In a year when many of us have turned to the cycle of the seasons for comfort it’s now time to wrap up warm and brave the cold for a winter walk. Head to the coast for dramatic grey skies and thundering waves, blow away the cobwebs with clifftop walks or follow inviting paths through frost-sprinkled parkland and historic gardens.
Best of all, thanks to the National Trust’s partnership with Forthglade, the natural dog food company, there’s no need to leave your four-legged friend at home. Sales from Forthglade’s National Trust dog food range, and their partnership funding are helping to improve dog walking at Trust places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here are some of the best dog-friendly walks to take this winter and some top tips for keeping your dog safe and comfortable…
N.B. Visitors are urged to check local and national government guidelines before travelling. Some National Trust properties may require or advise that admission is booked in advance to guarantee entry – check the relevant property web pages for the latest information. Different restrictions for dog walking apply at National Trust places and at different times of year – check the relevant property web pages for the latest information. Landscapes are more susceptible to damage at this time of year due to the colder and wetter weather. To help minimise the effects of footpath erosion, please stick to the path and when letting others pass, stop, wait and then return to the path before continuing your walk.
Take in the views of the Atlantic Ocean on this walk along Lizard Point, the most southerly place in Britain. One for wildlife lovers lookout for the distinctive red-billed, red-legged Cornish Choughs who can be spotted wheeling and diving off the cliffs. Thanks to conservation efforts the birds returned to Cornwall in 2001 after an absence of 30 years and have been here ever since. The isolated coves along this stretch are home to colonies of grey seals. Beautiful to observe basking in the winter sun, seals are easily scared, especially by dogs, so please do keep a safe distance and don’t approach any. Dogs are welcome on leads.
Just seven miles from the centre of Bristol, Tyntesfield nestles in a tranquil landscape overlooking the Yeo valley. One of the last surviving Victorian estates in the country, the house is a masterpiece of Gothic revival style and its turrets, towers and family chapel take on a special aura in winter thanks to atmospheric mists and frost. The formal terraces in front of the house, the grand topiary-lined walks, the arboretum for rare trees and the intimate rose garden can all be enjoyed with dogs. Dogs welcome on short leads in parts of the garden and wider estate.
Four miles of beautiful beaches line the sheltered waters of Studland Bay. Backed by heath and dune systems, the beaches stretch from the boundary of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site at Old Harry Rocks north to Shell Bay. A chain ferry provides a link to Poole and Bournemouth. Winter wildlife includes Sanderlings dashing along the water’s edge and comically following the waves up and down. Take a stroll down to middle beach where a small flock of Brent Geese are a common sight. There are a wide range of ground nesting birds in the dunes, so please keep your dogs under control. However, well behaved dogs are welcome during this period off leads.
There are over 20 downloadable trails to enjoy on the Isle of Wight, taking in rolling downland, woods, and dramatic coastline. Follow in the footsteps of Alfred Lord Tennyson and stride out on an invigorating walk over Tennyson Down. There’s acres of space for you and your pooch to stretch your legs under huge skies on this cliff-top trail. Take in splendid views of the iconic Needles, and look out for peregrine falcons riding the thermals as they patrol the coastline, whilst migrant terns and ducks pass over the sea. At weekends in winter, you can nip into the Old Battery fort for takeaway hot drinks and warming treats such as pasties, soup and sandwiches. Dogs can be safely secured nearby.
Positioned on top of chalk cliffs and overlooking the River Thames, Cliveden’s magnificent gardens and woodlands offer breathtaking views that have been admired for centuries. Trails criss-cross through miles of woodland and down to the banks of the Thames. Leafless trees provide new viewpoints both down to the river and back towards the Italianate mansion house (now a luxury hotel) and its grand 6 acre Parterre. Dogs are permitted under close control in the woodlands and on a short lead in all areas of the Cliveden estate except for The Water Garden and Parterre.
