I, Attlee Common, esteemed pawthor, was asked, by Visit England, which is only the NATIONAL TOURIST BOARD, to write about the dog-friendly Lake District for its website. Grand honour! I was also, last week, featured in The Guardian which is only THE MOST CLEVER OF ALL THE NEWSPAPERS. Jane’s parents read it. Grand honour again! The Guardian said that this website, your very own Phileas Dogg, was its favourite DOGGY DEVELOPMENT OF THE YEAR. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Pudsey.
Anyway, enough blowing of my own trumpet, says Jane. Dogs of Britain don’t want to hear about my (frankly quite amazing) literary achievements; they want to hear of where I have been and the adventures I have had, so they can book their own dog-friendly days out in my paw steps.
Well, the Lake District. I wasn’t too sure about it as I caught the train to Windermere with Jane. All that ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ business – I didn’t want to wander lonely as a cloud. I wanted to romp across the countryside as part of a great pack of dogs with nothing lonely about it.
But, when we arrived at our holiday cottage for the weekend in Ambleside, I realised I wasn’t going to be lonely for a second as I had two canine companions for the weekend – bossy Jess, a ten-year-old Chocolate Labrador and bouncy Angus, a ten-month old Labradoodle. They were both considerably larger than me, in stature anyway, but that wasn’t a problem, once I’d laid out some ground rules. I have plenty terrier in me so, naturally, that makes me top dog, I stated. And no dog could argue with that logic.
Jane’s friend Vicky had booked 3 Swiss Cottages, a traditional grey slate Lake District dwelling, as it allowed three dogs – quite rare among holiday cottages where the maximum is usually two. Even rarer, there was no extra charge for dogs staying. And it had an enclosed yard, enabling us to get some fresh air when the rowdy humans had one glass too many, which is what happened on our first night of residence. Making for a late start the following morning which was, quite simply, not on – there was a park round the corner to explore.
Keswick in the Lakes has just been awarded Britain’s dog-friendliest town by the Kennel Club but, in my hound’s opinion, Ambleside should have been a contender too. So many fine dogs taking Saturday lunchtime strolls to bark at (males) or flirt with (females). Lucky for my pack of humans and Labra-things they had me to take the lead through town and make the introductions. The paper shop – dogs welcome; the mountaineering shops – hello to dogs; the butchers – come on in, hounds, and let your taste buds tingle.
Most important of all, though, the walks – that’s what I wanted, and pronto!
So we parked our car at Rydal Hall, just a mile and a half from Ambleside, and tramped off on a five-mile hike, around Rydal Water, where I pinched two cheese and pickle sandwiches from the packed lunch of a fisherman sleeping at the side of the lake. Sorry sleeping fisherman but you snooze; you lose
Then it was through White Moss Wood to Grasmere, where we sat on the banks of the lake beside a cheerful red gypsy caravan at Faery Land Cafe. The fruit cake was delicious, I was reliably informed by Angus, who caught a crumb.
Then it was off again, through Grasmere, past William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage and up the hill to walk back to Rydal Hall along the rather oddly named Coffin Trail.
Jane had to keep grabbing me and putting me on the lead every so often as the demon sheep were around. I think they’re amaze-bones fun to chase but Jane says that if a farmer saw me doing so, I could be looking down the barrel of a gun and preparing to go to the Great Kennel in the Sky.
After all that walking it was time for a drink. Here are my findings on the dog-friendly public houses of Ambleside:
- The Ambleside Tavern, which is on the main street in town, looks charming from the outside, in traditional grey stone, but is disappointingly modern inside. Disappointing for me, as I am not a big admirer of modernity. All I require is a coal fire in winter and a metal bowl of water in summer – not sleek black furniture and IKEA wallpaper. Anyway, there was live music on when we repaired to the Ambleside on the Saturday evening – and the singer fancied himself a rare comic too. When Jess, Angus and I walked in he said: ‘What’s this? Crufts?’ Either he was commenting on my good looks – highly possible – or he was being extremely cheeky. I gave him a hard stare anyway, just in case it were the latter, but he was unabashed, commenting, as we left: ‘Those dogs look old.’ Now that is cheek considering I’m but three and Angus still a pup. Then Jane explained he may have been being rude not about the canines in our crowd – but the humans, suggesting that Jane, Vicky, Hazel and Tracy were old dogs. I wanted to go back in and snap at his heels for this affrontery towards Jane, who is most definitely still in middle youth, but I was held back from this noble act by the very person on whose behalf I was undertaking it. Sometimes life is very confusing.
