Sometimes, it's just soooo good to feel the wind in your fur
If you’re tired of trudging round the same area with your dog and want to explore new landscapes, the UK’s 15 National Parks contain some of these islands’ most spectacular scenery. Over the years, our terrier Jess has visited most of them, and she’s got her firm favourites – places that make her tail wag just that little bit more; where the sniffs seem to be of a higher quality; and where she simply can’t get enough of the wind in her fur. Here’s her pick of the best...
Dog walkers on the cliff path above Marloes Sands PICTURE CREDIT: PCNPA
With some of the most amazing coastal scenery in Britain and some of its most beautiful beaches, it’s hardly surprising that the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is popular with both dogs and their owners. The geology here has led to the creation of sea stacks, natural arches, caves and secluded coves. Visit in early summer and the cliffs are carpetted in a brilliant display of wildflowers. For the best dog-friendly beaches, head to Marloes Sands, where scenes for the 2012 fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman were filmed, golden Barafundle Bay or the massive, dune-backed Freshwater West.
Sunrise at Winnats Pass in the Peak District PICTURE CREDIT: PEAK DISTRICT & DERBYSHIRE
The UK’s oldest National Park has got something of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde thing going on... In the south, there’s the gentle limestone scenery of the White Peak, complete with verdant valleys and tranquil villages. Head north and it’s a different story. Here lie the wide open heather moorlands and gloopy bogs of the atmospheric Dark Peak. Take your pick! Some of the walking highlights include Dovedale and the Monsal Trail in the south, airy Stanage Edge near Sheffield and the massive upland plateau of Kinder Scout at the start of the Pennine Way. For a more genteel saunter, head for Chatsworth House where dogs (on leads) are allowed in the garden and parkland.
The Stuic in the Cairngorms National Park
For Jess, bounding over the hills of Britain’s largest and wildest National Park after a deer will probably always remain one of the highlights of her life. Not so for me, who set off in panicked hot pursuit. But that’s not to say I don’t still love this area of north-east Scotland. There’s nothing quite like it in Britain. As well as containing a vast area of arctic-alpine wilderness, there are remnants of ancient Caledonian forests that are home to some of our most fascinating wildlife. For gentler ambles, try one of the area’s many riverside and lochside trails.
Crossing Tarr Steps near Dulverton in Somerset PICTURE CREDIT: ENPA
One of the smallest National Parks, Exmoor straddles the Devon and Somerset border. What appeals to Jess today? A run on the beach at Kilve? An invigorating moorland hike up to Exmoor’s highest point, Dunkery Beacon? Or a sniff-filled stroll through Horner Wood, an ancient oak woodland that’s home to a 500-year-old tree? For those looking for something more challenging, try a section of one of the many long-distance trails that pass through the National Park, including the South West Coast Path, the Two Moors Way, the Coleridge Way and the Tarka Trail.
Jess enjoys a well-earned break on the Lake District fells
England’s largest National Park is also a World Heritage Site, acknowledged by UNESCO for its mountainous landscape shaped by glaciers and then modified, over the centuries, by agriculture. Dog owners acknowledge it for its endless walking opportunities up fells, beside lakes and through woods; and its wealth of pooch-positive pubs and cafés. Not only will most proprietors welcome you inside with open arms at the end of your walk – no matter how muddy you and your dog are – a few even cater for our canine pals. Anyone for Mrs Bishop’s ‘Cherry Barkwells’?