Ruff Guide to… Dover, Deal & Sandwich

You’ll find Dover, Deal and Sandwich in Kent’s famous ‘White Cliffs Country’ – one of the warmest places in the UK. With 20 miles of coastline, 30 walking routes and 200 open spaces, it’s a great area to explore with your dog. Around 22% of the region has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. So what are you waiting for? Read on to find out more about this stunning part of the UK.

Dover Castle
Dover Castle dates back to the 12th century © Dover District Council

Dog-friendly Dover, Deal & Sandwich: the must-sees

Roam through centuries of history at Dover Castle – one of England’s oldest strongholds. Henry II started building the castle in the 1180s and it evolved to meet the changing demands of warfare. There are displays on everything from the Romans – who built a lighthouse here – to the role the castle played in two world wars. You can even tour the tunnels that once housed the naval command centre for operations in the English Channel.

Dogs are not allowed inside the castle attractions but they can explore the grounds, which have fantastic views across the Channel. Adult tickets start from £17. Sadly, only assistance dogs are allowed in the two other iconic castles in the area – Deal Castle and Walmer Castle.

Ernie at Deal beach
Ernie on the promenade in Deal

Step back in time in Deal, by joining one of the walking tours offered by The History Project. Dogs and their owners can join George Chittenden and Henry Fishlock as they explore their historic home town.

Whether you’re keen to find out about the pier, Deal’s shady smuggling past or would just like an overview of the town, there’ll be a tour to suit you. The walks range from 35 minutes to an hour and generally cost a few pounds – but several are free.

Goodnestone Park Gardens
Dogs and their owners will love exploring the grounds of Goodnestone Park

If parks and gardens are more your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice in White Cliffs Country. Goodnestone Park Gardens, just outside Dover, is one of only three in Kent to feature in the Good Gardens Guide. Adult tickets cost £5 and dogs on leads are allowed everywhere, aside from the walled garden. The Pines Garden, in St Margaret’s Bay, is also worth visiting – even if it’s just for the dog-friendly tea room! Tickets to the organically-managed garden cost £3.

Another great place to visit is Richborough Roman Fort in Sandwich. This once bustling settlement, amid the East Kent marshes, witnessed both the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and is today managed by English Heritage. Dogs on leads are welcome to explore what remains of the site today. Adult tickets start from £7.60.

White Cliffs of Dover
The famous White Cliffs of Dover, as seen from the English Channel © Dover District Council

Dog-friendly Dover, Deal & Sandwich: the best walks

You can’t come to White Cliffs Country and not visit the famous landmark that gives the area its name. The chalk cliffs are maintained by the National Trust and are free to visit, although there’s an all-day parking charge of £5. From the White Cliffs Visitor Centre (no dogs allowed inside), you can do a two-mile walk to South Foreland Lighthouse. The views are spectacular, whatever time of year you visit. Look out for the Exmoor ponies grazing on the cliffs!

For something a little more challenging, try the 10-mile Three Castles Walk, which will take you from Dover to Deal. It also starts at the White Cliffs Visitor Centre – where you have excellent views of Dover Castle – and passes the lighthouse. En-route to the finishing point at Deal Pier, you will see Walmer and Deal castles, as well as the former holiday home of James Bond author, Ian Fleming.

Sandwich Guildhall
Sandwich and its medieval Guildhall © Dover District Council

To see more of this stunning coastline, follow the recently-created England Coast Path. The six-mile Deal to Sandwich stretch is particularly lovely and it also goes past the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club. This 18-hole Championship Links golf course is often regarded as one of the world’s finest. The walk starts from Deal Pier and ends outside the Guildhall in the heart of medieval Sandwich.

Three miles up the road, you’ll find Sandwich Bay, which is dog-friendly all year round. Time your visit when the tide is out so you can enjoy the expanse of sand, rather than just shingle. There are no facilities here so it’s great if you’re looking for somewhere quiet to walk and relax. However, as the beach is on a private estate, there’s a £7 fee to enter – but only if you arrive by car.

Dog walkers at Samphire Hoe
Samphire Hoe is a lovely place to enjoy a dog walk © Samphire Hoe

If country parks are more your thing, check out Samphire Hoe, nestled underneath the White Cliffs of Dover. The park was created by Eurotunnel when it was building the Channel Tunnel and sits on 45 hectares of land reclaimed from the sea. The Hoe, which opened in 1997, is free to visit but parking charges apply. Dogs must also be kept on leads.

Western Heights, built to protect England from a French invasion, is well worth exploring, too. Work on these vast defences, just outside Dover, began during the Napoleonic Wars and finished in the 1860s. The site is now run by English Heritage and managed by the Western Heights Preservation Society, who offer regular tours. Dogs on leads are welcome, and three circular nature walks allow visitors to see the scale of construction here.

