Strumble Head

When I was trawling Google and Instagram for inspiration ahead of our visit to Pembrokeshire, Strumble Head was the first place I added to my list. With its majestic lighthouse and wild clifftops, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to go. We ended up visiting on a Thursday afternoon after a trip to the Blue Lagoon, and despite arriving at about 1 o’clock we still managed to park up with no trouble – there are a few free parking spaces by the lighthouse, and parking up here felt like we’d gone as far as we could without driving into the sea.

Most of the walks I found for Strumble Head were extremely long rambles which circumnavigate the entire headland, but we had already done lots of longer walks and by this point of the week our legs were flagging a bit! I therefore had a scroll through the routes plotted on OS maps and found a shorter route which looked like someone had found it using Walks Around Britain.

The route was a circular of just under 4 miles and we set off inland, following a quiet road and then a bridleway to eventually return to the coast path. The path gently undulates as it follows the sea, but isn’t strenuous in any way shape or form. Looks out for semi-wild ponies who roam the headland for conservation grazing.

Given that there were plenty of cars parked up by the lighthouse, the walk was very quiet. We hardly saw anyone apart from a lone seal swimming off the coast as we walked back. Strumble Head is well known as a great place to spot marine life, in particular seals and porpoises (although sadly we didn’t see any of those). An old pill box by the lighthouse has been converted into an observation box where visitors can sit and gaze out to sea, with a bit of shelter from the wind.

There was a small shingly beach along the coast which was almost totally deserted – just one family and their dog enjoying a picnic. There were more people gathered by the lighthouse, but generally you can apply the rule that you won’t find many people once you get 200m from the parking area!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Leads are required for most of this walk – you may come across sheep, cows or ponies at any time. The beach is a great opportunity to let dogs have a good run off the lead and a paddle, but make sure you check for seals before letting them run wild – seals appear year round but you should be especially vigilant in late summer/early autumn during the pupping season. As an added bonus, there were a few streams along the way where the dogs were able to have a drink and a dip to cool down – which we haven’t found on many coastal walks.

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A Weekend at the Mustard Pot

We absolutely love York. This historic city is full to bursting with character, history, green space and so much to do that you could spend years working your way through all that it has to offer. Therefore I was absolutely thrilled when Cat, Mart and Martha from The Mustard Pot invited us to spend the weekend in their beautiful, newly renovated holiday cottage in the city centre. Situated along the city walls close to Micklegate, the cottage is perfectly sited for exploring the city on foot, or for exploring slightly further afield in the beautiful countryside around York.

The Mustard Pot

The Mustard Pot is a beautifully decorated cottage close to the city walls. For a mid terrace property, the house is deceptively spacious, fitting two humans, a labrador and a spaniel with plenty of room to spare. Cat was so welcoming and made sure we had everything we needed for our visit: two exceptional welcome hampers (one human, one doggy) plus all the basics we needed like milk and tea etc. The cottage is so well equipped, including a smart TV and excellent WiFi connection, plus the bathroom of dreams (I would like a shower like that please!).

The living room and kitchen were fantastic, and a series of french windows let in plenty of light making it easy to forget you’re in the city centre. Coupled with the ridiculously cosy beds, we had an extremely luxurious weekend. As an added bonus, parking outside is free with the provided permit – the first time I’ve ever been able to get parked in the centre of York!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This cottage is the epitome of dog friendly – rather than just allowing you to bring your dog, they are actively welcomed. On top of the doggy welcome basket which had treats, toys and poo bags, dog towels and throws are provided to cover the furniture, as well as food and water bowls. Most helpful of all though was the paw rating which was included in the brilliant welcome pack, which has loads of suggestions for dog friendly activities and places to eat, and rates them by how dog friendly they are.

Flamborough Head

Flamborough is somewhere we’ve wanted to visit for years, but which is just a bit too far away to be able to day trip from home. We therefore seized the opportunity of being an hour closer to head over for the day to do the 12km circular walk around the headland.

We arrived at around 10.30am and parked at North Landing, where there is a huge car park (£1.80 all day). There were plenty of spaces when we arrived but by the time we got back the sunshine had brought the crowds out and it was completely full – I was having flashbacks to the crowds in Cornwall!

Although at 12km this is a fairly lengthy walk, there’s nothing hugely challenging about it beyond a few short steep sections where steps take you up and down gullies (of which there were about 3, none of which were particularly long). There’s also a lot to like about this walk: Flamborough is well known as a great place to spot marine life, and about 10 minutes after we got out of the car we spotted a small pod of dolphins off Thornwick Bay (although I’m not sure we’d have noticed them if a nice stranger hadn’t pointed them out to us!)

Shortly after spotting the dolphins we turned off to get the long inland leg of the walk out of the way at the start. Although rather boring in comparison to the very dramatic coast line, it’s almost totally flat and you re-join the coast in next to no time.

The Drinking Dinosaur was the spectacle that I really wanted to see – it’s probably one of the most photographed parts of the Yorkshire Coast. However, I wasn’t expecting to find the bay guarded by the dinosaur full of seals!

We spent a good fifteen minutes just enjoying watching the seals splash around in the shallows and scoot along the beach – this is the closest we’ve ever been when we’ve spotted seals in the wild. When we finally set back off on the coast path, it was only a few miles along the grassy cliff top to get back to the car park. We did notice that as the day wore on it got increasingly busier – Flamborough is very popular, so if you prefer to have the place to yourself, it’s a good place to get an early start.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Although leads may be needed along the cliff top sections of the walk, the long inland stretch was completely live stock free when we visited and we were able to let Coal have a good run off the lead. There were also a few seal free, dog friendly beaches where people were taking their dogs for a paddle – we avoided these though as they were fairly packed. Aside from a short section where you walk through Flamborough village, there is no road walking, and a grand total of zero stiles – hurrah! Ours both loved this walk, but if you do decide to take your dog on this walk, make sure you take plenty of water – there are no drinking opportunities, and ours polished off nearly three litres that we’d carried with us for them.

York

After a wonderfully chilled Saturday night enjoying our takeaway from Sloppy’s Burgers (it was a huge novelty to have a choice of more than one take away which delivered) and watching the Eurovision song contest, we were up early on Sunday to have a wander around York before it got busy. It was a bit surreal having York Minster and the Shambles completely to ourselves – in a good way!

It soon started spitting, so we headed back to The Mustard Pot, which is only a 10-15 minute walk from the historic centre of York, and probably less than a 5 minute walk to get onto the city walls. There is so much to see and do in York that is dog friendly: as well as visiting the Museum Gardens and Treasurer’s House, you can take your dog on a river cruise to see the sites from the water.

