A Weekend in the Peak District

This time last year I spent a weekend in the Peak District with Merry and my Mum. The Peak District was the first National Park to be created in the United Kingdom (1951) and it was also the site of the famous ‘mass trespass’ onto Kinder Scout which is largely credited as the start of the public rights of way movement. The Peak District is also home to many country houses and unusual field patterns (piecemeal enclosure), so my inner landscape history geek was bursting to get out and explore!

Merry posing at Curbar Edge

Where We Stayed

We stayed in the pretty Laurel Cottage in the village of Youlgreave. Laurel Cottage can be booked direct or through cottages.com – a handy tip for those of you who use Tesco Clubcard is that you can use your points to get up to £99 off your booking with cottages.com! The cottage was nicely decorated and had a large garden, woodburner, and complimentary dog treats on arrival which Merry loved! There was also lots of information about local walks and activities. Youlgreave is really well located if you want to get out and about – it’s about a 10 minute drive from Bakewell if you want to try an authentic Bakewell tart!

If you stay in Youlgreave and choose to eat out, I would definitely recommend the dog friendly Farmyard Inn. We came here on Pie Night and it was so good we came back on our second night! (Pie Night is Wednesday, or at least it was, if anyone else loves pies). It does seem very popular so I would recommend booking ahead.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There is plenty of space inside for a larger dog with a large enclosed garden. There are lots of soft furnishings inside so be careful if you’ve got a pooch that loves to jump on sofas!

Curbar Edge

We chose to walk at Curbar Edge purely because the car park was National Trust and therefore free to us as members. And what a lovely walk! This relatively easy circular route will provide panoramic views across the valley and you will see plenty of the wonderfully wonky rock formations associated with the Peak District. Make sure you look behind you as you head along White Edge for a glimpse of Chatsworth house in the distance (Chatsworth is definitely a must visit – but it deserves a post all to itself so I won’t write about it today!).

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Merry absolutely loved this walk! Be careful of steep drops along White Edge and if there is livestock around make sure you keep your dog on a lead. The end of this walk passes through woodland which will offer plenty of exciting smells and opportunities for off lead running!

Dovedale

Where is more famous in the Peak District than Dovedale? Nowhere! This was perhaps reflected by the fact that Dovedale was by far the busiest place we visited, even on a Thursday morning. The landscape is not only postcard perfect, it is also a great example of certain types of rock formation, or so I heard when I was ear wigging on one of the many school geography trips we passed.

We walked from the car park (pay and display, toilets) to Lover’s Leap. This walk only goes as far as the stepping stones, but if you want to walk further like we did you can just carry on following the path. If you go in spring keep your eyes peeled for the adorable ducklings which we saw (luckily Merry was too busy paddling to spot them).

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. I think this was by far Merry’s favourite walk of the weekend! He is a water baby and you follow the river all the way on this walk. It is calm and shallow and perfect for swimming. There are also poo bins on this walk for you to dispose of bags before you go home. I’ve knocked off a point as this walk is busy so may not be suitable for nervous dogs.

Ladybower Reservoir

On our way home we stopped at Ladybower reservoir (those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know how much I love a reservoir walk!). You can park along the busy roadside for free or pay to park in one of the near by car parks. This reservoir is popular with walkers but large enough that you probably won’t see too many people on your walk. It was very lush and green, with lots of wildflowers, a bit of a contrast to the slightly more bleak reservoirs back in North Yorkshire! We only stopped and walked down to the waterside to let Merry have one last holiday swim, but if you are looking to do a longer walk, Let’s Go Peak District have a 5 mile route which seems like a lovely walk.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk is great for pups who like to swim, however, I did keep Merry on a lead away from the water’s edge as there were sheep throughout this walk. You will see other dogs and walkers on this walk, even if it’s not busy like Dovedale, so remember your dog walking etiquette and put your dog on a lead if the dog coming towards you is on the lead.

Curbar Edge

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the Peak District! We barely scratched the surface on our visit so we will definitely be heading back to explore the area more – let me know your recommendations in the comments!

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Towton Battlefield

Towton is a small village in the Selby District of North Yorkshire. It is charming and quaint and few people driving through the village along the A162 would guess that Towton is the site of possibly the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. We had never walked in Selby before, as it is generally quite a lot flatter than the neighbouring districts and we like our hills, but I really wanted to make the trip to visit the site of one of the most important battles of the Wars of the Roses.

The Bloody Meadow

The Wars of the Roses

When I was at uni I studied History and my favourite topic BY FAR was the Wars of the Roses. For some reason this period is not as popular as the Tudors who emerged from this period as the rulers of England. I don’t know why as the drama of these wars was enough to inspire an entire saga – George R. R. Martin borrowed heavily from the Wars of the Roses when he wrote Game of Thrones – and in my opinion the Tudors are overdone anyway!

