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!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

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…

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

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…

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today, make sure you subscribe below:

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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

Read next:

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!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

The Art of Avoiding People: Penycloddiau & Moel Arthur

Don’t get me wrong: I like people. I’m just not a huge fan of going for a walk and being one person in a line of many people hauling themselves up a hill. You either end up stuck behind someone walking slowly, or overtaking someone slower than you, and then feeling pressured to sprint up the next hill (burning lungs or not) so that you don’t end up being overtaken by the same hiker you’ve just passed! On our drive down to Snowdonia a few weeks ago, we had planned to stop off in the Clwydian Range for a short-ish hike to break the journey, and I had put an appeal on my Instagram page for a good route up Moel Famau. I did get a few suggestions from others who had visited the area previously, but every single person local to the area suggested that we walk up neighbouring Penycloddiau instead, for a fantastic walk with a fraction of the crowds who are drawn to Moel Famau (which is the highest hill in the Clwydian Range and consequently much busier). Well, you’d have to be a fool to ignore the locals, and listening to them certainly paid off…

The Clywdian Range and Dee Valley is, in my opinion, Wales’s best kept secret. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty straddles the counties of Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham, making it easily accessible from all over the UK. And yet, it was utterly unspoilt and peaceful, and it had the feel of a place that is visited mostly by locals. Perhaps this is because more ‘popular’ destinations are only a stone’s throw away – for the majority of our walk we could see the peaks of northern Snowdonia beckoning in the distance.

Whatever the reason, this part of the world is chronically underrated. I’d never even heard of the AONB until I started googling Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur and saw that they were part of the Clwydian Range. Safe to say it is now most definitely on my radar and on my list of places to explore properly at some point in the future.

The walk we did was a circular walk that I found on AllTrails, just shy of 8 miles in total, starting from the free car park at Coed Llangwyfan. From the car park it is an easy and steady climb up to the summit of Penycloddiau, along paths which are mostly level and well surfaced, although it is grassy in parts so I’m not sure what it would be like when it’s wet. The paths are generally good throughout this walk, and while there are some steep sections, they aren’t long enough to make you truly miserable.

There is a rambling detour through beautiful countryside which eventually deposits you in the small car park at the foot of Moel Arthur. If your route tells you to climb up the vertical side of Moel Arthur (like ours did) ignore it and continue along the bridleway – there is a much more gradual approach to the summit, sign posted, on the other side of the hill.

Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur are both Iron Age hillforts, part of a chain which runs along the Clwydian Range, and the area is rich with history – you can find a great list of historical sites on the AONB website if you’re interested. Anyone who’s read my blog about the Breamish Hillfort Trail will know I am a huge Iron Age geek and therefore I wasn’t going miss an opportunity to visit two in one afternoon!

We were very lucky with the weather and we could see for miles in all directions – there’s always a special feeling when you can see the sea as you’re walking along the top of a hill. It was the first time I’d been out without my coat on since last summer and it really felt like everything was starting to come back to life: trees were budding, flowers were springing up even in the most unlikely places, and newborn lambs were taking their tottering first steps in many of the fields we walked through.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk passes through a variety of landscapes, including woodland, fields and enclosed lanes. There is only a tiny fraction of this walk which follows a quiet country lane, which is fantastic, and we were able to let the dogs off their leads in the woods at the start of the walk. There is livestock in many of the fields you pass through so make sure that dogs are on a lead in these areas. And if you’re not sure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry! There is no water on this walk, so make sure you carry some extra for your dog.

The absolute best thing about this walk for the dogs was that all of the stiles had dog gates, so we didn’t have to lift the dogs over once!! If only all stiles were like that it would make life much easier!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below:

The Secret South of Snowdonia

This time last year, our trip to Assynt had just been postponed for five months due to the pandemic, and I was having a bit of a ‘holiday sulk’. To cheer myself up I rather spontaneously booked a trip to Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri, a.k.a. Snowdonia, without really looking too much into where I’d booked – just somewhere in the south of the National Park. At first I’d been looking at cottages near Blaenau Ffestiniog, as I’d heard it was a great base for walking, but the prices were pretty astronomical for even basic accommodation. Instead I took a punt on a cottage in Abergynolwyn, near Tywyn, and decided to just hope for the best in terms of scenery. Turns out it was a pretty good decision…

Cwm Ratgoed

On our first full day, Sam picked a walk around Cwm Ratgoed which wasn’t too far from the cottage, as we were both pretty knackered from the journey down. For those who, like me, don’t know what a cwm is, the Google definition is “a steep-sided hollow at the head of a valley or on a mountainside”.