Wheldrake Wood

Cat had so many brilliant recommendations for places to walk the dogs nearby. As it was definitely thinking about raining, we decided to head to Wheldrake Wood, a 20 minute drive from the Mustard Pot, in the hope that if the heavens did open, the trees would keep the worst of the rain off us!

Although the woodland is fairly small and there were quite a few cars already there when we arrived, as soon as we left the main path it felt like we had the place to ourselves. There are a myriad of interconnecting paths to explore, and you could spend hours wandering around the wood following all the different tracks.

We ended up not following a particular route and just having a stroll down random paths. The wood was beautiful and absolutely bursting with green, as well as plenty of rhododendrons which were just starting to bloom. There was a good mix of coniferous and deciduous trees, providing every shade of green on the spectrum and also guaranteeing a bit of greenery no matter what time of year you visit.

We did see quite a few other dog walkers, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was ‘busy’ – especially not when you think about how close it is to the city centre! It was so green and peaceful that the city felt about a hundred miles away.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. I know I always say it, but there’s really nowhere better for a dog walk than a nice woodland. No livestock meant that we could have Coal off his lead all the way around, and the trees provide a bit of shelter if you get caught in the rain or shade if it’s a hot sunny day. This spot is popular with local dog walkers and horse riders, so please be considerate of other users, so that everyone can enjoy these special places with their canine companions.

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Canaston Wood

There was so much that I couldn’t cram into my blog last week about our trip to Pembrokeshire. Deciding what to include and what not to include was hard: everywhere we went (at least nearly everywhere) was fantastic and special in its own way. One of these places was Canaston Wood, a leafy green wonderland which you could easily drive straight past on your way to the coast.

We love a good woodland walk, and Canaston Woods is up there with the best of them. With miles of woodland trails winding their way through the canopy, you’ll experience every shade of green and find secret treasures in hidden corners. Canaston Woods is justifiably popular with locals and tourists alike, but step away from the main track and you immediately feel like you have the place entirely to yourself.

The walk we followed was a five mile circular we found in our Cicerone guide to Pembrokeshire, but there are endless possibilities to make your own walk using any of the countless tracks and trails.

This walk was a pleasure all the way around. We parked for free in the forestry car park at Minwear Forest, and spent a few lovely hours strolling along the mostly excellent paths – and there were no steep climbs either, which was fantastic after a long week climbing up and down the coast path.

Whichever trail you take, there is plenty to discover: we came across a ruined chapel and an Iron Age fort, but I’m sure there are hundreds of other hidden gems just waiting to be found. Or, if history isn’t your thing, Canaston would be the perfect place to try out forest bathing: the practice of spending time in a forest and opening your senses to nature, to experience peace and tranquility.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There’s nothing our dogs love more than a woodland walk and Canaston was no exception. Acres of space with no livestock means leads aren’t needed for most of this walk, but watch out where the wood straddles a busy main road. You also need to be respectful of other users, and may come across horse riders and cyclists as well as other dog walkers. The route we followed didn’t have any stiles, and a there were a few places where we crossed streams and the dogs could have a drink – although there had nearly dried up by the end of April.

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Four Go Mad in Pembrokeshire

About a year ago, I clicked a link in a marketing email from Holiday Cottages and ended up impulsively booking a week in Pembrokeshire. I didn’t know anything about Pembrokeshire other than the fact it’s in Wales, has a coastline, and the word conjured up a vague image of puffins in my head. Fast forward a year and we were making our way though twisting country lanes, stopping to let cows cross the road and arriving at our home for the week. And what a week – we were totally blown away every day. Although the Pembrokeshire Coast is Britain’s only coastal national park, there is so much more to this hidden gem than the seaside. It reminded us of Cornwall: dramatic clifftops, vibrant countryside and hidden woodlands, but without the hordes of tourists that flock to Cornwall as soon as the sun comes out. We managed to squeeze in plenty of incredible walks and sight-seeing – more than I could possibly fit into one blog post. So, today I’ll settle for sharing some of our favourite stops, with more to follow in later posts (subscribe at the bottom of the page if you haven’t already to make sure you don’t miss them!).

Bosherton & Stackpole

After doing a bit of research before the trip, the one place I’d set my heart on visiting was St Govan’s Chapel, a tiny ruined hermitage perched on the coast not far from Bosherton. While there is a car park right by the site (which is accessed via a short but slippy flight of steps), we wanted to incorporate this into a longer walk, and decided on a 9 mile circular from our Day Walks on the Pembrokeshire Coast guide.

I can’t find an online version of this route, which starts from the National Trust car park at Bosherton (free for members) before walking down the lane through Castlemartin Ranges to St Govan’s, then following the coast to Stackpole Quay and returning to the start via Stackpole and the Bosherton lily ponds. Make sure to check firing times on the MOD website before you visit (weekends are usually the best time to plan your walk).

Although at nearly 9 miles this was the longest walk we did, it actually was a very easy and gentle amble along a lovely part of the Pembrokeshire coast (aside from tripping over the dog’s lead 10 minutes after we set off and taking the skin off both hands and a knee). There is virtually no ascent or descent other than a few short flights of stairs, and we enjoyed a short stop at Stackpole Quay picnic area to enjoy our lunch in a sheltered sunny spot.

Aside from the chapel, which was beautiful if a little busy, the stars of the show are undoubtedly the two beautiful sandy beaches you cross: Broad Haven South and Barafundle Bay. We pretty much had Broad Haven to ourselves other than a red kite drifting on the breeze, while Barafundle was busier but by no means heaving.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is a cracking dog walk for dogs with a moderate level of fitness – both Broad Haven and Barafundle are dog friendly all year round, and ours loved having the opportunity to let off some steam on the beach after a long drive down the day before. Similarly, Stackpole and the lily ponds are also dog friendly, with the woodland tracks around the Stackpole Estate offering plenty of shade on warmer sunnier days. You’ll want to take some water for your dogs as opportunities for drinking are scarce – ours polished off 1.5 litres on a mild sunny day in April. You will also need to keep dogs under close control, preferably on a lead, on the clifftop sections, where there are sheer drops and livestock to factor in. Another positive is the lack of stiles – in fact, none of the walks we did for the whole week required us to lift the dogs over stiles, which was marvellous!

Foel Eryr

Like I said, there’s more to Pembrokeshire than just the coast. The Preseli Hills roll inland from the town of Newport and provide a slightly more rugged feel to the north of the county. While we were all about the coastal walks, we also wanted to sample everything Pembrokeshire had to offer, and we therefore made the quick dash up Foel Eryr from the free roadside car park which we found in our Cicerone guide. There’s a similar route online on AllTrails.

