The Pennine Way: Hebden Bridge to Haworth

Blow up the balloons and hang out the bunting, pups, for the Pennine Way is 50 years old – 350 in dog years which is ancient! Our friend Apricot is ancient too (in dog years, that is – she’s still a mere slip of a girl in human years) and she shares her birthday – April 24th – with the Pennine Way. And that’s why Jane and I are on a train to Leeds – to celebrate both events by walking the Pennine Way with Apricot.

The augurs for our expedition, however, are not good.

Augur #1 – the walking boots Jane has purchased from eBay have not arrived by the time we set out for our train to Leeds. This makes Jane very fretful as she isn’t sure that her fashion wellingtons will be up to the task of marching across moorland for 12-miles a day. Poor humans – all this fretting over footwear while my paw pads are sturdy and strong be I bouncing across the beach or hot pawing it along the pavement. Many’s the time I have questioned Dog as to why humans are so poorly designed but he has yet to provide an answer.

Augur #2 – rain is forecast. Apricot has been checking her phone every day and her phone has checked with the people who control the weather and reported back to her that it will rain. Heavily – and especially heavily on April 24th.  The people who control the weather are clearly not friends of Apricot or of the Pennine Way – not fair-weather friends anyway. 

So it is up to me to keep Jane’s spirits up as we change trains at Leeds to continue our journey to Hebden Bridge, where we are staying for the first night of our trek. I try to amuse her by cavorting in the aisle, creating grand disruption for other passengers. But she is not amused.

‘I will not be able to walk 12-miles a day in fashion wellingtons with this rucksack on my back in a torrential downpour,’ she cries. ‘I don’t know why I have agreed to this trip.’

So forlorn, is she, I wonder whether she will ever recover. Then, upon arrival in Hebden Bridge, we are greeted with this sight and her spirits are revived.

A dog sticking its head out of a cat flap! All my charisma and my talents – writing, squirrel chasing, being the fastest dog in the park – are as nothing compared to this mutt peering through a hole in a door. I could be rather hurt but I am the bigger dog and I let it go. At least Jane is chirpy again.

She chirps up even more when we meet Sharon, who runs Garnett B&B, our residence for the night in the centre of Hebden Bridge. Sharon is chirpy and Jane is chirpy and the two of them chirp on for half an hour at least. I’m so bored by their nattering I consider seeking out cat flap dog for some intelligent conversation…..

At last Jane and Sharon – old friends, now – have run through their life stories with each other and Jane and I head out in search of repast. Sadly the dog-friendly Lamp Post cafe (featured in our best-selling book) is closed as it’s 7pm so we head to The Old Gate pub. Jane is reassured by the fact that the bar serves white rioja and I am reassured by the fact she orders chicken burger and chips. Scraparama!

Back in our room we study the maps to plot our route for the following day although really our efforts in this quarter are redundant as Apricot, who arrives at 10pm, is chief navigator, and I don’t require maps – I always just follow my nose and end up in exactly the right place. Amaze-bones!

Day One: Hebden Bridge to Haworth

Fido Felicitations to Apricot and the Pennine Way – the grand day, April 24th, has arrived and they are both, officially, ancient! The celebrations start with a slap-up breakfast courtesy of Sharon (and some slap-up sausages for me, courtesy of Jane slipping them under the table) and then we are OFF! Well, our OFF is set back rather by the fact the chap in the cafe where we buy sandwiches spends rather a long time preparing them – half an hour, which seems a bit excessive a timeframe to put some brie and tomatoes between two slices of bread – but then we are OFF!  Jane glances at her fashion wellingtons trepidatiously; Apricot stamps her hiking boots and I click my heels together. Twelve country miles – bring it on!

And what joys those 12-miles bring. There are sheep to bark at and there’s fresh grass to roll in; nesting birds inhabit the scrub of the moors and then, waggiest of wonders, there are reeds with little rodent-like residents.

‘Voles,’ Jane says, catching sight of one of the critters scurrying down a hole to escape my attentions. I have never heard of a vole in all my born days but, now I’m aware they exist, I am obsessed by them. VOLES! Forget squirrels and bring me VOLES!

Because of the sheep and the nesting birds and voles I am LEAD ON but I will not allow this small fact to tarnish my merriment – not a bit of it. Who does that ram think he’s staring at? I will bark at him and show him who’s boss! Why is Jane walking so slowly up this hill? I will surge forward and drag the old girl up. I am King of the Pennine Way although, I must admit, by the time we stop for lunch next to a bridge over a stream I am rather out of breath and can’t even muster the energy to bark at the geese flying overhead.

‘We’ve walked eight miles at least,’ Jane sighs, satisfied, as she bites into the sandwich that took half an hour to create.

‘No,’ Apricot counters, examining the map. ‘We’ve only done five!’

‘Five,’ Jane cries aghast, staring at her fashion wellingtons. ‘Another seven to go?’

But the rain holds off – the sun even shines at points – and onwards we tramp. Chunks of Dairy Milk and Jelly Babies sustain Jane and Apricot; I have a bag of Amitage Good Boy Chocolate Drops to keep my energy levels up. The treats work a treat – oh, I have so much energy to bark at sheep.

‘Attlee – stop,’ Jane shouts, yanking my lead to show she means business. Then we turn a corner – and terror strikes our hearts……

Oh my Dog! I’m sorry, officer – I know I’ve been behaving in a rather unruly fashion what with barking at sheep and voles but I have realised the error of my ways and will desist immediately.

‘Do you think a farmer’s called the police about Attlee barking at the sheep?’ Jane hisses, stopping in her tracks.

Even Apricot appears slightly alarmed.

‘Let me off this lead Jane, so I can run and hide in the moors. I will be a fugitive rather than spend the rest of my days behind bars!’ I cry.

‘It can’t be anything to do with us,’ Apricot declares boldly. ‘Let’s walk past.’

So we do and the officer in the parked car smiles at us. Nothing to see here; move on your way, folks.

False alarm – still, I do quiet my barking for the afternoon. I don’t much fancy being apprehended by the Canine Unit.

The experience has fritted us all and, as the moor grows bleaker as we climb uphill, we are sombre and reflective.  Then we spot, in the distance, an abandoned farmhouse and Jane and Apricot’s pace quickens. This is, apparently, Top Withins, the inspiration behind the Earnshaws’ house in Wuthering Heights and a place of worship for Bronte fans – tortured teenage girls and maudlin middle-aged spinsters among them.

 

I’d much rather be snouting for voles than bookishly brooding but I’m a sport about it all and think of Emily Bronte’s canine companion Keeper who tramped the moors by her side every day. Emily must have been a fine sort of human to have a dog as her best friend so I allow Jane and Apricot their reverie and even accommodate their rendition of a Kate Bush classic with equanimity.

And Top Withins does have a majesty about it – as we descend the hill it stands atop we keep turning to gaze back at it, forlorn and alone yet somehow majestic and splendid in its isolation.

Jane, however, is flagging now – we are only three miles from our dog-friendly digs for the night but the ten-miles we have completed are telling on her fashion wellingtons rather. I still have great stores of energy in reserve and push bravely on – I am the leader of this small pack and will not falter. And, when we arrive at Westfield Lodge, I am justly rewarded as a bucket of straight-from-the-butchers bones has been left at reception to welcome me. This truly is AMAZE-BONES!

Apricot and Jane complain about their aching muscles. Aching muscles, I think, as I chomp and they bathe (although without the benefit of soap as there there isn’t a bar of it in our self-catering apartment) – why, I could walk another 12-miles this very minute.

