk). When you reach the summit, there is a lovely slate bench where you can sit and admire the view (when it’s not too hazy to see it), and a trig pillar identifying what you’re looking at.

The descent back down to the road is fairly gradual, following indistinct grassy paths, until the final section which takes you back down the road to the start. This is a very quiet section of road and we saw hardly any cars, but we were lucky enough to see a herd of Fell ponies grazing by the side of the road! We’ve never come across them in the Lakes before and it was quite a special moment. They were extremely chilled out and not remotely interested in us – which is always the best way when you come across ponies on a walk!

Fell ponies grazing on Mosedale Commoni

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Like most walks in the Lakes, you need to keep your eyes peeled for livestock, and we saw both sheep and Fell ponies on this walk. There’s also not much in the way of water for your dog to drink aside from a stream at the start and a ford at the very end, so make sure you take extra for your dog to drink. The big pluses on this walk were that it is 95% off road, and that there were absolutely no stiles at all – our favourite kind of walk! There are no poo bins so make sure you pick up responsibly and take any poos away with you – there are bins a short drive away in Mungrisdale if you don’t want them in the car with you all the way home!

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Chirk Castle

On our way back from Snowdonia in April we decided to stop off at Chirk Castle close to the Wales/England border. As National Trust members we definitely prefer to use the facilities at one of their properties rather than going to a motorway services if we can help it! Although, that being said, we did also stop at Chester services om our way down and as far as services go, they were a 10/10 and had a great range of food to have for lunch. On our way back however we decided to bypass motorway services altogether and stick to the National Trust. We’d previously stopped at Chirk on our way down to Powys in 2018 and therefore we knew it was a great place to stop off to stretch our legs on the drive.

Chirk Castle is one of the many Welsh Castles built during the reign of Edward I to help subdue the Welsh Princes. Built in the 13th century, the castle was purchased a few centuries later by a businessman/privateer, and was passed down through his family for many generations. Not all of the original fortress stands today, as part of the castle was destroyed and re-built during the English Civil war. Today, the castle is owned by the National Trust, with the castle, gardens and grounds open to visitors.

The castle has a selection of way marked trails you can follow of varying lengths and difficulties, as well as a cafe, toilets and shop where you can stop and re-fuel.

The walk we did on our first visit took us along a section of Offa’s Dyke. Offa’s Dyke is an ancient earthwork which covers around 150 miles of the England/Wales border, built in the eighth century by the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, Offa. The bank is up to 20m wide in places and is a popular long distance walking route – Offa’s Dyke Path runs from Chepstow to Prestatyn and takes in some of the loveliest countryside Wales has to offer. As well as following it for a way at Chirk, we also spent a short section of time on the Offa’s Dyke Path when we walked up Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur – another lovely part of Wales.

After investigating Offa’s Dyke on our first visit, on our second visit we decided to do the woodland walk. While you don’t get the same views of the castle that you do on some of the other trails, the woods were extremely quiet and a much more exciting walk for the dogs. You even have the possibility of running into Chirk’s herd of semi-wild ponies who are used for conservation grazing in the woods.

We didn’t stay for too long on our most recent visit – just a short stroll through the woods. We had planned to stay for longer but when we arrived, the lady at the front desk was so rude to us it spoiled our visit a little, and we didn’t want to linger! Essentially, I’d left our National Trust cards in the car as we had our pre-booked tickets, and when I said we didn’t have the cards she gave us a five minute lecture on why we should’ve brought them, before saying we actually didn’t need them when I offered to go and get them from the car! Pretty rubbish customer service but that’s not the National Trust’s fault I suppose.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Like most National Trust properties, Chirk is a great dog friendly day out. You are welcome to take your dog for a walk in the parkland and the courtyard is dog friendly with water bowls for dogs. Sadly, dogs aren’t allowed in the formal gardens (even on a lead), so if you want to have a look at the fancy plants you will need to take it in turns while someone waits with the dog.