It really was a quick dash – it took us less than an hour to get up to the summit and back. The views were lovely (slightly more bucolic than we’re used to in the Lakes) and there were plenty of people up there taking it all in – it would be a great way to get kids into hill walking.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This is a leads on walk, as livestock roam the hills and you may come across them at any time. Nevertheless, this a lovely dog walk if you only have a short period of time or a brief weather window: it’s gradually uphill rather than steeply uphill, so it makes a pleasant stroll. With the added bonus of no stiles!

After the walk we stopped off at the dog friendly Tafarn Sinc for lunch (watch out for cats creeping into the bar to tease the dogs!). All in all a lovely dog friendly afternoon.

Marloes Sands & Deer Park

If I had to pick a favourite walk from the week, this would be it. This 6.5 mile circular ramble along the Pembrokeshire Coast path was another walk we found in our Cicerone guide and it was a delight from start to finish – a similar route is online on the National Trust website, although this doesn’t go all the way to Musselwick Sands like the Cicerone walk.

Starting from the National Trust car park by Marloes Sands, this is another mostly easy ramble along the coast with incredible views over dramatic clifftop vistas and turquoise waters. The walk is gently undulating with no steep or strenuous sections, but it’ll take you a while as you’ll need to keep stopping to soak in the views. The beach here was used as the location for the final battle scene in Snow White and the Huntsman – it’s a pretty epic setting.

Navigation on this walk was really easy – we just followed the coast path with the sea on our left until it was time to turn off and return to the car park. We saw surprisingly few people, but then that could be said of the entire week – everyone had obviously gone to Cornwall instead!

After we finished the walk we headed into Marloes and had a tasty lunch at the Lobster Pot Inn – there’s a large beer garden here which is dog friendly, and we spent a good two hours just soaking up the sun and relaxing after our walk (sea air always make us tired!).

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. While the dogs were on their leads for the entirety of the walk along the coast, we popped down to the beach at the end of the walk to let them have a good sprint on the sand. Marloes Sands is dog friendly year round and we had it almost to ourselves, despite the fact that it was 18 degrees and sunny. I’m not sure if this was because it was mid week or because Pembrokeshire seems to be generally underrated compared to other coastal holiday hotspots in the South West! Make sure to take along some water for your dogs, especially if the weather is warm.

Cilgerran Gorge

I’d never even heard of Cilgerran before Sam found this wonderful little walk in our Pocket Mountains guide. The route is a lovely circular hike, starting close to Cilgerran Castle (which you can visit for free along the way), then picking up countryside tracks to cross woodland to reach the Welsh Wildlife Centre and Teifi Marshes nature reserve, an off-the-beaten-track gem and one of the best places in the area to spot otters (we didn’t see any sadly). The return leg is along the way marked gorge trail – described in our guide book as ‘something of a rollercoaster ride up and down the gorge’s steep slopes’ – having walked it I can confirm this is an accurate description! If you don’t have the Pocket Mountains guide, there is a similar walk on the Pembrokeshire County Council website.

This walk was such a plesant surprise – the woodland is absolutely beautiful, and we pretty much had the whole walk to ourselves. The castle is more than worth a stop – climb the stairs in the tower to get panoramic views over the gorge. It’s not a walk for the faint hearted though, as the return is steeply undulating and guaranteed to get your pulse racing.

If you don’t fancy the gorge trail (which has a warning sign at the start), there are a number of other trails starting from the wildlife centre you could follow instead. If you have a moderate level of fitness the gorge trail should be achievable, just make sure you have proper footwear. Although the walk was only about 3.5 miles, it still took us the full 2.5 hours estimated to complete the walk.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Although much of this walk is through woodland, there are signs up in many places asking for dogs to be kept on leads, which should be respected at all times. There are still opportunities though where leads can be taken off – and having leads on didn’t seem to detract at all from all the amazing sniffs to be had along then way!

Despite following the river for much of the return, we were too high up to be able to access water, so make sure to take extra along for your dog. You may also encounter livestock when passing through fields (a very small section of the walk).

The Blue Lagoon

If you Google ‘best places to visit in Pembrokeshire’ I guarantee that every list which pops up will include the Blue Lagoon. The site of a former slate quarry, the lagoon’s waters range from tones of lapis lazuli to cerulean depending on the time and weather of your visit. It’s at the top of every Instagrammer’s Pembrokeshire itinerary.

The lagoon itself is interesting, but it’s right next to the car park (£4 all day) and therefore probably the busiest place we visited. It’s also just one of many beautiful places on the Pembrokeshire coast -I wouldn’t say it’s more worthy of a visit than the Marloes Peninsula, for example. But still, we wanted to see it for ourselves, and so combined it with a walk down the coast to the pretty village of Porthgain.

We combined two walks in our Pocket Mountains guide to make a circular walk, but actually this would be a great linear walk up and down the coast between Abereiddi and Porthgain. It takes you past lots of dramatic coastal views and quarrying ruins (and the people all disappear once you get past the Blue Lagoon, no one seems to like walking more than 500m from the car park). The path here wasn’t even that undulating!

We timed our arrival in Porthgain to be around lunch time and had an absolutely delicious fish and chip takeaway from The Shed, which we enjoyed on the picnic benches outside. I’d say this is the nicest fish and chips I’ve had in the last year at least and would definitely recommend stopping by.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. The inland track we followed used lots of enclosed lanes where we were able to take leads off, but along the coast we kept leads on due to steep drops. There is however a lovely sandy beach which you can access via steps about half way between Abereiddi and Porthgain, where you could go to let dogs have a good run around if you choose to do a coastal linear walk.

This is another walk where you’ll need to take extra water along for your dog, although again there were no stiles which is always a bonus when you’ve got a dog.

Freshwater West

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you absolutely have to include a visit to Freshwater West. This vast sandy beach was the location for Shell Cottage in Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, and is also famous as the place where you can visit Dobby’s grave. Being a CGI construct and a fictional character, there is no actual grave here, just a large cairn of painted stones which you can find on the dunes next to the beach.

It looks lovely on Google images, with a simple cross made of driftwood crowning the cairn. Sadly it was a case of ‘insta vs reality’ as someone has strapped a stuffed house elf toy to the cross, somewhat ruining the poignant effect.

We visited this beach on our last day and we absolutely loved it. We didn’t incorporate it into a walk, just parked in the free roadside parking area and spent an hour and a half strolling up and down the beach. It was the perfect end to a perfect week.

Freshwater West is huge, and although it’s apparently popular with surfers and in peak season, we basically had it to ourselves. It’s absolutely stunning and if there’s one beach I’d recommend you to visit it would be this – definitely in my top five beaches ever (maybe it’s even better than Sandwood Bay in Scotland considering it didn’t hail as soon as we arrived).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The beach here is huge, and our dogs spent the whole time we were here galloping across the sand in enormous circles with all the space in the world – we were practically the only ones here. This probably wouldn’t be the case in peak season but nevertheless, this is a great dog friendly beach which allows dogs all year round – so you don’t need to worry about timing your visit around pesky dog restrictions.