To cut a very long story short, the Wars of the Roses were a series of conflicts fought between two branches of the Plantagenet family. The King at the time, Henry VI of the Lancastrian branch of the family, was a very nice man but an absolutely appalling ruler who had no concept of finance or foreign policy. His cousin, the Duke of York, seized control of the government and the King, after Henry started to suffer prolonged periods of mental disability, where he would be practically comatose for months at a time. This did not go down well with the opposing faction at Court headed up by Henry’s French Queen, Marguerite of Anjou. This was the start of a tug-of-war between the Queen and the Duke for control of the King and the country. The Duke of York was later killed at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, but the ‘Yorkist’ faction continued, under his teenage son Edward.

Over the next two decades war would rage in England with opposing armies tramping across the countryside. The teenaged Edward deposed Henry and was crowned as King Edward IV in 1461, imprisoning Henry in the Tower of London, but Henry’s wife Marguerite and her allies continued to fight for his restoration. Edward was temporarily deposed in his turn after a complicated series of allegiance shifting, before a series of battles in 1471 marked the end of the ‘true’ Lancastrian line, leaving Edward IV as undisputed King with only an obscure Tudor cousin in hiding in France as the heir to the Lancastrian claim…

The Battle of Towton

The battle of Towton was fought on Palm Sunday in 1461 in awful conditions. A blizzard was blowing and visibility must have been terrible. Edward IV was newly crowned, still just 18 years old, and looking to resolve the conflict once and for all. The battle itself was long and bloody, with some estimates placing the number of dead at upwards of 28,000 men, out of 50,000-60,000 men in the field. This is all the more shocking when you remember that the bulk of the men fighting were common people who were only their because their local landowner told them they had to be. The battle ended in a crushing victory for the Yorkists and marked the start of a period of peace which lasted for almost 10 years. For more detailed information about the battle you can look on the Battlefields of Britain website.

The Battlefield Today

We we visited the battlefield I was thrilled to find that while the land is privately owned, the land owner allows the public to access the battlefield, and there is a specially constructed battlefield walking trail. From Towton village head west down Old London Road where there are a few large lay-bys that you can park in. Continue down this road to the Information Board at the start of the road which marks the start of the 4 mile sign posted walk. The walk is very easy and mostly flat along the edges of farmland and gives excellent views across the battlefield. Information boards around the walk tell the story of the battle and explain what happened on this part of the site. These boards also include photographs of artefacts which have been recovered from the site and of items similar to those which would have been in use during the battle. It was actually a very moving experience to look over the field known as the ‘Bloody Meadow’, where the Lancastrian troops were mown down by fresh Yorkist reinforcements under instructions to give no quarter, and to think about what a terrifying and harrowing experience it must have been for those on the field of battle.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk is dog friendly and we saw plenty of other dog walkers – for this reason I’m knocking off a point, as if you’re looking for a very quiet walk, this isn’t it. There are sections where you can let your dog off the lead as livestock is behind fences, but please keep an eye out for where you re-join the road. As always, make sure you pick up poo and only let your dog off the lead if it is well behaved – this land is privately owned so please don’t repay their kindness by letting your dog rampage over the fields and leaving poo everywhere!

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The Northumberland Coast

The Northumberland Coast is one of the most breath-taking places you can visit in the UK. The beaches are pristine stretches of sand which span as far as the eye can see and the sea ranges from an atmospheric stormy grey to the most azure of blues. What sets Northumberland apart from other coastal areas, however, is the abundance of stunning castles which are scattered along the coast.

Cresswell

The Northumberland Coast Path

The Northumberland Coast Path stretches for 62 miles from Cresswell in the south to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the North. It can be tackled as an all in one trail in 3-7 days, depending on how fit you are, and on how long you want to linger at the attractions and villages along the way.

Last August we visited Northumberland on the bank holiday weekend and on the first day of our trip we tackled the stage one of the coast path from Cresswell to Warkworth. A route is available on Your Northumberland, however, this wasn’t necessary even for our terrible navigation skills! The route is very easy as you follow the beach from Cresswell all the way to Amble, and from there the coast path is clearly sign posted until you arrive in Warkworth.

The walk itself isn’t too taxing physically (my top tip would be to walk where the sand is wet and therefore you sink less as you walk – might be fairly obvious but it took Sam the first 6 miles or so to work this out!). Mentally however it was a bit more of a trek than I had anticipated! Not long after you set off Croquet Island (pictured off shore on the right) will come into view, where it will stay in the middle distance for about 3 hours, not appearing to get any nearer! By the time we were level with the island I was ready for bed, but we still had a fair few miles to go before we reached our campsite for the night!

