The Lake District has always been on my “to see” list and for many reasons (mostly time and money), it took until just recently to actually get there. We knew that this area is completely dog friendly but having never taken a dog away on a full holiday with us before and having a pretty full on 18-month-old Border terrier we weren’t entirely sure how it would all go… This is our experience of taking a dog to The Lake District.
I want to include all I can so I am going to start with our travel to our holiday home. We live in the South of England in Basingstoke so the drive up to The Lake District is around 4-5 hours depending on traffic and stopping. We travelled by car and thankfully Tessa is very happy sat in the back with our 2 boys and doesn’t suffer from car sickness. To keep her safe she wears a car safety harness and to keep her happy she has the choice of 2 kids to lay her head on and have snuggles with!
We had 1 stop planned in but knew there were plenty of service stations to choose from if we needed to pull over again for whatever reason. Luckily, she was good as gold and managed perfectly well until we made it to the midpoint we were aiming for. The service station was ideal for those travelling with dogs with green areas for walking, water available, benches for sitting outside, plus plenty of friendly people with their dogs to chat to allowing our pooches to mingle and get that stimulation they need. All of this was a new experience for Tessa but she dealt with it well which I think was helped due to all of us being there, being relaxed, acting like we normally do and allowing her to sniff and wander around as much as she needed.
Lots of holiday homes in the Lake District are of course dog friendly as this is a popular destination for people and their beloved pets. We chose a gorgeous house on a farm, completely surrounded by fields, with a garden, driveway and all the homely amenities we needed.
Now having never taken Tessa away we really were not sure how she would settle but she honestly surprised us by being completely at home here. Again, having us all there helped as did taking a blanket plus toys for her from home. She quickly found her favourite spot in the conservatory which allowed her to lay in the sun or sit and watch the birds through the window and much to our surprise (and relief) she didn’t wee/mess inside once. I say it surprised me because being in a different house is enough to throw a dog off to start with let alone then expecting them to signal at a door that they want to go out into a garden they don’t really know, so I was very proud of her for feeling comfortable enough in this new situation.
Out and About
So, where can you go with a dog in the Lake District? It seems like everywhere! We spent 8 days exploring this area and went up hills, around lakes, the beach, to cafes, to shops, on a boat and every single place allowed dogs, what’s more, most even had up signs to say dogs are welcome! I loved it, I wish more places adopted this because it would make life much easier when you’re out (especially on your own) with your dog.
If you are looking for travel ideas/spots then here is the run down of where we visited:
Day 1 – Wansfell Pike and Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls then to Windermere (cafe and short walk)
This is a big hill to tackle so if your dog is a bit older, has mobility issues, is overweight, has breathing difficulties etc this may well be too hard for them. The path terrain is rocky with uneven steps. You can walk on the grass on the side but this actually felt like harder work in some places and is prone to being slippery. We took several stops on the way up to rest and catch our breath. It is most definitely worth it for the views and is a lovely spot for a picnic but just remember that what goes up must come down and Tessa did struggle more with the decline so I had to carry her for some of the way. But she met a lot of very friendly dogs here, she ran free for most of the walk and had a whale of a time.
The falls are located at the very bottom fairly near to the town. Again it has uneven ground and was very muddy in some areas. Everyone had their dogs on leads here.
At Windermere we were able to take Tessa into the cafe, she happily sat outside with us greeting all the other dogs and then we wandered along the lake front to see what was there. I’m not sure if there were rules on leads but we kept her on as there were a lot of people, games being played, watersports, young children and other dogs around.
Day 2 – Windermere Boat Trip and Coniston Water
We pre-booked a 2 hour boat trip with Windermere Electric Boat Hire, another brand new experience for Tessa. She was a bit unsure to begin with but soon found her “sea legs” and was very happy on board.
We then took a walk at Coniston Water which is a stunning lake with lots of nice spots to sit down at.
Day 3 – Coniston Water
We liked our visit so much that we returned to enjoy the area and water a little more. The Lake District is ideal for water sports so we took our paddleboard along with us and gave Tessa her very first little go on it.