Where we stayed

We stayed in Llety Wen, a converted milk parlour close to Narberth. The cottage itself was lovely – comfortable, clean and most importantly spacious enough to be able to relax with two dogs. There is a cosy log burner for colder evenings and an open plan kitchen/living room, and the four poster bed in the bedroom looks like something out of a fairytale.

The location of the cottage was unbeatable for being able to get out and explore all that Pembrokeshire has to offer – we literally went to all four corners of the county and nowhere was more than an hour’s drive away. Reading the guest book, the number of entries from repeat visitors makes it clear what a great place to stay this is.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This cottage is great for dog owners, with plenty of room both inside and outside (including an enclosed garden – although this wouldn’t keep in dogs who jump over fences). This living space inside has a tiled floor, which is ideal if you’ve got a soggy dog after a walk in the rain or a trip to the beach (luckily we had our Ruff and Tumble drying coats, which we popped on at the end of the walk and meant we had totally dry dogs by the time we got home – use code Merry15 to save 15% (gifted items)).

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our week away – and that’s only about half of all the stuff we managed to cram in. Subscribe below to get weekly walking updates and inspiration:

Ingram & East Hill

Ingram is one of the most picturesque villages in the Northumberland national park, and also the start and end location for the Cheviot Goat ultra marathon, which Sam ran in March this year. We drove up the day before so that he had plenty of time to get to the race registration in Ingram the day before, and as it was a beautiful spring day with blue skies and no wind, we decided to take a short walk from the village before heading back to our base for the night. As Sam was about to run 55 miles we didn’t want to go too far, so we opted for a short circular stroll around East Hill, a small hill located (somewhat unsurprisingly) to the East of Ingram.

The route we followed was this circular of just over five kilometres which makes a circuit around the base of the hill. We parked in the national park car park just outside of Ingram, which is free, and is at the end of a short track you can follow to get to the cafe in Ingram. This cafe is wonderful and has a great choice of snacks and treats, as well as a wonderful gift shop with lots of locally made products.

Setting off on the walk we headed steadily uphill, before following a grassy track to curve around the foot of the hill back towards the village. The path was quite indistinct in places, so it’s one for a sunny day or confident navigators!

The Northumbrian countryside in the national park is lovely, and very quiet compared to the coast (which itself is quieter than most outdoor destinations). The views on this walk are pretty tame though compared to if you head out of Ingram towards the Breamish valley: although slightly more strenuous, the Breamish Hillfort Trail definitely wins the prize for the best views in the immediate vicinity. Still, for an easy afternoon stroll to chill out before an evening in front of a log burner, this was a decent walk.

As with every walk we do from Ingram, we finished off with a trip to the cafe for a hot drink – they always taste so much better when you’ve got icy fingers and your cheeks are rosy!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The nice thing about this walk is that, aside from a short section in Ingram, there’s no road walking. There were also no stiles – although Coal is slowly learning how to clamber over them without us having to bodily lift him!

Keep your eyes peeled for livestock and keep dogs on leads if you see any, especially around lambing time. We didn’t see any but hills like this are prime locations for turning a corner and finding the only sheep in a ten mile radius starting back at you! On a hot day you may need to take extra water along for your dog, as there’s not really any water or shade, so it could get pretty hot pretty quickly.

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Easter Weekend in the Scottish Borders

Bank holiday weekends are a great opportunity for a quick mini break without using any precious days of annual leave. However, with the boom in the UK staycation industry since the start of the pandemic, it’s been increasingly difficult to find places to ‘get away from it all’ on bank holidays: the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales have been hit by an influx of visitors which, while great for the local economy, makes parking a nightmare and peace and quiet sometimes seem like a distant dream. We therefore decided to try somewhere completely new this Easter: the Scottish Borders. The only time we’d ever stopped here was at Macdonald’s on the way up to Sutherland almost four years ago, and we knew there had to be more to the area than this – it does after all border Northumberland, one of our favourite places in the world. And we were right: we had a marvellous weekend packed full of coast, countryside and culture, and it seemed at times like we were the only tourists around! When you start looking into it, there is so much to do in the Scottish Borders. On our three night trip we climbed hills, hiked along parts of not one, not two but three long distance paths, and also got a healthy dose of culture. And the best part was, we arrived at 9.30am on a bank holiday weekend to every walk and were practically the first in the car park every time!

Ruberslaw

Did you know that 350 million years ago, this part of Scotland was a red sandy desert, speckled with a liberal helping of volcanoes? Me neither, but that’s exactly how Ruberslaw came into being, along with other prominent local summits such as the Minto Hills and the Eildon Hills (all of which were on my hiking wish list but alas we only had time for one).

We settled on Ruberslaw as it was not far off our route driving up to the cottage from Yorkshire, and decided to follow the 6.5 mile circular walk in our Cicerone guide to the Scottish Borders. A similar route is online on WalkHighlands.

The walk starts from the attractive village of Denholm, where you can park for free along the village green (public toilets are also on the route). We set off through Denholm Dene, a community woodland which was lovely if a little muddy (we had our boots on so this didn’t matter), then crossed over farmland to reach the final rocky climb to the summit.

It’s worth noting that the route described in the Cicerone guide now follows a fairly significant detour, as the original ascent has been closed for red deer grazing. The farmer has put up a sign with a map of a detour which we followed instead (although it’s tricky to navigate as it is largely pathless). I would have known about the detour if I’d checked the Cicerone website for updates beforehand, but alas I did not. Lesson learned for next time.

The views from the summit were worth the rather hard slog to get up to the top, even though it was a bit hazy. The trig point was one of our all time favourites, with a plaque on top telling you what local landmarks you were facing, as well as some further afield such as Mongolia and Cuba!

Coming down was more straightforward than going up as we didn’t have any unexpected detours, but a lot of the time it was completely pathless and we relied on our OS maps app to make sure we stayed on course. Definitely one to save for good visibility.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. The woods at the start of the walk are perfect for dogs, with easy access to the river and plenty of shade for warmer days. After leaving the woods there is a short stretch along a quiet road (we only saw one car) and then the climb up through fields, where you need to be on the lookout for livestock (we walked past both sheep and cows in neighbouring fields, which could be rotated into the ones we walked through). There weren’t any stiles on the route we followed so thankfully we didn’t need to do any lifting over – Coal found a very stinky bog and took the word ‘wallowing’ to a whole new level!

