Why the Lake District is the perfect place to take your lockdown puppy on its first holiday

·6-min read
 (Lizzie Edmonds)
(Lizzie Edmonds)

If you are one of the 3.2 million people who bought a pet since March 2020, you’ll no doubt be considering what to do with your new family member when you go on holiday.

According to research by Channel 4, 90 per cent of Brits put their animals in kennels when they go away - costing on average £17 a night.

But what if you just can’t bear to be apart? Or can’t stand the idea of your pup in kennels? Is it actually enjoyable taking your puppy with you on holiday? Or is it just a lot of stress and hassle?

I am one of those millions of Brits who took the plunge. Roxy the Staffordshire Bull Terrier yapped and chewed her way into our lives on Valentines Day 2021. Four months in, and with Covid travel restrictions lifting, my husband and I decided to brave a staycation with our then six-month old puppy. We settled on a trip to the Lake District - and we were apparently not alone. According to Airbnb, rural travel makes up almost half of its British this summer - up from just over 20 per cent in summer 2019.

I am pleased to report that, despite approaching the trip with trepidation, the holiday was a huge success. We didn’t lose the dog up a mountain, she didn’t wee or poo in the accommodation and didn’t chew any furniture. Roxy had a total blast - and so, more importantly, did we.

Here’s why I would recommend the Lake District for any first-time puppy holidayers.

Roxy on a boat, Lake Windermere (Lizzie Edmonds)
Roxy on a boat, Lake Windermere (Lizzie Edmonds)

The Lake District is a VERY dog-friendly place

London dog owners will be painfully familiar with the Google search “Dog friendly venues for brunch/lunch/dinner”. But in the Lake District, dogs are pretty much allowed anywhere. Roxy came to the pub with us, dined with us and shopped with us. We even booked a half-day adventure at the beautiful Graythwaite Estate, which is on the south west side of Lake Windermere, on the way to the picturesque town of Hawkshead. The day included 4x4 driving, archery, clay pigeon shooting and a trip on a RIB boat around Lake Windermere - and Roxy came along for it all.

Of course, it’s always worth calling ahead and checking if it’s OK to bring along your dog. But on the whole they are seen as part of the family across the Lakes. It also goes without saying that the Lakes is famous for its walks - many of which are suitable for younger dogs. A bit of research and you can find some very gentle, yet very scenic routes suitable for developing paws. We used Canine Cottages for some tips.

Pup-worthy digs

As much as you may believe your beloved dog would fit right in at the Ritz, the reality is that when they are very young there are still going to be some behavioural issues to iron out. It’s also highly likely that they are going to be a bit mucky after a day out walking, swimming and rolling in mud.

Bibby Lot, Lake District (Airbnb)
Bibby Lot, Lake District (Airbnb)

The Lake District appeals to holidaymakers for its proximity to adventure - and is most frequently visited by hikers, bikers, kayakers… people who like the great outdoors. Therefore, self-catering accommodation is set up for those with an outdoor, and therefore doggy, lifestyle.

We lucked out with our accommodation on the previously mentioned Graythwaite Estate, staying in one of the traditional, three-bed cottages on the 5,000-acre estate overlooking Windermere called Bibby Lot. The space had a fully-stocked kitchen and living room and had access to a shared garden - often frequented by other dogs enjoying their break away from it all. Roxy slept in the living room in her bed every night very happily while we stayed upstairs in one of the spacious rooms upstairs.

For those a bit nervous about travelling or wary of booking holidays in case they are cancelled, Airbnb have introduced a flexible cancellation policy search filter, meaning visitors can refine their search to listings that offer free cancellation until 24 hours or five days before check-in - handy should your needs or plans change due to Covid.

We felt in good hands knowing that Airbnb had also introduced a new set of guidelines for cleaning and sanitisation, which earned the Safe Travel stamp from the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC).

Bibby Lot interior (Airbnb)
Bibby Lot interior (Airbnb)

Proximity to London

It’s about 300 miles and a five-hour drive from London to Kendal - on the eastern edge of the Lake District. While it’s hardly a stone’s throw away - that’s basically a day in the car with a healthy stop en route to walk and feed your puppy - but it’s far enough away to make it feel like a holiday.

If you insist or have to get public transport, West Coast Main Line trains run from London Euston to Oxenholme with about 18 services a day taking around three hours.

Some holidaying with puppy tips:

How young is too young?: This might not be what you want to hear, but I wouldn’t go on holiday with a dog until it is 99.9 per cent toilet trained (no one is perfect) and had a fairly reliable recall. Holidays are for relaxing, not for worrying the dog is going to mess in your accommodation or bolt off, never to be seen again.

Hotel versus self-catering: I would always go for the latter if travelling with a dog, especially if your dog doesn’t sleep in a crate as they will inevitably get into your bed if they are sleeping in a hotel room with you. Making doggy dinners, access to outside space and generally having a bit of “me time” away from the dog are all much much easier in self-catering accommodation. If you have to stay in a hotel, I’d stick to two nights maximum.

Don’t drive for too long: The idea of long train rides with a puppy brings me out in hives… if you can, drive. But meticulously plan your journey times. Young dogs, unless totally pooped from lots of fun the day before, won’t go longer than two-and-a-half hours in the car readily.

Have a “doggy bag”: Alas, not the kind full of delicious leftovers from the night before. A bag with water, water bowl, snacks, toys, chewies - anything your beloved pup needs for the day and will keep them entertained should you stop at a pub for some lunch.

Put poo bags in every bag, jacket, pocket: Enough said.

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