Still, when Jane opts to call a cab rather than Shanks’ pony to convey us the mile into Haworth for dinner I don’t grumble and, as we sit down in The Stirrup Eating House on the main street, my eyelids grow heavy.  Then the chef emerges from the kitchens brandishing – grrrhuzzah – a sausage and I am wide awake.

Well the Stirrup is a fine establishment and no mistaking and this day one of the best I’ve ever had, if we leave out the brush with the long paw of the Law. Voles, sheep, bones-straight-from-the-butchers and now a sausage presented to me before the girls have even ordered their glasses of Prosecco.  I truly am the King of the Pennine Way and I wonder what treats tomorrow, when we tramp on to Gargrave, can offer to compete with this.

Phileas Phacts: Hebden Bridge to Haworth

  • Garnett B&B, 2 Garnett Street, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 6AL Tel: 07594 080556; www.hebdenbridge.biz
  • Jane, Attlee, and Apricot paid £65 for a large twin room, breakfast included.
  • Westfield Lodge, New Westfield Farm, Upper Marsh Lane, Oxenhope, Keighley, West Yorkshire, BD22 9RH Tel: 01535 646900; www.westfield-lodge.co.uk
  • Jane, Attlee and Apricot paid £90 for a one bedroom self-catering apartment.
  • The Stirrup Eating House, 103 Main Street, Haworth, West Yorkshire, BD22 8DP Tel: 01535 642007; www.thestirrup.co.uk

 

 

 

 

The Waggy Way Is Essex: dog-friendly Loughton with Monty

 

Hello humans, I’m Monty. I’m around three and live in Loughton, Essex with Louise, Dave and their son and daughter.  I rescued my family two years ago when they visited the Waltham Abbey kennels where I was staying, run by the excellent charity All Dogs Matter.  When I saw these poor humans waiting forlornly to meet the dogs, I knew I had to help make their empty lives and home complete.   There was stiff competition from another dog but I pulled out all the stops to impress and the rest, as they say, is history. All Dogs Matter helps people unfortunate enough to not have a dog own a lovely specimen like me. (The humans say it is the other way round and the charity help re-home rescue dogs but us canines know better of course!)

I’m an unusual mixture of several breeds: the humans think I have Jack Russell, Springer Spaniel and Border Collie in me with possibly more, but all I know is I’m very cute.   Eating is my passion: I am a huge dustbin and my whole life revolves around food: begging for scraps and foraging. Louise says that when someone drops anything in the kitchen, even a potato peeling, I swoop in like a ninja and gobble it up, often before it hits the floor.  I am also partial to gourmet snacks like manure and goose droppings.  Playtime comes a close second to food and I will happily spend hours destroying tennis balls and squeaky toys and chasing my tail.  Although I love all humans (particularly those bearing treats) I’m still a bit wary of other dogs.  I don’t travel well in the car but there is so much to do in my manor that I keep the pawrents from boredom.  Although we are on the doorstep of London there are forests, lakes, nature reserves and country pubs aplenty in this area.  Visitors here are usually surprised at how green and rural it can be, yet you can be in the West End in two shakes of a tail.

I love the playing fields behind Valley Hill in Loughton which is alongside the River Roding, leading to the Roding Valley Meadows Nature Reserve. This is a great area for dogs and humans alike, with numerous sports and picnic facilities and plenty of poo bins.  At the weekends I used to try joining in football games by popping the balls whilst the teams warmed up, but the pawrents weren’t keen on this for some reason.

My humans just love to see me swim and I nearly always throw myself into the River Roding no matter the weather, sometimes trying to play with ducks and swans too, and on one occasion I tried to catch a huge carp which was almost bigger than me.

Making friends at the nature reserve

There are so many dog and family friendly pubs and cafes to choose from in this area but a favourite with the family I own is the Kings Oak where I like to take them for a tasty meal and a couple of drinks.  It is right in the centre of Epping Forest and provides drinks for the dogs, a separate kids’ playground and even has a lido for members. The humans enjoy the permanent ice cream stall outside too.   Next door is the Epping Forest Visitor Centre which has loads of useful information about the forest and is a good place for kids, although I have to wait outside.

I am partial to a picnic or two in the summer (an excellent opportunity for nicking food when no-one is looking, and games of catch and Frisbee too). I’ve even caught the tube to Hyde Park for Louise’s annual picnic with friends where I stole the show.

My family are so grateful that I help them explore all these wonderful places. Must dash – I have some musing to do, on where to go for my next adventure. Monty xx

 

Phileas Phacts: Loughton, Essex

  • All Dogs Matter’s Head Office – the initial point of contact for people interested in re-homing dogs, who are all in foster and lodging in kennels in Waltham Abbey and Norfolk – is at All Dogs Matter, 30 Aylmer Parade, London N2 0PE Tel: 0208 341 3196; www.alldogsmatter.co.uk

 

 

  • Kings Oak Hotel, Paul’s Nursery Road, High Beach, Essex, IG10 4AE Tel: 0208 508 5000; www.kingsoakhotel.com

Dog-friendly Thirsk, North Yorkshire

Thirsk is a little town in Yorkshire, famous for its horse races and as the town where Alf Wight, who wrote the James Herriot novels, worked as a vet, basing the books on his own experiences.

VETS!

When I heard this aspect of Thirsk’s character, I made it quite clear to Jane that I had no desire to visit such a place. But Jane was hard of heart, as her sister Steph is now a resident of Thirsk and she wished to see her.

Indeed, Steph lives in a part of Thirsk called Sowerby – a place occasionally referred to in Downton Abbey as ‘up the road’. Perhaps when Isis is ill it is the vets in Thirsk she must visit….

So Thirskwards we were bound, on the 7pm train from London Kings Cross to York where we changed – a quick fag for Jane and leg lift for I – and then 17-minutes on to Thirsk itself, where Steph collected us at the station. No sign of any vets so far, nor of Isis, whose autograph I wouldn’t mind having. (And I’m sure she’d be equally pleased to have mine – we celebrity dogs, whether actor or author, must stick together.)

The following morning we set out early paws for a walk – there’s some fine countryside to romp through just five minutes’ walk from Steph’s house. There were cows to chase – like squirrels but black and white, about ten times as big and with the advantage that they don’t suddenly disappear up trees. But precisely because I wanted to chase the cows I was not allowed to chase the cows and I was kept on my lead for the whole excursion. Why must I be constantly thwarted in my desires and so many avenues of pleasure closed to me?

When Steph heard about the thwarting in Thwirsk of any off-lead action, however, she was outraged on my behalf and instructed Jane to take me to Thirsk Racecourse and pronto. There, Steph said, was an enclosed area where she had spotted dogs racing along off-lead, right next to the course itself.

Now this sounded much more like it. Racing race horses – I’d show those long-legged prancers a thing or two. They may fancy themselves the most alacritous of animals but they haven’t raced a terrier by the name of Attlee as yet!

However, when we arrived at the race course there was neigh a horse to be seen – the daft old mares had heard I was coming, obviously. Instead I had the whole stretch of land next to the gallops to myself and race I did, after my Frisbee and just for the sheer exhilaration and joy of it all. A true sprinter like me does not require a carrot at the end of the track to spur him on…..

Anyway virtue has its own reward as I discovered later when we popped into a dog-friendly cafe called Bliss of which we’d heard tell. No sooner had Jane had settled herself on a comfortable sofa with The Times and I settled myself faithfully at her side – well, I was a little tired, after my racing – than the owner of the cafe rushed up and presented me with some sausages. Complimentary, she explained – on the house and a gift to every canine who graces the establishment with their presence.