St Abbs

The whole reason that I booked this trip was because I wanted to visit St Abbs – a quick Google image search will show you why. Dramatic clifftop vistas, turquoise seas and the set of New Asgard in Avengers Endgame all rolled in to one. What more could you ask for?

The route we followed was a 4 mile circular route around the headland from WalkHighlands. Although it’s a fairly short walk we took our time and spent most of the morning dawdling around the headland: even though it was quite hazy, the views really were very good. The walk starts from the National Trust for Scotland car park which is £3 for all day or free for NTS members.

We did the inland leg of the walk first in the hope that some of the haze would burn off by the time we got to the dramatic views, and indeed it had improved a lot by the time we got to the cliffs. Look out for seabird colonies nesting on the rocks below, but watch out for edges – there’s no safety barriers here!

The path is grassy and indistinct along the headland, but having the sea on our left did make navigation somewhat easier (a fairly unmissable landmark). The track undulates up and down (some steep sections) and there were one or two places where the hair on my arms did stand up a little (but then I am not a fan of heights).

By the time we got back to the car, the car park was full and it was starting to get busy. That being said, considering it was a bank holiday weekend, I was surprised that there weren’t ever more than a handful of people in sight (I’ve been mildly traumatised by our trip to Cornwall where at times walking along a footpath was like walking along an escalator on the London underground).

We stopped off at the Old Smiddy tea room for lunch before setting off for our next stop of the day. We had the fresh crab sandwiches, and at £6.50 each (significantly pricier than other menu items) I was expecting them to be amazing. The crab itself was fantastic (local Eyemouth catch) but the bread was getting stale and the sandwiches looked a bit sad with a handful of crisps next to them (similar to how sad I looked after paying nearly £20 for two sandwiches, a coffee and a bottle of water).

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Being totally honest, this isn’t a great dog walk. You are more than welcome to bring your dogs along with you, but they’ll need to stay on leads pretty much all the way around: there are sheep in the fields on the inland stretch, and along the cliffs it would be dangerous letting them run around near the edges. The reason I’m giving this walk 2/5 instead of 1/5 is because there are a few places where you drop down and dogs can have a paddle in the sea, and the walk was also stile free. Definitely still take your dog on this walk if you want to see the views, but this walk really is all about the views and not about good places for your dog to have a run around.

The Loch of the Lowes

The Loch of the Lowes (not to be confused with the loch of the same name in Perthshire, where you can spot ospreys) is a relatively small loch next door to the bigger and better known St Mary’s loch. Our original plan was to walk around St Mary’s loch on an 11km circular, but closer inspection of the route revealed that about 1.5km of this was along a fast road, so we ditched that idea and decided to head instead for its smaller neighbour.

The route we settled on was a 5.5 mile circular walk from our Pocket Mountains guide. The route starts from the free parking area next to the Glen Cafe, which was probably the busiest parking area we came across all weekend. This was mainly due to the number of wild campers who’d obviously arrived the night before, and we’re never going to be up early enough to beat them, so we were just pleased that there were still a number of spaces to choose from.

The first three quarters of the walk actually take you over the hills and far away from the loch, but we were rewarded with a hike where we saw a grand total of 2 other people on Easter Sunday (who can believe it). We set out on an old drove road which took us steadily up into the hills, before picking up the Southern Upland Way to climb Pikestone Rig, which we then descended to finish off the walk along the shore of the Loch of the Lowes.

Apart from one slightly more strenuous section, this walk was fairly steady and shouldn’t present too much of a challenge to people with a basic level of fitness. Less fun was how boggy the path became on our descent – and I think it could definitely have been a lot worse if there had been rain in the days before!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. For long sections of this walk, leads needed to be on. We passed both sheep and cows and this is prime territory for walking round a corner and finding a sheep right in front of you! There was however a short section which skirted a woodland where we were able to take off leads, and the final section along the shore of the loch was a huge hit: both of ours had a great time splashing in the shallows. There’s also a stream about half way deep enough for a swim if you have a water loving dog – we stopped here for about 10 minutes to let them have a play. Another plus was the lack of stiles and road walking, so overall not a bad dog walk by any means.

Abbotsford

We still had most of the afternoon after we finished our walk at the Loch of the Lowes, so we decided to stop off at Abbotsford on our way back to the cottage. Abbotsford was the home of the celebrated author Sir Walter Scott, and is today open to visitors to the house, garden and grounds.

When we arrived we headed straight for the outdoor food stand and had a freshly made sausage roll each (which I will stress was much better value than the food at St Abbs, the sausages were cooked before my eyes, and the total bill for two rolls and two drinks was less than £5). While we were eating our food we decided to give the walled gardens a miss: there was an Easter egg trail in full swing and the hordes of screaming children were stressing Coal (and us) out enough that we didn’t want to bump into any on a narrow path, lest he have a total meltdown. Bad planning on my part!

After finishing our lunch, we took a stroll along the river, which is signed by estate way markers. There are a number of signposted walks, and the grounds are free to walk around (you just need to pay for parking). I really was very sorry not to see the gardens as they look wonderful in the photos on the website.

There was a lovely atmosphere at Abbotsford: you could tell everyone there loved it. It was really quite busy but everyone was having a wonderful time and it was great to see, as the site must have struggled during all of the lockdowns we’ve been hit with over the last few years.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Abbotsford is definitely one of the more dog friendly country houses we’ve visited, as very often dogs are only allowed on the wider estate, with strict instructions not to let them off the lead. Not so at Abbotsford: dogs are allowed in both the gardens and the visitor centre/shop, and you’re welcome to let your dog off the lead where it is safe to do so. I’ve just shaved off a point as the number of people and other dogs did make things a little tricky for us with Coal and his reactivity, but that’s more a reactive dog owner thing than anything the estate need to do differently.

St Boswells and the Tweed

All too soon it was our last morning and we were packing up our bags to head home. Before setting off for Yorkshire, we stopped off to do one final walk along the bank of the river Tweed, which took us along both the St Cuthbert’s Way and the Borders Abbey Way on an easy 7.5km walk from our Pocket Mountains guide. There is a similar route on Walking Britain but this includes a detour up to Wallace’s Monument.

This walk was a pleasure from start to finish, full of lovely riverside scenery, easy well maintained paths and the smell of wild garlic. Parking at the start is free along the green in the village of St Boswells.

I really did enjoy this walk: after a busy few days it was nice to do a walk which was almost completely flat to let ourselves recover a bit. The start takes you through the local golf course, before joining the river bank and crossing over at the Mertoun Bridge (take care as this is a fast road with no pavement). From here, we followed the Borders Abbey Way to Dryburgh Abbey, where we detoured away from the route to have a look at the ruins. Entry to the site is free, although the abbey itself is currently closed off due to falling masonry. You can see it well enough through the safety barriers though.

