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.

 

 

 

Crossing the Channel with Monty

Bonjour, tout le monde! I’m Monty Spaniel, Phileas Dogg’s brand new continental canine reporter.  I’ll be bringing you the lowdown on what to do, see and sniff across the Channel, along with my personal recommendations for canine cuisine.

Ever since starring in an advert for puppy food when I was little, I’ve led a bit of a celebrity lifestyle. I’ve also been on TV, playing ‘Police Sniffer Dog Number 1’ in a real-life murder reconstruction, and have appeared in several magazines. Like many celebrities, I now have a holiday home in the south west of France, where I can lie doggo when I get fed up with the pup-arrazzi.

My house is in a tiny village in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and all the locals call me ‘le chien anglais’.  Although there are Springer Spaniels in France (known as ‘les Springers’, pronounced ‘sprin – jair’), there aren’t any others in my neck of the woods, so I’m quite the local figure. When I’m at home in Britain and not crossing the continent, I live in Cheshire.

This is me, hiking in the Pyrenees

Of course, I have my own pass-paw-t. Since the regulations were changed on January 1st 2012, it’s even easier to go abroad – you just need a microchip, a rabies vaccination and a passport.  It’s also really important to get your owner to treat you against ticks, as they carry some nasty diseases in some parts of France, and long-haired breeds like me are more at risk. Plus, I think the ticks like my blue blood.

I like to travel by Eurotunnel. It’s completely straightforward and stress-free, as I get to travel in the car with my owners, and the journey only takes half an hour. Plus, Eurotunnel have special doggy play areas where I can stretch my paws before the journey, and have a last sniff of my home turf before heading under the sea.

 

As a seasoned traveller, here are my recommendations for a comfortable journey.

  • A decent, non-spill waterbowl, as it’s a long way to France, and a dog doesn’t like to get wet paws on the corners. I like the Road Refresher – solid, sturdy and it really is non-spill.
  • Bedding to travel on – vet bed-type fleece is comfortable and easily washable.
  •  Toys – of course, I have two sets of toys, one at each end, but if you’re a novice traveller, you might like to take a toy to help you settle in.

I’ll be bringing you recommendations for dog-friendly places to stay, walks to do and places to visit in France, but for now, au revoir, mes amis (that’s French for ‘see ya later, chums’. I’m on page two of ‘French for Dogs’ now).

Phileas Fact Box: Travelling to France

 

Me in France, learning to ski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherborne, Dorset

The Umbrellas of Sherborne

The Queen is following in my paw-steps, or at least the Corgis are. For, just ten days after I, Phileas Dogg, visited Sherborne in Dorset, she, Queen Elizabeth the Second, is there visiting. TODAY!

Jane wanted me to investigate Sherborne in the course of my research because, on a visit there 15 years ago, she thought it the ‘cutest, quaintest little rural hideaway’.

The buildings, she has often rhapsodised since, are very ancient and appear to be hewn from great slabs of toffee. Sherborne Abbey, founded in AD 705, is one of the great churches of England. Sherborne, Jane continues apace, has a fine and busy town centre, brimming with independent traders. And two castles. It was once the capital of ancient Wessex.

(I’ve used a bit of poetic license there – Jane doesn’t actually staccato out random facts like that. In fact, I’ve used a bit of poetic license and Wikipedia.)

Oh but initial investigations did not reveal Sherborne to be the most dog-friendly town in the world. Was it to posh to pooch?

The man at the Britannia said no canines allowed: try the Half Moon, opposite the Abbey. The Half Moon said nae, try the Plume of Feathers, next door. The Plume said yes – but it only had a couple of bedrooms and they were busy. Someone else reckoned that The Bakehouse B&B accepted canine guests, as the owners had a dog. But no human hand or canine paw was picking up the phone at The Bakehouse.

This was all very odd, especially from a town that boasts the wonderfully named Hound Street!

The delights of Sherborne were to be hidden from me forever – until Carol at The Crown Inn answered the phone.

‘We have never been asked if we take dogs before,’ Carol said.

‘But do you?’ Jane asked, persistent. She is learning some terrier instincts from me. Make your bark heard!

‘Well, I suppose we could,’ Carol said. ‘Is he well-behaved?’

‘Very,’ Jane replied.

And that was that. We were booked in with Carol and her husband Malcolm for the night at The Crown Inn – and at a bargain £40 for a double room. That’s £20pppn – amaze-bones value for money! Including a big breakfast and SAUSAGES for me.