This was good as was, incidentally, Jane’s quiche and coleslaw. So, the following day, we repaired to Bliss once more. Once again the sausages on the house made an early appearance and, once again, Jane ordered quiche and coleslaw – she is a creature of habit.

Anyway, as she consumed her quiche and I observed her consuming her quiche, lest a scrap fall to the floor, an amaze-bones incident occurred.  Another customer in the cafe, who had observed my observing, approached Jane with a bowl of sausages which she had bought with her own money out of her own pocket FOR ME!

‘I hope you don’t mind,’ she said to Jane, ‘but I saw your handsome dog watching you eat and I thought he might like some sausages to eat himself.’

Now, this was an act of kindness above and beyond – complimentary and complementary.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch – well, in Thirsk there is!

Our trip to Thirsk was going so well – too well, as it transpired because no sooner had I scoffed the sausages provided by the good sausage-maritan than Jane told me she had some news.

She’d made an appointment the next day, she informed me, AT THE VET’S.

I wanted to leap on the table and stamp my paw in her quiche to show my extreme displeasure at this announcement. I was not ailing – surely my athleticism on Thirsk race course combined with my high levels of sausage consumption had proved this.

But, Jane said, we were not going to any vets. We were going to the actual vets where Alf Wight had lived and worked – now a museum called The World of James Herriot – to meet the museum’s mascot Herriot the Puppy. Jane had arranged all this days before with Herriot the Puppy himself, on Twitter but, she’d kept it from me. I don’t appreciate her keeping things from me – that is overplaying her PA’s role in our editorial enterprises, in my opinion.

Still, I was rather interested to meet Herriot – perhaps I could teach the young pup a few tricks about being a dog with a job, me being an author and he embarking on life as a mascot. He has a blog too and is even, Jane informed me, on a badge. Why am I not on a badge?

So, the next day, at the appointed time, we walked to The World of James Herriot in Thirsk town centre, via Thirsk Tourist Information, where we popped in to seek directions. (Jane and I prefer to do things the old-fashioned way rather than trust to maps and green pins on an iPhone.)

It was lucky we popped into the Tourist Information too because the people on the desk had heard that Phileas Dogg – the celebrated canine travel writer – was in town on and been hoping to bump into me. (Now if I was on a badge this would have provided the perfect opportunity to distribute them to my eager fans.)

Upon arrival at the James Herriot centre there was yet more good news – dogs aren’t allowed into the original house where Alf Wight lived and the original vets’ surgery. Thank Dog – that cut out any chance of an original thermometer suddenly being stuck up my posterior!

Instead, Herriot the Puppy is introduced to esteemed visitors like my good self in the museum’s gardens. The day we met happened to be the first day he’d ever worn a lead and he had a good old grumble to me about that.

‘Get used to it chum,’ I told him. ‘Now you’ll have to wear that lead any time there are thrilling things like sheep and cows around to chase.’

 

Now, that is all in all my visit to Thirsk summarised for your viewing pleasure. I appreciate, however, that not everybody has the advantage of STEPH to stay with on their trips to Thirsk so, being the thorough newshound I am, did my research on accommodation and dug up with my very own paws some information on a dog-friendly B&B – Long Acre. And, prick up your ears canine cohorts and listen to this, Long Acre is not just any old B&B. It is a B&B with a bird sanctuary attached where rescue owls and hens and ducks live.

Now, imagine the off-lead possibilities of that particular set-up!

Phileas Phacts: Thirsk

  • Thirsk Racecourse, Station Road, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 1QL Tel: 01845 522276; www.thirskracecourse.net
  • Bliss Cafe, 12 Millgate, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 1AA Tel: 01845 868163
  • The World of James Herriot, 23 Kirkgate, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 1PL Tel: 01845 524234; www.worldofjamesherriot.org
  • Read Herriot the Puppy’s blog at www.herriotthepuppy.com
  • Long Acre B&B, Long Acre, 86a Topcliffe Road, Sowerby, Thirsk, Yorkshire, YO7 1RY Tel: 01845 522360/ 077498 45979 Prices start at £30 per person per night
  • For more information about Thirsk, log on to www.visitthirsk.org.uk. The Tourist Information Centre (dog-friendly!) is at 93a Market Place, Thirsk, Yorkshire, YO7 1EY Tel: 01845 522755

Dog-Friendly Newcastle: Elvis is IN the building!

I’m Elvis the Boxador and I’m THE Dog on the Tyne. Everybody knows that Newcastle is one of the world’s biggest party cities – I once snaffled a string of plastic sausages from a hen party outfit. But is Newcastle one of the world’s biggest paw-ty cities too?

So here is my tour of dog-friendly Newcastle. My two Dads often take me for a long walk along the River Tyne, especially in the summer when it’s not absolutely freeeeeeeezing. While I sniff out the best things to wee on, they sniff out Newcastle’s best dog-friendly pubs to visit with me – they do enjoy a pint or two.

On the south, Gateshead side of the river – Newcastle and Gateshead are two separate places, divided by the Tyne –  just next to the bridge is a curiously shaped pub called The Central. It is kind of like Tyneside’s answer to New York’s triangular Flatiron Building but smaller. Dads like The Central because it has a chilled-out atmosphere and the Giant Yorkshire Puddings look amazing. I like The Central because the staff are always so happy that ELVIS IS IN THE BUILDING and make a huge fuss of me.

A quick walk over the river across the Swing Bridge – there are always ‘Dog on the Tyne’ jokes at this point – brings us to Newcastle’s Quayside Quarter. Now, Dads presumed anywhere with an outside area would be pretty okay to stop off with me for a quick pint and the Wetherspoons-owned The Quayside with its big beer garden at the front and back was an obvious choice. However on our first visit we were asked to leave, as apparently it’s against company policy to allow dogs anywhere on the premises. Wetherspoons does not love me tender. 

MAYBE WETHERSPOONS WOULD’VE LET ME IN IF THEY KNEW OF MY TALENT FOR BALANCING THINGS ON ME HEAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, never mind Wetherspoons because close by there’s a hidden gem. The Red House, in a grand old building, is a pub dedicated to serving the very best in pie and mash. Dads say the food is amazing but never share with me. Oh well – I am always served a lovely bowl of water while they stuff their faces. Thanks Dads – NOT!

Further along the river, just past the iconic Millennium Bridge is the classy-looking Pitcher & Piano. There are a few tables outside overlooking the bridges and the BALTIC art gallery and Sage Music Centre. Unlike in Wetherspoons, Dads aren’t told off for having an Elvis with them and nobody steps on my blue suede paws! 

Further east along the River Tyne, is an area called Ouseburn – home to the Tyne Bar, where I’m always warmly welcomed, even though I ain’t nothing but a hound dog. There’s an outdoor area in one of the arches of the Victorian bridge that runs over the pub with a stage for bands to perform. I have been known to take the stage in my rhinestone jumpsuit and lob a tennis ball around.

Just up the steps next to The Tyne is The Free Trade. They don’t have dog bowls, but Dad always comes out with a drip-tray of water for me (I’m not fussy) and their beer garden has some great views down the river towards the city centre. I always get lots of attention in The Free Trade – one time, I wagged my tail up a lady’s skirt and tickled her knickers. Dads were very embarrassed and the lady said she had a hot flush.

Now we walk back into town or, if Dads are lazy, use public transport. The Tyne and Wear Metro (and its buses) are all very dog friendly – in fact, dogs travel free. As I am Elvis, I should really have a limo to transport me around but I don’t so the bus and metro has to to.