Leaving the abbey and crossing back over the river via the suspension bridge there is a lovely view of the Eildon Hills – I definitely want to come back and climb them one day. On this occasion though we stuck to the riverside path which we followed all the way back to St Boswells – navigation doesn’t get any easier than this walk! Both the St Cuthbert’s Way and the Borders Abbey Way are well sign posted, and following the river means that even these finger posts are largely unnecessary.

I was surprised we didn’t see more people on this walk: we liked it so much, we thought there would be more locals out enjoying it even if the area isn’t hugely well known to tourists. I’m definitely not complaining though!

Dog friendly rating – 4.5/5. I ummed and ahhed about the extra half a point, but our dogs loved this walk so much I had to add it on. From a practical perspective, there are no stiles on this walk that can’t be avoided with gates, and there were plenty of opportunities to let the dogs off lead (leads required on golf course and look out for livestock in one field). The real star of the show on this walk is the river: it’s so easily accessible that our dogs spent the majority of the walk jumping in and out having an absolute whale of a time – this would also be a great walk for a warmer day to help keep your dog cool. It wasn’t too warm when we got back to the car, however luckily we’ve recently been invited to be ambassadors for Ruff and Tumble, who’ve kindly sent me a pair of drying coats for the dogs (if you want to save some pennies, the code Merry15 will get you a discount on their website). Drying coasts on and everyone in the car, we sadly set off for home having had a wonderful weekend.

Where we stayed

It took a lot of internet trawling to find somewhere to stay in the Borders, in the location I wanted, which accepted two dogs. After weeks of searching, I finally hit the jackpot and found Shiell Cottage on Airbnb. The cottage is in a great central location between Kelso and Melrose, and has everything you could possibly need during your stay – and possibly the best water pressure of any holiday cottage shower I’ve used (it’s the small things).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The cottage was spacious enough that there was more than enough room for all of us without tripping over the dogs, and the tiled/wooden floors downstairs meant we didn’t have to worry about muddy carpets. The garden was huge and enclosed (labrador proof but not spaniel proof) and the total peace and quiet of our surroundings meant we all came home feeling a lot more relaxed than when we arrived.

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Routin Lynn

On our trip to Northumberland in November 2020, the guest book in our cottage was full of rave reviews about walks around the Ford & Etal estate. We didn’t make it up there during that week, but the comments stayed in my mind and I spent a long time perusing the walks on the Ford & Etal website. Therefore, when Sam set off on the Cheviot Goat ultra run in March and I had a day to myself with the dogs, I decided to head north and explore part of the estate.

I decided to head out on a linear walk from the village of Ford to the waterfall Routin Lynn. There is very limited free parking in Ford, which wasn’t a problem as I arrived ridiculously early after dropping Sam off at the race start at 6am. The walk was just under three miles each way and was actually surprisingly easy – heading out of the village through a small woodland, you walk through farmland to reach Ford Moss Nature Reserve, before crossing through more fields to get to the woods where you will find Routin Lynn.

There are plenty of more famous waterfalls in Northumberland like Hareshaw Linn and Linhope Spout. Maybe this is why I had the waterfall completely to myself for the twenty minutes I spent there: it was so quiet and peaceful, until Coal belly-flopped into the water and soaked me!

Navigation was mostly straight forward, but there were a few places where I needed to have my OS maps app in my hand and keep an eye on the arrow to make sure I was heading in the right direction. In the woods just outside of Ford, a section of the path is almost totally obliterated by branches and other detritus: I wasn’t sure if this was due to forestry work or the impact of the many storms which have battered Northumberland over the winter. I was able to pick my way through reasonably quickly, and from here it was plain sailing until I was nearly at Routin Lynn.

To get into the woods where you’ll find the waterfall, you need to cross a small but fairly deep stream. Your choices for crossing are either a cattle grid which doubles as a bridge, or stepping stones, which can get submerged when it’s been wet. Typically, they were submerged when I needed to cross, but I managed to get myself across by balancing on the sole piece of rock poking out of the water and hanging onto an overhanging branch for balance.

Once I’d crossed the cattle grid and entered the woods, I carried on down the clearly defined track. This was actually the wrong way and I ended up doubling back on myself: you actually want to head right down a small, faint path almost immediately after passing over the cattlegrid.

This takes you along a narrow track at the top of a bank. There’s a steep drop off to the right, so pay attention to where you’re putting your feet. There were also a number of fallen branches scattered along the path which needed to be clambered over or limboed under – so if you like a nice clear path, you might need a different approach to the falls! I knew I needed to get down to a lower path I could see at the bottom of the bank in order to see the falls, so after a few hundred metres I shimmied down a less steep section of the bank using a lattice of roots as footholds.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. The dogs loved this walk. It was a fairly even split between needing to keep leads on and being able to let them off, so Coal got the chance to do some very enthusiastic zoomies as well as having a paddle in the water at Routin Lynn (the zoomies were a lot more subdued on the way back than they were on the way out!). There were a few stiles to cross, but both of these had gaps under the fence next to them which the dogs were able to wriggle under. Overall this was a great dog walk, perfect for blowing away the cobwebs without being totally exhausted when you get back to the car.

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Whinlatter Wainwrights

Last weekend we made a break for the Lakes while there was a good weather window – we were going to try and get a bit closer to finishing off the northern fells. Unfortunately, when we arrived in the car park a warning light came on in the car telling us to check the tyre pressure – so we had to give up the last space in the car park in order to put some air in the tyres, just in case they were about to go flat! With time ticking on we decided to head to Whinlatter Forest in the hope that the large car park would mean we weren’t too late to get a space. Happily, there were still some spaces left when we got there, and we set off with a spring in our step to tick off some more Wainwrights.

The route we ended up following was a circular of about 10 miles from our Walking the Wainwrights book, starting from the Forestry Commission car park at Whinlatter (pay when you leave). We ended up ticking off 5 new Wainwrights – bumping our total up to 47/214! There’s a similar route online on The Walking Diary.

Starting from the car park, we headed steadily uphill to pick up the route, then continued to climb until we reached the summit of Lord’s Seat. The views at the top were lovely, looking over the surrounding fells and over to Barf, our next summit and definitely the Wainwright which gets the accolade for having the weirdest name!

Aside from having an odd name, Barf is best known for the luminously white pillar of rock on its lower slops, known as ‘the Bishop of Barf’ after the Bishop of Derry who supposedly tried to ride up the hill on horseback for a bet (please don’t try this at home). The Bishop and his horse are said to have perished on the slopes – a sad tale, although according to the historical record, said Bishop actually died 20 years later, so take the story with a pinch of salt.