This was a lovely gentle walk of just over eight miles, which was in our Cicerone low level walks book for the south of Snowdonia. I have to say this book was fab and was crammed full of stunning walks (not an ad and they aren’t paying me to write this unfortunately, I just really rate Cicerone guidebooks). There is a similar route online on the Outdoor Active website.

The walk starts from the small village of Corris where there is free parking at the railway museum (public toilets across the road from the car park). The paths are generally good, although uneven in places, with only a few short stretches where the path fades and becomes indistinct. There are a few steep-ish ascents but generally you’re at the top before you realise how out of breath you are!

There are a few interesting features along the way: you pass through a mix of fields and woodlands, with ruins and spoil heaps from a time when quarrying was a major local industry, scattered along the valley.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep through most of this walk so please keep your dog on a lead – even in the woodland sections the odd sheep kept popping it’s head out from behind a tree! We also had to cross one field of cows with calves (which did cause me to have a bit of a meltdown when I realised we had to walk between a building and a cow and calf lying down on the edge of the footpath), but luckily the farmer saw us and came down to keep an eye on the cows while we walked past – which we were extremely grateful for! There was one gate that was difficult to cross, as it has partially collapsed and can’t be opened. We just pushed down on the top a bit which created a gap big enough to fit the dogs under (it was harder to get ourselves across to the other side!). The big pluses for this walk are that there are sections along the river where dogs can have a drink, and that there are no stiles. This walk is also perfect for reactive dogs as apart from the farmer we didn’t see a single other person on this walk.

Cadair Idris

Before arriving in Wales, the one walk I’d set my heart on doing was Cadair Idris. Cadair Idris literally means ‘Idris’s Chair’ – Idris could be either a mythological giant or a 7th century prince of Meirionnydd who defeated the Irish in a battle on the mountain. Either way, it is one of the most popular mountains in Wales, although we didn’t actually see that many people! Perhaps this is because we set off early (the car park was 10 minutes from our cottage) and we were back at the car by 2pm.

We chose to follow the 6 mile circular route in the Cicerone mountain walking in Snowdonia guide which ascends via the Minffordd path and descends via the path from Mynydd Moel – information on the different paths up the mountain is available on Mud and Routes.

The Cicerone guide describes the steps at the start of the Minffordd path as ‘brutally steep’ – I didn’t actually think they were that bad, but there are a lot of them! I stopped counting at about 550. Once you get to the top of the steps, the path becomes gentler for a while, before steepening again until you reach the top of Penygadair. From here it’s not too bad but just watch out for the edges – I wouldn’t like to do this walk if it’s windy!

I’ve heard that the Minffordd path has the best views and I can easily believe it – the view down onto Llyn Cau definitely makes you stop and look twice. Once you reach the summit the view becomes panoramic, with views over the surrounding mountains and across to the coast.

Cadair Idris trig point, with the sea in the distance

The descent was pretty horrible if I’m being honest – there were definitely times (all of the time) that I wished we’d gone down the way we came up! It is very steep and pretty much all scree – we saw two other groups of walkers during the hour it took us (me) to scramble down the path. I would also definitely avoid this path if it’s wet when you do this walk. However, if you do this walk without a dog trying to drag you down faster than you can find somewhere to put your feet, you might enjoy this section more!

We parked at the Dôl Idris National Park car park which is currently card payment only – it cost us £6 to park all day (which really isn’t that bad when you consider walking is a free activity). There are plenty of spaces, the car park was only just nearing full when we left at 2pm on a sunny Saturday. There is a tea room near the car park if you’re wanting to refuel before or after your walk.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This is another walk where I would say dogs should be on a lead the whole time: a) there are sheep knocking about and b) there are lots of steep drops. The start of the Minffordd path offers a few opportunities for your dog to have a drink, but for the majority of this walk there is no water, so you will need to carry extra for your dog. We did this on a mild sunny day (11 degrees at sea level, 0 on the summit) and ours drank 2 litres of water between them – I was definitely glad I’d packed extra! There are 3 ladder stiles to navigate if you follow the same route we did, fortunately there were decent sized gaps under the fence near them all so we didn’t have to do any manoeuvring to get the dogs over. Coal did only just fit through these though and he is on the small side for a Labrador, so if you have a larger dog they might not fit through.

