Holiday inspiration & travel tips

Dog Friendly Days Out in Dorset

5 dog friendly days out in Dorset

Dorset is without a doubt a dog-friendly day-trip and holiday destination for the whole family, but people don’t always realise the full extent of that. While the beaches and its status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are of course key and ensure there is plenty to do throughout your Dorset vacation, there are also plenty of fun activities that involve doing something slightly different which are simultaneously stimulating for the family and exciting for the dogs.

Highcliffe Castle

When in doubt on a holiday where you’ve brought the dogs along, or when tired of doing the same beach stroll or countryside hike, then a castle is always a good idea. Granted, many castles won’t let your dogs inside – as it were, excitable paws don’t make for very delicate ones. However, where there’s a castle or manor house, there is always a big, exciting garden.

Highcliffe Castle could be the poster-child for why this theory holds up. This cliff-top Gothic revival mansion which has been around since 1836 is near to the beach and located on the 24 acre Steamer Point Nature Reserve. So, naturally, there’s plenty of historical artifacts and architecture to look at, panoramic views to admire and acres of land to explore. Not to mention tea rooms and gardens. 

Visiting with dogs:

Dogs are welcome in the grounds of Highcliffe Castle. Dogs should be kept on a lead at all times.

Website: Highcliffe Castle

Highcliffe Castle

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

If you find yourself wondering why a garden-walk is any different from a countryside or beachfront one, then Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens ought to clear that up for you from the moment you start exploring the 18th-century garden filled with rare plants. While the walking action might be much of a muchness for the walked, it’s much more enriching and interesting for the walker.

A long, hard sniff for some is an insight into the noteworthy magnolia and camellia blooms for another, and I’m sure you can decide for yourself who’s who. The dogs need to remain on their leads, but you’ll be grateful for that when you see just how expansive the gardens are and how many potential hiding places are tucked away.

Visiting with dogs:

Dogs on leads are allowed at the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens.

Website: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Swanage Railway

Swanage Railway

British locals may not have noticed this before, but it’s something visitors often notice: trains are a significant part of the country’s history. And that’s no exception in Dorset. Like many towns which were once heavily reliant on The Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway for the functioning of local industry, Swanage has maintained its award-winning standard gauge preserved steam railway such that it now doubles up as not just historical landmark but fun activity too.

The journey takes you six miles, alongside the Swanage beach, through the countryside, past the ruins of Corfe Castle. While dogs aren’t allowed in the Buffets, the Dining Trains, the Station Shop or on the Santa Specials, they are allowed on the normal running trains provided they’re on a lead and on the floor. While this not may seem overly stimulating for the dogs, the real win comes for them when you’re allowed to dismount the train at Corfe Castle and explore the surroundings.

Visiting with dogs:

Dogs are welcome on board but must be kept on a lead and on the floor. The fare is £1 per single journey. There is no charge for assistance dogs.

Website: Swanage Railway

Swanage Railway Logo

Gold Hill Museum

When dog owners hear the word “museum”, they usually rule it out as a dog-friendly activity. But this is not the case with the Gold Hill Museum. You might think this is because this Shaftesbury and District’s local history museum is most highly regarded for its impressive, award-winning cottage garden as well as its splendid views over Thomas Hardy’s Blackmore Vale. However, that’s not solely the case. The dogs are allowed inside the museum! Yes, we know, what a win. Naturally, they’ll need to stay on their leads. We know they might not be quite as awe-struck by the various galleries which tell the story of rural and town life, but they’ll be rather thrilled that they weren’t forced to stay outside (as will you, or whoever was designated to stay outside with them!) 

Visiting with dogs:

Dogs on leads are welcome inside the Gold Hill Museum.

Website: Gold Hill Museum

Gold Hill Museum

Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park

Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park

Home to more than twenty rare breed Heavy Horses, this centre in Dorset is a must-see and a well-loved local attraction. With a combined function of entertainment and conservation, you can’t leave the Heavy Horse Centre without having learnt something as well as with a smile on your face from a great day out.

There are friendly farm animals, ponies to ride for the kids, carriage rides, daily tours, play areas and more, and your dogs can join in on the fun provided they’re not problematic when around other animals and if they’re kept on their leads. Where your dogs are and aren’t allowed is clearly signposted, please respect this – these rules are in place to ensure everyone is safe, including your dogs..

Visiting with dogs:

Well-behaved dogs are welcome at the Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park as long as they are on a lead. 

Website: Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park

Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park

Frequently asked questions

Is Highcliffe Castle dog friendly?

Dogs are welcome in the grounds of Highcliffe Castle.
Dogs should be kept on a lead at all times.

Are dogs allowed at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens?

Dogs on leads are allowed at the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens.

Can dogs travel on the Swanage Railway?

Dogs are welcome on trains but must be kept on a lead and on the floor. The fare is £1 per single journey.

Is Gold Hill Museum dog friendly?

Dogs on leads are welcome inside the Gold Hill Museum.

Can I take dogs to Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park?

Well-behaved dogs are welcome at the Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park as long as they are kept on a lead. 

Read our other Dorset travel guides including:


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