A country retreat, only four miles from Dorking and junction 9 of the M25, Polesden Lacey has glorious views across the rolling Surrey Hills and acres of countryside to explore. It was home to the famous Edwardian hostess Mrs Greville, who entertained royalty and the celebrities of her time. Mrs Greville was a great lover of dogs. Her servants even sent postcards to Mrs Greville from her dogs while she was travelling. Continuing the tradition dogs are welcome on short leads in parts of the formal gardens and off leads in the wider estate, where there are four way-marked routes ranging from one and half to four miles. Dogs welcome on short leads in parts of the garden and wider estate.
The views back to the Old Castle from the Scotney estate are timeless and capture the setting that inspired the owners to build the mansion high up above. Stroll around the many acres of parkland, woodland and waterways to discover a stone bridge, beech avenue and even Second World War bomb craters. One of the popular routes takes in the iconic Kentish Oast Houses of the Little Scotney Farm, which still produces hops for the local ale. Dogs are welcome on short leads around the garden and estate. If you don’t have a short lead, there are plenty to borrow from visitor reception for use during your visit.
A countryside haven on Sheffield’s doorstep, the Peaks have a network of footpaths and bridleways. The Longshaw Estate is a gateway to the Peak District, home to ancient woods, parkland and heather moorland. Walking at Longshaw can be a stroll to the pond, an easy-to-follow waymarked walk or a serious hike. Follow waymarked walk with arrows from just outside the Longshaw Lodge or download a walk before you set off. Keeping your dog on a short lead in the Peak District ensures that wildlife, livestock and other visitors are safe. If you ever feel threatened in a situation with your dog with livestock close by, it is advised to release the lead and reach safety separately.
From the moment you enter Attingham’s gates, the views open across 200-year old parkland to the Shropshire hills and the impressive Regency mansion emerges against silhouettes of cedar trees. Cattle graze and fallow deer roam, historic trees cluster in woodland glades, and beautiful stretches of the Severn and Tern can be enjoyed. The many ponds are a haven for wildlife of all sorts, from ducks and swans to otters. In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and government guidance on social distancing dogs are to be on leads at all times while at Attingham (except for the off-lead area in the Mile Walk paddock).
Carved out of the ancient forests of Sherwood, Clumber Park is a beautiful expanse of parkland, heath and woods covering more than 3,800 acres. Once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, there are many glimpses of its grand past to explore. Walking routes around the magnificent lake are extra special in winter, especially on misty mornings when fog surrounds the Gothic chapel. Jays and Green Woodpeckers are often spotted searching for bugs on these scenic paths too. Dogs welcome under close control.
East of England
Flatford lies in the heart of the beautiful Dedham Vale along the Suffolk-Essex border. This charming hamlet was the inspiration for some of John Constable’s most famous pictures, for example, the Hay Wain or Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill among many others. Follow in Constable’s footsteps visiting Flatford, East Bergholt and Dedham. Wandering beside the River Stour or looking at Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House you can feel as if you are actually walking through one of his paintings. Dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a short lead at all times as there is livestock grazing. If you ever feel threatened in a situation with your dog with livestock close by, it is advised to release the lead, and reach safety separately.
Blickling’s breathtaking Jacobean mansion and ancient yew hedges sit at the heart of a magnificent garden and historic park in the beautiful Bure meadows. The lake walk at Blickling is particularly atmospheric on a frosty winter’s morning, with the reflections and big open Norfolk skies providing plenty of opportunities for budding photographers. For budding birdwatchers barn owls are regularly seen hunting across the park and groups of tits and finches can be found marauding through the trees and undergrowth, scavenging for morsels of food. Dogs welcome under close control in park.
An Italianate Palace in the heart of Suffolk with over 1800 acres of beautiful parkland, woodland, Italianate Gardens and an all-weather trail to enjoy, Ickworth is the perfect place to get back to nature. The Monument Walk makes a great winter walk. The circular route weaves through the historic estate and offers breath-taking views across the landscape. Explore a mixture of open parkland and woodland glades, and take in the church, Walled Garden and obelisk monument. Dogs welcome on short leads (except for Italianate Garden).
