I think many of us are guilty of overlooking the hidden Scottish gem that is Dumfries and Galloway when planning a dog-friendly holiday to Scotland, instead, rushing up to the Highlands and Islands. However, let me tell you this, we have been missing out big time! The truth is this whole area of South West Scotland is a paradise on earth for both humans and their canine companions. It really does have it all – beautiful beaches, forests, lochs and hills, and a huge array of attractions that welcome our pooches with open arms.
We were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the very dog friendly Cairndale Hotel, a family run hotel where we experienced the Scots natural flair for hospitality as soon as we arrived at reception.
Set right in the heart of Dumfries, a town that welcomes dogs and radiates natural beauty and charm, the hotel is also a great base to explore the surrounding area and its plethora of dog friendly attractions – but I’ll come to them later in the post. You can literally just stroll out the hotel doors and take the dogs for a mooch around the shops or to let off steam in the park and Dumfries is not short of options where you can eat and drink with your furry friend either. In fact we soon found out that canine customers were as valued as human ones in many establishments.
More to the point though the Cairndale Hotel is extremely dog friendly, from the second that the dogs set paw inside the hotel they were spoilt rotten, it is definitely somewhere that welcomes paws as opposed to just tolerating them. Like many spaniels Lucia and Maya can be very keen to meet and greet people but the hotel staff took this in their stride and the girls tails were wagging non-stop at the copious amount of petting and attention they received.
This luxury hotel is a place where you can truly relax with your four-legged friend, because refreshingly there is no big list of ‘Dog Don’ts’
We were lucky enough to be staying in one of the hotels opulent Four Poster rooms and I can’t tell you how much my stress levels went down when I was informed that the girls were allowed to lounge on the furniture there, yes even the bed! It really helped the dogs to settle because like most pampered pooches these days they are permitted on the sofa at home.
On entering the room it didn’t take Maya and Lucia more than 2 seconds to sniff out their welcome gifts, Dog Beer, Pawtini and Home Baked Dog Biscuits. With egos as big as my dogs I don’t think they were surprised (but I was) to see their little faces staring back at them from picture frames on the table – and that’s just one example of how the hotel goes above and beyond to make their canine guests feel extra special.
Human guests were well catered for in the room too with complimentary prosecco, fresh fruit, red wine and mineral water. The decor at The Cairndale is elegant and tasteful, with a focus on comfort and relaxation. Our room featured a comfy Four Poster bed, plush bedding, modern amenities such as a coffee machine and fast wifi etc and subtle touches of Scottish charm’
Dogs are allowed to dine with their humans in the bar, and my dogs were treated to a tub of Mr Woofchester’s Sleepy Bones treats at the dinner table, OK that might have been wishful thinking on the hotels part in terms of my spaniels, but it is such a lovely touch.
My partner is a chef so he’s a real foodie and loves to sample the local cuisine and the meals at The Cairndale did not disappoint. Although the menu is fairly small it is well thought out and has something to suit everyone. Only the freshest, highest quality ingredients are used in the hotels dishes and their chef is obviously talented as every meal we had there was delicious. My partner was especially impressed with the venison, and although I am mainly vegetarian, I did order the sea bass on one evening which was sublime.
Hidden away from the rest of the hotel is the quirky and beautiful Secret Garden, the perfect place to sit and have a drink with your loyal companion at your side, we could not take advantage of it because, you know, it was February and it was Scotland, but it looks lush.
The leisure facilities at the hotel are fabulous too, there is a swimming pool, (no doggy paddle allowed though!) a well equipped gym and I heard a whisper that a spa is in the planning stages!
The hotel has a range of rooms on offer, from standard doubles to luxury suites with rack rates starting at just £125 per night for bed and breakfast, there is an additional charge of £15 per night per dog.
Things for Dogs to do in Dumfries
A really lovely touch and I think proof that the Cairndale Hotel is probably the most dog friendly accommodation you will find in Dumfries is the guidebook that the hotel had put together detailing many of the dog friendly adventures available in Dumfries and Galloway. There are so many suggestions in The Cairndale Hotels dog friendly guide to Dumfries that it was impossible for as to visit them all, but we did enough to get a flavour of the place and know we will have to return to the area soon.
Dog Friendly Attractions and Walks in Dumfries and Galloway
I have had a visit to Galloway Forest Park on my wish list forever and although we didn’t have time to explore much of the park we did visit Clatteringshaws and Loch Ken and the dogs had an amazing time at both these beautiful locations.