The Cwm Cywarch Horseshoe & Aran Fawddwy

We were lucky enough to get a second day of glorious sunshine and made the most of this by heading north to do the Cwm Cywarch horseshoe, including an ascent of Aran Fawddwy, which is the highest peak in Britain south of Yr Wyddfa/Snowdon. This route was an 8 mile circular from our Cicerone mountain walks book (similar route online on Walking Britain), or for those who don’t fancy as strenuous a walk there is a low level alternative in the Cicerone easy walks book. If Cicerone would like to sponsor me please get in touch!

This walk starts from the National Park car park by the farm at Blaencywarch. There is no ticket machine but there is an honesty box – please contribute as you are getting an otherwise free day out! The car park was extremely quiet but can fill up in summer from the looks of online reviews.

We took the author’s advice and did the horseshoe anti-clockwise to put the wettest section of the walk at the end – we therefore spent the first hour or so steadily climbing up a well surfaced path to gain height pretty quickly. This did deceive me into thinking that my days of steep ascent had been left behind at Cadair Idris, alas, it was not to be, with the path disappearing and the ground steepening once you pass the summit of Drysgol. The slog up to the head of Hengwm was the only point where I felt a bit miserable, but it’s worth it for the views waiting for you at the top.

You will pass a cairn commemorating an airforce man who died after being struck by lighting on the ridge while on duty before continuing on to climb up to the summit of Aran Fawddwy (905m),

The ground around the summit is littered with boulders so watch where you put your feet – you don’t want to fall and hurt yourself up here! Navigation from this point is largely following fence lines as the path becomes almost impossible to pick out in places – bear this in mind if the weather forecast says it’s going to be foggy when you plan to do this walk. Look out for aircraft on this walk – we saw a few planes practicing low level flying as we descended from the mountain.

After descending for a little while you will reach a vast expanse of bog. We were very, very glad we did this walk after a prolonged dry spell which had largely dried the ground out, although Coal did fall into one section of bog which immediately swallowed him up to his neck! There are boards down to help you cross the worst sections, but these are not all encompassing, and a few have rotted through completely.

An aircraft flying over the ridge.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This was another walk without lots of sheep, but with enough to mean we decided to keep the dogs on their leads for the whole walk. It was also another walk with no water stops for the dogs where they drank another two litres of water – it’s a good job I’ve got a big backpack! There are ladder stiles throughout this walk, we either managed to squeeze the dogs under the fence, or lifted them over the fence instead of the stile if the fence was considerably lower! This is another great walk for reactive dogs as we didn’t see a single other person or dog for the entirety of this walk. Your dog should be fit and healthy to take on this walk – it was pretty tough going for them in places.

Dolgoch Falls

I hadn’t realised quite how many waterfalls there were in Snowdonia until I read the visitor’s book in the cottage on our first night – everyone was raving about the waterfalls, and about Dolgoch Falls in particular. There was a circular walk of just over one mile in our Cicerone guidebook that we loosely followed, but really the trail is pretty easy for you to follow without a guide book – just keep going up and right until you reach the upper falls, and then keep going down and right until you get back to the lower falls.

We parked in the pay and display car park in Dolgoch (£2 for four hours, which is more than enough time to do the walk as well as stop for lunch). We stopped and had some hot drinks at the Dolgoch Cafe at the end of the walk, which also does a selection of freshly made sandwiches, cakes and hot meals like jacket potatoes – I would definitely recommend!

It isn’t just a case of following a path between two waterfalls – there’s so much more to see on this walk! It took us an hour and a half to walk a mile because there was so much we wanted to stop and have a look at.

The spray from the falls and the sheltered position of the gorge has created a mini rainforest – there are lots of different kinds of plants, including Sam’s favourite ferns, which are flourishing here. Higher up we had a lovely surprise when we rounded a corner into a clearing full of bluebells – my favourite! If you aren’t distracted by the plantlife, there are dozens of mini waterfalls alongside the path, which are just as pretty as the bigger falls, even if they aren’t quite as impressive.

The path on this walk is well surfaced and easy to follow. It is wide and completely flat until you reach the lower falls, where it then becomes narrower and begins to climb to reach the second falls. There are a few short sections where the climb steepens, but these are easily manageable. Just look out for tree roots growing across the path in some of the higher up sections!

