“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” – so said author Albert Camus. At this special time of year, when blue skies meet golden trees, venturing out into Britain’s beautiful landscapes truly is a delight.
If you already enjoy walks with a dog, you’ll know the happiness they feel when frolicking through fallen leaves. You will personally feel the mental and physical health benefits too – 78% of over-65s admit that their pet has helped them be more physically active, which is important given that experts recommend 2.5 hours of moderate exercise (including brisk walking), a week.1
Whether you’d like to walk through woodland, wander around stunning stately homes, or breathe crisp sea air by coastal cliffs, here’s our pick of charming national spots to inspire your next seasonal stroll. For those with decreased mobility, our suggestions are all accessible for you to enjoy on a lovely day out, or as part of a longer staycation break.
1) BAGGY POINT, DEVON
Sea air and seal spotting
With its far-reaching views, Baggy Point offers a dog-friendly walking trail that’s excellent for bird watching. If you look closely, you may even see seals. This area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its impressive geological features. The well-surfaced, flat path is suitable for wheelchairs and all-terrain mobility scooters with access almost to the very tip of the headland.
2) KNOLE PARK – SEVENOAKS, KENT
A deer park on a stately home with a literary love story
Explore the wildlife in Kent’s only remaining deer park, which has remained substantially unchanged since medieval times. National Trust owned Knole Park has been home to the same fallow deer herd since at least the 15th century, and Japanese sika deer since the 1890s. In light of this, dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead. Knole Park celebrates this ‘all-ability’ walk, comprising of hard surfaces and concrete, with a few short sections of grass, but note that paths climb and descend throughout the walk.
For literary lovers, Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando is set at the Knole estate. Woolf enjoyed a close relationship with Victoria Mary Sackville-West, known as Vita, who was born at Knole in 1892. Orlando’s original manuscript is inscribed ‘Vita from Virginia’; it remains at Knole today, described by Vita’s son as ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’.
3) BEMBRIDGE – ISLE OF WIGHT
An island retreat with a military past
While tranquil today, Bembridge and Culver Downs once saw much military activity. This dog-friendly walk gives a fascinating insight into the Isle of Wight’s role in wartime defence and intelligence. Take a look at the fort and enjoy spectacular views over Sandown Bay, Whitecliff Bay and Brading Haven. This flat walk is suitable for wheelchair users too.
4) THE SEVEN SISTERS – SOUTH DOWNS, EAST SUSSEX
Chalky cliffs with a scenic sea view
A popular route for dog walkers, the Seven Sisters are 280 hectares of chalk cliffs offering breath-taking views over the English Channel and fresh sea air to recharge you. You’ll feel a real sense of achievement conquering the hills but, if mobility is restricted, the Easy Access Trail welcomes wheelchair users and scooters for an experience that doesn’t compromise on outstanding scenery. Your dog will love it too, just be mindful to keep them on a lead.
5) CLUMBER PARK - NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
A woodland haven with a canine café
Marvel at the picturesque country house of Clumber Park while wandering through 3,800 acres of woodland. Stroll over to the South Lawns for excellent views of the Chapel over the tranquil lake. If you’re looking for the perfect photo opportunity, the Pleasure Grounds, with their patchwork quilt of autumnal colours, offer a beautiful backdrop.
Relax at the brilliantly named ‘Central Bark’ – Clumber’s dog-friendly café just outside the walled garden. Continue to enjoy fresh air in the outdoor seating area, which offers water bowls for dogs. Sleepy pooches can also retreat to the indoor area for a nap or to play with the toys generously provided.
6) HADRIAN’S WALL – BRAMPTON, NORTHUMBERLAND
An iconic landmark with a rich Roman history
The iconic Hadrian’s Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman empire for nearly 300 years. Built by a force of 15,000 men, under order of the emperor Hadrian following his visit to Britain in 122 A.D, it’s both a masterpiece in engineering and a sheer vision. From barracks, ramparts and forts to bath houses and shrines, Hadrian’s Wall is a must-see ancient monument.
While its original purpose was to shut out the unconquered people of Scotland, nowadays all are welcome to traverse its dramatic paths. It takes seasoned walkers a week to trek the sprawling 84-mile path but, rest assured, there are shorter sections of this World Heritage Site that walkers of all abilities can explore and enjoy. A circular, five-mile route takes you past the Sycamore Gap, which features in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner. It’s advisable to keep your four-legged friends on a lead.
