A doggy day out in… Harwich

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

One of the wooden lighthouses at Dovercourt Bay
One of the old lighthouses at Dovercourt Bay

What to see

Head to Old Harwich, where there is so much history just waiting to be discovered. The town’s biggest claim to fame is that it is where the Mayflower – the ship that carried the Pilgrim Fathers to America – was built and in September, it will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the famous voyage.

The ship was commanded by Captain Christopher Jones, whose house remains in Harwich and is due to open as a museum. Samuel Pepys, who kept a diarised account of the Great Fire of London in 1666, also served as Harwich’s MP. Look out for the plaque commemorating him – and the Samuel Pepys wine bar (no dogs inside).

Ernie takes a stroll along Ha'penny Pier in Harwich
Ernie takes a stroll along Ha’penny Pier in Harwich

To understand the port town’s maritime past, visit Harwich Redoubt Fort. It was built in 1808 to defend against Napoleonic invasion, but was fortunately never used. Dogs are allowed to explore the circular fort, which has a number of interesting exhibits. It is open every day during the summer months and entry is £3 for adults.

Dogs will also love Dovercourt Beach, which is around 1.5 miles from Old Harwich. Walk there via the coastal path, which will take you past the sailing club, lifeboat museum, Cornwallis Battery and the High and Low Lighthouses. Keep your eyes peeled for the wooden lighthouses in Dovercourt, which were built as a pair in 1863.

Ernie by the dessert menu at the Alma Inn, Harwich
Ernie peruses the dessert menu at the Alma Inn, Harwich

Where to eat

Make a beeline for The Alma Inn, which is famed for its local seafood. The pub has been at the centre of the local community since the 1850s and is still just as popular today. Dogs are warmly welcomed throughout and you can buy treats supporting local animal charities at the bar.

If you’re more into fine dining, try The Pier, overlooking the harbour. This boutique hotel is part of the Milsoms group and was recently fully refurbished. Dogs aren’t allowed in the first-floor brasserie, which has 2 AA rosettes, but you can dine with your pet in the NAVYARD Bar. Here, you’ll also find The Gin Library, which is home to more than 100 different types of ‘Mother’s Ruin’.

For hefty portions of no-nonsense grub, head to the Café on the Pier, which serves everything from Full English Breakfasts to soups and scones. Doggy sausages are also available for £1. The café is on Ha’Penny Pier – one of the UK’s only surviving wooden working piers from the Victorian era.

Ernie's column in the May 2020 edition of Essex Life magazine
Ernie’s column in the May 2020 edition of Essex Life magazine

While you’re in the area

Mistley Towers, around 20 minutes from Harwich, make for a great photo opportunity. These two grand towers once stood at either end of an unconventional church but today, they’re all that remain. The 18th Century towers are managed by English Heritage and are free to visit. Afterwards, enjoy a bite to the award-winning Mistley Thorn, which welcomes dogs both in the bar and restaurant.

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