The West Country is heaven for pets. It’s no coincidence that dogs of the South West are reported to enjoy longer walks than the national average – we love our pooches and we’re delighted to welcome four-legged visitors too.
Beaches are a case in point. All year round, the South West has over 100 dog friendly beaches, more than any other region of the UK, with only a handful turning dogs away. And when the days get cooler and the crowds depart, there’s no need to feel melancholy. It’s the perfect time, from autumn to spring (usually 1st October to 30th April), for our dogs to lay claim to glorious stretches of golden sand which lift seasonal restrictions and welcome canine all-comers to run, splash and dig to their hearts’ content.
It’s a dog’s life – and that’s no bad thing in the perfect playground of the West Country. The choice is wide, but with scratching of heads we’ve shortlisted the peaceful beaches we head to most often for walks with our dogs when the days get shorter and crisper and the coast becomes almost entirely pup-amenable. Why not book a break at a cosy pet friendly cottage and leave some paw prints on these fabulous beaches? (Handy tip: don’t forget a tennis ball and an old towel.)
We love a spot of fossilling whilst the dog rushes the waves and there’s scarcely a finer spot for it than Seatown, less populated than Lyme Regis and Charmouth but rich in curvy ammonites and pointy belemnites. Follow the meandering road from Chideock and make an outing with lunch at the Anchor, which is virtually on the beach and serves scrumptious food and a doggy welcome. Stay at Badgers in nearby Charmouth.
Sand/shingle beaches (East and West) for beachcombing and fossil hunting below golden sandstone cliffs (watch out for falls though, especially in winter). If your legs and the dog tire of walking by the shore, head on to the paths which radiate along the clifftops. The beach was good enough for the producers of ‘Broadchurch’ and it’s pretty special to us too. Stay at Park Farmhouse with all the family.
We cherish The Strand for its wonderful old-fashioned seaside charm, the perfect expanse to build sandcastles and play beach games at any time of year. From October, dogs can join in too and there’s plenty of room for all. Maybe replace the traditional 99 with a hot cone of chips as the days get shorter. Stay at Heyden Cottage, with Exmoor walks on the doorstep too.
Another heady dollop of nostalgia at this Victorian resort with its pier, promenade and donkey rides – what’s not to love? Dogs agree, with free rein in low season to run for joy along one of the longest beaches in England – beware the mud along the shoreline at low tide though. Stay at The Barn, a super place at any time of year.
More shingly than sandy, but that can be a good thing with frolicking dogs, which somehow harbour wet sand to shed liberally as soon as they arrive home. There’s no denying the picturesque beauty of this golden stretch with its turquoise waters, though, and there are lots of intriguingly-scented little nooks and crannies for dogs to explore from the beginning of November until Easter. Stay at Regatta House in nearby Dartmouth.
You can wander with four legs or two on North Sands all year, but this stunning beach only becomes pet friendly in October. It’s wonderfully sheltered, so you can escape a stiff sea breeze, and head into Salcombe town afterwards for a warming lunch. If your dog is still bounding, head from the beach on to the South West Coast Path which will take you on a three mile circular walk to Bolt Head with its fabulous views. Stay at St Malo, a family house in Salcombe.
Wembury beach is great for families, with lots of excellent rock pools to explore. For a longer walk, Wembury Point is worth visiting for its views of Wembury Bay and the Great Mewstone, a mysterious rock which has provided an unlikely home for a few hardy people over the ages. At weekends, you can pop into The Old Mill Café beside the beach for homemade soup and cheese scones. Stay at The Cider Barn at Home Farm, with footpaths from the door.
Part of this long beach is accessible with dogs all year, but come winter they can run the whole two mile sandy stretch below the handsome promenade. It becomes a sociable doggy playground, perfect if yours likes to share a little rough and tumble in the shallows. To take to the waves, Stuart Line Cruises offer winter boat trips and dogs on leads are welcome aboard; they even provide a bowl of water and a hot drink for you. The bird watching trip around the estuary is especially interesting in winter. Stay at 2 Carlton Mews in Exmouth.
Accessed down winding lanes, it’s always a joy to come across this beautiful bay, which is loved by surfers and seasiding families in summer and comes into its own when the crowds depart as a sheltered doggy haven. The firm sand is ideal for racing on, and behind are rabbity dunes for sniffing out. The path from the beach to National Trust Baggy Point is a fine one to walk, with spectacular sea views. Stay at Pillars, within easy reach of Croyde.
The sheltered beach in this pretty 17th century fishing village was once the destination of smugglers, but now it’s a friendly place which welcomes dogs in winter months and has cosy pubs and cafés all around too. To extend your walk, head to the vast Mount Edgcumbe estate, which offers miles of parkland and fields which can be accessed from the Coast Path. Stay at Cousham Cottage, just a stone's throw from the beach.
This beach, which starred as Nampara in Poldark, is truly stunning, with its white sand and colourful serpentine rock. Leave the car in the National Trust car park on the downs and follow the path for about 300 yards down to the cove (remember it is quite a trek back up, so allow time before the sun sets). There you can explore caves at low tide, or, if you’re feeling fit, follow the Coast Path to Lizard Point in two miles. Stay at The Dairy, well located for lovely walks.
We love St Mawes, a picture-perfect waterside village with all the shops and pubs you could wish for, a Henry VIII castle and no less than two beaches. Summers Beach and Tavern Beach both ban dogs in summer, but in winter you can wander where you wish, and a circular route extends inland through unspoiled countryside. Beachcombing for sea glass and shells is fun here whilst the dogs frolic. Stay at Skippers, just across the road from Summers Beach.
Another fabulous sandy and rock pooling beach and the northern half, as well as the Black Rock end, is open to dogs too in the quiet season. There is easy access to this long beach from the car and about a mile to walk; just be aware that the tide can come up to the natural barrier of rock midway, so don’t get stranded the wrong side or you’ll have to walk round. Stay at 12 Atlantic Close on Widemouth Bay.
A privately owned Blue Flag beach a mile from iconic St Ives, this one is easy to get to on the scenic St Ives branch line railway which welcomes dogs as passengers. There’s about a mile of golden sands surrounded by sub-tropical plants and sheltered waters and you can walk at low tide from the east of the beach to Porthkidney Sands, another dog friendly beach, and the RSPB bird sanctuary. Stay at Boundys House, close to the little railway.