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 Saffron Walden…
What to see
Start by exploring The Common, in the heart of Saffron Walden. This vast open space is great for dog walking and is also home to the world’s largest publicly-owned turf maze. It may not look like much but the twisting labyrinth, enclosed by a bank and ditch, is almost a mile long. There are three other mazes in Saffron Walden and just off The Common, you will also find the remains of ancient Walden Castle.
Many people visit Saffron Walden for Audley End, just outside the town. This grand Jacobean mansion, built in the 17th Century, was one of England’s greatest country houses but fluctuating fortunes mean it is now just a third of its original size. Dogs aren’t allowed inside but they can explore the beautiful landscaped grounds, which were designed by Capability Brown. Adult tickets cost £16.80 but English Heritage members can explore for free.
Just across the road, you’ll find the Audley End Miniature Railway. Here, you can enjoy a 1.5-mile steam train ride through the estate’s private woodland – and your dog can join you for the journey, too. There’s also an Enchanted Fairy and Elf Walk that younger guests will enjoy. Ticket prices vary depending on the time of year, but you will save money if you book online.
Where to eat
For a light bite, head to Kim’s Tea & Coffee House on Hill Street, where dogs are welcomed with water and treats. Owners will also be spoilt with a great selection of teas, cakes and sandwiches. These can be enjoyed either inside or in a sunny spot by the garden.
The Elizabethan Cross Keys Hotel, on the High Street, allows dogs in both the bar and cool courtyard garden. And at The Fighting Cocks, on London Road, around 90% of the menu is gluten-free. The Bell Inn, near Audley End in Wendens Ambo, is also a great place to enjoy a meal with your dog. And be sure to sample the delights of The Saffron Ice Cream Company on your trip to the town. It is stocked in many local outlets, including Kim’s and the mini railway.
While you’re in the area
Head to Thaxted, around 15 minutes away by car. This historic village dates back to before the Domesday Book and is an Instagrammer’s dream. From here, you can pick up Turpin’s Trail, named after the infamous highwayman who is said to have been born in Thaxted. It runs from here to Hempstead and is split into three sections, which each take around three hours to walk.