Ascending from Lord’s Seat we sadly didn’t see the Bishop, but the views were nevertheless cracking, and we spent five minutes at the top soaking them in before retracing our steps back up to the summit of Lord’s Seat. For an out and back detour, this wasn’t too strenuous at all and was a nice easy tick off the list. There was a slightly boggy patch in between Lord’s Seat and Barf but this was easy enough to walk around.

From the summit of Lord’s Seat, it’s a lovely easy walk along a grassy ridge to reach the summit of Broom Fell – Wainwright number 3 of the day. The wind was picking up at this point so we didn’t stop, carrying on to descend gradually before a steep climb up Graystones (Wainwright number 4). This was the quietest fell of the day and we had the summit entirely to ourselves. After a quick stop for lunch, we had a bit of a walk to reach the foot of Whinlatter, our fifth and final Wainwright of the day.

Sam was navigating and at this point added in a ‘short cut’ directly up the side of Whinlatter with no path – it was nothing short of horrific, a hellishly steep climb and I was seriously considering crawling up on my hands and knees for a lot of it. Note to self – don’t let Sam navigate unsupervised.

By the time we got to the summit of Whinlatter, I was pretty knackered and not really in the right frame of mind to enjoy the view! For anyone ticking off Wainwrights, it’s worth noting that the ‘Wainwright summit’ of Whinlatter isn’t actually the highest point, so we did both just to be thorough.

From the top of Whinlatter, it was an easy descent, mostly on good paths. And best of all, when we got back to the car park, there were actual clean toilets! The benefit of parking next to a visitor centre. There’s also a lovely shop which I spent a few minutes browsing (and trying very hard to resist spending money, made easier by my car insurance being due).

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The start and end of this walk passes through Whinlatter Forest (at least it does if you start in the Forestry car park), which was great for letting the dogs have a good run off the lead. There were a few stiles along the route, most of which had dog gates, although there was one where the fence was in a bit of a mess, which made crossing it a bit tricky. There were very few sheep around too which was great, but be aware that this might not always be the case and be prepared to keep your dog on a lead if there is livestock around. This is quite a long walk without many water spots, so take some along for your dog – we also had plenty of treat stops too which ours appreciated!

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High Seat & Bleaberry Fell

With the amazing weather last week lasting just up until the weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to get back over to the Lakes for the first time in about a month to tick off another Wainwright or two. I spent about an hour on Friday night flip-flopping over where to go, but finally settled on High Seat and Bleaberry Fell in the Central Fells. Usually Bleaberry Fell is tackled alongside Walla Crag, but we’d previously done this walk on Christmas Day and so I decided to go up a slightly different way.

As most routes up Bleaberry go via Walla Crag, I free-styled and made up my own route using the OS maps app starting from the National Trust’s car park at Ashness Bridge. Parking here is free for members and a pricey £8.50 all day for non-members – definitely worth investing in a National Trust membership if you’re thinking of walking the Wainwrights!

From the car park I crossed the road and headed up the footpath running parallel to Barrow Beck and Ashness Gill. It’s a steady and fairly steep climb and I was soon shedding layers! We stopped about two thirds of the way up where the path passed close to the gill and the dogs enjoyed having a splash in the water to cool off.

Navigation was pretty easy – I just stuck to the most obvious path all the way to the summit of High Seat. I have to say I was glad to get to the top, the climb was nowhere near as steep as some other paths we’ve walked in the last few years but the sunshine and total absence of a breeze meant that the going was a bit sweaty!

Just before the final ascent up High Seat, the going gets slightly boggier underfoot. This wasn’t too bad but I’d read reports about how boggy the ground is here, so I’d intentionally saved this walk for a day when it had been dry for a while, therefore it may be wetter than this if there hasn’t been a long-ish dry spell.

The views from High Seat were excellent and more than worth the effort – a cracking panorama across Derwentwater to the Central Fells, made even better by the clear blue sky. After descending a little way into a much wetter, boggier section of the walk (although there was only one occasion where the bog went over my boot), I began the climb up Bleaberry Fell.

If the views from High Seat were great, Bleaberry Fell was just as good, with incredible views across to Blencathra and Skiddaw as well as Cat Bells and Derwentwater. There were quite a few people enjoying the views on the summit, while I’d had High Seat to myself – it was a bit later in the day by this point though. After a quick stop at the top to take in the view I began my descent back to the start – the less said about this the better, and if anyone is planning to follow my route I’d recommend doing it as a linear!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. All of this walk is on open fell side so keep your leads at the ready in case of livestock, or on all the time if your dog is an unknown when it comes to chasing/recall. There were also a few stiles which required me to lift the dogs over – they weren’t too high but I still managed to get fairly filthy after they’d both been splashing in the bog! On the plus side, both of ours appreciated the chance to cool off in the gill on the way up, and jumping in and out of bogs along the top helped keep them nice and cool in the sunshine.

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Exploring Northumberland with Doxford Farm

Anyone who’s been following my blog for any length of time will know how much I love Northumberland. It’s got it all: sweeping stretches of sandy beach, verdant forests and windswept hills. Not to mention a rich helping of history and vibrant coastal communities where you can find the freshest, tastiest seafood. Therefore I was absolutely thrilled when Doxford Farm invited us to spend a few nights in one of their luxury glamping pods near Alnwick.

Alnmouth Beach

We weren’t checking in until 3pm on the Sunday, so we had plenty of time to explore the surrounding area before arriving. After the drive over, we made a beeline for Alnmouth to let the dogs have good run on the beach – it’s one surefire way to guarantee a nice quiet evening! There is parking right next to the beach (flat charge of £3.50) and we spent a good hour wandering around on the sand.

Even though it was a beautiful sunny Sunday, the beach was pretty quiet, with mostly other dog walkers out enjoying the sunshine. Once our faces were happily numb from the wind (it’s still only March after all) we popped back to the car to thaw out – not helped by the ice creams we got from the ice cream van, but when the sun’s out and you’re at the beach, how can you resist an ice cream cone!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The beach at Alnmouth is dog friendly all year round and ours had the time of their lives! While popular with other dog walkers, the beach wasn’t too busy, although in peak season in summer I expect there are a few more people around. The beach is a popular choice for local horse riders so be prepared to come across them on the beach and recall your dog if necessary.

The Leaning Tower of Northumberland

After a quick stop off at Sainsbury’s in Alnwick to stock up on glamping snacks, we still had about two hours to spare before arriving at Doxford. We were both feeling pretty tired after all that sea breeze (it definitely is more bracing than other kinds of fresh air), so we had a quick Google to see where was nearby, dog friendly, and low effort to visit! A few places looked promising but ended up being a bit further than we wanted to travel – but then we saw the webpage for Edlingham Castle and set off five minutes later.

