Whether they are on or off the lead, dogs love the sea and sand just as much as we do. Jan Orchard tracks down the ten best beaches in the UK – and some great places for you – and your dog – to stay nearby.
1. Holkham, Norfolk
This massive sand beach is a national nature reserve so dogs must be kept on a lead but are welcome all the year round. Access to Holkham Beach is via Lady Anne’s Drive on the A149 (opposite The Victoria Hotel). It is approximately a mile down Lady Anne’s Drive to Holkham Bay. For a walk that will take approximately two hours bear to the right and follow the sands for about two miles to the lifeboat station at Wells-next-the-Sea. The view of Wells Harbour and the salt marshes from the sea wall is spectacular. For a change of scene on the way back take the Peddar’s Way and Norfolk Coast Path. Keep the pinewoods on the right and the boating lake and marshes to the left and continue on the surfaced path back to the car park at Lady Anne’s Drive.
There is a lot to do in this area with Holkham Hall, many local walks and charming towns such as Sheringham, Blakeney, Wells-next-the-Sea and Holt to visit. For information on the hall and its events, see www.holkham.co.uk.
Where to stay: In Holkham The Victoria (bookable via the Holkham Hall website) has five dog friendly rooms and very good locally sourced food. A standard room is priced from £170-220 a night including breakfast and special rates are available for weekends. In Wells-next-the-Sea, there’s the friendly Globe with two dog rooms, £120-£160 a night. Book at www.adnams.co.uk.
2. Bamburgh, Northumberland
If you and your canine companion are looking for a beach with a view, you won’t do much better than Bamburgh. This fabulous sweep of golden sand is guarded by Bamburgh Castle and the perfect place to stretch your legs with a bracing walk. Look out for seals and wintering seabirds. Bamburgh is one of the sections on the Northumberland coast walk and dogs are welcome all year. There is plenty to do in the village with St Aidan’s Church and a newly renovated museum dedicated to Grace Darlingwhich, as well as a good selection of tea shops.
Where to stay: The Victoria Hotel – where pets can stay on request does good, locally sourced bar food. Doubles are from £95. www.victoriahotel.net.
3. Crosby Beach, Southport
Stretching almost a mile out to sea, Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ sculptures are sure to draw the attention of a curious canine. The 100 life-size cast-iron figures stand in the middle of the large dog-friendly Crosby Beach, giving your pooch plenty of space to run about in after he’s finished nipping at those iron ankles. Nearby Formby Beach is also a winner for dogs with some great sand dunes to explore. Southport is still one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK with varied events including the largest independent flower show in the UK in Victoria Park. The town is at the centre of England’s Golf Coast and has hosted The Open Championship at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Great spot for a golfing dog lover.
Where to stay: Sadly there is no welcome for dogs at any of the luxury spa/golf hotels in the area – but the centrally located Prince of Wales in Southport accepts pets on request. Doubles from £65.
Take your furry friend for a paddle on one of the best beaches around. Bournemouth’s golden sands stretch for miles and you and your hound can paddle freely west of Durley Chine and east to Hengistbury all year round and the rest of this glorious stretch of silky sands during the off-season. There’s a lot to do in the area – find out more at www.bournemouth.co.uk.
Where to stay: No shortage of dog friendly hotels – but it depends whether you want to be in town, or closer to Lymington or Poole – the website gives good guidance.
5. Watergate Bay, Cornwall
If you want a beach based dog break with a fabulous hotel attached, this is the one for you. Watergate Bay beach has two miles of golden Cornish sand and dogs are welcome the whole year round. The beach is only 2.5 miles from Newquay and there are many other dog friendly walks and locations in the area.
Where to stay: The fabulous Watergate Bay hotel is right on the beach –and as a holiday treat it ticks all the boxes. There’s an indoor infinity pool, a spa, lots of outdoor activities, stunning scenery and three restaurants including Jamie Oliver 15 Cornwall. Rooms start at around £160 a night, depending on season. Dogs are welcome in Ocean Wing and Coast rooms and cost £15 per dog per night, £5 per additional dog. Special three night offers are sometimes available. www.watergatebay.co.uk.