If you don’t want to eat at the cafe there is a lovely picnic area which is just past the upper falls – although there were a few midges flying around so we didn’t stop for too long! We were really surprised at how quiet this walk was with only a few other people around – but then again we did go mid-week, and I imagine it gets busier at weekends and during school holidays.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are no sheep, stiles or sections of road walking on this walk, and there is plenty of water for your dog to splash around in. Ours both absolutely loved it here – I’ve just knocked a point off as I think it will get busy enough here at times for it to be quite stressful managing a dog if they don’t like lots of people being around. It’s also a fairly short walk – we did a second walk in the afternoon before heading back to the cottage for the evening.

Abergywnant Woods

I won’t lie, this isn’t a walk that you would pick for amazing views and crashing waterfalls. It is however a walk that you pick when it’s raining on all the nice views and crashing waterfalls.

We decided to head over to Abergywnant woods when it was threatening rain nearly everywhere else and we wanted to be able to let the dogs have a quick run around off the lead before retreating indoors for the rest of the day. I found this walk in my Countryside Dog Walks guide for Snowdonia – it’s a very easy 4 mile circular walk. The route is also available online on the Snowdonia National Park website.

The walk starts from the National Park car park in Penmaenpool, which is just off the main road by the George III inn. Parking here is free and there is a public toilet at the edge of the car park.

The route starts and ends with a stretch along the Mawddach Trail, which runs for 15 kilometres along the Mawddach estuary. I really wanted to walk the full length of the Mawddach Trail but sadly we just didn’t have time – there’s too much to see and do! It’s definitely one that I’ll be keeping in mind if we ever return to the area.

The path along the estuary is completely flat and level so the trail is popular with cyclists. The path remains generally well surfaced as you enter the woods, but the deeper you go the more uneven the path becomes. There are a few climbs up and down to reach a viewpoint with a picnic bench, before you drop back down onto the Mawddach trail. The big bonus was that as the path is surfaced throughout there were no muddy or boggy sections as you sometimes come across in woodlands!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Although you need to keep an eye out for cyclists I wouldn’t say this walk is busy by any means, and once we got into the woods, we didn’t see any people at all. Dogs can be off lead for the majority of this walk (although please don’t let them run onto the estuary where there are birds). There are no stiles at all, which is our favourite kind of stile! All of the other dog walkers we saw were very courteous and put their dogs on a lead when they saw that we’d put ours on which is always a relief.

Pistyll Cain

The walk to Pistyll Cain was another short walk we did when the weather forecast was looking a bit threatening. We followed the 3km circular walk from our low level Cicerone book, which took less than an hour, but if you want a longer walk there are plenty of alternative routes you could incorporate a visit to the waterfall into.

The route was extremely easy to navigate. Starting at the Coed-y-Brenin Tyddyn Gwladys car park (free), you simply walk down the path until you reach the waterfall, cross the bridge, walk back down the other side of the river, and cross the stepping stones opposite the car park. When we visited the stepping stones were completely submerged (as they are apparently prone to being) so we used the bridge a hundred metres or so further down.

This was another very quiet walk, although we did see a few groups of mountain bikers, which made sense as there are plenty of mountain biking trails around the forest. The path was almost completely flat, and well surfaced and level throughout (apart from if we’d ended up crossing via the stepping stones!).

Although the views weren’t quite on the same level as some of the other walks we’d done, this was still a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and after two days hauling ourselves up mountains we were quite happy to take it easy!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This is another walk with no stiles, livestock or road walking. Coed-y-Brenin is also included in my Countryside Dog Walks book, which is always a good indication of a walk being great for the dogs! I did choose to keep Merry on his lead as he is so obsessed with water I could imagine him launching himself into the river, which I think can be quite fast flowing in places. You can call me a paranoid dog mum but I am quite happy to conform to that description!

Abergynolwyn

As I mentioned at the start of the blog, the cottage was unbelievably well situated in the south of the National Park. What I didn’t mention was that there were loads of footpaths and walks we could access from our front door without even needing to get in the car – and they were ‘proper’ walks too! There were three walks from Abergynolwyn in our guide books: we chose to do the 5 mile circular walk from our low level Cicerone guide, which took us up to the old slate quarry above the village, but if we’d had more time we could also have walked to Castell-y-Bere from the cottage. I’ve had a look online but can’t find an alternative so if you want to do this walk you may have to invest in the guidebook or puzzle the route out yourself using a map!

