Looking for dog-friendly destinations to explore with your pets? If you’re lucky enough to live in this beautiful corner of England, or are simply dreaming up a visit when restrictions allow, we round up some of the best spots for dog walks in the South West.
Exercising our dogs is as important as ever in wintertime, so don’t let the colder, darker days put you off. Just as getting out into the fresh air is good for our own physical and mental wellbeing, our canine companions benefit from winter walks and activities, too. If you live in, or are planning to visit, the South West of England, then why not check out these five great dog-walking areas to help your pet get their recommended daily exercise?
Before you head out for a walk, remember to stick to any restrictions on travel and exercise that may be in place. Also, if you walk your dog off the leash, you might want to consider fitting a GPS tracker to their collar.
1. Bodmin, Cornwall
Inland Cornwall, particularly the Bodmin area, has some super dog-walking spots. Visit the National Trust Lanhydrock Estate, where a wooded waterside trail leads beside the River Fowey. Designated bathing areas are shallow enough for paddling, but allow access to deeper areas where more confident dogs can swim. Stick to these marked spots to avoid disturbing resident otters and grazing livestock. Also worth a closer look is Cardinham Woods. Dogs can run off-lead here along four trails of varying degrees of difficulty – Wheal Glynn Walk and the Deviock Trail are the most challenging.
2. The Wye Valley, Gloucestershire
Symonds Yat Rock rises 150 metres over a spectacular gorge on the River Wye. This impressive limestone outcrop isn’t off-limits to puppies and older dogs (or easily tired humans, for that matter), as there’s a convenient car park leading to the lookout via a level path. It is important to prepare properly for the walk, however. Note that if you plan to cross to Symonds Yat East, some dogs dislike the wobbly Biblins Bridge. Close by is the Forest of Dean, another top dog-walking destination. It’s wise to keep dogs on leads here, though, as wild boars are known to forage among the leaf litter. Mallards Pike is a local favourite, where woodland trails lead to a lake where your pet can swim. Launch from the ‘Dog Dip’, where the sloping bank makes it safe for them to get in and out.
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3. The Dorset coast
The waves have sculpted a breathtaking string of rocky arches, bays and stacks along the Dorset coastline. A particularly photogenic stretch of the South West Coast Path connects Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door, where beaches are dog-friendly year-round. Keep your dog on a lead to negotiate the steep flight of steps down to Durdle Door – and do the same on the headland, as the path runs close to the clifftop. A few miles inland, explore the heaths and woodlands around Thorncombe Woods that inspired author Thomas Hardy, or the walking trails close to historic ruins such as Corfe Castle, taking care around farm animals.
4. Exmoor National Park, Somerset/Devon
Exmoor has an abundance of good dog walks, though you’ll need to be mindful of wildlife and livestock. Keep dogs on a short lead from March to July to avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds – and at all times of year if you’re in areas with sheep, cattle, ponies or the region’s feral goats. To catch sight of the latter, walk the Valley of the Rocks trail, which links to the dog-friendly Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway. Here, when open, you’ll usually find a dog bowl if you forgot to bring water – keep an eye on the website for opening times. Other Exmoor favourites include the circular trail connecting Withypool and Tarr Steps – but it can be slippery after rain, so choose footwear with a decent tread.
5. The North Devon coast
The sand dunes at Braunton Burrows in North Devon are doggie heaven for potterers and sniffers, as long as you keep them away from areas reserved for livestock. See the handy dog walker’s guide to Braunton Burrows.
On the nearby Saunton Sands, dogs mustn’t exercise to the right of the slipway – but energetic pooches can run for miles in the opposite direction. Owners with anxious, reactive dogs can bypass any crowds if they take a short detour. Alternatively, head along the coast to peaceful Peppercombe, a secluded, pebbly beach that’s reachable only on foot (or by paw).
Tell us about your favourite dog-walking destinations – post them on Facebook, Instagram or X with the tag #PethoodStories!