Edlingham Castle has been voted as one of the top three castles in Northumberland, and with it’s impressive partially collapsed tower, it’s not hard to see why it’s popular with visitors. Built around the 13th century, the castle is today a ruin, and instantly recognisable thanks to the leaning solar tower held in place by metal rods. Parking for the site is outside the nearby 11th century church, which is also more than worth a visit (head inside to see the magnificent stained glass window), with the castle a short stroll away via a smooth grassy lane. The site today is managed by English Heritage and entry is free, though you may choose to make a donation if you enjoy your visit.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Dogs on leads are very welcome at Edlingham Castle, and we had the place entirely to ourselves which was fantastic. If you want to walk a little further, there is a public footpath near the church, which you can follow across fields to get a lovely view of the castle and nearby viaduct. There’s also a litter bin outside the church which is handy for disposing of any poos rather than having to bag them up in the car!

Doxford Farm

Once we’d finished exploring at Edlingham, we finally jumped in the car and set off for Doxford Farm. After seeing photos of the pod on the website we had high expectations – and when we opened the door of the pod we were completely blown away. ‘Pod’ doesn’t seem like quite the right word for what we experienced – we’ve stayed in cottages which were less spacious! We stayed in Ribbons & Raisins – all the pods are named after fields on the farm which I thought was a lovely touch.

The inside of the pod was beyond anything you’d ever expect from a clamping pod – the decor was downright beautiful with so many thoughtful touches like a camping cook book and useful things like olive oil, tea, coffee and sugar. Not to mention the underfloor heating and ridiculously comfortable bed! We were really impressed with the layout of the pod, which maximised space without compromising on quality, providing everything we needed for a fantastic stay. I particularly loved that the bedroom had a door – it sounds silly but it definitely helps ensure a good night’s sleep when you have a dog who patrols the room every two hours in the night! We could tell how much effort Katryna has put into making the pods a luxury place to stay: clearly no expense has been spared and it all makes for a wonderful experience.

After I’d spent 15 minutes walking around the pod photographing every inch for future interior decor inspiration, we settled down for an evening of Netflix and stir fry (our go-to meal for any trip). The kitchen had everything we needed (including non-stick pans, a true sign of luxury!) and the cosy living area soon had us drifting off and ready for bed.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. As well as all the thoughtful touches for humans, there are plenty of little touches dog owners will appreciate too. As well as some complementary poo bags and dog treats, Merry & Coal were treated to some tasty doggy cupcakes which they definitely enjoyed! Dog owners are also welcome to take a stroll around the fields with their dogs – there’s a route mapped out in the information pack waiting for you when you arrive.

Craster & Howick

Doxford Farm is perfectly located for exploring Northumberland, but it’s especially handy for getting to the coast. Craster is one of my favourite places and is just a fifteen minute drive from the pods – therefore we headed straight there after a leisurely start with giant cups of tea made using the charming camping kettle provided for use on the hob.

There is plenty of parking in the quarry car park just outside of Craster (pay & display). Craster is a popular spot but there were plenty of spaces when we arrived at 9am on Monday morning. Usually we walk from Craster to Embleton Bay via Dunstanburgh Castle (another one of Northumberland’s top three castles), but this time we chose to venture south towards Howick, following a route from our Cicerone guide to Northumberland. There’s a similar route available on Walk4Life but this misses out Sugar Sands Beach – an absolute gem which we had completely to ourselves.

The walk is a circular route just under six miles and was a really lovely way to spend the morning – it crosses farm land before joining up with the Northumberland Coast path for the return to Craster. It’s not remotely strenuous with very little ascent and descent – perfect if you want a nice chilled out stroll. The views along the coast are lovely, and once you reach Cullernose Point, Dunstanburgh Castle appears on the horizon to guide you back to Craster. From Craster we headed back to Doxford for a relaxing afternoon at the pod, including a stroll around the farm too see the lambs.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The fields we crossed through were all totally empty, which meant that Coal had plenty of offlead time (bear in mind that there may be livestock around on other days). There was a short section along the road, half of which had pavement, before joining the coast path. The opportunity for the dogs to have a good run around on the beach was a huge bonus and we spent about 20 minutes just letting them have fun and blasting off some energy. And best of all, there aren’t any stiles! Once you’re back in Craster, The Jolly Fisherman is dog friendly – the footpath actually goes through their beer garden so it’s hard to resist!

Simonside Hills

All too quickly, we were waking up on our last morning at Doxford Farm. I spent a good fifteen minutes watching the sun come up through the bedroom window wishing we could live there forever!

For our last walk, we decided to go to the Simonside Hills, which have been on my ‘to do’ list for what feels like forever. We’d put off visiting them previously as we know they’re popular with both visitors and locals, but we decided that a Tuesday in March would be a fairly safe bet for a quieter day. We chose an eleven kilometre route from our Pocket Mountains guide which takes you to the less visited Selby’s Cove, an impressive rock formation mostly frequented by climbers, and so named because it’s said to have been the hideout of the notorious Selby reiver family. A similar route is online on Outdoor Active.

This was probably the most demanding walk we tackled on the trip – the start along St Oswald’s Way is on a good track over heather moorland, which later becomes grassy and boggier before you reach Coquet’s Cairn, the high point of St Oswald’s Way. From Coquet’s Cairn, you follow the fence to reach the path to Selby’s Cove – do not go through the more obvious gate, instead go through the sliding gate with the Access Land sign on it. The obvious gate looks like the way to go but trust me, the going underfoot is completely pathless and very hard work tramping through deep heather and fallen branches! Very frustrating when you can see a clear path on the other side of the fence!!

Once you’ve finished exploring Selby’s Cove, it’s a rough walk over to climb up to the Simonside Ridge – I’ve never been happier to see a flagged path than I was when we reached the Simonside Cairn! The views from up here are incredible, both of the surrounding countryside and the fantastic rock formations adorning the ridge. It reminded me a bit of some places in the Peak District, just on a slightly wilder scale! We did start to see people up here after not seeing them for the entirety of the first half of the walk, but you can see why it’s a popular spot. I’d love to come back one day when the heather is out as I bet it’s fantastic.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. How dog friendly this walk is partially depends on your dog – dogs with a high prey drive like Merry will need to be kept on a lead all the way around due to sheep and many, many grouse, while dogs like Coal who aren’t remotely interested in birds and who stay close by will have lots of opportunities to get off the lead. While there’s no road walking and no stiles, there’s very little water, so you’ll need to carry extra for your dog. Overall though it’s an excellent walk which we all enjoyed very much.

Thanks again to Katryna and the team at Doxford Farm for inviting us to spend two nights exploring Northumberland – we had a fantastic time.

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