A good bar in the city centre, near the train station, is The Town Wall – it’s very ‘trendy’. Well-behaved dogs (and children) are allowed in until 7pm. Dad #1 took me there while he had a lunchtime work meeting. He was amazed at how quiet I was being, sitting under the table minding my own business – then he realised I’d spent half an hour methodically chewing through my lead. What can I say? I was bored!

 

Me having a business meeting at the Town Wall…….

When I’d rather have been at THE BEACH………..!

 

Phileas Phacts: Elvis the Dog on the Tyne

  • The Central, Half Moon Lane, Gateshead, NE8 2AN Tel: 0191 478 2543; www.theheadofsteam.co.uk
  • Red House, 32 Sandhill, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3JF Tel: 0191 261 1037; www.theredhousencl.co.uk
  • Pitcher & Piano, 108 Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3DX Tel: 0191 232 4110; www.pitcherandpiano.com
  • The Tyne Bar, Maling Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 1LP Tel: 0191 265 2550; www.thetyne.com
  • The Free Trade Inn, St Lawrence Road, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 1AP Tel: 0191 265 5764
  • The Town Wall, Pink Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5HX Tel: 0191 232 3000; www.thetownwall.com

Dog-friendly Jersey with the Travelling Bear

Yes! Yes!!!!! Vee is packing up the car with not only with her suitcase but MY travel bag too. This is great news!

We’re off to Jersey for a break – Vee says it’s an island of unspoilt coastline, lush valleys and well kept farmland with a unique blend of British and French influences all wrapped up in 45 square miles just 14 miles from the French coast. Voila!

I’m keen to try the ice cream there so I agree to the trip.

Travelling with a dog to Jersey means that you have two options – the passenger ferry which takes over ten hours from Portsmouth or the fast ferry service from Poole, taking four and a half hours.

On the fast ferry, dogs have to stay in the car, as we’re not allowed on the passenger decks. Still, I’m a good traveller – the Travelling Bear, indeed – and didn’t fancy ten hours on a boat so Vee opted for the fast crossing, settled me into my bed in the car and then headed to the deck to enjoy the views of Studland as we left Poole. Obviously I couldn’t see anything as it’s very dark in the car so I just went to sleep and dreamt about windy beaches and chasing bunnies.

On arrival at St Hellier, it was already evening so we headed straight to our hotel, The Longueville Manor in St Saviour.

Wow. An independent boutique hotel of the highest quality – five stars – set in magnificent grounds with an outdoor heated pool, I couldn’t have asked for a more comfortable stay. I was allowed anywhere in the extensive hotel grounds, including poolside, and I very much enjoyed chasing the red squirrels first thing in the morning. I wasn’t allowed in to the main restaurant / bar areas of the hotel so I stayed in our room whilst Vee had dinner (and probably a few cocktails knowing her.)

Although Vee splashed out on our stay as it was a special trip, there are all kinds of accommodation options that welcome dogs and suit all budgets on Jersey. Overall, the attitude towards dogs on the island was very accommodating and we didn’t experience a problem anywhere.

Exploring Jersey was a joy. In the north of the island, the coastal path walk from Plemont to Greve de Lecq is not to be missed for its stunning views of the Pierres de Lecq, or Paternosters – three rocks looking out towards Sark. Plemont itself is best at low tide when a pleasing expanse of sand* is revealed for racing along and, if you’re brave like me, walking behind the waterfall in the cliffs. There is a great café at the beach selling good quality lunches, cake and of course ice creams.

*It’s important to note that on Jersey’s beaches, according to the law, dogs must be kept on a lead between the hours of 10:30 and 18:00 every day between 01 May and 30 September. However, Vee and I visited towards the end of September and a sensible attitude is taken – if the beaches are quiet, dogs can run free. It’s best to take the lead from the locals, so to speak. )

Continuing on along the north coast, we discovered the peaceful Bonne Nuit bay, particularly good for sunsets and then on to Rozel Bay which is again a fishing port with a great choice of cafes and restaurants. The sand is limited here though and I needed more sand for racing along….

So we headed west to the vast sands of St Ouen’s bay. Oh My! Five miles of white sand stretching from end to end with stunning views of Corbiere Lighthouse presented plenty of room for me to run my legs off and then a great choice of cafes for refreshment.  Absolute heaven!  

There are rock poolers, surfers, kite buggies and all manner of activities going on across the sands. Behind the stretch of beach are the extensive Les Mielles, a different world of marram grasses, bunnies for chasing, orchids and dunes. There are bird watching shelters, an abundance of wildlife – and, best of all, we’re allowed off the lead.

Other day trips included a drive to St Brelade’s Bay to lunch at The Crab Shack whilst looking out across the sand to the sea.

And I LOVED Gorey, on the east coast of Jersey. It’s a small fishing village with pretty painted houses and boats of all shapes and sizes bobbing about at high tide. The impressive Mont Orgueil castle on the headland looks out across the Royal Bay of Grouville and provides an interesting back drop to the beach. Vee used to take me here in the evenings to run off the last of my energy. There were lots of big black crows fit for chasing and other dogs to help me.

Continuing around the coast and heading north, you arrive at St Catherine’s Bay. We headed for the woods so that I could swim, play on stepping stones and rope swings all whilst taking in the ancient ferns and broadleaves. I kept my eyes peeled for red squirrels and chased lots of them out of my way. Pesky things.

Whilst we were there, St Aubin’s Bay became the backdrop for the annual air show which was nothing short of spectacular. The weather was amazing and there are all kinds of al fresco dining options from where to enjoy the display. We got a table outside The Grand right on the front and enjoyed the display from there. I am not at all afraid of planes or noise and so watched from Vee’s lap until I just got so sleepy that I had to stretch out for a sun bathe instead. I think Vee wanted a snooze too after all that Pimms.

 

Vee also took time to explore Jersey’s history, with a tour of the War Tunnels where visitors can relive the German occupation. I couldn’t go in here so I stayed in the car underneath a shady tree.

After our fabulous week, we were sad to pack up the car and headback to the port at St Helier where we returned home via Condor Ferries fast service. Vee says that I am getting a passport soon which will mean that when we return to Jersey we can go to across to Northern France which she says is easily accessible from the island. But until then, I hope that many of you will try Jersey for yourselves, especially the ice cream!

Dog-Friendly Hebrides and Skye with the Travelling Bear

A Road Trip to the Hebrides with the Travelling Bear

Day One: Last Spring (2012), after a few weeks of hinting at Vee that it was time for an adventure, she finally packed up the Mini and we set off from Kent on what was to become our greatest road trip yet. A sunny April day (probably the last for England but not for us in Scotland!), we were headed for the Hebrides with our first stop being the dog-friendly Lake District. Having weighed up the options between flying, train or car, Vee took the decision to drive me as I wasn’t happy about going in the hold of a plane (no refreshment service down there) and the overnight sleeper train seemed a bore. I like to travel by day – when I can see out of the window.

Arriving in Ings near Windermere, at our kip for the night the dog-friendly Watermill Inn, we went straight out to stretch our legs and there were fantastic walks right from the pub doorstep. Minding the sheep – for some reason I am not allowed to chase them – I got to race off the journey, splash through streams, dig up the odd molehill and take in big sniffs of all the good smells of the countryside. In the evening, I relaxed by the fire, getting lots of attention and crisps. Vee drank her vino and read travel books preparing for what was to come.