If you are planning to walk the Coast Path and camp along the way, the only campsite near the end of stage one is Walkmill Campsite, which is about half an hour’s walk from Warkworth. The campsite is dog friendly and has clean facilities. The pitches are nicely spaced out so it didn’t feel too crowded even though it was full when we visited – our pitch was right at the end of the site near the river. Although it was a bit of a walk to the tap it was lovely and peaceful which we definitely needed to recover from our mammoth walk!

My favourite stretch of coast which we walked along was Druridge Bay (which I’ve already talked about in my post A Weekend in Northumberland). Druridge Bay is 7 miles of pure bliss, with enough space to feel like you have the beach to yourself even when there are plenty of other people around. This is a bit of a theme along the Northumberland Coast – I don’t understand why more people haven’t discovered it yet!

Dog Friendly rating – 5/5. What could be more perfect for a dog than walking along 60+ miles of dog friendly beach?! The walking is nearly all off lead, the sea is always on hand for swimming to cool down and you can generally find a poo bin in car parks along the way. Just remember to take some water and a bowl for your dog to drink from.

Embleton Bay and Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle is my absolute favourite castle. ANYWHERE, EVER. And that is coming from someone who went to school at the bottom of Castle Hill in Dover! It might be little more than a crumbling ruin these days, but it’s iconic position overlooking Embleton Bay gives me shivers down my spine every time I see it. Built during the reign of Edward II in the fourteenth century, Dunstanburgh is now managed by English Heritage and you can visit the castle for free as an English Heritage or National Trust member. Dogs aren’t allowed inside the boundary walls so you might need to take turns having a look at the inside of the ruins.

You can walk to Dunstanburgh from the village of Craster. Parking in the village itself is limited but there is a large car park (pay and display) at the entrance to the village. My favourite walk is from Craster to Low Newton, a 6 mile walk which takes in the castle before continuing on to reach glorious Embleton bay. There are views for miles for the whole walk, with particularly wonderful views back to the castle from the far end of the bay. Start or finish your walk with a meal at the dog friendly Jolly Fisherman, which is generally very busy because the food is amazing! If you are planning to visit I would recommend calling ahead to book a table, especially if you are taking your dog, as dogs are not allowed in the restaurant but are allowed in the bar area.

Dog Friendly rating – 5/5. Miles of practically empty beach for zoomies, dog friendly pub, need I say more?

Lindisfarne

For the second day of our trip we decided to hop in the car and head over to Lindisfarne. This was a bit of a shock to the system after the deserted beaches of the mainland the previous day – Lindisfarne was absolutely heaving with tourists and walking to the village was somewhat akin to walking along the escalators on the London Underground. We did visit on a bank holiday weekend though and I am reliably informed that outside of peak season it is much quieter! The main car parking area is a pay and display car park which is about a five minute walk from the centre of the village.

We had planned to visit Lindisfarne Castle, but after seeing the queue from a mile away, decided to instead visit Lindisfarne Priory (pictured). The Priory is absolutely fascinating and was for hundreds of years the home of the monks who were so famously the victims of the Viking raiders during the Anglo-Saxon period. The Priory was busy until you reached the paid entry area, which provided an oasis of calm on the manically busy island! The Priory is dog friendly and provides great views over the island. For more great views head up to the Lookout Tower, where on a clear day you can see over to Bamburgh castle on the mainland.

Dog friendly rating – 2.5/5. There aren’t too many opportunities for off lead walks (although there may be some on this circular walk that we didn’t have time to try.) Lots of the cafes are dog friendly, but the island was so busy it would have been a bit of a nightmare with a dog that didn’t like people/other dogs.

View from the Lookout Tower to the mainland – you can see Bamburgh Castle on the Horizon

So there you have it! I’ve ended up expanding quite a bit on what I originally planned to write – but I really love this part of Northumberland and wanted to inspire others to visit. If you’ve enjoyed this blog make sure you subscribe below:

Troller’s Gill

We have been out and about this week exploring some new walks, as well as re-visiting old favourites. Troller’s Gill is a bit of both, as it is a walk I had never done before, but one that Sam has known for years. This walk comes up trumps with a great mix of beautiful Dales scenery, inspiring natural rock formations, and plenty of opportunities for the dogs to jump in water to cool off.

Troller’s Gill itself is a limestone gorge not far from Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale. It is easily accessed via footpaths from just off the B6265 and is popular with local climbers. Park in a lay-by at the start of the walk. The gorge is about half a mile long, and is named after the supposed trolls who were thought to live there, according to local folklore! Keep your eyes peeled and see if you can spot the Barghest, the huge black dog who can turn you to stone with a single look, who folklore also attributes to living in the gorge.