If you choose not to stay in the village, or are coming from your home, there is a car park in the village where parking is free (according to both Google and the guide book).

I really, really enjoyed this walk, and would recommend it even if you’re not staying in the village. It is interesting and varied, passing through woodland, visiting the old quarry and traversing a section of the hillside before dropping back down into the village through a Woodland Trust managed woodland.

The path is generally level and well surfaced (getting narrower and twister from the quarry onwards), view great views for minimal effort. There are a few climbs and descents but nothing that would fall into the ‘strenuous’ category. I couldn’t believe (again) that we didn’t see more people on this walk – just two local dog walkers.

The quarry was fascinating, and I was surprised by how close you could get to the remains of the site (steep drops were fenced off from the path). There were a few information panels dotted about too, which I wasn’t expecting at all with the walk being so quiet, as well as some wind up audio speakers, which you can listen to to hear more about the day to day lives of those who worked in the quarry. It’s not usually my thing but I found it really intriguing!

My favourite part of the walk was coming back through the woods at the end. Apparently the river here is home to otters (sadly we didn’t see any, even though I kept my eyes on the river the whole time, consequently tripping over my feet/tree roots/the dog a lot). There are dozens of pools with crystal clear water in between waterfalls – even I thought they looked tempting and I am not one to jump in a swimming pool if it’s less than thirty degrees!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are a few sections where dogs can be off the lead on this walk, although they should be back on the lead when you cross the open hillside as there are sheep about, and I’d be worried about having them off a lead near the quarry incase they went off the path and over a drop. The trees provide shade for when it’s warmer, and the river is perfect for water loving dogs who like to paddle. There is only one stile on this walk, which has a gate next to it that you can use, and there is only a short section along the road as you leave the village/return to your starting point.

Harlech Castle

Harlech castle is one of the many famous Welsh castles built by Edward I (or rather for him, I can’t imagine he did much brick laying himself) in the 13th century. The whole castle was completed in just seven years – I’m pretty sure that’s faster than most new builds these days!

The castle has a spectacular setting perched on the coast, with views of the ocean, surrounding countryside and the peaks of Snowdonia. Despite this the castle remains easily accessible in the middle of Harlech – it is quite a weird feeling driving around a corner and coming face to face with an enormous castle!

Getting to the castle is easy enough if you don’t miss the turn for the car park (like we did). Instead of following the sat nav, just programme it to Harlech, and then aim for the castle as soon as you enter the town. Parking is in a pay and display car park by the castle entrance and is £1 an hour for up to 3 hours – which is more than enough time to have a look around (we spent 40 minutes exploring the castle).

If you want to spend longer in Harlech there is also a beautiful sandy beach and ample opportunities for a longer walk (there is a 5.5 mile circular walk in the Cicerone low level guide that I wish we’d had time to do).

These days the castle is managed by Cadw, the Welsh government’s historic environment service, and entry is free for Cadw members or other equivalent organisations such as English Heritage (the full list is on the Cadw website). For non members entry is paid but this is really quite cheap – adult full price tickets are £2.10 per person.

There is a cafe and well stocked gift shop on site, as well as toilets. Due to Covid-19 there is a one way system in place where if you pass one area, you need to do a loop around to re-enter the one way system at the start.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Dogs are welcome on the ground floor levels of the castle and there are bins around the site where you can dispose of any poos (always a big tick for us, as who likes carrying a poo bag around for half a day!). Our dogs were made really welcome by the staff and volunteers (even though Coal barked at them) which was lovely.

I’m not sure how busy the site is at weekends and during school holidays (we visited mid-week) but the castle was really quiet when we visited – there was just one other couple walking around. Admission is limited due to the pandemic so pre-booking is essential – if you don’t have an advance ticket, you won’t be able to enter the site.

Barmouth Panorama Walk

The plan after visiting Harlech castle in the morning was to head over to Barmouth and do the famous Panorama walk. There are a few different variations of this walk, all of different lengths, and we ended up doing the shortest one as I’d picked up the wrong coat and was absolutely freezing. The different routes are available on Google, originally we had planned to follow this route from the Snowdonia National Park website, but ended up just following points 1-3 as a linear walk.