6. Yellowcraig, East Lothian, Scotland
Yellowcraig is a natural cove beach with spectacular views to the 1885 lighthouse on Fidra Island, the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It is a popular family beach, which offers a nature trail, barbecue site (which must be pre-booked with the council) and a network of footpaths through the sheltered woodlands and extensive grassland. There are good pubs and restaurants in nearby Dirleton which also boasts a castle, managed by Historic Scotland, which has superb gardens. The nearest town is North Berwick and the beach is within easy driving distance of Edinburgh. North Berwick is a charming seaside town with dog friendly sandy beaches, a picturesque harbour and a bustling high street surrounded by beautiful countryside. The area provides some of the best golf courses in Scotland. Muirfield, North Berwick, Dunbar and Gullane are only some of the twenty-plus courses within a twenty minute drive attracting golfers from around the world.
Where to stay: The Nether Abbey Hotel in North Berwick has cool, contemporary rooms, good locally sourced food and can arrange golfing. Pets are welcome on request. Rooms from £60 per person per night, depending on season, www.netherabbey.co.uk.
7. Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire
Marloes Sands is a huge expanse exposed at low tide with rocks and interesting cliff formations. Rockpools – something most dogs love – can be found at the western end of the beach. At high tide the beach can disappear altogether, but at low tide, there’s plenty to explore so check the tie table before you go. Climb over the rocks at the western end to discover Albion Sands, a perfect little sandy beach. At low tide you can see all that’s left of a wrecked ship sticking out of the sand. Scenes from the Hollywood film “Snow White and the Huntsman” – featuring Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart – were shot here. Dogs are welcome all the year round. Not far away from Marloes is Barafundle Bay – voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world but very difficult to access as there are steep steps.
Where to stay: Base yourself in historic Pembroke for access to Marloes and other beaches. The Best Western Lamphey Court Hotel & Spa welcomes dogs, is set in scenic grounds and has a pool and a spa. Deluxe double with breakfast from £155 a night.
8. St Bees, Cumbria
The lure of the Lakes often means that Cumbria’s coast is forgotten – but there are some unspoilt resorts and great beaches all within easy reach of the National Park. St Bees is an attractive little resort close to the southern Lakes and there are no dog restrictions on the beach. The St Bees Head end of the beach marks the start of Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast walk which is a great trip with an active dog.
Where to stay: Base yourself 14 miles down the coast at Ravenglass where you will also find beach and country walks. This isolated seaside village has the famous L’al Ratty railway where dogs are welcome – take the train up to Dalegarth and walk back – Muncaster Castle and is not far from scenic Wastwater. The Pennington has been totally restored by the Muncaster Estate and has comfortable, contemporary rooms and good food. A double is from around £85 a night. www.penningtonhotels.com.
9. Thurlestone and South Milton, Devon
Thurlestone/South Milton Sands is owned by the National Trust and is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The beach has plenty of rock pools to explore at low tide. The most prominent feature in the area is the famous Thurlestone Rock which was painted by Turner and is best seen at high tide. Dogs are welcome all year round.
Where to stay: The five star Thurlestone Hotel in the village accepts dogs on request in selected rooms. The hotel can organise many different activities, including golf. It is quite formal – so not for you if you don’t want to dress up in the evening. Prices from £275 for a double.
10. Wimereux,Pas de Calais, France
Wimereux is doggy seaside heaven. There’s a huge open beach with no off lead restrictions, a big paddling area that French infants happily share with canines, a traffic free prom – and the four legged are welcome in every restaurant and hotel. The town is just 25 minutes from the Eurotunnel and ferry ports. Your pet will need to be enrolled in the pet passport scheme – for details see www.gov.uk.
Where to stay: The Hotel Atlantic is dog friendly and is right on the beach. Book a ground floor room with terrace for direct access to the prom. Prices are from around 160 euro a night – there are special offers in the low season www.atlantic-delpierre.com.
- Be aware of tide conditions – if the beach has strong currents and the no swimming flag is flying, do not let your dog go into the water.
- Dogs can be bowled over by big waves so don ‘t let them go into the water if the sea is rough.
- If your dog gets into difficulty in the water, don’t try and rescue it yourself – call the Coastguard or Lifeboat on 999.
- Dead fish, seaweed and other nasties are irresistible for a smelly roll – but your hotel won’t appreciate the aroma. Take an old towel and some waterless spray shampoo with you.
- Don’t let your dog eat anything it finds on the beach.
- If your dog is off the lead, don’t let him get too social with other beach users – picnics can be an irresistible temptation.
- Never, ever let your dog run loose on an unfenced cliff.