Day 4 – Tarn Hows and Rydal Caves and Water
We ventured to Tarn Hows for an easier walk, the paths here are wide and flat, ideal for a more chilled day out on the legs. However, there is another more rocky walk which takes you down to look at waterfalls so we did tackle that part first…
If you have an adventurous dog, one that loves to investigate and one that can handle uneven ground then this is like a playground for them!
Back up at the lake was much easier and a really beautiful walk.
Our next stop was to Rydal Caves which has a lovely walk up, lots to look across to and some fun rocks to climb!
Dogs can go inside the cave but bear in mind there are rocks to step on for access inside and water surrounding the entrance.
The walk around Rydal Water is a nice path with lovely scenery.
Day 5 – Derwent Water and Buttermere
Another wonderful body of water to walk around, to sit by, to gaze at and do watersports on. I loved the fact that we could sit inside and eat a warm lunch with the kids whilst having the dog by our feet.
This walk is ideal for all types of dogs at any age I would say.
We then drove to Buttermere to take in the views at the end of the day. There are places to walk here but we had already done quite a lot of walking so just took a wander up a slight hill to enjoy the scenery. I would say this would be another tough walk with uneven terrain in places if you did decide to tackle this area.
Day 6 – Roanhead Beach and Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve
The Lake District doesn’t always have to be about the lakes and the hills, they even have some fantastic beaches too. We wandered across some of the Nature Reserve, the kids played on the sand dunes and then we took a walk along the beach. We were very lucky with the weather but were a little caught out as we ran out of water so do be prepared because we found the weather could change quite fast without warning. Also, check tide times as the water here comes all the way up at high tide. With the tide out you can enjoy these gorgeous golden sands.
Day 7- Ullswater and Aira Force
Ullswater is a lovely body of water for having a picnic by and doing water sports on but it was a very windy day so we ate our lunch and then headed just up the road to Aira Force to look at the waterfalls. This was all uphill, rocky and quite tiring in places but there are lots of areas where you can sit and rest plus, on a warm day, you can dip your feet or paws in the river.
Day 8 – Wastwater and Drigg Beach
Having heard how stunning Wastwater was we hopped in the car to take a look and hoped we could paddleboard here but again the weather was against us and the wind was too strong. We did have a picnic as we sheltered by some bushes. The only thing I would say here with a dog is that there is a busy road right next to the lake so we had to be extremely careful with Tessa and only let her off the lead to play ball with her.
We decided to move onto Drigg Beach which wasn’t too far away. The weather changed quickly again and we found ourselves sitting and playing in the sun with a beach almost to ourselves! Tessa could run freely (I couldn’t see any signs about dogs being on leads on the beach but there was one about keeping them on leads when in the fields next to it due to livestock). A beach afternoon was a lovely way to finish our very busy stay in The Lake District.
Of course, it should go without saying that your dog’s needs, bowel movements and behaviour are all your responsibility but unfortunately even in a stunning area like this people STILL cannot pick up their dog poo and dispose of it correctly. It’s really sad to see an abandoned dog poo bag sitting next to one of these beautiful lakes or even lots of dog poo just left where kids are running around sand dunes. So, please, please ensure that you take out enough bags with you and if you don’t like carrying that bag in your hand why not allocate a backpack pocket or have a bum bag in which you can place it (it isn’t going to be messy) until you can find a bin? (Bins were scarce by the way so do be aware of this)
I would also recommend taking a reusable water bottle, a small dog bowl or a collapsible one, plenty of treats, first aid items plus a towel out with you on every day trip you go on. It would also be good to note down any local vets and pet shops in case you need advice or help.
In terms of other dogs being around, we had almost all positive experiences. We came across one dog that went for Tessa when she went near to its ball and then met a different nervous dog, all other dogs were friendly, playful and inquisitive and the owners were all so lovely and chatty. I think a holiday like this does attract like-minded people so everybody seems to love dogs, wants to approach them, stroke them and talk to you about them. This really helped to make the trip more relaxed and meant we didn’t have to constantly worry about keeping her close by all of the time.
A Place To Return To
I would most definitely have to say that I would do this all again. I know we covered an awful lot in our 8 days but there were still places on our list that we didn’t get to tick off so more visits would be ideal and yep, I would definitely take a dog to the Lake District again.
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