Day Two: After a long drive (yawn) in very mixed weather, we arrived in Oban. After checking in to our hotel, The Oban Caledonian, I was keen to explore. There were really lovely views of Mull and the small isles from the harbour and lots of places to stop for drinks and snacks. We found the ruined Dunollie Castle and the fields behind – Scotland has an open countryside, right to roam policy so you can go anywhere as long as you abide by its rules – and I had a good run and a bit of a fox hunt.

Day three: We set sail to Barra on a beautiful, calm day. It is a five hour crossing on a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Oban, to Barra, past Mull and the small isles then out to open sea. I was allowed out of the car to sit with Vee on deck. I could have gone inside to a designated pet area but I wasn’t keen as out on deck people were eating sarnies and sharing them with me. I took the boat journey in my stride of course – looking out for dolphins; sunbathing; and accepting lots of admiring glances, pats and the odd biscuit that passed by.

On arriving on Barra, we could see the Castlebay Hotel from the ferry. Highlights of Barra had to be the beautiful white sands and crystal blue waters of Cockle Strand where the planes land at low tide along with the apple core beaches of Vatersay where you could actually think that you are in the South Pacific especially as the weather was so unbelievably fabulous during our visit. I just loved zooming around the machair, which is Gaelic for the heather-y land next to the beach, tearing through the dunes – stopping to chase the odd bunny – and then jetting off across the sands after an arctic turn or three which ended up with me racing through the shallow waters: happy, happy, happy!

Day Five: From Barra, we set sail on a much smaller Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the Uists and Benbecula. We drove straight through South Uist as it isn’t really the most appealing landscape and there is not a lot there. We headed for the RSPB Balranald nature reserve on North Uist. From the visitor centre, there is an excellent walk across the machair to sandy white beaches teeming with migrating birds, otters and seals out off the headland. Later we found our hotel, The Langass Lodge, set on the edge of Locheport and overlooking Ben Eval – an incredibly stunning location. The former shooting lodge is set in its own (sheep free) estate which has an excellent marked circular walk that takes in the Ben Langass stone circle, the Barpa Langass burial chamber – with incredible views across the landscape and great opportunities for otter spotting and trying to catch vole. I proved to be a fabulous tracker – but Vee said a complete fidget when it came to sitting still and waiting for the otters to appear. Well, you can’t have everything! In the evening, I was allowed in the bar to sit by the fire but much preferred to look out of the patio windows in our room, policing for pheasants!

Day Seven: We set sail once again, this time to Harris.

We checked in to the Rodel Hotel and then took a stroll around its beautiful little harbour and grounds. This was my favourite place to stay on our road trip as it was teeming with bunnies and I very much enjoyed chasing them around the gorse bushes – I’m pretty sure that this is what is meant by Heaven on Earth! Harris is simply stunning, with magnificent scenery and spectacular beaches like the famous Luskentyre and Huisinis. I can honestly say that every beach that we set foot and paw on, we had to ourselves.

Buzzards, golden eagles, seals, dolphins and basking sharks are regularly sighted and there are a number of galleries and Harris Tweed outlets should the mood take. We decided to trek through the Harris hills to an eagle observatory to spot some Golden Eagles, which we did! But I had to keep look out for quite some time. Luckily, Vee had a flask of tea and some hob nobs.

An Eagle-Eyed Bear!

 

From Harris, it’s possible to drive to Lewis and explore there, taking in the standing stones at Callanish which you can walk around and touch (and pee on), quite unlike Stonehenge!

There’s also Uig Sands which I will always remember as I was at my very happiest racing around the huge beach, through the sand dunes, climbing rocks, splashing through the crystal sea water and then doing it all over again!

 

Day Ten: Our final island was Skye. Staying in Flora McDonald’s cottage at the Flodigarry Country House Hotel, we had off the doorstep walks down to Staffin Bay, just right to work up our appetites before breakfast!

We really packed it in as we had three days on Skye and I was determined that Vee would see as much as possible. We walked up to the Old Man of Storr on quite possibly the windiest day imaginable (I actually thought that I might fly off at any moment), ventured across the Quiraing, tackled the Cuillins by walking Glen Brittle with its stunning views of the island of Rum and explored the three peninsulas – Trotternish, Waternish and Duirinish – taking in Coral Beach, Ness Point and a rather delicious lunch in Stein. On that note, there are lots of lovely pubs and restaurants on Skye, many prestigious and most of which welcomed me and even let Vee in, and the mouth watering seafood was just fabulous.

And that was it. We drove home via Inverary on Loch Fyne and the Lake District again. All in, we’d journeyed 2,300 miles on The Travelling Bear’s Great Road Trip and returned home with amazing memories and stories. The Hebrides really is full of beauty and brimming with possibilities, a great place to adventure and oodles of fido fun! I was zonked by the end but found the best place to sleep it off…..

 

  • Watermill Inn, School Lane, Ings, Staveley, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 9PY Tel: 01539 821309; www.lakelandpub.co.uk
  • Dogs stay for £4 a night, £1 of which is donated to the Dogs Trust
  • The Oban Caledonian, Station Square, Oban, Argyll, PA34 5RT Tel: ; www.akkeronhotels.com
  • Castlebay Hotel, Castlebay, Isle of Barra, HS9 5XD Tel: 01871 810223; www.castle-bayhotel.co.uk
  • Langass Lodge, Locheport, Isle of North Uist, Outer Hebrides Tel: 01876 580285; www.langasslodge.co.uk
  • Rodel Hotel, Rodel, Isle of Harris, Western Isles, Scotland Tel: 01859 520210; www.rodelhotel.co.uk
  • Flodigarry Country House Hotel, Flodigarry, Isle of Skye, IV51 9HZ Tel: 01470 552203; www.flodigarry.co.uk

 

Knutsford, Cheshire

Victorian novelists, Danish kings and red deer – Monty visits Knutsford

Hello, travel lovers. Today, as requested by Attlee, my editor-in-chief, I’m going to take you on a whistle-stop tour of Knutsford in Cheshire, which is my local town when I’m in the UK.

Knutsford is a little market town with a lot of history. Its most famous resident (after ME, of course) is probably Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote Cranford, and several other novels that were later made into films featuring Dame Judi Dench wearing petticoats. In fact, the fictional town of Cranford is based on Knutsford, and you can follow the Elizabeth Gaskell trail by looking at the blue plaques on the buildings. I’ve never bothered with this, as they’re too high up and I can’t read, but I’m told it’s worthwhile.

The flags are out for me – Monty – in Knutsford

The name ‘Knutsford’ is thought to come from the Danish king Canute, who supposedly forded the nearby river Lily in 1016. This seems a little unfair – I ford rivers all the time, and nobody’s naming any towns after me. The pavements in Knutsford are very narrow, and a bit difficult for dogs if there are lots of people around. Sara thinks she’s heard a story that the narrowness of the pavements was deliberate, as a prudish Lady Egerton (more on the Egertons later) didn’t like courting couples to be able to walk arm-in-arm. However, my extensive researches have failed to turn up any substance to this, so she probably made it up.

Knutsford is full of restaurants, cafes and tea shops, but my top foodie tip is this: if you go and see the VERY nice man on the fish counter in Booths supermarket, he will give you a bag of fish skin and off-cuts for FREE! (Sara likes this, as she is very mean, and doesn’t buy me as much fish as I clearly deserve). Take the fish bits home, and have your human slave put them on a baking tray, drizzle them with a little oil and roast them for ten minutes. Yummy scrummy in my furry tummy! Spoilt, moi?