I can report that, after my stay at The Crown Inn, Carol and Malcolm have made it their policy to always throw down the red carpet to canines. This is on account of my breeding and manners, so impeccable they could have been learnt at the school just one minute down the road. I have opened the door of The Crown Inn to all dogs – and should a canine visit, on my recommendation, he or she will be most grateful. For, while The Crown is neither boutique nor five star, gentrified nor gastronomic, it’s clean, super-friendly, and a two-minute stroll from the centre of Sherborne. What more do you require, hounds of Britain?

Things for dogs to do in Sherborne: take your owners for a walk (on the lead) in the 42-acre grounds of Sherborne Castle. Go to one of the antiques fairs in Digby Hall, where you will receive much fuss. Stroll through the ancient streets enjoying the medieval architecture (lifting your leg against it, in other barks.)

Humans can go to the Rajpoot Indian restarant but dogs aren’t allowed so I disapprove strongly of this course of action. However, Jane says that I must report that the Rajpoot is one of the finest curry houses she has ever visited and has a spectacular view of the Abbey, particularly attractive in the evening, when it’s floodlit.

I’m sure the Queen won’t go to the Rajpoot though. I have heard on the dog and bone that the Queen’s philosophy is: if somewhere’s not good enough for the corgis, it’s not good enough for her.

Royal Woof!

(NB: This post is entitled The Umbrellas of Sherborne because it rained all the time we were there.)

Phileas Fact Box, Sherborne:

  • The Crown Inn, Greenhill, Sherborne, Dorset,DT9 4EP. Tel: 01935 812930. Website: www.crowninn.biz. Prices start at £20 pppn; dogs stay free.
  • The Bakehouse does accept dogs, at a cost of £5 per night. Human prices are £49 for a single human and £69 for a double human. The Bakehouse, 1 Acreman Street, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 3NU. Tel: 01935 817969. Website: www.bakehouse.me.uk
  • Sherborne Castle, New Road, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 5NR. Tel: 01935 812 072. Website: www.sherbornecastle.com
  • Rajpoot Indian restaurant, Half Moon Street, Sherborne, DT9 3LN. Tel: 01935 812455. Website: www.rajpootsherborne.co.uk

 

 

Mawgan Porth, North Cornwall

The first thing I can tell you about Cornwallshire is that it’s a long way from my hood in south-east London – a very long way in the car, which involves two stops at one of those motorway services places that don’t allow dogs inside. Haterz!

(Sophie, a little human who is five-years-old, measures car journeys in songs – how many songs away are we? Well, Cornwall is about a thousand songs away from London – perhaps even a million.)

But Jane and the photographer, who are privileged enough to be accompanying me on my travels on this occasion, cheer when we pass a big sign that says Cornwall and that means we are there. Or nearly there. We drive around lots of one lane country roads and behind car things called tractors and then over a hill and there before us is a beach the colour of a golden retriever and the shape of one of those shoes that a horse wears on its feet-paws. It is a perfect beach, with a big cliff hill at the back of it, and we have arrived at our destination – the village on the north Cornwall coast that is called Mawgan Porth.

We are staying at a cottage called 4 Porth Farm Cottages – part of a little crescent of  grey stone cottages. But ours is the BIGGEST. The door knocker is in the shape of a Hunter wellington boot and this means good things because Hunter Wellington boots equals walks.

Inside the cottage there is a big kitchen table and on this table people have laid out lots of good stuff in preparation for our arrival. Cornish tea bags, for Jane, and Cornish strawberry jam, for Jane, and Cornish dog treats, for me. And Costa Rican coffee, which is not Cornish at all.

Inside the big pink fridge that has the word SMEG written on it, there are Cornish SAUSAGES and Cornish butter and Cornish bacon and Cornish eggs. We are in Cornwall.

The cottage is very big. It has three bedrooms and two bathrooms and a front room. There are lots of things for humans who have little humans, like a high chair, and there is a big metal bowl ready and waiting for me and my SAUSAGES to be cooked and placed inside.

My favourite thing about 4 Porth Farm Cottages is the floor in the kitchen. It is made up of big grey slate tiles and, when I lie down on them, they are warm. Amaze-bones!

Outside the cottage there is a lot of grass for me to roll about in and a rowing boat and a tyre attached to a wire which is called a zip wire. The humans play on this but it seems a very odd game – sitting on a tyre, whizzing down a wire. Why don’t they just chase a stick like normal mammals?