Text saying Welcome to France at The Coastguard, St Margaret's Bay
Expect a text welcoming you to France when you visit The Coastguard, St Margaret’s Bay

Dog-friendly Dover, Deal & Sandwich: the best pubs and cafes

To experience being in the closest pub to France, head to The Coastguard in St Margaret’s Bay. Depending on your phone network, you’ll get a text welcoming you to the continent! The Coastguard, beneath the famous White Cliffs, has been keeping an eye on the Channel for more than 300 years. The pub is right on the beach – although dog restrictions apply during the summer months.

Another excellent beachfront pub is The Zetland Arms in Kingsdown, near Deal. It specialises in seafood – with great sunsets and stunning views on the side. The Walmer Castle pub in Deal is also super pet-friendly and has a lovely little garden. It doesn’t serve meals but customers are welcome to bring food with them.

The Walmer Castle pub's beer garden, Deal
The Walmer Castle pub’s beer garden in Deal

The ancient Crispin Inn, in Sandwich, serves traditional pub grub alongside an excellent Caribbean menu. And anyone with a sweet tooth should head for Solley’s Farm – the home of Kentish ice cream. Sample more than 15 flavours at its ice cream parlour, near Deal, where dogs on leads are welcome. They can even join you for a country walk. Check out the trails here.

For a locally-sourced brunch or just coffee and a cake, head to Deal Pier Kitchen. This stylish eatery, at the end of the pier, opened in 2019 and dogs are very welcome inside. The same can be said of The King’s Head on Deal seafront, which also offers dog-friendly accommodation. You can’t miss it – just look for all the colourful hanging baskets outside.

King's Head pub, Deal
Dogs are very welcome at The King’s Head in Deal

Dog-friendly Dover, Deal & Sandwich: where to stay

For simple, budget accommodation, look no further than the Waterfront Hotel in Deal. Dogs are warmly welcomed at this seafront hotel, which has a mix of rooms with shared bathrooms and en-suites. Pets are not allowed in the main restaurant but you can dine with your dog in the bar area. Go for the carvery – people come from miles around just to have it.

The White Cliffs Hotel and Bunkhouse in St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe has a range of pet-friendly accommodation, from rooms to cottages. These are all housed in 16th Century weather-boarded buildings, some of which open straight out on to the communal gardens.

Ernie by the wood burner at the Blazing Donkey
Ernie by the wood burner at The Blazing Donkey

The Blazing Donkey in the wonderfully-named Ham, Sandwich, is also excellent for people travelling with pets. Most of the accommodation is in a recently-converted stable block but there are some rooms in the historic main building. The locally-sourced food is excellent and dogs can join their owners for a meal in both the restaurant and bar.

History lovers should try the Bell Hotel in Sandwich, which dates back to Tudor times and overlooks the River Stour. But if you’d prefer to go self-catering, check out the properties offered by Deal Holiday Lets. They specialise in Deal, Sandwich and the surrounding towns and villages and have something to suit every budget. The peaceful Cinque Ports Snug, for example, is perfect for dog owners.

A Southeastern train travels through Kent
A Southeastern train travels through Kent © Southeastern

How do I get to Dover, Deal & Sandwich?

As one of the key routes for people travelling to and from France, Dover – approximately 70 miles from London – has excellent transport links. If you’re coming by car, the M20 is usually the quickest road to take, especially from the West. It merges into the A20 at Folkestone. Alternatively, there’s the M2, which merges into the A2 at Faversham.

Whether you choose to drive or take the train, the journey time from London should be just over an hour. Three train routes run out of the capital to Dover, but the fastest ones are the Southeastern services from St Pancras International. Southeastern also covers Deal and Sandwich, but from London, you will need to change trains at Folkestone Central.

National Express buses also run to Dover and Canterbury, where you can then pick up local services to Deal and Sandwich. And the nearest airport is London Gatwick, which is approximately 1hr 20mins from Dover by car.

The famous signpost for Ham and Sandwich in Kent
Do you know the way to Ham and Sandwich? I bet your dog does!

Where can I find out more?

Visit the White Cliffs Country website, where you can read up on things to see and do in the area. The site has been put together by Dover District Council and has lots of information on things such as dog restrictions on beaches. The Visit Kent website is also worth a look and the Explore Kent website has some great suggestions for walks.

2 thoughts on “Ruff Guide to… Dover, Deal & Sandwich

  1. Thanks so much for this fantastic blog. Used it loads when planning our visit to the area. Especially would like to second the recommendation for Solley’s Ice Cream parlour. We did their shortest walk with our labs and it was beautiful! Didn’t see another soul all walk and thoroughly enjoyed it!

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