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing in the whole town is Tatton Park, which is right next to the main street.  I’ve been coming here since I was a little fluffball of a puppy, and it’s great. There are 1,000 acres of parkland, including lots of woods and mud-holes, and two meres (lakes) for swimming in. We dogs are allowed off the lead all over the place, as long as we stay under control, which of course I always do. The only slight drawback is that at certain times of year there are flocks of sheep and herds of red and fallow deer grazing in MY park, and I have to tiptoe around them, like they’ve got as much right to be there as I have! GRRRR!

When it’s hot, I like to walk up the shady avenue of trees to the main house, a Neo-Classical mansion built in the mid-eighteenth century by the Egerton family. Now owned by the National Trust, I’m told it’s very impressive inside, with servants’ quarters and domestic offices and Gillow’s furniture, whatever that is, but it’s one of the few places I’m not allowed to go, even with my impeccable pedigree and breeding. GRRR again!

However, I am totally welcome in the courtyard of the Stables tea rooms, and there’s even a special tap labelled ‘Dog Water only’. Quite right too – I wouldn’t want to share my water with any unhygienic humans.

Whilst you’re up at the house, don’t forget to check out the Housekeeper’s Stores, a shop where they sell venison burgers and SAUSAGES, made from the Tatton deer. Ha – not so full of yourselves now, are you, my antlered friends, even if you have supposedly been in the park since 1290?

There are also some impressive formal gardens, which I’ve had a look at over the fence – including an orangery, Japanese Gardens and kitchen gardens. Tatton Park hosts the RHS Flower Show every July, and that is not a good time to come and visit if you’re a dog – everywhere’s very busy, and they rope a bit of MY park off.

After refreshments, I generally complete my outing by strolling back down alongside the big mere, and possibly having a little swim.

If you make it to the Park someday, don’t forget to look out for me – I’ll be the one wearing dark glasses and surrounded by my entourage.

Phileas Phact Box: Knutsford and Tatton Park

  • For more information about the town of Knutsford, see www.virtual-knutsford.co.uk. Knutsford has its own train station, which is easily accessible from Manchester, and it’s close to Junction 7 of the M56 and Junction 19 of the M6.
  • Opening times for Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN, vary according to the season, so check www.tattonpark.org.uk before you visit. Prices are £5 per car to get into the park, and £5.50 per adult, £3.50 for children, to visit the mansion. If you just want to walk, park in Knutsford and walk into the park for free.
  • This year’s RHS Tatton Flower Show is 18th – 22nd July. For more information see the RHS website at www.rhs.org.uk.
  • Booths Supermarket, Stanley Road, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 0BS is open from 7am to 9pm Monday to Saturday, and 9.30am to 4pm on Sundays. Telephone 01565 652522.

 

Isle of Arran

Where am I? The temperature is 25 degrees C every day; there is not a rain cloud in the sky; I am running up and down a beach of golden sand on an exotic island and sitting at a beach bar watching the world go by. Here’s another clue: I am eating haggis and drinking whisky. The answer is: I am in Scotland and the paradise isle is Arran and it really was stupid hot – holiday hot – every day. And I did not see one of the fearful midges of which I’d been warned. Scared of ME, nae doubt.

About Arran, Phileas Phact Phans: it is the ninth largest island off the coast of Britain. It is in the Firth of Clyde. And it is about 50 miles to drive right round the outside of it. Also, it is not where Arran jumpers are from. They are from Ireland.

Here’s another Phact: Arran is the most interesting place I have ever been because of the SMELLS.

There are so many things that smell on Arran – mountains and trees and beaches and sheeps and the sea. There are sheeps on the beach which is mindboggling because the sea salt and the sheeps poo smells mix together in a way that almost made my brain explode. And that’s saying something as I understand smells better than almost anyone else. A Parisienne perfumer would lose to me in a smell-off. But the smells on Arran very nearly foxed even me!

Talking of which, there aren’t any foxes on Arran. And the squirrels on the island are red. Easier to spot – grrrrrr-ha!

Brodick

Well, to start at the beginning, me, Jane, her dad Mick and mum Branwen caught the 6pm ferry from Ardrossan, which is an hour’s drive or an hour’s train ride from Glasgow, to Brodick, on Arran,. The ferry trip lasts 55 minutes on a ferry called a Caledonian MacBrayne and there is a special bit for us dogs to sit in and a restaurant, where people can have dinner and drink a glass of wine and watch the scenery go past. All I wanted to do, though, was get off the damned ferry and stretch my legs. And when we arrived in Brodick, I spotted exactly where I wanted to do that, because just under half a mile or so from the quay, there is a long stretch of beach leading up to a forest leading up to a castle. Beach and forest and castle – my three favourite amaze-bone things. Take me there immediately Jane!

Me on Brodick Beach

But of course they being humans there was a lot of pfaffing first. There was checking into the self-catering Shorehouse Apartments, a minute from the quay where the ferry docked, pfaffing and then there was going out for dinner pfaffing. We went to the McLaren Hotel. It is a pub and a hotel and a Chinese restaurant and a not-Chinese restaurant. Confuse-bones. But the pub was very fine and the bar food was very fine – I can confirm this as I had a doggie bag of chips and mushy peas the next morning. The barman was from Glasgow and Jane asked him if people on Arran have a certain accent, so that she can talk it and I can bark it. But he said the locals on Arran are from all over the world – they have come on holiday and fallen in love with the island and never left – so the Arran accent might be English or it might even be Australian. Basically I did not need to change my bark and that was as well because accents are one of the (very) few things I am not good at.

Finally, I made it to the beach. I was worrying it would grow dark and I wouldn’t be able to go but on Arran, I discovered, in late-May, it does not grow dark until 10.30pm. So you have a whole day and then another whole day on top of it as well.

This beach was amaze. It was amaze lead into the forest and if you go through that forest you can walk (run in my case, obv) up a hill to Brodick Castle and behind the castle is a mountain called Goat Fell. That made me BOL – bark out loud. The Goat Fell – why didn’t it stay on its feet, silly billy? You would never find a mountain called Attlee Fell because I am very sure-footed.

Anyway we visited Brodick Castle, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and dogs are not allowed inside – they do not want our waggy tails mixing up their tails of days of yore I suppose – but we are allowed all over the grounds, on leads. The grounds are barking great because they are high up and there are views over the Firth of Clyde, so in olden days people could watch for invading armies and I could watch for invading big dogs approaching up the hill that I might need to bark at.

View from Brodick Castle

Brodick is not really a town – it is more a big village. But it has a museum and a chocolate factory and a library and a post office and two Co-operative shops.

I, Attlee Common aka Phileas Dogg – the best-travelled hound in the British Isles – was invited in to the offices of the Arran Banner, which is the newspaper for the whole of the island, to be interviewed by Howard and Jenny. So there it is and as it should be: on Arran I was recognised as the true celebrity and revered travel writer that I am. I felt very special and proud.

Then we went for dinner at the Ormidale Hotel and I met a dog who seemed to think she was just as special as me. Ruby, a Springer Spaniel, is Ormidale Hotel pub dog and when we arrived she greeted us as if she was the Queen. She accompanied us into the bar and helped us find a seat. Then she walked around the bar greeting other people – everyone making a huge fuss of her and giving her chips from their plates. What the Dog was going on here? I should have been the one everyone was making a fuss of – me, Attlee Common aka Phileas Dogg – not Ruby Ormidale, pub dog. Grrrrrrrr.