If you choose to wander through the parkland with your dog, make sure you are considerate of livestock, as both sheep and cattle can be found grazing. Even in the woods you need to keep an eye out for signs asking you to keep dogs on a lead in some sections, as this is where you are liable to run into the ponies.

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Stoodley Pike & Withens Clough Reservoir

Generally, we don’t venture out of North Yorkshire for our day trips. We don’t need to: we’ve got the Dales to our left, the Moors to the right (I think there’s a song there somewhere), and if that wasn’t enough the Yorkshire Wolds offer a slightly gentler option to the south. However, this weekend we fancied a bit of a change (and it was raining everywhere in North Yorkshire), so we hopped in the car to make the drive down to Withens Clough reservoir in West Yorkshire. From here, we planned a short but rewarding walk up to the imposing monument atop Stoodley Pike, tackling sections of both the Pennine Way and the Calderdale Way. It was a lovely morning’s walk, which also taught us the important lesson ‘if no one else is taking the short cut, there’s probably a reason for that’…

We found the walk we did on the OS Maps app, which I highly recommend both for planning routes and navigating, but there is a similar 4.5 mile circular on the Yorkshire Water website if you don’t have the app. This route follows the same one that we did until the final section, returning on the (quiet) road instead of cutting through the woods like we did. We did see a few other walkers continuing on the road as we entered the woods and very soon discovered why!! The ground was absolutely soaked, completely waterlogged, with sludge well over the tops of our boots the whole way back to joining the road at the end. I’ve never been so happy to see tarmac in my life! Lesson learned – if no one else is taking the short cut, don’t take the short cut.

The walk starts from the small car park at Withens Clough reservoir, a few miles south of Hebden Bridge. As well as the walk we did up to Stoodley Pike, you can walk around the perimeter of the reservoir, or pick up one of the many footpaths in the area – both the Pennine Way and Calderdale Way pass close to the reservoir.

Car parking is free but spaces are limited – we arrived at 10am on a Sunday and got the last space – although a group of about 20 ramblers had clearly just arrived, mostly in their own cars! So perhaps it isn’t always as busy as it seemed. There were a fair few other walkers about though it certainly wasn’t what I would class as properly ‘busy’ – but don’t expect to have the place to yourself either.

The terrain on this walk was a bit of a mixed bag. Aside from the gradual climb up to Stoodley Pike, it’s relatively flat, but very often the path is uneven and boggy so you need to watch where you put your feet. Alongside the reservoir and coming down from Stoodley Pike the path is well surfaced and fairly level, but walking over the moor was nothing if not ‘squelchy’. This was however nothing compared to the mud bath waiting for us in the woods! If you take one recommendation from this blog today, avoid the woods and go the long way round.

Reaching the top of Stoodley Pike your eyes will immediately be drawn to the huge tower which soon comes into view. A monument was first built on the top of Stoodley Pike at the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1814, however, this structure collapsed a few decades later after being struck by lightening. The monument was rebuilt in 1856 to mark the end of the Crimean war, and a lightening conductor was added shortly after to help prevent the tower collapsing again!

You can climb up the monument to reach a viewing platform looking out over the surrounding countryside, however, this would have been tricky for us with the dogs, and the views from the bottom probably weren’t that different anyway! This is a lovely place to stop for lunch or just to have a rest and enjoy the view.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are parts of this walk where you will be able to let your dog off the lead to have the freedom to explore – alongside the reservoir where the path is enclosed and in the woods (if you choose a very dry day you might be OK mud wise!) would be good places. There are livestock in other parts of the walk so keep this in mind and put your dog on a lead if you come across them: we saw both sheep and cows with calves (this helped me drag myself up the hill much faster than normal!). There were one or two stiles but these were the kind that the dogs could easily manage without any intervention from us. If you’re heading out on a warm day, make sure to take some water for your dog, as there aren’t many places for your dog to have a drink.

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