Yorkshire and North East
Hooped in red and white and standing proud on the coastline midway between the Tyne and the Wear, Souter Lighthouse is reached by car in less than half an hour from Newcastle, and less than 15 minutes from Sunderland. Once the site of a busy mining community, these cliffs are now home instead to the solitary lighthouse and a whole host of seabirds, like fulmar and cormorant. Walk north and discover The Leas with its wildflower meadows or head South to the Whitburn Coastal Park which is criss-crossed with paths and coastal trails. Dogs welcome on short leads.
The ruins of Fountains Abbey are truly something to behold, especially on a frosty winter’s day. Walk down the path from the visitor centre, and come face to face with some of the oldest abbey ruins in the country. From the abbey follow the gentle banks of the River Skell down to the 18th-century Water Garden, which has been channelled into canals, cascades and tranquil moon ponds. From here riverside paths lead to the deer park, home to Red, Fallow and Sika deer and ancient trees; limes, oaks, and sweet chestnuts. Dogs welcome on short leads.
Gibside is one of a few surviving 18th-century designed landscapes and was fashioned with two things in mind: spectacular views and ‘wow’ moments. Here, you can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life within 600 acres of gardens, woodland and countryside – perfect for wildlife spotting. Highlights include a Neo-classical chapel, restored stable block and grand ruin. In winter you may not see signs of Gibside’s protected species such as bats and great crested newts, as they’re all tucked up for winter, but you’ll have a great chance of seeing roe deer, red kites, winter birds and maybe even an otter or a fox. Dogs welcome on short leads.
In Windermere, you’re right in the heart of the Lakes. The lakeshore path between Wray Castle and Claife Viewing station is a safe, car-free walk with lots of opportunities for pooches to paddle. At the end, you will all be rewarded with stunning views across Windermere from the first-floor platform in the Viewing Station. When the viewing station itself was built, its creators put coloured glass in the windows so that visitors could appreciate the views throughout the seasons, no matter when they visited. Light green glass allowed them to see how the scenery looked in spring, for example, with dark blue being reminiscent of moonlight and light blue giving the illusion of winter The hard-wearing stone and steel materials of the Viewing Station are super dog-friendly and paws are permitted everywhere. Dogs welcome under close control.
The early Industrial Revolution changed our world forever. At Quarry Bank, you can discover a complete industrial community and experience the very different worlds of owner and worker, who lived and worked here side by side. On the estate, there are acres of woodland to explore. Follow the meandering path of the river Bollin, and cross the folly bridges. Keep a lookout for flashes of electric blue as the kingfisher’s whizz by. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to catch a rare glimpse of an otter as they slip into the water. Please keep dogs on a lead where advised, particularly through Styal village and if entering the garden.
Barely 8 miles from the Liver Building, Speke Hall is a rare Tudor timber-framed manor house in an unusual setting on the banks of the River Mersey. The Hall is surrounded by restored gardens and protected by a collar of woodland. Take the estate walk and you’ll enjoy fine views of the Wirral, North Wales and even Liverpool’s city centre skyline. Or head down to the Coastal Reserve for great views of wading birds and a walk up the Bund to see unique glimpses of the Hall through the trees before spring arrives. Dogs welcome on short leads in the woodland and on signed estate walks
On a bright sunny winter’s day there’s nothing more invigorating than a climb up Divis and the Black Mountain. There’s so much to see, both in terms of man-made sites and natural ones: Belfast’s famous dockland where the Titanic was built, buzzards and kestrels hovering over the open fields. Dogs welcome on short leads.
Strolling through this 820-acre walled demesne takes you along trails that wind their way through atmospheric woodland, parkland and gardens, offering impressive views over Strangford Lough and the surrounding countryside. The quirky 18th-century house, designed as a combination of two completely different styles: gothic on one facade and Palladian on the other and farmyard that doubled up as Game of Thrones’ Winterfell add to the charm of the grounds. Dogs welcome on short leads.
Carved from the County Down landscape, Rowallane has grown from 19th century beginnings and remains a place where you can leave the outside world behind and immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. A mix of formal and informal spaces with many unusual vistas and unique plants from across the world. Take a stroll among winter flowering viburnums, mahonia and the fragrant flowers of witch hazel. Also look out for sarcococca; otherwise aptly known as the Christmas Box, with its strong scent. Dogs welcome on short leads.
