Ruff Guide to… Dungeness

Dungeness is the closest you’ll get to a desert in the UK. Although it’s not sandy, this national nature reserve is home to the largest expanse of shingle in Europe so it’s quite a sight to behold. Dungeness is surrounded by Kent’s Romney Marsh – a large, flat expanse where you can see for miles. It’s a weird yet wonderful place that’s home to hundreds of rare birds and plants.

Boat hull on Dungeness beach
The shingle beach at Dungeness

Dog-friendly Dungeness: the must-sees

As you approach Dungeness, the first thing you’ll probably see are the two block-like nuclear power stations – they’re local landmarks. Only one is still in business today and even though it’s protected by armed guards, you can pop in for a nose. Owner EDF Energy offers 1.5-hour tours of the power station. Make sure you book at least three weeks in advance.

Right next door is the Old Lighthouse, a historic Grade II listed building first opened in 1904. For more than 50 years, it helped ships navigate the English Channel before it was decommissioned in 1960. Today, you can climb to the top of the 46m-high lighthouse and have a look around. You can even get married in it! Entry is £2.50 for children and £4 for adults but sadly, no dogs are allowed.

Old Lighthouse at Dungeness
The old lighthouse

A lot of people come to Dungeness to visit Derek Jarman’s Garden at Prospect Cottage, too. You have to gaze at it from a distance because it’s a private home now but even though the late film director created the garden years ago, it’s still impressive today. Check out the poem painted on the side of his former home, too.

A trip on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway is also a must. This miniature steam railway recently celebrated its 90th anniversary and is a great way to become more acquainted with the local area. Dungeness is the end of the line but from there, you can explore the Cinque Port town of New Romney or enjoy traditional seaside fun at Dymchurch. Stop off for a pint of local beer at Dungeness station’s bar, Ales by the Rails. All-day RomneyRover tickets cost £9 for children and £18 for adults. Dogs travel free.

Jenny and Ernie at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
Ernie and I check out the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

Enjoy wildlife watching at RSPB Dungeness, which is ideally placed to watch for migrant birds arriving or departing. There are miles of nature trails to explore and a series of hides to shelter in, whatever the weather.

Make sure you check out the RSPB-owned Denge Sound Mirrors, too – wartime “listening ears” designed to warn of enemy planes approaching. They have featured on many an album cover and music video – everyone from The Prodigy to Nicki Minaj has visited. The only way to get up close to the sound mirrors is to visit on an RSPB open day.

Ernie and Nick at Dungeness
Ernie and Nick take a stroll along the boardwalk

Dog-friendly Dungeness: the best walks

Almost everywhere in Dungeness is ideal for dog walking but if you tire of shingle beaches, head to Camber Sands, approximately seven miles away. If you don’t mind sharing with kite surfers, parts of the sandy beach are dog-friendly all year round. Park at Broomhill Sands, just to the east of the more touristy areas. See where you can go by clicking on this dog-friendly map of Camber Sands.

Dog-friendly Dungeness: the best pubs and cafes

You have to try some of the fresh seafood. People travel from miles around for fish and chips at The Pilot Inn and it is pretty damn good. My only niggle is that dogs aren’t allowed inside so fingers crossed for good weather!

Exterior of the Pilot Inn
The Pilot Inn is legendary

Alternatively, check out the Snack Shack which serves up the freshest catch of the day from a converted shipping container. We recommend the lobster roll – and wrapping up in one of the complimentary blankets if it’s a bit blowy out.

If al fresco dining is off the menu, head to the Varne Fish Bar in nearby Lydd-on-Sea for some freshly-cooked comfort food. Yes, it’s a chippy but it serves up a great selection of local fish, has excellent vegetarian options and even sells sausages: perfect for treating your four-legged friends.

The stylish conservatory at Apple Fish, Dungeness
The stylish conservatory at Apple Fish

Dog-friendly Dungeness: where to stay

Check out Apple Fish – a dog-friendly two-bed bungalow on Coast Drive with views over the English Channel. Read my review here. Or, for more holiday home inspiration, check out the other properties available in the area from Mulberry Cottages.

How do I get to Dungeness?

Dungeness is around 1.5hrs by car from London. Junction 11 of the M20 is approximately 13 miles away, while the nearest station is Appledore. Alternatively, you can take the train to Hythe and then pick up the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway – but make sure you check the timetables first!

Where can I find out more?

Check out the official Kent tourist board or read up on more localised information to plan a dog-friendly holiday in Dungeness.

6 thoughts on “Ruff Guide to… Dungeness

  1. Hi there,
    Thanks for the info on Dungeness. We are heading there today and your blog was useful for pre-planning as we have a lively Patterdale terrier called Evie with us

    1. Glad you found the blog helpful – hope you have a lovely time! Evie will enjoy the beaches, I’m sure 😊

  2. To all visitors of Dungeness with dogs , please note this is a nature reserve and loose running dogs are not compatible with the preservation of wildlife.

  3. Are dogs allowed to roam around Dungeness unleashed? We had an issue where three dogs together unleashed, one of which tried to attack our dog who was on a leash. Would appreciate your comments. Many thanks.

    1. Sorry to hear that. I don’t think there are any specific rules saying that dogs have to be on lead – I would imagine it’s down to the owner’s discretion?

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