For the majority of the year the gorge is dry, however, in extremely wet weather Skyreholme beck runs over the ground through the middle instead of solely below ground. On these occasions I’d recommend wearing your wellies!

A route similar to the walk that we did is available on the Walking Englishman, although we extended ours a bit so that it was closer to two hours. The footpaths are generally very well surfaced the whole way around, but the gorge itself is very rocky, so sturdy boots are recommended!

We enjoyed a lovely stroll to the gorge and back in beautiful sunshine – we were even able to let the dogs off their leads in areas where there were no sheep. This may have been a mistake, as it took several minutes and a brief but intense disagreement between Sam and I to coax Merry out of the river, as he was having so much fun fishing out rocks (don’t ask!) that he didn’t want to come out! You also pass some old mines on the walk which are tempting for those who love dark enclosed spaces and less so for those who don’t. DON’T go into the mines as they are potentially dangerous.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. I was expecting to need to keep the dogs on the leads for the whole way round this walk but there was a good mile or two stretch where we were able to let them off. Merry in particular loved Skyreholme beck (pictured) which you follow for about half of the walk. There is a good spot where you first reach the beck that would be ideal for picnics – we sat in the sunshine for ten minutes or so while the dogs played in the water – it was wonderful. Obviously if there are sheep around, keep your dogs on a lead, and don’t let them stray down any mine shafts! But for a lovely gentle afternoon stroll with your dog you can’t go far wrong with this walk.

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5 Undiscovered Lake District Walks

The Lake District is widely regarded as the most dog friendly place in Britain – a well deserved accolade earned by its bounty of dog friendly accommodation, eateries and shops. This has led to dog owners flocking to the region year round, and while great for the local economy, it can lead to many of the popular walks feeling a little like motorways with walkers passing continuously in both directions! I’m going to share with you five walks we have found which offer the spectacular beauty of the Lakes but which are much quieter than some of the Instagram hotspots which are scattered across Lakeland.

Sunrise over Keswick – getting out early is one of the only ways to avoid crowds in popular places!

1. Grizedale Forest

When you think of the Lake District I expect that the first things that spring to mind are mountainous fells and tranquil stretches of water. But there is a whole world waiting to be explored at Grizedale Forest, a Forestry England network of walking and cycling trails, with a Go Ape activity centre to boot. I think the majority of visitors to Grizedale make a beeline for Go Ape and therefore the ten walking trails are largely deserted. There is a car park at the Visitor Centre and you can pay on the day (cash or card) or after your visit online.

We chose to venture up to Carron Crag which is the highest point in Grizedale Forest. The walk is largely through woodland, with plenty of opportunities for off-lead walking, before summiting Carron Crag to provide panoramic views of the distant fells.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This walk has the benefit of being one of the only Lakeland walks we have found which is completely devoid of sheep. When there are sheep around you should ALWAYS keep your dog under close control, preferably on a lead, in particular at lambing time. No sheep means no need for leads, so Merry went absolutely nuts sprinting around the woods, and for once we went home with a fairly tired spaniel! Couple this with the lack of people and you have the perfect recipe for a quiet dog friendly walk.

2. Ennerdale

Red Pike

Four of us made a trip to Ennerdale about two years ago and the experience has stayed with me ever since. We did a massive day long walk (similar to this route on Walking Britain but slightly shorter!) and yet we didn’t see any other people – the sole exception being Red Pike which is easily accessed from Buttermere. The Western fells (with the exception of Scafell Pike) are much quieter than the more accessible central fells and are worth the longer drive to get there. If you want to stay overnight accommodation options are more limited – we have previously stayed at the Bower House Inn which is dog friendly and does amazing food! I would recommend asking to have a room away from the bar though as it was a bit noisy when we stayed.

Ennerdale is the focus of a re-wilding project which started in 2003. Wild Ennerdale has led to the gradual spread of native tree species, the re-emergence of a rare species of butterfly and a change in grazing management from sheep to cattle. It really does feel wilder than other parts of the Lake District, which is only magnified by the total absence of other walkers.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Although I love this walk, it isn’t the most dog friendly you’ll find on this blog. While most dogs will love being out on the fells all day, and there aren’t many stiles that I recall, there are sheep throughout this walk so dogs should be kept on a lead the whole way around. We did have one instance where our friend was nearly dragged down a fell in pursuit of a sheep! Luckily he managed to brace himself and hang onto the lead. However, if your dog is likely to pull you hither and thither to chase livestock, you might not have a particularly enjoyable experience. If your dog is well behaved on the lead though please do not let that put you off this walk – it truly is one of my two favourite Lake District walks! For my other favourite, continue reading…

3. The Langdale Pikes

I am always shocked that there aren’t more people exploring Langdale. Langdale is a short drive from Ambleside and easily accessible, and yet for some reason, it is never as crowded as other nearby locations. There is a pay and display car park in Langdale where you can leave your car,

The Langdales, along with Ennerdale, are one of my favourite places in the Lake District. Their distinctive ridge beckons to the keen walker, and there are a multitude of walks waiting to be explored, including the Langdale Pikes. My favourite route is available on WalkLakes, and although it can be busy on the way up to Stickle Tarn, as soon as you reach the Pikes themselves the walkers dwindle until you are almost completely alone.