Then another dog came into the bar and he was treated like a celebrity as well – everybody ignoring the real celebrity, me. This dog was a Scottish bearded collie and he was huge and a regular, appaz, in the bar. His name was Sgiobair which is Gaelic – the Scottish language – for Skipper, but it is prononouced Scuba. Anyway, Jane thought he was very special and made a huge fuss over him – very annoying. So, when we left, and I was safely past this huge hound, I gave him a few of my big barks. Just to show I was not SCARED of him. Then I hurried out of the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phileas Fact Box, Brodick

  • The Shorehouse self-catering apartments, Shore Road, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8AJ. Tel: 01770 302377/ 07776238497 Website: www.theshorehouse.co.uk. Prices start at £45 per night per apartment; dogs are £10 for the duration of their stay.
  • The McLaren Hotel, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8AJ. Tel: 01770 302226 Website: www.arran-hotels.co.uk. Good selection of bar meals – £8.50 for fish, chips and mushy peas. Dogs welcome overnight in the hotel – ring for availability and pricing.
  • Brodick Castle – visit the National Trust for Scotland website at www.nts.org.uk. Admission prices: adult £11.50/ family £28. The country park and castle grounds are open all year round from 9.30am to sunset; the castle April 1 to September 30.
  • Ormidale Hotel, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8BY. Tel: 01770 302293 Website: www.ormidale-hotel.co.uk. Prices start at £40pppn.
  • There are five Caledonian MacBrayne ferries a day sailing from Ardrossan to Brodick and back during the summer. Prices approx. £10 per foot passenger for a five day return; £93 per car. Dogs travel free. Log on to www.calmac.co.uk.

Sheeps amazed to spot a celebrity canine – ME! – on Arran

Lamlash

Lamlash is the next place along from Brodick on Arran and it is a pretty little village stretched along the coastline. There is a beach but Jane wouldn’t let me off the lead, as the road is between the beach and the village and Jane was worried about me and CARS.

In Lamlash, we met a Jack Russell from Nottingham called Jim who has been to Arran six times. Jim thought he was very ferocious and barked at me a lot but I simply turned away. I was not being taunted into a bark-off with Jim in such a tranquil spot. Just across the water from Lamlash is Holy Isle and that is a Buddhist retreat, where people go to meditate. So chillax Jim – the Buddhists do not want to hear your stupid barking. In fact, maybe you should catch the ferry over there to undertake some muttley meditation yourself! (Note: it is not a proper ferry; it is a little red boat and it doesn’t have a timetable. You just ask the man to drive you to Holy Isle. Ferry for Jim!)

Ferry for Jim!

Also in Lamlash is the best beach bar in the world. Inside, The Drift Inn is like a pub in 1970s inner city Glasgow; outside it has a green meadow of a beer garden leading directly on to the beach with views across to Holy Isle. But The Drift Inn does not serve tequila sunrises or strawberry daiquiris – it serves pints of Tennents lager. That, really, is the only difference between it and Hawaii.

Phileas Fact Box, Lamlash

For more information on Holy Isle, log on to www.holyisland.org. The Drift Inn, dog-friendly inside and out, is at Shore Road, Lamlash, Arran, KA27 8JN. Tel: 01770 600656

 

Kildonan

Kildonan is a village right on the southern tip of Arran and everyone we met there told us it is the sunniest place in Arran and even in February it is sweltering in tropical heat. From Kilodonan you can see an island called Pladda and behind that Ailsa Craig, which sounds like a person but is  a turret-shaped grey rock rising from the sea, mysterious looking. There is a sport called curling and nearly all of the curling stones in the world are made of granite from Ailsa Craig – Phact!

Phileas Fact Box Kildonan

Kildonan is totes dog-friendly – high paw – and it has a campsite with the best views evah! It is called Seal Shore because there are creatures called seals at Kildonan. None when I was there, obv. They’d heard Attlee Common was in town and had scarpered, a’feart.

Anyway Seal Shore campsite is at www.campingarran.com and its telephone number is 01770 820320. Dogs cost an extra £1 a night.

There is also Kildonan Hotel – again, dog friendly. It is at www.kildonanhotel.co.uk and 01770 820207. Prices start at £99 per room per night.

Lochranza

Sheeps – I see no sheeps. In fact I do, I see a whole lot of sheeps in Lochranza, at the northern end of Arran. There is sheeps next to the ruins of the castle and sheeps crossing the road and sheeps on the beach. Lochranza is a little village of about 200 people and it would be very picturesque were it not for the millions of sheeps and the bad smells they are making.

The hotel at Lochranza has a lovely garden, stretching down to the beach. However if it is raining, as, apparently, it occasionally does in Scotland, dogs are only allowed in the bar when meals aren’t being served. Given that lunch is served until 5pm, and dinner from 5pm, this doesn’t really leave a great window of opportunity for dogs. If you are reading this Lochranza Hotel, give dogs a chance. We are very well-behaved, polite and deserve shelter from the rain as much as the next man.

Lochranza Hotel, Isle of Arran, Scotland, KA27 8HL Tel: 01770 830223. Website: www.lochranzahotel.co.uk

Sheeps on the beach!

 

Sheeps at The Castle!

Whiting Bay is my second favourite beach on Arran – after Brodick Bay – because there’s a wall separating it from the road, meaning Jane allowed me off the lead. There were lots of dogs scarpering around in the sun and these two Westies were very impressed to meet a London dog – and a famous one at that – on their morning walk.

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Well, well – what a big weekend it has been for canine-kind because a dog, Pudsey, has won Britain’s Got Talent. He is the first ever dog to win it.

Frankly I’m amazed that dogs don’t win every time. Take my local park as an example. Dogs – climbing trees (me); chasing squirrels (me); digging holes that go all the way to Australia (Gizmo); jumping in the air and catching tennis balls in mouth (Tess). All of those acts are what I would describe as TALENT. Now let’s look at the humans – standing around chatting (all of them); smoking (Jane); throwing balls (Annie). Ummmm – that’s about it. And not one of those acts would I describe as TALENT.

So there you go Simon Grow-ell. If you have never noticed that dogs are talented and humans aren’t before meeting Pudsey, you must be an idiot.

Anyway, enough of Pudsey and his million pound paws. Has Pudsey ever been to Leigh-on-Sea? To the best of my knowledge, no. Have I been to Leigh-on-Sea? Yes. So I win.

Has Pudsey ever been here? No – and I have.

Leigh-on-Sea is in Essex-shire and Jane and Jane’s mum and me caught the train there from London Fenchurch Street Station. On the way I saw a sign saying Barking so that’s exactly what I did – I barked. But apparently this was all wrong. Barking is a place and not an instruction.

Anyway, when we arrived at Leigh-on-Sea, 45-minutes from London, I was a bit unsure. There was a station but no town. Confusing. But the man in the coffee shop told Jane that the town was a ten-minute walk away and then we understood.

The walk is next to some sheds that are all bright colours and very ramshackle in appearance – and also very smelly. But good smelly – salt and sea smelly. These are cockle sheds and the people in them sell cockles they have collected just an hour or so before. Fresh – like when I snout a chicken bone in south-east London that has been recently discarded.