The Clatteringshaws dog walks are a network of way–marked trails that offer an opportunity to explore the Galloway Hills. The views are spectacular and there are plenty of places for the dogs to stop and sniff as we humans admire the scenery. Lots of opportunities presented themselves for the spaniels to have a splash in the Loch too, but the water must have been freezing because even Lucia only swam for a few minutes.
All the walks start from the visitor centre next to the car park at Clatteringshaws Loch. We followed the Loch View Trail which was amazingly beautiful and of course we took in the little detour to lean on Bruce’s Stone! The cafe at the visitor centre is dog friendly, but guess what? It was closed when we visited, it just means I will have to go back one day though because I have seen pictures of their cake online.
Loch Ken – Now if you just have a dog that loves the water, remember this, one of the most notable features of Loch Ken is that it is algae-free, making it a safe place for dogs to swim all year round. We just had time for a little wander around to admire the scenery but there is a fantastic 13 mile circular walk around the loch that we will certainly do next time we are in the area.
Threave Estate and Castle
For some years now I have been on a mission to visit every National Trust property in Great Britain, so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to visit Threave Estate. The main draw for us dog owners is its extensive network of walking trails, many of which are suitable for dogs. There are some places though that dogs are not allowed to venture, and four-legged friends have to be kept on their leads. The estate’s visitor centre has a café that welcomes dogs outside, so you can stop for a bite to eat and a drink with your furry friend and Maya and Lucia enjoyed a slurp of water there.
We then got in the car and drove a short distance to a different car park to admire Threave Castle. The castle was actually closed but it is not dog friendly in any case. It’s still worth the walk to have a look though and had it been open, myself and my partner would have taken it in turn to look around, as you do!
Mabie Forest – Maya and Lucia really enjoy a walk in the woods, it sends them into a sniffing frenzy, so when they visited Mabie Forest, located just outside Dumfries, they had the time of their lives! This beautiful woodland covers over 2,500 acres and offers a range of walking trails suitable for dogs.
We did one of the most popular dog walks in Mabie Forest the Big Tree Trail. This gentle 1.5-mile circular trail, which is an accessible walk, takes you through the heart of the forest and past some of the oldest and largest trees in the area including redwoods and giant sequoia. The spaniels had so much fun we went back on our last day for a longer walk, the Craigmill Burn Trail – this 3-mile circular trail takes you through the heart of the forest, past tranquil streams and through beautiful woodland and we even saw a red squirrel!
Sweetheart Abbey I once read an article about the history of Sweetheart Abbey and the reason behind its name intrigued me, (look it up if you are curious!) so it was a must visit for me. Sweetheart Abbey is a beautiful and fascinating piece of Scottish history. Its ruins are a reminder of Scotland’s turbulent past and its strong religious heritage and it looks remarkably well preserved. I was a bit sad to find most of it covered in scaffolding, but happy that it is being cared for so generations to come can admire it.
The Robbie Burns Trail – So I actually spent some years studying in Scotland and remember struggling to decipher Burns poetry, and then, when I got the gist of it, being enchanted by it. That’s why I can’t write this blog without mentioning The Robbie Burns Trail, a self-guided walking tour that takes visitors on a journey through the life and legacy of Scotland’s famous poet. The trail begins at the Robert Burns Centre, (sadly, not dog-friendly) which houses a museum dedicated to Burns’ life and work, and then takes you on a journey through the town, highlighting significant locations associated with Burns. These include the dog-friendly Globe Inn, where Burns was a frequent patron, and St. Michael’s Churchyard, where he is buried.
Dog Friendly Beaches in Dumfries and Galloway
So Dumfries scored highly with the spaniels when in came to beaches, we actually only had the time to visit two during our stay but the rest are on our list! Watch this space!
Sandyhills beach is dog friendly all year round and just about half an hours drive from Dumfries. This mile long golden sand beach, perfect for zoomies, has a stunning backdrop of rugged cliffs and is fringed by sand dunes, it’s a really sheltered bay too so great for pooches to have a frolic in the waves.
There are plenty of amenities at Sandyhills Beach, including a car park, public toilets, and a beachside café that serves refreshments and light meals.
Southernness Beach is a beautiful dog friendly sandy beach located just a short drive from Dumfries. This beautiful sandy beach is a great place for a walk or a game of fetch with your furry friend and my dogs took full advantage of that! There’s also a dog-friendly café nearby where you can stop for a bite to eat and a drink.
I know that my dogs would award The Cairndale Hotel &Leisure Club a 10 paw rating, and if you are looking for a hotel where you can truly relax with your dog, you won’t go wrong staying here.
A huge thanks to all the team at the hotel for inviting us – we had a blast!
Love Sal, Maya and Lucia xxx
** We received a complimentary stay at The Cairndale Hotel in return for an honest review and coverage on social media.