Finish off your walk by calling into the National Trust pub, Sticklebarn, which is dog friendly and offers some seriously tasty grub. They are also working hard to be sustainable which is always a good reason to support a business.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Similarly to Ennerdale, there are sheep throughout this walk, but there is an added bonus with the swimming opportunity presented at Stickle Tarn. Merry absolutely loved swimming in the water (even in the freezing cold!) and had to be persuaded to come out with the promise of a handful of cheese. There is water throughout much of the walk, so plenty of chances for your dog to have a drink, but be aware that there are also stiles on this walk. When we did this walk we stayed at the dog friendly Queen’s Head which I would definitely recommend.

4. Sale Fell

If you don’t fancy as strenuous a walk as those suggested in Ennerdale and Langdale, head north west to tackle Sale Fell. Parking is free in a lay-by on the roadside. WalkLakes offers a short walk which is relatively easy and can be tackled in an hour or two. Despite the short length, you still get a beautiful view of Bassenthwaite Lake, where you should keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the ospreys which visit during the summer months. To find out more about the Bassenthwaite ospreys you can go to the Osprey Watch website.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. This is a fairly short walk which won’t tire out most dogs. You will also need to keep your dog on a lead as there are livestock grazing. However, there are no stiles on this walk, which is definitely an appealing factor for owners of larger dogs!

5. Lanty’s Tarn

I’ve decided to include Lanty’s Tarn on this list even though it starts from the bustling town of Glenridding. Much of Glenridding’s popularity stems from its association with Helvellyn, but other walks are available! Including this route to Lanty’s Tarn via the small fell Keldas. Perhaps because everyone was heading up Helvellyn, we saw very few people on our walk, despite doing a few laps at the top of Keldas when we got lost! There is a large car park (pay and display) in Glenridding.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are sheep on this walk, but also opportunities for off-lead walking, which are pointed out in the route description.

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Thruscross Reservoir

Thruscross Reservoir is a little known gem of a walk, located in the Nidderdale AONB, the less well known but equally beautiful neighbour of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Nidderdale encompasses many of the aspects that make the Dales so popular: miles of footpaths, stunning views over hills and valleys and disarmingly photogenic sheep – all without the hoards of walkers and day trippers that descend on the Dales at weekends and in the summer holidays.

Located a few miles north of Blubberhouses, Thruscross Reservoir is slightly wilder than close by Grimwith, and definitely a more strenuous walk than Fewston and Swinsty. There is free parking at the reservoir and the car park is nearly always less than half full. Take your sturdy boots and be prepared to get muddy if the weather has been wet!

The path on this 4.5 mile walk does become uneven in places (including slippery paths with tree roots growing across them), there are stiles to climb and one fairly short but steep ascent up onto the moor. This is all a small price to pay for the tranquility of the reservoir and the utter peace and quiet you will experience on this walk. We have seen red kites plenty of times on this walk, so if you head up there keep your eyes peeled for their distinctive fork-shaped tails, or listen for their slightly eerie shrieks.

You can visit Thruscross at any time of year and not come away disappointed. The views are not as dramatic as those you would see on summiting one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, but they don’t need to be. They are an undiluted representation of North Yorkshire at it’s finest, somewhat bleak, but always bursting with signs of new life – whether that is a lapwing piping as it flies back to it’s nest or a tree growing against all odds in the most inhospitable conditions atop a moor.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Thruscross is the perfect place to take your canine companion for a walk in the countryside. The woodland sections of the walk offer ample opportunities for off-lead play (and many, many sticks) while the reservoir itself can be accessed away from the paths for a swim. Please keep your dog on a lead on the moorland and pick up poo. Remember to take your litter home with you – if you can carry it there full, you can carry it home empty!

NB: Do not throw sticks for your dog incase they cause damage to your dog’s mouth/throat. Where sticks are referenced above, Merry loves to carry them around and admire them!

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Robin Hood’s Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay is a stunning fishing village perched on the North Yorkshire coast. Famous for its historic association with smugglers, it has a beautiful sandy beach, twisting cobbled streets lined with independent shops and wonderful clifftop views along the coast.

I’ve been to Robin Hood’s Bay quite a few times since I moved to Yorkshire – it’s definitely worth the drive to get there! There is a wonderful circular walk starting from the car park at the top of the village. This walk is beautiful, especially in summer when the hedges and flowers are in full bloom, and on a sunny day the sea could almost be the Mediterranean as it is so blue!

