A doggy day out in… Leigh-on-Sea

In January 2020, I became a columnist for Essex Life magazine, writing about doggy days out in and around the county. Here is my first article, about Leigh-on-Sea…

Sunset in Leigh-on-Sea
A classic Old Leigh sunset

What to see

Start by exploring the historic cobbled streets of Old Leigh, where you’ll find a whole host of wooden huts selling locally-caught seafood. The waterfront path from Bell Wharf to Chalkwell makes for a lovely stroll and has a small stretch of beach where dogs can take a dip.

Birdwatchers will enjoy a visit to Two Tree Island, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge near Leigh-on-Sea station. This peaceful nature reserve has approximately 6km of gravelled trails to explore and is a great place to visit with your four-legged friend all year round.

Belfairs Park, the earliest recorded woodland in Essex, can also be found in Leigh and is home to trees that are more than 1,000 years old. Many of the woodland trails lead to the visitor centre and café – but be aware that dogs are not allowed inside. Randomly, a golf course runs right through the middle of the park and it is also popular with horse riders, so watch where you walk!

Ernie relaxes in Ye Olde Smack
Relaxing in Ye Olde Smack

Where to eat

Dogs are guaranteed a warm welcome at Sara’s Tea Garden in Old Leigh. As well as having their own menu – with delights such as local sausages and doggy omelettes – four-legged visitors get their own loyalty card and are invited to add their picture to the pet gallery online. There are even dog beds and blankets to borrow.

All of Leigh’s waterfront pubs welcome pets in their bar areas at least, but Ye Olde Smack is our favourite. Dogs are allowed everywhere and there are often so many, it can be a bit of an assault course to get to the bar! If the weather is nice when you visit, head straight to the back of the pub to bag one of the few outdoor tables overlooking the estuary.

Coffee connoisseurs should pop in to the Corner Club on Leigh Broadway, where pets are welcome both inside and out. Veggies and vegans, meanwhile, will be spoilt for choice at The Oak Tree on Leigh Road, which dishes up a range of healthy, meat-free meals. Its sister restaurant, The Acorn on Leigh Hill, also welcomes dogs and specialises in hearty pie and mash.

Ernie poses with his copy of Essex Life magazine
Ernie poses with his copy of Essex Life magazine

While you’re in the area

Pencil in a trip to Hadleigh Castle, which stands proudly on a hill overlooking the Thames Estuary. It’s free to visit the castle ruins – now owned by English Heritage – but you will have to pay for parking. Refuel afterwards at the Salvation Army’s Tea Room, a short stroll away. Dogs are permitted in the outside seating area.

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