I’m the proud owner (mum) of a seven-year-old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, McNulty (@mcnultypup). As she’s gotten older, we’ve become more reluctant to spend weekends and holidays abroad without her, so we started to explore places throughout the UK where she was not only permitted, but her muddy paws were warmly welcomed.
I’ve ended up feeling like the Bill Bryson of doggie explorations and had the most wonderful time learning more about England. Read on for four hotel stays perfect for pets.
The Pet Concierge at PetsPyjamas helped us to test out the best of the best
In the Sea: Hell Bay Hotel
We took an overnight sleeper train from Paddington which departs at midnight and arrives in Penzance at 8am. The trains are surprisingly cosy and we got quite a bit of sleep en route (dogs have to stay in enclosed cases in the guard’s cabin). From the train we were met by the IOS Travel bus and transported to Land’s End Airport. From there, the planes each have an RSPCA approved travel case for dogs, and within 15 minutes you are on St Mary’s island. The airport and the flights are brilliant and elegant and the views are beautiful.
Upon landing in St Mary’s you are transported to Hugh Town. Stop for a drink and a chat with other travellers at The Mermaid Inn while awaiting your boat to Bryher Island. The adventure of getting to the Scilly Isles and to Bryher is so much fun and they are well-accustomed to dogs on board each portion of the trip.
Bryher Island is like another world. Inhabited by only 64 people, you are isolated in paradise: every view is more breathtaking than the one before. We were there for “walking the tides”, when the tides between Bryher and Tresco are so low that you can walk between the islands (it happens three times a year). Definitely also head to Tresco, but dogs must be kept on lead on all time. We spent our days on the many paths along the sandy beaches and cliff tops, stopping in the Fraggle Rock Café for drinks and Cornish pasties.
Hell Bay Hotel is one of the best places I’ve ever stayed, with Cape Cod-style décor and sea views that can’t be captured in photographs – although I certainly tried. The food, which ranged from spiced monkfish to crab raviolo, was refined and delicious. Sadly, we were there before the Crab Shack opened, but that’s certainly enough reason to return.
I fully understand why most of the people we met go back every year. It's a magical part of the UK that isn’t to be missed.
Hell Bay Hotel, Bryher, Isles of Scilly, TR23 0PR. From £250 per person for a package of dinner, bed and breakfast in a garden-view suite
By the Sea: The Gallivant
After a quick hour-and-20-minute fast train from St Pancras, we arrived in the wonderful town of Rye. The town is picturesque and hosts wonderful fish and chip shops, as well as pup-friendly hotel-pub The George in Rye for a great roast.
The Gallivant is a former 1960s motel across the road from Camber Sands in East Sussex. I feel like I’m back in California. The room is lovely, airy and fresh, with a dog bowl and bed waiting for McNults. We’re directly across from massive sand dunes and about a three-minute walk to the sea. The Gallivant is famed for its fresh California style and renowned restaurant the Beach Bistro.
Our first-night meal was wonderful and kicked off with cockles, the wine list is varied and the staff knowledgeable on which wines will accentuate the catch of the day which the chef is said to personally pick at Rye Harbour daily. The food is thoughtful and seasonal – potatoes and other veg are grown on-site.
Waking up close to the sea is amazing; there are horses on the beach, and it was McNulty’s first time in the ocean. After a long stroll we came back to The Gallivant and had a wonderful breakfast, accentuated by their Bloody Mary station, where you can mix your own. The atmosphere is very laid-back and welcoming: tables chat among themselves and share recommendations for what to do and where to walk in Rye. This is the perfect quick getaway from London for a relaxing weekend by the sea.
The Gallivant, New Lydd Rd, Camber, Rye TN31 7RB. Weekdays start from £125 per night and weekend nights start from £190. Both bed & breakfast
In the Cotswolds: Old Swan & Minster Mill
Also about an hour and a half away from London, but in the opposite direction, is The Old Swan. We travelled to Charlbury and then hopped in a taxi to get to our destination. The Old Swan & Minster Mill won The Golden Bone award for being the best overall pet-friendly establishment last year, and it shows. Upon walking in we met a bunch of other furry friends and McNults immediately curled up by the fire in the main building at reception. All dogs are also given bandanas from the Mill.
In the restaurant you not only order your own meal, but have options for your canine companion to dine with you! And remember to pack your wellies before picking up the guides to local walks from reception. The guides are what made the weekend perfect for me – they are so specific and well-written that we were able to walk 12 miles to and from the Mitford Sisters pub and Astfall Manor, where the Mitford sisters grew up.
We had such a wonderful Saturday that we called friends and demanded that they get on a train and come and join us for our Sunday walk and lunch. It’s close enough to come for one night, but I highly recommend two as it feels like you are in another world from London. Spending a weekend without seeing a high street – or even a shop – and just wandering the countryside is highly recommended.
Old Swan & Minster Mill, Old Minster, Minster Lovell, Witney, OX29 0RN. Cosy double from £185 B&B per night
In Thomas Hardy Country: The Acorn Inn
We travelled to Maiden Newton and from there caught a taxi to Evershot in west Dorset – the county on which Thomas Hardy based his fictional region of Wessex. The trip was about three hours on the train, during which time I read Far from the Madding Crowd. Evershot reeks of literary association. It turns up in Tess of the D'Urbevilles as "the small town or village of Evershead", and The Acorn Inn even appears in one of Hardy's short stories.
It’s a lovely old refurbished inn that welcomes dogs to stay. It’s opposite a deer farm (where dogs must stay on lead), but makes an excellent setting for long walks. The owners take care of everything: you don’t even need to worry about bringing your own wellies, as they’ll have them waiting by the door for you, and they made it easy to hose McNulty off after an especially muddy spring outing.
The Acorn Inn has a fine dining room and a pub off to the side. We spent most of our time by the fire in the cosy pub, where there was a brilliant nook where McNulty curled up for hours. After a day of getting a bit lost rambling in the countryside we had a delightful curry.
Our room was at the top of the inn with a sloped roof and lovely views. We were met with handmade doggie biscuits along with our breakfast. Charming and such a change from my normal central London life.
The Acorn Inn, 28 Fore Street, Evershot, Dorset, DT2 0JW. Standard Double room from £109 B&B per night
Main image: iStock