There are two parts to Leigh-on-Sea. There is the old part, which is Old Leigh and the new part, which is normal Leigh-on-Sea. The old part is very quaint with traditional fisherman’s cottages and art galleries and a little museum. The best thing about Old Leigh, though, is Sara’s Tea Garden. This tea garden is a café but what is amaze-bones about it, is that dogs aren’t just allowed in the outside bit, with rock gardens and a white picket fence. Dogs are allowed in the inside bit as well and as my regular rover readers will understand, this is a very rare phenomenon. A café that welcomes dogs – High Paw! Even better, as soon as we have sat down, I am served TWO dog biscuits and presented with water in a proper metal bowl, not some white plastic margarine tub. And all this has happened – the biscuits and the proper bowl – before Jane has even glanced at the menu. Amaze-bones. We have, at last, found somewhere that knows how to treat us dogs. That understands that dogs have TALENT!

I didn’t think that anywhere could compete with Sara’s but then, in normal Leigh, not old Leigh, we discovered somewhere else amaze-bones. A bakery for dogs! Our very own canine version of Gregg’s – except posher. Because this bakery, the Canine Cookie Company, part of a shop called Vanity Fur, did not serve boring old cheese and onion pasties, which Jane eats from Greggs, but PUPCAKES, LIVER AND BARKIN BROWNIES and BARKWELL TARTS. And the Canine Cookie Company has a concession in Harrods and I don’t believe that Greggs has a concession in Harrods. So that’s 100 points to the canine bakery and minus two points to the human one.

At the end of the road of Old Leigh High Street there’s a beach – Bell Wharf (Old Leigh) Beach but to be honest but it’s not very big.  It’s just mudflats and boats and no yellow sand like I expect on a beach and Jane is fretting that I will leap into one of the boats and somehow find myself an unwitting captain of a smack on the sea, so she won’t let me off the blimin’ lead. So Jane asks around and people tell us about somewhere called Two Tree island. Trees – good for peeing against; it sounds all right. We walk there and then, because the nearest cars, which I think are fun and Jane thinks are DANGEROUS, are a long way away, Jane lets me off the lead. Grrr-huzzah!

This is the kind of walk I like. Not a walk at all but a sprint and a leap –  lots of rough grass for me to practice my terrier bounds in and just that big sky and horizon in front of me, with a castle’s turrets on a far away hill. There are muddy marshes, with abandoned boats with grass growing in them, and hardly any trees so the name doesn’t make sense.

Jane’s Mum reads a sign naming all the birds that inhabit the marshes – curlew and Redshank and Grey Prover – but they don’t mean anything to me and I’m not interested in birds, unless a flock of them lands in front of me and I can charge into them and watch them all flap into the sky.

There aren’t any trees to seek squirrels in or any animals to chase but there are lots of holes in the reeds for me to stick my snout down and smell interesting smells.

And, when Jane and her Mum aren’t looking, hidden by the long grass, I bust a few of my moves a la Pudsey. I perform a triple forward roll followed by a pirouette, a star jump, an attitude en point and a little bit of the Charleston. Then Jane spies me and I stop, immediately, before she catches on. Because if she saw my moves she’d have me on Britain’s Got Talent and there is no way I’d want to meet Simon Growell. He terrifies me.

 

Phileas Fact Box: Leigh-on-Sea

  • Sara’s Tea Garden, 64 High Street, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2EP. Tel: 01702 477315. Website: www.sarasteagarden.co.uk
  • Special Phileas Dogg Paw Print of distinction to Sara’s.
  • Vanity Fur, 1 Stable Mews, Broadway, Leigh on Sea, Essex SS9 1AW. Tel: 0845 838 2330. Website: www.vanityfur.co.uk.
  • Canine Cookie Company is at www.caninecookiecompany.co.uk – it delivers its bakery products throughout the UK.
  • The Walk: Two Tree Island, Map Reference, TQ 824 852. From Leigh-on-Sea Railway Station, walk away from the town, keeping the rail tracks on your right. Continue past the car parks and you’ll see a brown footpath sign – climb over a grassy bank and follow that.

 

 

 

 

 

Ski-ing in the French Alps with Monty

A postcard from Pourchery – Monty’s Adventures in the Alps

Salut, les chiens! As a chien du monde with a holiday home in the French Pyrenees, back in January this year I decided it was time to learn to ski. Skiing is an activity practised by humans, where they clip planks to their feet and deliberately fall down mountains, and then drink lots of beer.

We’ve got several ski resorts close to us in the Pyrenees, but this year the snow there was a little disappointing, so we decided to head over to Alpes d’Huez in the Alps. It’s a six hour drive from my home in the Pyrenees, but the snow looked great, and just right for a novice ski hound like myself.

We stayed in a tiny village called Pourchery, just outside Vaujany. There wasn’t much there, but it was very picturesque.  Our accommodation was the Chalet Solneige, owned by lovely Dutch people, who have a resident golden retriever called Yara. Yara and I got on pretty well – she’d never met a real English dog before, and was charmed by my accent and manners.

Yara, un chien Francaise

The Chalet is very dog friendly, as we dogs are allowed to roam all over the public areas, provided we mind our manners, and there aren’t any human guests staying that suffer from those silly allergies. Our room was in a little converted outbuilding, with a well-positioned radiator for my bed.

On our first day, my people went off for a morning’s skiing. Pieter and Therese from the Chalet offered to come in and walk me, but I decided I’d rather catch up on my sleep after the long drive. In the afternoon, we went for a walk out of Pourchery, but we had to stick to the roads as all the footpaths were snowed up.

On our second day, it was time for me to get on the slopes. Non-skiing humans can get a pedestrian pass to ride the lifts, and dogs – of course – travel free. We can only go on the gondola-type lifts though – I’m pretty cosmopolitan, but I’m not sure I could manage a chair lift.

Mike went off with his skis, and Sara and I went to the lift office in Vaujany to get our tickets for the lift. We decided on a Zone 2 ticket, costing 11 euros, so that we could go to the top of the mountain. I wasn’t very keen on the lift stairs and platform, as they were made from a metal grille that I could see the ground through. Most disturbing! I’m used to riding in elevators, so the lift itself was no problem, and the lift attendant made a big fuss of me. After a short ride up to L’Alpette, we were on the slopes at 2050 metres up!

There were several pisted pedestrian trails starting from the lift entrance, so we decided on a walk so that I could find my snow legs. I was very surprised when some humans passed us, gliding along on their planks and making a swisha-swisha noise – surely humans don’t move like that normally? It was pretty confusing for a spaniel, but I loved the feeling of the nice scrunchy snow – very refreshing on the paws.

After my morning constitutional, it was time to meet Mike for an early lunch at the Auberge de l’Alpette. The waitress bought me a refreshing bowl of iced water, which I didn’t really want, but drank a little to be polite. I don’t eat a lot of human food as I have to watch my figure, but I did sneak a couple of chips as I’d had a hard morning, and they were fried in beef dripping – scrummy!

Next stop was back on the ski lift and up to the Dôme des Petites Rousses at 2800 metres for my first skiing lesson.

Now, I can exclusively reveal that skiing is quite difficult. The plank things are a bit slippery and hard to sit on, and I soon decided that I’d rather go back to the restaurant for some more après-ski, which is the bit I’m really good at. The walking trails are fabulous though, and well worth the journey.

Skiing is very tiring. I slept all the way back in the car, and they said I snored. I didn’t.

 

Me, showing Mike how to do it

 

Phileas Fact Box, Vaujany, France

  • To find out about the ski area, walking trails and activities, see http://www.vaujany.com/en/hiver/accueil.php
  • Chalet Solneige:  Lieu dit Pourchery, 38114 Vaujany, France. Tel. +33 ( 0) 476 79 88 18 (both Therese and Pieter speak excellent English). Website: www.solneige.com. Prices start from 525 euros per person per week half board, 5 euro/day supplement for dogs. Prices per day available on request.