That is all about the cottage.

Outside the cottage, in greater Cornwallshire, there are a lot of adventures to be had. The best adventure is on the beach at Mawgan Porth, five minutes down the hill from the cottage. There are so many dogs on the beach and some of them are even in the water with the big roaring and rearing waves. I not like the sea but then maybe these Cornish dogs, so brave in Cornwall-shire, would balk at some of the rough-housing I have to deal with in the parks of south-east London.

Anyway, I meet a Dalmatian and I chase his stick and I dig about in the sand. It is truly the best fun ever.

There is a pub opposite the beach called The Merrymoor Inn. It is the only pub in Mawgan Porth but that doesn’t matter because it is very merry-more and full of dogs and the portions of pub grub, like the steak and ale pie Jane has, are big, meaning CHIPS. The photographer says the Cornish ale is good but Jane drinks white wine wherever in the world she goes and there is no Cornish white wine on offer – just Sauvignon Blanc. And Cornish water straight from the tap for me.

There is a fish and chip shop and a restaurant in Mawgan Porth but it is April and they are not open. There is a corner shop and a newsagents called Betty’s and a surf shop and another shop which Jane finds amusing because it is called Grand Central Disco Beads. This is a big hilaire joke because Mawgan Porth is tiny and if it had a grand central disco there would be no one to go. Dogs  are allowed in Grand Central Disco Beads so I am able to report that it sells beads, in lots of shiny disco colours.

Seven miles from Mawgan Porth is a pretty little town called Rick Stein. Actually it is not called this at all – it’s called Padstow – but it should be because everything in it is Rick Stein. There is the Rick Stein café (dogs allowed in the garden only) and the Rick Stein restaurant and the Rick Stein bed and breakfast and the Rick Stein bakery and the Rick Stein shop. And some other stuff too.

After we’ve visited Rick Steinsville, we go to a beach called Watergate Bay. This is about a mile from Mawgan Porth and there is a walk over the cliffs to reach it. It is the biggest beach in the world and it is all made of golden retriever colour sand and there are big multicoloured birds that Jane says are kites flying above it. I bark and bark at these multicoloured birds called kites because I don’t like the way they swoop to the ground and crumple and then billow up into life again.

The Beach Hut at Watergate Bay

There are also a lot of bipeds that look like humans but don’t smell like humans. They smell of rubber and are clutching big planks of wood – too big for me, even, to fetch – and they take the planks of woods into the sea and stand on them and then fall off.

Very strange. Taking all this in is quite exhausting – a lot for a little dog’s brain to process, even though I am above average HQ.

In fact, I need a pasty to recover from it. And Jane and the photographer need a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (not Cornish) in the Beach Hut, which is a restaurant in a fancy hut sort of shed right on the beach, on stilts, sort of. The waitress tells us that when the tide comes in the sea reaches right up to the huge glass windows of The Beach Hut. And even though Jane enjoys her mussels, fresh from Fowey, which is also in Cornish-wall, I do not want to wait around for the sea-waves to rear up at us, not that I admit this. So I yawn and pretend I’m tired and need to head back to the cottage for a snooze on the warm grey kitchen slates.

 

Phileas Fact Box: Cornwall

  • 4 Porth Farm Cottages is part of Beach Retreats’ Cornish cottages portfolio. Call 01637 861005 or log on to www.beachretreats.co.uk. Beach Retreats allow dogs at most of their properties on the North Cornish coast so high paw to them. Prices start at £435 for three nights in 4 Porth Farm Cottages.
  • The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay is at www.watergatebay.co.uk/thebeachhut. Tel: 01637 860877 to book a table. Dogs very welcome – we’re even given a super-cool White Stuff bowl to drink from. Woof!
  • The Merrymoor Inn is at 01637 860258 and www.merrymoorinn.com
  • If you want some disco beads, log on to http://discobeads.com. THEY GLOW IN THE DARK – how cool would a couple of them be on my collar? Disco Dog!
  • Some Cornish beaches are closed for dogs May to September but Mawgan Porth and Watergate Bay are dog-friendly all year round. Grrrrr-huzzah! 

    Keep your paws off our pasties George!

 

 

 

 

Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight

Okay, I’m going to confess something now – I’ve never been to the Isle of Wight and neither has any of my intrepid band of rover reporters. But Jane discovered a little booklet called Pawprint, produced by Wightlink, the ferry company which serves the Isle of Wight, and in this little booklet are 12 dogs that either love living on or visiting the island. So Jane rang the people at Wightlink and asked if we could share these island tips with Phileas Phans and the people at Wightlink said yes.