- Next we visited a proper pub – The Golden Rule, where my canine companions and I were served a dog biscuit as soon as we set foot inside. Nowt for the humans, though – this is such a proper pub, it doesn’t serve food for their sort. That is the golden rule.
- Jess, who has visited Ambleside before, also recommends The Unicorn – another proper pub, she barks, full of walkers, human and canine.
Now for Keswick – Britain’s dog-friendliest town. I have to admit, I’d never seen so many of us hounds in one place, browsing the stalls in the market square, BOL-ing (Bark Out Loud-ing) and generally having a jolly good time.
There being so many dogs, I was well-placed to ask for Rover recommendations. Of all the pubs in Keswick, the Dog and Gun gathered the most paws up, so Jane and I repaired there. It was mobbed – walkers, dogs, shoppers – all crowded into a cosy traditional dark woods and red carpets sort of boozer, the speciality of which is Hungarian goulash and real ale. Massive portions of food too, meaning plenty of scraps are bound to fall below the table to a grateful snaffler like myself. High Paw Dog and Gun!
I did some research on Keswick’s best dog friendly café too – as a journalist, I know that dog friendly cafes are the Holy Grail. So many cafes just won’t let us in and this is a problem if our humans have kids as well as canines. Not The Lakeland Pedlar – Jess, Angus and I were welcomed heartily while the humans glugged coffee, hot chocolate and, this caff being licensed, alcoholic Hollows and Fentimans ginger beer. The Pedlar might be vegetarian – not my favourite thing – but the ambience made up for the lack of tasty meat products. And, as we were leaving, the owner stopped Jane and I and said that I was the most handsome dog she’d seen in a long, long time. True fact – take that Jess and Angus. Mongrel Power!
We had a good old wander round the shops too and I did not have to do any of that boring sitting outside business – I was allowed in every one, even the Peter Rabbit and Friends shop. Wabbits – wow-WOOF!
Top marks, though, to Mountain Warehouse, where the sales staff welcomed every dog that set paw inside as if we were the ones with the credit cards. Mountain WOOF-house!
Down at Derwentwater, about a ten-minute walk from the town centre, there were ducks – horrid, squawking things that have to be barked at. Angus was undeterred, however, and jumped straight in for a swim. I’m not a big swimmer. It’s not that I’m scared of water, (me, scared of something – ridiculous!) I just don’t like it.
So that is the hound’s eye view on Ambleside and Keswick from the dog with his nose to the ground, Attlee Common aka Phileas Dogg. The Guardian’s favourite canine commentator and Visit England’s most revered correspondent.
3 Swiss Villas, Vicarage Road, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9AE Tel: 01539 432691; www.swissvillas.co.uk
The Ambleside Tavern, Ambleside, LA22 9DR Tel: 01539 433306
The Golden Rule, Smithy Brow, Ambleside, LA22 9AS Tel: 015394 32257; www.goldenrule-ambleside.co.uk
The Unicorn, Ambleside, LA22 9DT
Rydal Hall, Rydal, Cumbria, LA22 9LX Tel: 015394 32050;www.rydalhall.org
FaeryLand Cafe, Grasmere; www.edenonline.net
Dove Cottage; www.williamwordsworth.co.uk
Peter Rabbit and Friends, Keswick, 17 Lake Road Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5BS
Mountain Warehouse, 15-17 Market Square, Main Street, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5BQ Tel: 017687 775305; www.mountainwarehouse.com
The Dog and Gun, 2 Lake Road, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5BT Tel: 017687 73463
The Lakeland Pedlar, Bell Close, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5JD Tel: 017687 74492; www.lakelandpedlar.co.uk