Home to The Jurassic Coast, majestic ruins, and the world’s best cider, Dorset has a lot going for it. Four-legged family members can’t help but love the place either—it has plenty of dog-friendly pubs and of course dog-friendly beaches. We thought we’d combine two and find a few of the best places to go for a lovely walk with your dog in Dorset—and where to stop off for a bite or a pint.
1. Corfe Castle
Address & map: The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham BH20 5EZ
Restrictions: Dogs are allowed in the castle ruins provided they’re kept on leads under two metres long.
Dog-friendly stop-offs: Treats for furry customers await at the Bankes Arms Hotel (owners can enjoy a drink, meal or lovely cream tea here). The dog-friendly Greyhound Inn has a beer garden overlooking the castle so it’s an ideal place to relax with a pint.
About: Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Corfe Castle has served as both a royal palace and a fortress. Hike up the hill to the imposing ruin and you’ll be met with breathtaking views across Purbeck. The castle’s surrounding common has remained unchanged for more than 1,000 years so you’ll feel like you stepped back in time. Depending on the combined stamina of you and your dog, you can choose to take a gentle circular, 1.5-mile walk exploring the historic landscape around Corfe Castle or a more challenging 12-mile walk to the coastal town of Swanage from the castle. If you take the longer trail there’s the option to hop on the steam train back if you don’t want to trek all the way back.
2. North Dorset Trailway
Address & map: Blandford Forum, DT11 7RL
Restrictions: The trail is also popular with horse riders so make sure you have a lead on you to secure your dog if you see any.
Dog-friendly stop-offs: Dogs are welcome in the bar area, and outdoor areas of The White Horse Stourpaine, a fantastic 18th century gastropub in Stourpaine.
About: The North Dorset Trailway is a 14-mile route which runs from Spetisbury to Sturminster Newton. It’s largely made up of sections of the old Somerset and Dorset Railway which linked Bristol and Bournemouth until the 1960s, so the ground is fairly even and can be traversed by people with mobility scooters. The route can be accessed at various different points and there are lots of car parks along the way. If you start is Spetisbury there’s a nice little picnic area where the old station used to sit.
3. Lulworth Cove & The Fossil Forest
Restrictions: The Fossil Forest is located within the Lulworth Firing Range so there’s restricted access as it can only be visited when the range is open.
Dog-friendly stop-offs: Hit The Boat Shed Cafe with your dog for panoramic views of Lulworth Cove, fry ups, and lunches.
About: This walk combines a stroll along a flat beech, a bit of a climb up a steep hill, and some cracking views. Lulworth Cove is a West Dorset gem—a sheltered white pebble beach lapped by turquoise waters. If you approach the cove from the west you can walk along the beach or over the cliffs if the tide’s in. From the beach, there’s a steep path with some steps that heads uphill and which takes you onto the clifftop where you’ll be met with stunning views and the Fossil Forest—the remains of an ancient submerged forest from Jurassic times. The outline of tree stumps and fallen trees have been preserved for over 145-million years and although part of the forest is restricted a selection of the fossils can be easily viewed from the path.
4. Studland Bay & Old Harry Rocks
Address & map: Studland, Swanage BH19 3AX
Restrictions: Dogs are not allowed on Middle and Knoll beaches (from Red-end point to training bank) between early July and early September. Dogs are allowed on Shell Bay and South Beach all year but must be kept on leads shorter than two metres between April and October.
Dog-friendly stop-offs: Enjoy a pint by the fire at the dog-friendly Bankes Arms in Studland. There’s a National Trust cafe at Knoll Beach and during the cooler months, its indoor doggy area makes a great pit stop.
About: Studland Bay stretches for three miles, comprises four beaches, and is one of the area’s most famous shorelines. The designated UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to 185 million years of natural history as well as Britain’s most popular naturist beach (between Shell Bay and Knoll Beach). Studland can be reached either by the ferry from Sandbanks in Poole or via Corfe Castle or Swanage. You can explore the bay on designated trails through the nature reserve behind the beaches but be aware that this heathland is a haven for wildlife including all six British reptiles so stay on the path with your dog to be on the safe side—you don’t want them to be bitten by any ticks or adders! Enjoy views of the Isle of Wight as you head south towards Old Harry Rocks—dramatic chalk formations rising out of the sea, managed by the National Trust—at the southern end of Studland Bay.
5. Wareham Forest
Address & map: Wareham, BH20 7NZ
Restrictions: Dogs are to be kept on a short lead in some areas of the forest during bird nesting season (February to August). The trails here are popular with cyclists so make sure you have a lead on you to secure your dog if you see any.
Dog-friendly stop-offs: The Silent Woman Inn is a traditional and dog-friendly establishment which serves home-cooked food and a great selection of drinks.
About: Wareham forest, located next to Morden Bog National Nature Reserve, is made up of several acres of heathland and pinewoods. There are plenty of excellent signposted trails to explore which are generally flat with just a few inclines. If you and your dog like spotting wildlife you’re in for a treat—are all sorts of animals call Wareham Forest home, including sika deer and sand lizards. If you fancy a good walk, check out the Wareham Forest Way, a 13-mile trail which passes through forest, farmland, and country estates between Wareham Quay and Sturminster Marshall.
6. Durdle Door
Address & map: Durdle Door, Wareham, BH20 5PU
Restrictions: The route includes paths close to unfenced sheer cliff edges so the RNLI strongly recommends keeping dogs on leads. Dogs are welcome on the beach 365 days a year.
Dog-friendly stop-offs: The Boat Shed Cafe at Lulworth Cove serves breakfasts, lunches, coffee and booze.
About: If you follow the South West Coastal Path from Lulworth Cove for two miles you’ll hit Durdle Door, an iconic limestone arch which separates Durdle Door beach from Man ‘o’ War Bay. Head down to the sand and pebble beach which is dog-friendly all year round and let your dog have a lovely swim in the clear, aquamarine waters which are a favourite with snorkelers—just be aware that the sand in the bay shelves suddenly in places. The bay is surrounded by the Jurassic Coast’s high limestone cliffs so amateur geologists can look out for fossils, ammonites, and belemnites which are found along this stretch of coast regularly. Once you’ve had your fill of fossils and frolicking on the beach, head further down the coast to Bat’s Head, a chalk headland with a small Bat’s Cave at its base. This is a great picnic spot with views back towards Durdle Door.
We hope you get to explore some of these fantastic walks with your dog. And remember, if you’re heading out somewhere you can’t take your dog, you can find plenty of loving dog sitters who provide dog boarding in Dorset on Rover.com! Or if you’ve had enough walkies for one week but your furry best mate hasn’t, we have wonderful dog walkers who’d love to take your dog out for a wander while you put your feet up.
Featured image: JURASSICCOAST.ORG