This photograph is the main reason Jane wanted to share Pawprint with my readers – not hers. But I don’t mind. Seven-year-old Breez lives in a part of the island called West Wight and she is ferried around the country lanes in a customised sidecar on her owner Graham’s Vespa scooter. A dog’s life indeed – how much better is that than having to squeeze on to the smelly old number 12 bus in Peckham and be stared at in a none-too-friendly manner by a lot of dog haterz?

Photograph and copyright Lee Higham; Wightlink 2012

Here are Breez’s top tips for her patch, near the village of Freshwater on the island.

‘In the summer I love swimming in the sea at Whale Chine. It’s quiet there and we often have the beach to ourselves. Another favourite is Fort Victoria Country Park where the coastal walk through the woods provides inquisitive dogs like me with lots to sniff out. The Fort has large cannons which I like to jump over and if you visit you can check out the model of me sitting in the sidecar of Graham’s scooter at the Model Railway.’

Three-year-old Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Daisy-May also lives on the Isle of Wight and Daisy-May runs a hotel, along with the occasional assistance of her humans, Mary, Kim and Cam. Daisy-May barks: ‘I love meeting the dogs that come to my guest house as long as they remember I’m top dog.’

Photograph and copyright Lee Higham; published by Wightlink

  • Daisy-May’s hotel is called Heatherleigh Guest House. It is at 17 Queens Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight,  PO37 6AW. Tel: 01983 862503. Website: www.heatherleigh.co.uk. Prices start at £32 pppn.
  • Her favourite walks around Shanklin are the south end of the beach by the Fisherman’s Cottage and the low tide walk from Fisherman’s Cottage to Luccombe beach. ‘I like paddling in the shallow water up to my chest,’ she barks.

The top ten pubs in the Isle of Wight, as selected by the pups and pooches of Pawprint are:

  • The Crab & Lobster Inn, Bembridge (crabandlobsterinn.co.uk/01983 872244). This dog-friendly establishment topped the Pawprint dog poll and is located above the beach at Bembridge Ledge.  Dogs are welcome in the bar and eating areas.
  •  Crown Inn, Shorwell (crowninnshorwell.co.uk/01983 740293).  Recommended by Spice, dogs are welcome in the inn and outside in its picturesque garden.
  • Culver Haven Inn, Culver Down (01983 406107).  Chosen by photographer’s dog Noah because of their specially cooked sausages for dogs, this cliff top pub has spectacular views to the mainland
  • Driftwood Beach Bar, Sandown (driftwoodbeachbar.com/01983 404004).  Surfer dog Sherrie and owner Pauline paddle their kayak to this beach bar.  Open from March for the summer season.
  • Fisherman’s Cottage, Shanklin (01983 297171). Recommended by locals Daisy-May and Sherrie, this historic thatched pub is on the beach below Shanklin Chine.  Open May-October.
  • Folly Inn, Whippingham (folly-inn-east-cowes.co.uk/01983 297171).  Just up river from Cowes in Whippingham, this riverside inn is a favourite of both Daisy-May and Foxy.
  • The Spyglass Inn, Ventnor (thespyglass.com/01983 855338) was another Pawprint Poll favourite, located just above the beach on Ventnor seafront.
  •  The Steamer Inn, Shanklin (thesteamer.co.uk/01983 862641).  A Foxy favourite, this seafront pub welcomes dogs on a lead and provides two water bowls for light refreshment.
  •  The Sun Inn, Hulverstone (sun-hulverstone.com/01983 741124).  A second nomination from Noah, this character pub near Brook Chine provides biscuits for good dogs in the bar and garden.
  • The Wight Mouse Inn, Chale (wightmouse.co.uk/01983 730431).  Spice and Foxy both enjoy the huge garden of this south Wight pub.

Phileas Fact Box: Isle of Wight

  • Dogs travel FREE on Wightlink ferries. Log on to www.wightlink.co.uk. Foot passenger fares start from £12.50 for a day return and car ferry fares start from £36 for a day return for a car and four passengers. I, Phileas Dogg, very much hope to visit the Isle of Wight some time soon so that I can sniff bottoms with Breez and Daisy-May. Grrrrr-huzzah!
  • (If you’d like a copy of Pawprint, log on to wightlink.co.uk and the people there will send you and your owners one.)

