We love Devon so tails were wagging when we were invited to stay in a luxury lodge at the dog friendly Oakdown Holiday Park near Sidmouth. Nestled on the edge of the Blackdown Hills, and close to many dog-friendly attractions, picturesque villages and beaches, we found Oakdown the perfect location to base ourselves to explore the local area.
We arrived at Oakdown after a long drive so really appreciated that the check in process was really quick and easy, we didn’t even need to leave our car! However, my spaniels would have preferred to have got out if they had known then that dog ice cream was on sale at reception! In fact all around the site there are little touches that make it clear that dogs are not just tolerated at Oakdown but as welcome as human guests. Facilities for four-legged visitors include a dog wash/grooming station, poop bins, a dog hitch and water bowl outside reception and a fabulous dog friendly cafe.
There are five dog friendly luxury lodges at Oakdown and they are all situated in Hazel Grove. This location is really peaceful and there is a fair bit of space between the lodges, I also liked that there was hedging and trees separating the various ‘Groves’ to give a sense of privacy. My dogs relaxed straight away as I assume all the other doggy guests did, as I did not hear a single bark the whole time we were there.
When we stepped inside our lodge we were amazed at how light and airy it was, the furnishings and decor was of the highest standard and I was especially impressed at the eco heating system.
The open-plan living space offered ample room for the spaniels to stretch out and relax, and the dogs were allowed to sprawl on the sofas, as long as they used the blankets provided. Dog beds were also provided as well as food and water bowls and possibly the biggest dog biscuits my girls had ever set eyes on!
The fully equipped kitchen was perfect to prepare meals in and boasted a full sized fridge/freezer, a microwave and a dishwasher, thoughtfully Oakdown also provide the little things that are often left at home, such as salt and pepper and washing-up liquid.
The lodge had two fairly roomy bedrooms (which dogs are not allowed in) and they provided a cozy retreat at the end of a busy day exploring. Ours even had a television and en suite!
Dog friendly things to do near Sidmouth
Pawsome adventures are what a dog friendly holiday in Devon is all about, so as soon as we had settled into the lodge we set out to explore the local area. Honestly, Sidmouth itself is really welcoming to dogs and there are so many choices of dog friendly attractions in the area that I found it hard to choose which ones to take the spaniels to visit, but obviously a trip to the beach was high on the agenda.
There are several dog friendly beaches in East Devon, although a fair few of them are pebble beaches, we did find a couple of sandy ones though, just right for bounding around and splashing in the sea. Exmouth Beach hit the mark as far as Lucia and Maya were concerned, there is a huge area of golden sand that is dog friendly all year round and there are some great dog friendly cafes nearby if you fancy a cream tea afterwards. Other beaches that we visited on out trip included Sidmouth, (which is just 3 miles from Oakdown) Lyme Regis, Beer, Budleigh Salterton and Branscombe and the pooches loved them all.
You can’t beat local knowledge and it was only because Melissa at Oakdown recommended Branscombe to us that we visited. It was such a gorgeous village, with a really good pub. There is a short but beautiful walk from here to the beach (1.5 miles to the beach and back) from the car park which is situated at the village hall, half of which is National Trust and half is owned by the village hall itself, where they just ask for a donation to park. There is also a pay and display car park right by the beach but it would be a shame to miss out on the walk, also if you don’t have a little stroll there you won’t be able to justify a scone and jam at the Sea Shanty Beach Cafe!
Every time we visit Devon or Cornwall I make sure to walk a section of The South West Coastal Path and this trip we did the bit from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton, we were treated to some stunning views of the Jurassic coast along the way and also saw Orcombe Point. We returned to Exmouth the way we had come only to discover afterwards that we could have made it a circular route by taking the Budleigh Salterton railway path! I think the actual walking time was around 4 hours but we were out for 6 due to beach fun, snacking and taking pictures.
Another beautiful walk we did was the Salcolme Hill Circular, this starts at the National Trust car park just a couple of miles from Oakdown Holiday Park and as well as amazing views there were bluebells galore, it also takes you through the Donkey Sanctuary so I guess you could start the walk from the park and only add a mile or so onto the 5 mile route. There was actually quite a few National Trust walks and properties in the area and we did visit A la Ronde, Ashclyst Forest and Killerton Estate and took another lovely walk down Peak Hill to Jacobs Ladder, but I won’t lie it was quite a steep climb back up to the car! (We parked at the Mutters Moor car park opposite to do this one)
There’s also lots of dog friendly adventures to be had in the Sidmouth area that don’t involve beaches and hiking, and the good news is you don’t have to stray far from Oakdown to visit one of them. Directly opposite the holiday park is a path that leads down to Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary and it was lovely to spend an hour gazing at the adorable donkeys grazing and relaxing. Dogs are welcome to visit on leads and there is also a dog friendly cafe on site, dogs do have to stay under the table here though but my spaniels did not seem to mind. The sanctuary rely on donations as they do not charge an entrance fee so it’s good to remember that when you visit.
We loved visiting Beer Village, it’s full of little quirky shops, pubs and cafes and the beach is adorned with colourful boats. The village is quite well known in the area, and was pretty busy but it still retains that unique ambiance of a fishing village, you can even buy the freshly landed fish from a beach shack.
Beer Quarry Caves was really interesting, the tour, which you can pre-book by phone lasts around an hour and now welcomes well behaved dogs on leads. Maya and Lucia spotted a couple of bats but apart from that I don’t think the tour interested them as much as it did us humans! Still not everything can be centred around our fur babies and they were rewarded for their good behaviour with a doggy ice cream and a trip to the beach. NB It was only after we left the beach that I noticed a sign saying that even in the dog friendly area those on four legs should be on a leash, hence why in the photo below Lucia is off lead.
I know it is in Dorset but Lyme Regis is one of my favourite places to visit when I am in the South West, probably because I holidayed here as a child and remember the excitement of finding a fossil. Anyway, it is under 12 miles from the holiday park so that’s local in my book! This time we went to the Lyme Regis Aquarium which is dog friendly and my spaniels were very interested in the exhibits! I had wanted to go back to the beach that I had found the fossil all those years ago but it turned out to have dog restrictions, however, the girls were more than content visiting Monmouth Beach, which happily is dog friendly all year round.
As far as I’m concerned though the Seaton Tramway gets my vote for the top dog friendly attraction in the area. I just loved gliding through the Axe Valley,,admiring the stunning views. Maya actually went to sleep at times. We didn’t have time in our schedule to alight at every station but had to disembark at Colyton because I remembered from a previous visit some years ago that the cream tea at the cafe there was second to none. Let’s just say we weren’t disappointed this time either! Dogs are welcome on board although they do have to travel on the lower deck on all the trams and there are water bowls provided at both Seaton and Colyton station cafes, good dogs even get a biscuit!
After having stayed at Oakdown Holiday Park with my dogs I can easily see why the site has won multiple awards. It really is a fabulous and relaxing place to stay for a dog friendly holiday in Devon. Prices are really reasonable and as well as the lodges there are some glamping pods and shepherds huts available, the park also accepts touring caravans and motorhomes.
To book or for further information visit Oakdown.co.uk
Love Sal, Maya and Lucia xxx
NB We were gifted a stay at Oakdown Holiday Park in return for writing this article and promotion on social media but all opinions are 100% my own.