If you don’t fancy a longer walk there is plenty to occupy you in the village. Park at the Station Car Park (pay and display) at the top of the hill as there is very limited parking in the village and it is difficult to navigate the streets in a car. Walk down the hill and enjoy the view over the village to the North Sea. Once in the village browse the shops, stop for lunch or visit the village’s tiny museum (free entry, not dog friendly).

There are a whole host of independent businesses in Robin Hood’s Bay, many of which are dog friendly. Lots of them are also focussed on the fact that for many Robin’s Hood Bay marks the end of the Coast to Coast walk (which is on my walking bucket list!). If you visit, make sure you take the time to call in to one of the cafes and relax with a drink and something to eat, and enjoy the views or a bit of people watching. I have taken shelter from sudden downpours in the dog friendly Coffee Shack and definitely recommend their cakes!

The beach at Robin Hood’s Bay is dog friendly year round, and you will encounter plenty of other dog walkers on the beach. Merry especially loves splashing around in the rock pools and swimming in the sea! Robin Hood’s Bay is part of the ‘Dinosaur Coast’ and fossil hunters also like to comb the beach for specimens. Coupled with its family friendly nature, it is best to visit this beach during the week or out of season, as it can get busy in summer.

Overall dog friendly rating – 5/5. Robin Hood’s Bay gets full marks from us – beautiful sandy beach for running and swimming (please pick up poo and dispose of in the bins provided), miles of coastal walks, dog friendly shop and cafes – there’s simply nothing Robin Hood’s Bay doesn’t offer to dogs and their owners!

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A Weekend in Northumberland

We were meant to be heading off on holiday on Friday, which is now not happening for obvious reasons, so I thought I would look back on our most recent trip away which was to Northumberland at the close of 2019. Northumberland is one of our favourite places to visit and we come up every year for the amazing walks, beaches and castles, as well as day trips throughout the year to places like Druridge Bay.

Where we stayed

We stayed at West Wing Cottage which is nestled in the countryside between Hexham and Corbridge. The location is perfect, close enough to both towns to be able to get anything you need easily, while just far away enough to get that secluded feel which makes your stay utterly peaceful. The cottage itself is beautifully decorated and we really appreciated all of the little touches that the owners had thought of, including a welcome hamper, and an in person welcome on the first night.

While the garden is secure, I didn’t let merry out unsupervised, as the wall is low enough that athletic dogs may be able to scale it into the garden of the owners next door! Instead we walked him down the quiet lane which was practically devoid of cars for the duration of our stay.

West Wing Cottage is a ‘bastle’ house, a kind of cottage found along the border with Scotland, heralding from the days when the border reivers would carry out night time raids to steal livestock. This means that the cottage has loads of gorgeous features, as well as thick walls that block out almost all sound from outside! This is particularly handy if you have a dog like Merry who tends to bark at the slightest noise from outside.

Our overall dog friendly rating for West Wing Cottage is 4.5/5. The house is perfect for dogs who might be noisy due to outside sounds, due to the thick walls which stop any disturbance, so you are guaranteed a peaceful nights sleep. The floors downstairs are flagged so you can easily wipe any paw prints if necessary and the cosy log burner (our favourite part of the cottage) is perfect for a tired pooch to curl up in front of after a long day of walks.

Kielder Forest

One of the main reasons that we chose to stay near Hexham was to be able to go walking in Kielder Forest. There are miles and miles of trails to choose from, including the tough but immensely rewarding route up Deadwater Fell. This walk is easy to follow as it is clearly marked – just don’t accidentally follow the cycling markers like we did or you’ll add on a few extra miles! Reaching the summit you get amazing views over Northumberland and Scotland. There is a paid car park at Kielder Forest (card payments accepted).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This walk is very quiet and perfect for getting out just you and the dog. Even though the car park was relatively full we didn’t see any other people on our walk after we had left the visitor centre. The woods offer plenty of exciting smells and opportunities for adventure, or head down to Kielder Water for a nice cool swim if it’s a hot day!

Cragside

We happened upon Cragside almost by accident. We were looking for a way to spend a morning, before heading to the beach in the afternoon, and stumbled across Cragside in our National Trust handbook. We definitely hadn’t realised how much there was to do at Cragside and we ended up spending the whole day here! The gardens are very different to the normal National Trust gardens (which could be due to the fact that they are on a hill) and all the more interesting because of it. You can also walk down to some of the old buildings associated with the hydroelectric dam, or follow one of the longer trails around the estate (we did the ‘Gun Trail’ and would definitely recommend this!).