 

 

East Sussex

Hastings: Attlee goes into battle

It is the first weekend of spring and I am off to the seaside – Hastings, in fact, which is famous for the Battle of Hastings, a long time ago, in 1066. So we are safe now.

The most exciting thing that happened to me in Hastings was that there was an ice cream cone abandoned on the pavement, and I snaffled that and then I snaffled a whole big portion of abandoned chips as well. Chips and a cone – I was really having the full British seaside experience. Grrrr-huzzah!

The Hotel

Jane has booked me, the photographer and her into a hotel that she found on-line, called The White Rock Hotel. It said on the Internet it was dog-friendly and within five minutes of us arriving another two hounds had checked in and I’d had had a bark off with a Border Terrier. Most amaze-bones of all, a dog called Rocky – the hotel dog, apparently – works behind reception.

Everybody in The White Rock Hotel was very friendly and the lady who showed us to our room, which was big and clean, said she preferred canine to human hotel guests, because dogs don’t get drunk, rowdy and have arguments. We are polite hotel guests.

The White Rock Hotel is right opposite the seafront. If you had a seaview room you’d be able to see Hastings Pier, which was so badly damaged during a fire in 2010 that nobody is allowed on it – not even an intrepid dog like me. Anyway we didn’t have a sea view room, but Jane didn’t care because she said The White Rock Hotel was very reasonably priced and the bottles of water in the mini bar were FREE, instead of costing about fifty pounds like they do in most hotels.

The Beach

Hastings beach is pebbles, rather than sand, and sadly for me there wasn’t any seaweed on it, even though I searched and searched. Seaweed would have been the perfect pudding to my cone and chips. It is a very long beach but I couldn’t run all the way down it because some of the things that divide it width ways – groins, Jane says they are called – are very huge and I could not make it over them. (Nobody could – not even a wolf – so this is not a reflection on my athletic abilities.)

The Shops

A lot of the shops in Hastings are dog-friendly – more than in London. Just next to the hotel, there is a shop called Collared, which had a pretend pink dog in the window. An Afghan Hound. Thank Dog for it that it’s pretend because if it was real it would get some funny looks down the park.

The old bit of Hastings, about quarter of an hour from the beach, is called The Old Town and, as we know, people love Olde Thinges and Townes. There is a shop there selling old bicycles which have been restored, and a place called The Furniture Hospital, which is like the vets, but for chairs.

There are also lots of antique shops – Olde Thinges again – and a little independent cinema, which I don’t suppose dogs are allowed in, but Jane liked, because it was cute. Unlike the Peckham Plex, which is cheap but not cute.

The other shopping bit of Hastings we went to, about a ten minute walk from the hotel, was Norman Road in St Leonards-on-Sea. It is all olde thinges again but there is one shop that sells some new things, called SHOP. And I was allowed into this SHOP – more than that, when Jane and me were standing outside the owner of the SHOP came out and said: ‘Dogs are welcome here!’ She was practically rolling out the red carpet for Phileas Dogg! Even though part of the SHOP was a café and people in cafes are normally like: ‘Get that scruffy mutt away from my cream scones and profiteroles.’ I wish more humans were like the lady from SHOP!

The Pubs

Ye Olde Pumpe House is in the Olde Towne and has lots of historic beames on the outside. Inside there are two bars – a little one downstairs and a bigger one upstairs – and there is an outside courtyard and I was allowed EVERYWHERE! The food was decent pub grub – big portions so lots of spare chips for me. There is a pub dog but I didn’t meet him – likely he’d heard I was coming and thought he’d keep a low profile for the night. Grrrrr-huzzah!

A man sitting outside The Anchor Inn told Jane that it is the oldest pub in Hastings but now she’s checked the website it says it’s not the oldest. It’s the second oldest. Humans lie! But it was a good pub anyway, housed in a Georgian building (the photographer said and I am reporting) and the beer was good (the photographer said and again, I am reporting). From my point of view, which is really the most important, everybody was very friendly. When we sat outside, I could bark at all the dogs passing up and down the street to make them all terrified. I am a terror-ier, after all!

The Cafe

On Norman Road in St Leonards there was a café called LOVE and Jane LOVED it because it was a mishmash of comfy sofas and little bistro tables and paintings and oddities that customers could buy – for example, a big red velvet throne. Jane also LOVED the LOVE café because the bubble and squeak she had for breakfast was in a perfect little patty, like a little round bun. The SAUSAGE was very good as well – so good that, even though it was mine, the photographer ended up eating about half of it. Not happy. (The photographer has asked me to mention, so I will, despite the SAUSAGE incident, that there were some lovely photographs for sale – artistic landscape pictures of Hastings – by someone called Bob Mazzer.

