Find the best days out with your dog with SWR

Best dog-friendly things to do in the south west

15 January 2022

It’s no secret that owning a dog can often change the dynamic of your days out. Long days out can mean extensive planning to check whether your itinerary is dog-friendly, and if not then knowing how long you can leave your dog at home becomes the next challenge.

Fortunately, Britain’s love of dogs means that there are more and more dog-friendly venues to be found, including some that you wouldn’t expect! And there are many health benefits to enjoying a day out with your pup – from your own improved mood to ensuring that they’re more used to a variety of situations and keeping them mentally stimulated.

So if you’re keen to get out and about with your woofer, look no further than below – with some of the best options for a doggy day out across our region, there’s guaranteed to be a day out for you. Plus, you can take two dogs free of charge on board our trains, making it an eco-friendly and relaxing way to travel with your pet!

A day out at the beach

While most beaches have limits on canine visitors during the peak months, the autumn and winter period make for an ideal time to visit your local seashore! The south west has a plethora of beaches, with dogs allowed on more than 30 beaches in Dorset alone including Mudeford Sandbank near Christchurch, Kimmeridge Bay in Purbeck, and Chesil Beach near Weymouth. Dogs can visit these beaches all year round, making them perfect for winter walks or summer picnics.

View of Chesil Beach

Many of the south’s more popular beaches welcome dogs in the off season, including Bournemouth’s spectacular seven-mile stretch of sandy shore. These beaches are frequently much quieter at this time of year too, so are ideal for younger dogs making their first foray into the sea or for older dogs who need a more relaxed environment.

In Hampshire, dogs will particularly enjoy Taddiford Gap with its mud-sand and shingle being ideal for diggers! Its low cliffs also make it an interesting spot for fossil-hunters – just be aware that Taddiford Gap is an unofficial naturist beach, with nudists using the section of beach about half a mile from the access point. If you’re in Portsmouth, you might like to consider Old Portsmouth Beach – just a stone’s throw from Portsmouth Harbour station, and open to dogs from October to April.

Discover history

Museums and indoor locations have often been the preserve of the two-legged visitor, but things are changing – with more museums and venues welcoming our furry friends too.

Take the Brickworks Museum in Swanwick – a rare look into a part of England’s industrial past that’s been critical to the modernisation of the country. Once producing more than 20 million bricks a year, you can still find the working machinery here – brought into use once a month on “steaming up” days. It’s also dog-friendly inside and out, so your furry friend can enjoy the unique smells and experiences on offer. And outside, the old clay pits are now part of a nature reserve – perfect for a stroll afterwards.

Brickworks Museum, Bursledon

Most heritage railways will also welcome canine visitors – although the experience may be daunting for shyer dogs who need to be eased into their first experience with a steam train! Swanage Railway welcome dogs on leads, with a £3 charge for return journeys (and of course, paws on the floor at all times!). The Watercress line at Alton offer all-day rovers for just £1 per pup.

Steam train on the Watercress Line

A surprise entry on this list is the Tower Bridge Experience! One of the lesser-known dog-friendly activities in London, you can enjoy the glass walk 40 metres above the River Thames, as well as exploring the engine room to one of the UK’s most famous bridges.

Dog on the glass walkway at the Tower Bridge Experience

Head to the woods

There are plenty of opportunities in the south west to enjoy something new with your pooch. The new sights and smells of our fabulous forests and parks are sure to make any dog’s day!

The New Forest is always a winner – and with a number of stations across the area you can explore somewhere new every time you visit! Miles of off-road paths, streams and bridleways offer an incredible variety of smells and things to see (and being a forest, plenty of new sticks to choose from!). Just watch out for the free-roaming livestock – especially during mating season or when they have young nearby. They’ve got a helpful walker’s code that’s easy to follow and helps to make your walk more enjoyable.

Dog walkers in the New Forest

Alice Holt Forest and nearby Bourne Wood are just a short trip from Farnham and Bentley stations, and both have lots of options for dog walks. Alice Holt Forest also includes a Gruffalo trail – making it ideal for a day out with the whole family too!

A dog in Alice Holt Forest

Dining out

Dog-friendly dining is becoming more popular across the UK, with more pubs and even restaurants welcoming both owners and pets inside – ideal for the colder months.

In London you’ll find a wealth of options to dine in, but we recommend hitting London’s bustling food market scene. Mercato Metropolitano in particular welcomes dogs, and you’ll find a wide selection of bites to eat – from pizza to steak to champagne.

Diners at the Mercato Metropolitano

At the other end of the network in the New Forest, the Walhampton Arms welcomes furry friends – even to stay, with three of the five stable bedrooms being dog-friendly and making it ideal for a weekend in the area.

Travelling with your dog

So you’ve decided on a trip – here’s what you need to know about travelling by train with your dog!

While inside trains are nice and calm environments, stations can be busy with lots of noise and smells. It’s easy for younger and more nervous dogs to get overwhelmed, so we recommend taking a few visits to the station first with lots of treats and fussing to make sure your pup has a great association with the station.

Class 444 Desiro train at London Waterloo

When it’s time for your first trip, make sure to pack all the essentials – treats, bags, food, water, toys, and something familiar that smells like home. Make sure to lift smaller dogs over the gap between the train and the platform, and for larger dogs, make sure they board first and get on board safely – this reduces the risk of an accident!

Want some more tips? We spoke to Ali Taylor, head of Canine Behaviour and Training at Battersea Dog’s and Cat’s Home for her thoughts.

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