Dogs are not allowed inside the cafe here but there is a covered seating area outside where you can sit. This is a small detail, as there are ample picnicking opportunities along the miles of paths, all of which with better views and less people than the cafe!

Overall dog friendly rating – 5/5. We kept Merry on a lead as requested in the gardens but were able to let him off once we got away from the house itself. The walk was very quiet and Merry loved diving into the bushes to see what he could find. We passed some other very happy looking dogs at a cross section with another walk who were having such a good time that they were refusing to head back to their car! There are miles and miles of trails at Cragside which make it an ideal place to spend the day with your dog.

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall is the reason that I wanted to visit Northumberland for the very first time, and it is now part of the reason why we keep coming back. Spanning from Solway Firth in the west to Wallsend in the east, we walked a very small segment from The Sill landscape discovery centre to Housesteads Roman Fort, and back via Vindolanda. If I could do this walk again I would do it as a linear walk from the Sill to Housestead and back again, as the loop round to Vindolanda is pretty much all on road. However, don’t let that put you off walking along the wall itself, particularly not the area around Housesteads which is stunning. Car parking at The Sill is charged and prices are on their website.

If you don’t have the time for a longer walk, Housesteads Fort is superb, and I would 100% recommend a visit to anyone who is interested in history. It is owned by the National Trust but managed by English Heritage so members of both organisations can enter for free. Dogs are welcome on the site apart from the small museum (which is also worth visiting if you can take it in turns to hold the dog outside). The first time we visited Housesteads we parked in their car park (charges apply) and went for a wander along the wall to Sycamore Gap. We tarried for slightly too long and when we got back to the fort we found that we had been locked on the wrong side of the wall! Cue both of us scrambling over the wall, Merry deciding not to wait for us to lift him down and jumping off himself to land on my head – I was not a happy bunny! Therefore make sure that you keep an eye on closing times if you are visiting at the end of the day…

Walking from the Sill to Housesteads will take you past Sycamore Gap, as featured in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. No matter the time of year this spot is both impressive and instantly recognisable. I was lucky to get a photo with no one in it – this spot is very popular with walkers and there are normally at least one or two people taking a photo of the tree for the Gram!

Dog friendly rating – 2.5/5. Despite the glorious scenery, this walk may not be suitable for all dogs and dog owners. Dogs need to be kept on a lead for this walk, either due to being on a site with lots of other visitors, or along the wall where there is livestock throughout. This walk can also be fairly busy as people come from all over to make their pilgrimage to Sycamore Gap or to visit Housesteads.

Hareshaw Linn

We found this walk in our Pocket Mountains book, which I love due to it’s small size (pocketable), good choice of walks and clear directions. It also includes some lesser known walks and Hareshaw Linn is a walk that I am not sure that we would have found otherwise! A route similar to the one in the book is available on the Northumberland National Park website.

The walk starts from a small parking area in Bellingham which is free. The walk largely passes through some absolutely beautiful woods, which according to the information signs, are a SSSI and home to a plethora of interesting and rare species such as the Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Red Squirrels. We didn’t see any on our walk but Merry probably would have scared off any who ventured too close! The route ascends gently uphill from the car park until you arrive at the waterfall, however, this is not a strenuous climb and there are no stiles to worry about clambering over.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. As with all woodland walks, there are so many interesting smells and sights that Merry loved sniffing around for the whole walk. There is also plenty of water on this walk for any pups who like to paddle. However, due to the sensitive nature of the site, dogs do need to be under close control for the length of this walk.

Druridge Bay

For me, no trip to Northumberland is complete without a trip to the beach. Northumberland has an absolutely breath taking coastline (the Northumberland Coast path links many of the beaches) and is largely empty. Even if the beach appears busy at first glance it soon quietens down once you get away from the car park.

One of the most accessible beaches is Druridge Bay. Parking is available at Druridge Bay Country Park (parking charges apply) which is right next to the beach and includes poo bins so you can dispose of any bags before your drive home.

Druridge Bay extends for miles and miles – you could head south and walk as far as Cresswell, or venture north to Amble and beyond! The beach is popular with dog walkers, so you won’t have it entirely to yourself, but we have never seen it packed like Scarborough or Saltburn (including a visit on a sunny August Bank Holiday).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. I adore the whole of the Northumberland Coast and Druridge Bay is no exception. There are miles of sandy beach for spaniel zoomies, the opportunity to swim in the sea, very few people and no need to venture near any roads! You might encounter horses at this beach, and if you do it is best to put your dog on a lead until they have passed to avoid any accidents. However we have visited this beach plenty of times and only seen them the once (Merry wasn’t remotely bothered!).