 

Phileas Fact Box: Hastings

  •  The White Rock Hotel, 1-10 White Rock, Hastings, TN34 1JU. Tel: 01424 422240
  • Website: www.thewhiterockhotel.com
  • Scores on the Paws: Attlee – 5/5; Jane – 4/5; The Photographer – 4/5
  • Dogs are allowed on Hastings beach from the pier, westwards to groyne 32 and from groyne 42 (next to the slope at Marina) westwards.
  • Collared, 37e Robertson Street, America Ground, Hastings, TN34 1HT. Tel: 01424 719918. Website: www.collareddog.co.uk
  • Bells Bicycles, 4 George Street, Hastings, TN34 3EG. Tel: 01424 716541. Website: www.bellsbicycles.co.uk
  • Electric Palace Cinema, 39a High Street, Hastings, TN34 3ER. Tel: 01424 720393. Website: www.electricpalacecinema.com
  • SHOP is at 32 – 34 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings, TN38 OEJ. Tel: 078255 02159
  • The Olde Pumpe House, 64 George Street, Hastings, TN34 3EE. Tel: 01424 422016. Website: http://yeoldepumphouse.com
  • The Anchor Inn, 13 George Street, Hastings, TN34 3EG. Tel: 01424 201472. Website: www.anchorhastings.co.uk
  • Love Cafe, 40 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings, TN38 OEG. Special Phileas Dogg Paw Print of Approval for this caff – it is one of the best places I’ve been.
  • There is a website about Norman Road that is very fine. It is written by Norman and it is at www.thenormanroad.co.uk

 

An afternoon in Lewes

So Jane and I are spending a sunny afternoon strolling around the ancient town of Lewes in the South Downs and we are off to a good start – a man in the first pub we visit is feeding me delicious blocks of cheddar cheese. And it only costs 55 pence for Jane’s lime and soda – not £1.50 like it does in some London boozers. This pub is called The Brewers Arms and is very friendly – especially the man with the cheese.

After The Brewers Arms we walk down a very steep cobbled street with a bookshop at the top of it – the bookshop is built of wood and has books outside on shelves, that any passing ruffian could half-inch. But Lewes does not seem the sort of place where passing ruffians would half-inch books. Lewes seems very genteel.

We go to Anne of Cleves house, although apparently Anne of Cleves never lived in it – it was part of her divorce settlement from Henry 8th. Never mind not living in it, I’m not even allowed to have a nose around inside it. This is a shame because I like the smells in old houses and recreating in my head the lives of the people who were there, through my nose and the things it tells me.

I am a bit sad until we reach Priory Park, a five minute walk from Anne of Cleves dogs not welcome house. Priory Park is amaze-bones! It used to be a monastery, where monks lived, and was founded in 1078. I cannot even think how far back that would be – my great-great-great-great: no, I give up. 1078 is very far away in time anyway. Now the monastery is ruins set in a lovely green park and it’s lead off for dogs. We can inspect the ruins with our noses and roll in the ancient grass and all the people in the park are pleased to see us. Priory Park is my favourite place in Lewes, bar none. Even more favourite than the pub with the cheese squares!

After an hour in Priory Park, we investigate another dog-friendly Lewes pub – this pub is called The King’s Head and it is laidback with a barman who is sort of friendly and sort of grumpy at the same time and brings me a bowl of water. It has a beer garden too, where people can sit and drink beer in a garden.

Then we go back up the very steep Keere Street to Lewes Castle, which is called Norman. There are lots of steps up to the castle and dogs are allowed to walk up all these steps with their owners only to be turned away from the castle itself. This is a bit unfair – all that effort for no reward. Luckily Jane has some Reward dog treats to remedy the effort/no reward equation.

There ends Phileas Dogg’s guide to Lewes. A brief encounter but enough to judge that Priory Park is my second favourite park in the world and that the locals in The Brewers Arms are generous with their cheddar cheese blocks.

(Disclaimer: Jane is watching Take Me Out as I scribe this with my quill and ink and the noise of the television is rather distracting me so if my copy does not flow to its usual high standard, blame her.)

Phileas Fact Box: Lewes