Stackpole is both a listed designed landscape and an internationally important nature reserve. Footpaths stretch down from the former grand estate Stackpole Court, across dramatic cliffs to some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, including Broad Haven South, Barafundle Bay and Stackpole Quay. The famous Bosherston Lakes were created 200 years ago to provide a backdrop to Stackpole Court, in winter they welcome wildfowl – with the likes of goosander (look out for the females with their vibrant ginger heads) and the speckled grey gadwall making an appearance. Dogs welcome under close control
For over 300 years visitors have been welcomed to explore the parkland at Erddig. The Yorke family did not want to hide their beautiful estate away, understanding the value of nature to the health and wellbeing of their local community. The Erddig Clywedog riverside walk is a short circular walk taking you through the parkland to the historic village of Felin Puleston. The route includes the unusual Cup and Saucer waterfall. Designed by landscape gardener William Emes it works by gathering water in a shallow circular stone basin with a cylindrical waterfall at its centre, the water falls through this cascade and then emerges from a tunnel several yards downstream. Dogs welcome on lead in parkland and in designated off-lead zone available near Felin Puleston.
Perfectly positioned on the shore of the Menai Strait with spectacular views of Snowdonia and the Anglesey coastline, the house at Plas Newydd is surrounded by Grade-I listed gardens. At Plas Newydd, dogs are free to visit almost all of the gardens and grounds, including the areas outside the 300-year-old mansion, Rhododendron Garden and Camellia Dell. The only locations off limits to canine companions are the house itself and the Terraced Garden, where the precise planting demands that it is kept a paw free zone. Four-legged friends are also welcome in the Old Dairy Cafe. Dogs welcome on short leads (excluding Terraced Garden).
Top tips for a winter walk from Forthglade
- During the winter months, it’s important to get as much natural sunlight as possible – it helps reduce the feelings of seasonal affective disorder for us humans, as well as keeping our dog’s natural circadian rhythms in order.
- Much like us humans pre exercise, it’s always important to let your dog warm up its muscles at the start of a walk, but never more so than in cold weather.
- When heading out for longer daytime walks remember always to take water for your dog, even on colder days. Popping some towels or a drying coat into your car is a good way to ensure your dog doesn’t get cold on the journey home
- With reduced light in winter a torch not only allows you to be seen but also means you can safely see in front of you, avoiding trip hazards. Attaching a light to your dog’s collar or harness helps too as does wearing bright clothing.
- Where possible, if it’s going to be an exceptionally muddy walk, then pop your dog into a fleece or coat to protect them from getting coated in mud.
- Avoid using outside taps to hose off your dog as in colder weather the water temperature can really drop. It’s also advisable to prevent your dog from swimming in water on bitterly cold days, as this can cause shock or hypothermia
- If you need to use your bath to wash your dog, make sure there’s something in the base for their paws to grip onto, such as a bath mat and add some tasty treats to make the experience positive and fun
We haven’t forgotten about four-legged friends when it comes to exploring the great outdoors. Our range of all-natural, nutritionally balanced dinners and snacks from Forthglade and dog accessories, including collars, leads, natural dog shampoos, and chew toys ensures everyone is set up for the next adventure.
All the following are available via nationaltrust.org.uk/shop.
About the National Trust
The National Trustis a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people, Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley who saw the importance of the nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy.
This year, the charity celebrates its 125th anniversary, and these values are still at the heart of everything it does.
To help mark this significant moment in its history, the Trust has committed to achieving carbon net zero emissions by 2030, and establishing 20 million trees to help tackle climate change, creating green corridors for people and nature near towns and cities, running a year-long campaign to connect people with nature and continuing investment in arts and heritage.
Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
With the help of its supporters, members and volunteers, the conservation charity continues its work to care for nature, beauty, history. For everyone, for ever.
For more ideas and inspiration of things to do, head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk where you’ll find great days out, downloadable activities and fun-packed content. Pick up tips from the National Trust’s expert gardeners, find crafty ‘how-to’ videos and virtual tours, discover ways to engage with nature on your doorstep, delve into the charity’s intriguing collections and much more.