Map of Locations

  1. West Wing Cottage – dog friendly rating 4.5/5
  2. Kielder Forest – dog friendly rating 5/5
  3. Cragside – dog friendly rating 5/5
  4. Housesteads Roman Fort – dog friendly rating 2.5/5
  5. Hareshaw Linn – dog friendly rating 4/5
  6. Druridge Bay – dog friendly rating 5/5

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip and maybe feel inspired to visit yourself one day – Northumberland really is one of my absolute favourite places in the world! If you’ve enjoyed reading our blog and want to make sure that you don’t miss any future posts, you can subscribe below to receive an email notification whenever we post a new blog.

Raby Castle

Although the lockdown has eased somewhat, we are still sticking to local walks, so I thought I would ask our Instagram followers what they wanted to see in the blog this week. The result of the vote was a landslide victory for Raby Castle in County Durham which opened its doors to dogs for the first time last year.

As soon as I saw that Raby were allowing dogs I was desperate to go. I had already visited sans spaniel a few years ago and on that occasion we had a wander around the inside of the castle – which I would definitely recommend to history fans! In particular I was interested in Raby as it was the home of Cecily Neville, a 15th century Duchess of York, and mother of Edward IV and Richard III. These individuals were all prominent characters in the Wars of the Roses so if this is a period that interests you then Raby is definitely a place to add to your travel checklist. There is an onsite car park which is free for visitors.

The castle itself is beautiful and more intact than a lot of castle of a similar age. Needless to say the welcome to dogs does not extend to the castle interior, but dogs are welcome in the gardens, parkland and the Stables cafe, which even provides free dog treats!

The formal gardens were very impressive with an 18th century walled garden to explore, which at the time we were visiting had a scavenger trail for children, which seemed to be very popular! You can do a virtual tour of the gardens on Raby’s website which is great while the site is shut due to coronavirus. There are also around 200 acres of parkland to roam in, where you can see both red and fallow deer. Dogs do understandably need to be kept on a lead in the gardens and park, but the wider estate does have a network of footpaths which you can access for longer walks if you want to stretch your legs a bit more. This includes High Force waterfall, which has its own parking area at High Force Hotel.

High Force is accessed via a woodland walkway and the estate charges for access to the site (adults £2 children £1). The waterfall is extremely impressive, especially after rain, and it is therefore (sensibly) not permitted to enter the water. If you are looking for a longer walk, you can visit both Low Force and High Force on this five mile circular route.

The Raby estate has plenty to do for a dog walker. The park and gardens are a lovely way to spend a morning or an afternoon, followed by a stop in the stables cafe – not to mention the excellent gift shop which features lots of local products. Raby also very often run seasonal events, such as a Christmas market, which I have not attended but I have heard is excellent. Entrance to Raby is quite pricey (Historic Houses members enter free), and you do have to pay for parking on top of this, although if you love the site you can pay for an annual membership for free entry year round. Prices vary depending on where you want to visit on the site and a full list of prices is available on their website.

Overall dog friendly rating – 4/5. While dogs do need to be kept on leads in the garden and park, there are plenty of longer walks you can access with your pooch to let them stretch their legs. It’s also a lovely touch to have free dog treats in the cafe – we definitely felt very welcome! Top this off with a stroll down to High Force or around the woods on the Raby Estate and you have an almost perfect dog friendly day out.

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Scar House Reservoir

Scar House is my favourite local reservoir. It is less busy than Fewston and Swinsty, there is the opportunity for dogs to go for a swim, and the scenery is more varied and changing than nearby Grimwith. You can walk around Scar House Reservoir on its own for a nice walk which is around 4 miles, but if you want a slightly longer walk, you can add on neighbouring Angram reservoir to extend the walk.

There is a fairly large car park by the reservoir which gives you direct access to the walk, which includes (clean!) toilets. The walk itself is fairly easy, following the reservoir across a variety of terrain, including open moorland. This can be boggy in winter (and in summer after rain). The moor is home to lots of Yorkshire wildlife, including ground nesting birds such as lapwings which you will almost definitely see in nesting season. We have also seen adders basking on the path in summer so keep an eye out so as to avoid accidentally stepping on them! They are exceptionally well camouflaged, see if you can spot the one in the photo below….

There are some great places for dogs to jump in the water for a swim on hot days (also available on cold days if you have a water loving dog!). There are water birds about so if your dog is liable (like Merry is) to try and swim the length of the reservoir to try and catch a goose you will need to look out for them. There are also lots of sheep on this walk so keep your dog under close control.

Dog friendly rating: 3/5. This isn’t a great walk if your dog is likely to chase livestock and doesn’t walk nicely on the lead. However, if your dog IS well behaved off the lead, you can enjoy a lovely walk around Scar House with almost no people. So if you are looking for quietness, swimming opportunities and a walk which is pretty much entirely off road, Scar House Reservoir is a very safe bet.

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