6 dog-walking destinations for you and your (p)awesome co-pilot

    Dog walking destinations to drive to
    Published: 27 May 2022. Written by: Howard Calvert.

    We check out the most scenic UK dog-walking destinations – approved by Vitality mascot, Stanley the Dachshund – to give yourself a physical and mental health boost at the same time.

    Your dog’s your pal, your companion, your faithful friend. So, you don’t always want to take them round the local streets, day after day, sniffing the familiar old trees and wearily sizing up the same old dogs on the same old streets.

    Sometimes it’s good to jump in the car and head to the hills, where you can treat them to something new: see unfamiliar sights, frolic through fresh meadows and smell unusual and exciting scents (that last one applies more to your dutiful doggo). 

    For Josh Williams, owner of dogfriendlyretreats.com, having a dog means going out in all types of weather, but he says that he always feels much better for getting out and doing some exercise, rain or shine. ‘It always helps when there’s a café stop or a flask of tea involved, and, of course, some treats for my dog, Bean.’

    It’s worth remembering what your dog is capable of – certain breeds have more energy than others and can handle demanding climbs and long days of walking. ‘Some dogs, such as Bernese mountain dogs, are bred for it,’ says Ben Doyle of Pet Checkers. ‘Chihuahuas 

    aren’t, so maybe a short walk around a park is a better idea with them. Working breeds such as labradors and spaniels can walk for miles when they’re fit and healthy, so a day in the hills might be a good choice.’

    Shannon Keary of Canine Cottages recommends researching your planned walk online to ensure the area you’ve chosen is dog friendly before setting off in your car. ‘Beaches have times of the year where dogs aren’t allowed, and parks/National Trust properties will have information about whether or not the area is dog friendly,’ she says. ‘And when you’re on your walk, there are often certain areas where dogs must be kept on the lead, so make sure you adhere to the rules.’

    To elevate your dog’s walk from ‘barksome’ to ‘wooftastic’, carry plenty of toys and snacks. ‘Enrichment is key,’ says Keary. ‘Take a ball to throw, or a stick if that’s more your dog’s thing. If your dog can be off the lead, pick somewhere with plenty of space for them to run around and enjoy the space, whether that’s around lots of other four-pawed pals or somewhere a little quieter.’

    The physical and mental benefits of walking in the countryside are indisputably positive. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health found that a 50-minute forest walk positively affects your mental health when compared to a 50-minute city walk. And recent research by the American Heart Association revealed that taking 1,000 extra steps a day resulted in lowering your risk of death by 28%.

    Personal trainer and founder of the Eastwood Movement Method, Monique Eastwood, adds that walking is one of the simplest, most effective ways to boost your health and mental wellbeing. 

    ‘When you connect with nature and its natural beauty – the birdsong, the wind in the trees, the colours of your surroundings – it slows down your thoughts and calms your breathing, lowering your stress levels,’ she says. ‘Whatever kind of day you’ve had, a walk outside will always encourage the feel good hormones serotonin and endorphins, which are natural mood stabilisers and stress-busters.’

    UK households bought 3.2 million pets during lockdown, with 74% saying it’s helped their mental health, plus the mental-health benefits of driving, and by jumping in the car and taking your dog to a picturesque part of the UK for a walk, you have everything you need for an unforgettable day out that will improve mind, body and spirit. 

    With all that in mind, here are six tried-and-tested recommendations for UK-based destination walks that both you and your dog will enjoy. 

    1. Gwithian Beach, Cornwall, England

    Williams enthuses about the British coast due to its variety of terrain and, of course, the views. ‘We love finding stretches of coastal path that take you through fields and woodland, and end on the beach, where sometimes we’ll go for a dip if we’re feeling brave.’ 

    Hit the sand at low tide and you won’t find many better spots than Gwithian Beach to make full use of your fancy new ball flinger. ‘The abundance of space makes it a great place to socialise with other pups,’ says Williams. ‘When our vizsla was young, we took her to a Viz Whizz meet-up on the beach, which was a great confidence builder.’ 

    After a leg stretch, the Towans (derived from the Cornish ‘tewyn’, meaning ‘sand dune’) at the back of the beach make for the perfect place for a picnic and game of hide and seek.

    2. Burn Anne Walk, Galston, East Ayrshire, Scotland

    Doyle recommends jumping in the car and heading to East Ayrshire’s Burn Anne Walk. ‘It has it all: country roads, meandering paths through grassy fields and majestic woodland. The trail leads you up to a fantastic vantage point where you can look over the village of Galston and the surrounding countryside.’

    The trail is just over five miles in length and features a few climbs that are manageable by most dogs.

    3. Derwentwater, Lake District, England

    The Lake District is one of England’s most famous walking destinations, and with good reason. There are so many stunning places to walk your dog, you really are spoilt for choice. 

    ‘Derwentwater offers an easy 10-mile walk that provides some of the most beautiful scenery there is,’ says Doyle. ‘There’s plenty of wildlife to spot, and the walk features several stops for your four-legged friend to go paddling.’

    4. Jacob’s Ladder to Kinder Scout, Peak District, England

    One for those who enjoy a challenge. The Peak District offers miles of uninterrupted walking trails, but this route is a particular standout. Jacob’s Ladder features a series of picturesque stone steps that stretch for several miles, ascending to the highest point in the Peak District. 

    ‘You’ll be scrambling over boulders, crossing streams, climbing stiles and passing through gates to reach the 636m summit at Kinder Scout,’ says Doyle. ‘You and your dog will need to be fairly fit, but the views make the effort well worth it.’

    5. Allt yr Esgair Circular, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

    The Brecon Beacons are crammed with interesting places to visit with your dog. The area features mountain ranges with stunning views, meandering canals, picturesque lakes, as well as caves, castles and beautiful waterfalls. 

    Doyle recommends this seven-mile walk, which winds its way up to 393m. ‘It will take you to the summit of Allt yr Esgair Hill, which overlooks the River Usk and the humps of Corn Du and Pen y Fan. It’s a moderate walk that should take around two-and-a-half hours to complete.’

    6. Stonebarrow Hill and Golden Cap, Dorset, England

    ‘Stonebarrow Hill is an area of epic natural beauty,’ says Doyle. ‘You can either take a short two-mile circular walk or, if you and your pup are up for the challenge, you can join the 25 miles of footpaths that weave across the Golden Cap Estate. The highest point will reward you with fantastic views across the Jurassic World Heritage site.’

    You can also wander along the South West Coast Path, with breathtaking views of the sea, and end with a charge along the beach (if you and your canine pal have any energy left), followed by a much-deserved ice cream. Maybe a ’99’ for you, and a Frozzys all-natural and lactose-free (lickable) frozen yogurt for your four-legged friend?

    Our doggie destinations are certainly food for thought, but don’t forget that you could always leave the car at home when you go for a dog walk. You can earn points for car-free days with Vitality car insurance and what better way to spend a day away from the wheel than walking with your four-legged friend?

    Send us your pics of your faithful friend walking in your favourite spot @vitality_uk

    As a Vitality car insurance member, you could get rewarded for your good driving. Available with qualifying car insurance plans. Log in to Member Zone for the details.