A Ruff Guide to Northumbrian Dog Friendly Days Out
Northumberland is blessed with some 30 miles of wide dog-friendly beaches, a national park with over 600 miles of marked footpaths and trails and some of the best dog walking country to be had in the UK. But if you fancy a change of scene or need a wet weather ‘plan B’ there are plenty of attractions to visit with your canine companion in tow.
Here, in no particular order, is our round up of the best castles, roman forts and country houses where dogs are welcome on a lead in the grounds. Please check restrictions with the individual attraction before you visit.
Dunstanburgh Castle, Craster
The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle tower over the Northumberland coastline on a remote headland, reached by a stunning 1.5-mile coastal walk from Craster. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most photographed sites in the county. The Castle was built on the most magnificent scale, and rivalled any castle of its day. Today visitors can explore the great gatehouse and the imposing Lilburn Tower, which commands stunning views north towards Bamburgh Castle. Entry is free to National Trust and English Heritage members and dogs are welcome on leads.
Parking is at Craster, home to the famous smoked kippers, some lovely art galleries and a choice of dog friendly pubs.
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Near Morpeth
With an enchanting medieval castle, a Grecian villa (Belsay Hall) and thirty acres of Grade I listed gardens to explore, Belsay is well worth a visit. Dogs on a lead are welcome in the gardens where you’ll find the country’s biggest collection of magnificent rhododendrons, a formal Yew Garden and Magnolia Terrace. The magical Quarry Garden with ravines, pinnacles and sheer rock faces inspired by the quarries of Sicily has its own microclimate and is home to many exotic plants.
Dogs aren’t allowed in the castle or the Greek Revival villa but if you’re travelling as a couple you could take it in turns to marvel at the view from the top of the 14th century defensive ‘pele tower’ at the top of the ruined castle.
Housesteads Roman Fort, Haydon Bridge
Stretching 73 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian’s Wall, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built to guard the wild north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. Lying midway along Hadrian’s Wall, Housesteads is the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain, and one of the best-known from the entire Roman Empire. Set high on a dramatic escarpment and with stunning panoramic views, it was built within a decade of AD 122, when work on the Wall began, and was garrisoned by an 800-strong infantry regiment until the end of the 4th century. Excavations have revealed major buildings, defences and the civilian settlement outside its walls. Dogs on leads are welcome.
Barter Books, Alnwick
No visit to Alnwick is complete without a stop at Barter Books. Housed within the town’s old Victorian railway station, it contains one of the biggest collections of antiquarian books in the UK and you could quite literally spend half a day wandering the premises. With real fires in the winter, a model railway, station buffet and a children’s room Barter Books is must-see attraction – not just for bookworms. Dogs are welcome here too – there’s even a dog friendly section of the cafe so you can relax and have a coffee or lunch with your dog.
Lindisfarne Island (Holy Island), Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Just a few miles off the Northumberland coast, Lindisfarne Island is a must-see destination. Although cut off twice a day from the rest of the world by fast-moving tides, you can drive, walk or cycle over the dramatic causeway to Holy Island (after checking the safe crossing times). The epicentre of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times, the Lindisfarne Priory is one of the region’s most revered treasures and the island remains a place of pilgrimage today. Although dogs aren’t allowed in the 16th century Lindisfarne Castle itself, staff will watch them while you browse the rooms and artefacts. You can walk all the way around the castle, spend time in the Lindisfarne museum and potter around the pretty village. The Lindisfarne Nature Reserve is home to rare plants and an exciting array of wildlife. You’ll often see seals hauled up on the sand as well as puffins and dolphins.
Bamburgh Castle, Bamburgh
Standing 150 feet above the sea, the magnificent Bamburgh Castle is an icon of the Northumberland shoreline and has been the film set for many blockbusters. Set amid sand dunes bursting with wildflowers and with views out to the Farne Islands, it’s a location that’s hard to beat. The castle is full of myth, legend and over 1,400 years of history to explore. Although dogs aren’t permitted in the castle’s fine state rooms or the Clock Tower Tea Room, dogs are welcome inside the castle grounds, Armstrong & Aviation Museum, Tack Room Café and Victorian Stables.
After your visit we thoroughly recommend a walk along the wide sandy beach from Bamburgh to Seahouses (3 miles in one direction). With grassy dunes to one side and far reaching views to the Farne Islands on the other, it’s a gem of a beach walk. But do wrap up warm – whatever the season!
Cragside Estate, Rothbury
Located just a mile or so outside of Rothbury is Cragside Estate, original family home of Lord Armstrong, Victorian inventor and industrialist, and the birth-place of green energy. The first building to be lit by hydroelectricity is now a National Trust property offering a truly awe-inspiring day out. Inside the main house you’ll find wonderful works of art and paintings, one of the first hydraulic lifts in the world and an impressive ten-ton marble fireplace in the Drawing Room that was ingeniously built into the crag-side itself to support its immense weight. Aside from the main house itself, there are over 30 miles of paths to explore and a magnificent display of rhododendrons and azaleas. The gardens are at their most spectacular in late spring when literally tens of thousands of rhododendrons are in full bloom.
There is also a fantastic Adventure Play Area and labyrinth for children. Dogs are welcome on to the estate, but must be kept on a lead at all times. Dogs aren’t allowed in the National Trust Shop, the cafe or the toilets but there are plenty of picnic areas as well as outside seating for the café.
Warkworth Castle & Hermitage, Warkworth
This magnificent Northumberland fortress crowns the hilltop above the River Coquet. From the almost intact 600-year old keep to the lavish gold-patterned leather-lined walls of the Dukes Room there’s plenty to keep you occupied, if you’ll excuse the pun. Walk half a mile up river to find the Hermitage, a religious building carved out of the rock, and return by boat to the castle. The castle and hermitage are closed for part of the year; please check their website for details.
Northumberlandia ‘Lady of the North’ is a country park like no other, with woodland trails, a visitor centre and a giant landscaped sculpture in the shape of a reclining lady carved into the hillside. Open ‘dawn until dusk’, there are a series of pathways around so that you and your dog can explore the contours of this unique sculpture (dogs must be on a lead).
The spectacular man-made formation is designed to resemble a reclining lady. It is made of 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay, and soil, measures around 100 feet in height and a quarter of a mile long.