Located near the villages of Purley-on-Thames, Sulham, Tilehurst and Tidmarsh, Sulham Woods lies within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This Site of Special Scientific Interest covers more than 70 hectares and comprises a wonderful mixture of open countryside and woodland.
Although most of the wooded areas have been neatly pathed, it’s easy for you and your dog to go off-piste and create your own exciting adventures. In fact, with so many twists and turns en route, you’ll find it’s nigh on impossible to repeat the same walk twice. This sense of variety is one of the main reasons dog walkers keep returning to the area time and again.
Another great reason to visit Sulham Woods is the thrilling year-round display of flora and fauna. Highlights include more than 300 species of moth, sprawling carpets of bluebells in spring, and wonderful wildflowers in summer. Finally, don’t miss the great photo opportunity for you and your pooch in front of Wilder’s Folly, which is a towering folly and dovecote.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, Sussex
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a glorious spot to visit. Offering everything from bird watching to beach walking, the area is one of the country’s most important conservation sites, having been made a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area for Birds (species here included the Common Sandwich, Little Tern, Ringed Plover and Red Shank) and a Special Area of Conservation.
Wildlife-lovers can navigate the Nature Reserve’s extensive network of footpaths at a leisurely pace, taking in miles of extraordinary birdlife, flora and fauna (don’t worry about keeping your dog on the lead, as there’s fencing to protect the birds). Alternatively, the long sandy beach has plenty of space for walks, games of fetch and paddles in the sea. For a moment of quiet reflection, visit the nearby Church of the Holy Spirit, where you’ll find a large memorial commemorating the local Mary Stanford Lifeboat tragedy of 1928.
This stunning stretch of coastline is also where the Normans landed in 1066, so the perfect start or finish to your walk has to be a bite to eat at the aptly-named William The Conqueror pub (car park nearby). Here dogs are warmly welcomed and the sticky toffee pudding is an absolute must.
Portobello Beach, Edinburgh
One of the most dog-friendly places in the UK has to be the coastal Scottish suburb of Portobello, which is just a short bus ride from Edinburgh city centre. A hugely popular destination for dog-walkers throughout the year, ‘Porty Beach’ bursts into life at the height of summer, drawing scores of swimmers and sunbathers.
Regardless of the season, you and your dog will enjoy roaming the two kilometres of golden sands, strolling along the promenade, or exploring the nearby public parks. One of them, Brighton Park, hosts a buzzing food market on the first Saturday of every month.
The pooch-friendly atmosphere extends to many of the local shops and businesses. So after you’ve filled your lungs with sea air, pop to the high street’s pet grooming salon for a spot of doggy indulgence, purchase some healthy goodies at the special ‘dog bakery’, or pick up a piece of liver cake from the popular beachside café.
British Camp, Worcestershire
Dividing the beautiful countryside of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the Malvern Hills attract ramblers, cyclists and dog walkers from far and wide. Probably the most iconic peak of the hill range is British Camp, where it’s said Ancient British chieftain Caractacus made his last stand thousands of years ago. The location also inspired Worcestershire-born composer Edward Elgar when writing one of his early works, the Caractacus cantata.
Shaped by the hands of Celtic labourers in pre-Christian times, this spectacular hillfort has a distinctive jagged appearance and magnetic appeal; primarily because of its archaeology, history, flora and fauna and geology, but also for its spectacular views and almost mystical quality.
A tarmac path zigzags its way to the summit of the hill, and en route there’s plenty of open grassland for your dog to enjoy. There’s also a dog-friendly café and large car park at the foot of the hill, and a short drive down the road you’ll find a freshwater spring. Here you and your dog can sample some of Malvern’s famous spring water, which has been hailed for its healing qualities and was a popular choice in the royal household for centuries.
Sugar Loaf Mountain, Monmouthshire
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Look west from the summit of British Camp and you’ll see the imposing outline of Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance. The popular Welsh landmark dominates the skyline for miles and provides a spectacular backdrop to the attractive nearby market town of Abergavenny.
Whether you’ve got an excitable young pup who loves new adventures or an older companion who prefers a more gentle pace, the landscape offers walks for every type of dog. Older pooches will enjoy keeping to the flat expanse at the foot of the mountain, where they can navigate the network of pathways exploring the heather and bracken, while adventurous types will relish the chance to race you to the very top.
While the long and increasingly steep ascent is not for the faint-hearted, the views from the top of the mountain are breathtaking. Sugar Loaf is also a haven for upland wildlife and you’ll be treated to sights of skylarks, house martins, swallows, red grouse, buzzards and the occasional red kite.
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