Barmouth is everything a seaside town should be. Turquoise waters, grand buildings, a bustling atmosphere, not to mention plenty of fish and chip shops! It was a bit busy for us to stop with Coal but I imagine it would be a great place for a day out.

The walk starts from the small national park car park (free) 1 mile outside of Barmouth. The path is pretty narrow and uneven in places, but the climb up to the view point isn’t too bad, and the view is stunning for how little effort is required. There is a bench overlooking the panorama which is a great place to stop for a snack.

Despite the fact that this was the shortest walk we did (it took half an hour total to walk up to the viewpoint, sit on the bench for a bit and then back to the car), we probably saw more people than the rest of the week combined. This is understandable, as the view over the Mawddach estuary is pretty epic, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you like your walks remote and people-free.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. This short walk certainly didn’t tire our dogs out! As the walk is in sheep country you will need to keep your dogs on a lead for the duration of this walk. This, coupled with how busy it was, is what has led to a score of 2/5 – purely because I think it’s less dog friendly than other walks which I have scored as a 3. On the plus side there aren’t any stiles on this walk so there is no need for awkward lifting!

Rhaeadr Ddu

The final walk we managed to squeeze in to our trip was a 2 mile circular walk to see the waterfall Rhaeadr Ddu, or Black Falls. This pretty little water fall isn’t quite as impressive as Dolgoch Falls or Pistyll Cain but it is still an eye catching feature for a walk.

The waterfall is situated in Coed Ganllwyd, a leafy oak woodland, and the walk is a very gentle round which takes you past the waterfall at the start of the walk before looping through the woods back to the car. While there are some ups and downs on this walk, it isn’t particularly steep, and should be easily manageable to anyone with a basic level of fitness.

Parking is free in the small National Trust car park in Ganllwyd, where there are also toilets. We used the sat nav and postcode on the website to get to the start of this walk, which took us down about 5 miles of very twisty one way roads, before depositing us in a lay-by in the middle of Coed-y-Brenin. The actual car park is just off the main road (A470) so you are better off just following this road from Dolgellau until you reach the village of Ganllwyd.

The route was really easy to follow using the directions on the National Trust website, with helpful way markers frequently added to trees and stumps to help keep you on the right track. We managed to not have an argument over which way was the right way on this walk which is a rarity!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This was another wonderful walk where we saw absolutely no other people (I realise I’m sounding increasingly like a hermit, but when you’ve got a reactive dog, it’s just one less thing to worry about). There were opportunities for the dogs to have a drink from little streams running alongside or under the path, and no stiles which needed to be clambered over with the dogs.

Once you cross the road away from the car park this walk is entirely off road through the woods. Please respect signs asking for dogs to be on a lead – there can be cattle in the woods for conservation grazing purposes (luckily we didn’t see any so no need for me to have a meltdown!).

Where we stayed

We stayed in Arthur’s Cottage, a dog friendly property in the small village of Abergynolwyn. The village is fantastically situated in a beautiful mountain valley – it always felt a bit surreal when the sat nav was telling us we were five minutes from our destination as we drove past Tal y Llyn!

The cottage itself is beautifully done up and the owners have done a lot of work to finish it to such a high standard. There is everything you need for basic cooking in the kitchen, as well as lots of information about the local area. The cottage sleeps four with one double bedroom (ensuite) and a twin bedroom downstairs. A log burner is always the cherry on top for us and it was lovely having it on for our final evening in the cottage when the temperature suddenly dropped! If you’re lucky enough to have some sunshine, there is also a BBQ in the back garden.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. While we loved the cottage, it probably isn’t as dog friendly as other cottages we have stayed in. The rooms downstairs, particularly the kitchen, aren’t the largest and it was a bit cramped with two dogs (probably would have been less noticeable with one dog). The main problem we had was that the kitchen door was a push/pull open – which Merry worked out on the second night and proceeded to escape every half an hour until we wedged the ironing board under the door! The back garden was great for the dogs though and had outdoor seating where we could relax and enjoy the lovely weather we had. While the garden was ‘enclosed’, there is a gap where the fence joins the wall dividing the garden from next door’s, which Merry clocked pretty quickly. We just needed to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t escape when we let them out!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today – and if you’ve reached this point, well done, I think it’s the longest one I’ve ever written! If you don’t want to miss out on future blogs make sure you subscribe below: