Your Definitive Dog Friendly Guide to Dorset

In this dog friendly destination guide, we help you plan your perfect pet friendly holiday to Dorset. Inside you will find our hand-picked selection of the very best pet friendly hotels and accommodation where canine (and human) guests stay in style, pubs and restaurants where your pooch will be welcome, as well as stunning walks and dog friendly attractions to enjoy with your canine companion. 

Some of England’s most beautiful coastline can be found in Dorset, including the fossil-filled Jurassic Coast – designated a World Heritage Site – and the Chesil Beach of Ian McEwan fame. Beach-lovers will have plenty to choose from, whether it’s shingled shores or sandy stretches they’re after. But it’s not just quaint seaside towns. The county is packed with history, known as the real-world location Thomas Hardy based his fictional towns and countryside on. As well as its unrivalled landscapes, Dorset offers historic architecture, scenic rambles and, of course, its exhibitionist chalk figure the Cerne Giant.  


WHERE TO STAY
 

Captain’s Club, Christchurch 

If your pooch has dreams of being a salty sea dog, then they’ll enjoy this nautical riverside hotel. Captain’s Club has its own resident canine to welcome guests, and four-legged visitors get their own bed and menu to choose from. Staff can help point out the best dog-friendly beaches, and long walks in the nearby New Forest also await.  Visit www.luxepetguide.com.

Moonfleet Manor Hotel

Moonfleet Manor 

Moonfleet Manor, Weymouth

Beach-loving dogs will feel right at home at this Georgian manor, which is perched above the Dorset coast. Pups that like to stretch their legs can head to the nearby South West Coastal Path, and humans can recover at the end of the day in the hotel spa. There’s even fossil hunting to be done at Charmouth and Lyme Regis, which are a 45-minute car ride away. Visit www.moonfleetmanorhotel.co.uk.

Summer Lodge, Evershot

Dogs get the luxury treatment at this grand Georgian house, built in 1798 and later updated by Thomas Hardy – who was a qualified architect as well as a writer. If its 4 acres wasn’t enough excitement, four-legged guests get their own towels, Lily’s Kitchen menu, dog wash station, and selection of beds in three sizes.  Visit www.summerlodgehotel.co.uk.

The Inn at Cranborne

The Inn at Cranborne 

The Inn at Cranborne, Cranborne

There’s more tan 400 years of history at this village inn, which once hosted author Thomas Hardy. It’s a cosy spot, offering just nine bedrooms, but is nevertheless well located on the edge of the New Forest, and not far from the Jurassic Coast and Stonehenge. Dogs are welcome to stay, and even get their own welcome treat bag and sausage breakfast. Visit booking.com

The Grosvenor Arms

Image: The Grosvenor Arms

The Grosvenor Arms, Shaftesbury

Foodies can indulge themselves at this Shaftesbury coaching inn, which has been lovingly restored by its current owners. The kitchen is run by ex-River Cottage chef Tom Blake, who oversees a seasonal menu stocked with local produce. Dogs are welcome in all of its rooms, with a surcharge, and are sure to enjoy rambles through the nearby market town and through Cranborne Chase. Visit grosvenorarms.co.uk.


WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Greyhound Inn

Greyhound Inn 

The Greyhound Inn, Corfe

If you’re visiting Corfe Castle, stop off at the Greyhound Inn for a drink and something from its locally sourced menu, which includes the obligatory cream tea. Dogs are welcome in the restaurant as well as its beer garden. Don’t miss the secret passage to the castle. Visit www.greyhoundcorfe.co.uk.

Smugglers Inn

Smugglers Inn

The Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills

Hot dogs can cool off at The Smugglers Inn, which welcomes pooches with a tub of doggie ice cream. Humans can also have a bite from the menu, which offers fresh fish, seafood and some classic puddings. The South West Coast Path is nearby, and determined walkers might want to head to the seaside town of Weymouth, which is five miles away. Visit www.smugglersinnosmingtonmills.co.uk. 

Fox Inn

The Fox Inn

The Fox Inn, Ansty

If a good walk needs anything, it’s a decent pub somewhere along the way. The Fox Inn sits in the middle of the Dorset countryside, and is a great stopping off point for thirsty pooches and humans alike. Dogs are welcomed with their own wet room, if you need to hose down a muddy pup, and can choose from a menu of all-natural meals. Visit anstyfoxinn.co.uk.

The Cobb Arms

The Cobb Arms

The Cobb Arms, Lyme Regis 

A visit to Dorset isn’t complete with a trip to Lyme Regis, the storied home of fossil collector Mary Anning. While you’re there, stop off at The Cobb Arms and warm up by the log fire, or enjoy the view across the harbour.  Visit thecobbarms.co.uk.

Watch House Cafe

Image: Watch House Cafe

The Watch House Cafe, West Bay 

Take your lunch with a side of sea views, at this coast-side cafe. There’s no shortage of fresh fish on offer, and a sizeable outdoor area where you can soak up the salty breeze. Visit  www.hivebeachcafe.co.uk. 


THE BEST DOG WALKS
Old Harry Walk

Old Harry Rocks, image: National Trust

Old Harry Rocks

Seeing Dorset’s spectacular coastline is an essential part of any trip to this county, and this circular walk is a chance to see some of the best. It’s a relatively short wander, at three and a half miles, but takes you past chalk headland and along the clifftop, with views aplenty along the way and a pub visit to finish up with.  

Hod Hill

Image: National Trust

A circuit of Hod Hill 

Prepare your legs (and paws) for this hilly climb, which will give you views across the county and take you along the ancient ramparts of a Roman fort. Keep your eyes out for butterflies among the trees, and views over the nearby River Stour. 

Holt Heath

Holt Heath, image: National Trust

Walk at Holt Heath, Kingston Lacy 

Up for a challenge? This six-mile wander traverses a lowland heath that’s packed with wildflowers, birds, and all six of Britain’s reptile species. Good for curious pooches.  

A winter nature walk at West Bexington 

Although it only stretches two and a half miles, this walk covers a lot – sea views, Second World War ruins, Bronze Age burial mounds and, if you’re lucky, a glimpse of roe deer. Don’t miss views over Chesil Beach.   

Wareham Forest

Image: Wareham Forest

Wareham Forest 

There’s several acres for you and your dog to explore in Wareham Forest, which is inhabited by a rare population of woodlarks, as well as plenty of other wildlife. Bear in mind, dogs will need to be on-lead during March and August if you’re walking on the heathland.  


DOG FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS
Swanage railway

Image: Swanage railway

Swanage Railway

Lazy pooches will enjoy the scenery from this 12-mile railway track, which lets you appreciate the Dorset countryside in all its glory – including a glimpse of Corfe Castle from afar. 

Corfe Castle

Image: Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

It might be a thousand years old, but Dorset’s Corfe Castle is holding up pretty well. It’s undergone plenty of drama in its lifetime, but what hasn’t changed are its views over the pretty Purbeck heaths – good for a wander after you’ve toured the castle with your dog in tow. 

Cerne Abbas Giant

Dorset is known for this huge chalk drawing of a naked man brandishing a club. The view might not mean much to your pup, but they’re sure to enjoy rambling through the surrounding countryside.  

Lulworth Castle & Park

Image: Lulworth Castle & Park

Lulworth Castle and Park

On-lead dogs are welcome at this historic estate, which offers extensive grounds and plenty of room for picnicking. You can’t take your canine companion into the castle, but you can enjoy the views of its impressive exterior.  

Minterne

Image: Minterne

Minterne Gardens

There’s a mile of gardens to be explored at Minterne House, which has lawns and woodland filled with flowers as well as lakes, waterfalls and streams. Much of its flora can be traced back to Victorian plant hunters, who imported exotic seeds from China, Bhutan and the Himalayas. Dogs are welcome, as long as they’re kept on lead.  


WHAT TO PACK

With so much scenery to explore, we suggest the first thing you stick in your suitcase is a comfy pair of shoes. Sun cream is essential for summer visits – when the weather is slightly warmer and sunnier than the nearby counties of Devon and Cornwall. We can’t promise the sea will be warm, but Dorset’s many beaches mean there’s plenty of opportunity for a quick dip – so bring your costume too. Keen ramblers might even want to invest in a book of walks, to make the most of Dorset’s historic sights and scenery.  

 


WHEN TO GO

For travellers that want to enjoy some rural tradition, don’t miss the Frome Valley Food Festival in May, which includes the infamous Dorset Knob Throwing. If you’re dreaming of lounging on the beach, then July is the hottest time to plan a trip – just beware of everyone else doing the same thing. To enjoy quieter beaches, save your trip for September when the weather is still mild, but there’s less people around. Later in the year there’s plenty to please food and book lovers, with the Dorset Food Fortnight and the Bridport Literary festival taking place in October and November. In December you can huddle up against the cold, and enjoy views of snow-covered villages and pubs.  

Have you visited Dorset with your dog? Tell us about your favourite dog friendly places in the comments below!

Emma Tucker is a London-based writer and editor, who's been covering all things design-related for the past six years. After studying English Literature she spent several years working at magazines including Dezeen and Creative Review, before going freelance. Emma's now a regular contributor to several magazines, including The Spaces and Pitch, and also works with design brands on copywriting and editorial projects. On a day-to-day basis she's assisted by puppy PA and cockapoo Bear.

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