7) WIZARD WALK AT ALDERLY EDGE – CHESHIRE
A popular trail that tells a magical tale
Learn about a local legend dating back to the 1750s in the heart of the Cheshire countryside on this easy-access circular walk. The tale goes that a farmer was taking a white mare to sell at Macclesfield market. Walking along the Edge, he reached a spot known locally as ‘Thieve’s Hole’ where an older man stopped him, offering a sum of money for the horse. After initially refusing, then failing to sell the mare at market, the farmer accepts the man’s offer on his way home. The old man (a wizard, no less!) waves a wand, uttering a spell and opening a rock to reveal beautiful iron gates. They enter into a cavern where the farmer spots sleeping warriors ready to awake and fight should England fall into danger. With that, the wizard unlocks a treasure chest to pay for the mare. Legend has it, the wizard was Merlin and the sleeping men were none other than King Arthur and his army.
It’s an awe-inspiring story to tell your grandchildren during a family stroll. One of the National Trust’s most popular walks, this flat, surfaced route with gentle slopes is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Stormy Point offers stunning views and is set around a dramatic sandstone escarpment and mining remains with woodlands and waterfalls.
8) GIANT’S RING – BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND
An ancient monument in an Irish oasis
Follow the trail from the River Lagan, heading deep into woodland, farmland and lush gardens, out onto the ancient Neolithic earth henge of the Giant’s Ring. This impressive structure is 180m across, with a stone passage tomb at its centre. The site is steeped in rich history. The henge is 4,000 years old while nearby Shaw’s Bridge dates back to the stone age.
Explore the Minnowburn woodlands, with their magnificent beeches that are surrounded by a fascinating array of fungi in the autumn. Just be cautious in keeping away from these forest fruits though to avoid upset stomachs.
The Belvoir Oaks are newer additions, planted with acorns from the Belvoir Forest, establishing a link with Ireland’s ancient trees. Keep an eye on the rolling river, as you might spot spawning salmon or sea trout.
9) ARTHUR’S SEAT – EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
An ancient volcano offering panoramic views of a captivating city
For stunning views of Scotland’s gorgeous capital, Arthur’s Seat is a must for dog walkers. The famous landmark, standing at 251m tall, is a dormant volcano and the highest peak in Holyrood Park – the 640-acre Royal Park adjacent to Holyrood Palace.
Holyrood Park’s dramatic hills shape Edinburgh’s skyline and are steeped in history – stone and flint tools reveal human activity dating back to 5000 B.C. The site is one of Special Scientific Interest, given its range of flora and geology. Alongside Arthur’s Seat, within Holyrood Park you’ll also find the 15h century St Anthony’s Chapel, a series of 150-foot cliff faces dominating the Scottish skyline and Duddingston Loch, which is rich in colourful birdlife.
Arthur’s Seat has impressed some of Britain’s greatest authors, appearing – in all its atmospheric, imposing glory – in literary masterpieces including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs of a Justified Sinner. And a bonus fact for culture vultures – Arthur’s Seat is rumoured to have been the site of the legendary city of Camelot, home of King Arthur.
If this legendary landmark appeals to you, there are a selection of routes, including leisurely strolls along the Salisbury Crags o the Queen's Drive, suitable for varying abilities and all options are dog-friendly.
10) BODNANT GARDENS – CONWY, WALES
A nature lover’s paradise
Nestled in the picturesque market town of Conwy, the historic Bodnant Gardens are home to hundreds of native and exotic trees, which burn bright with scarlets and oranges this time of year. Collect a Champion Tree leaflet for a self-led trail or join a guided autumn colour walk, where you’ll pass towering conifers from America and cherries from Asia. With 80 acres to explore, from formal gardens to wild meadows, this is a special way to spend a day, however able you are. Pets are very welcome year-round, with ‘Wag Wednesday' evening walkies taking place in high season (from April through until late September). In fact, short leads and poo bags are available to borrow free-of-charge from the Visitor Welcome Centre just in case you forget anything.
For wilder walks, you can also visit neighbouring Parc Farm on the Great Orme in Llandudno with your dog. The footpaths are open from June to December, with a polite request to keep pooches on leads for the safety of the livestock.
Looking to stroll along the coast? Check out the www.goodbeachguide.co.uk. If you’d prefer the countryside, www.ramblers.org.uk is another valuable site. To find delightful and dog-friendly walks near you, or in a destination that appeals, www.walkiees.co.uk offers helpful suggestions.
A word of caution – whichever path you choose to tread with your pooch, keep a close eye on them. Over the autumn months, conkers carpet the ground but, if consumed, are toxic to dogs, causing gastro-intestinal issues. Piles of leaves can develop bacteria and mould. Mushrooms also pose a risk, so veer your pet away.
A change of scenery can do you the world of good – and is all the more enjoyable when your pet’s having fun, too! Whether you fancy a seaside stroll, a woodland wander or want to escape to another time at a historical site, there are countless charming and cultural trails to explore, whatever your ability.