Ruff Guide to… the Cotswolds

With its picture-postcard villages, beautiful Regency towns and stunning scenery, the Cotswolds is the perfect year-round destination. This beautiful part of the UK spans six counties. And whether your dog enjoys woodland walks, exploring the local attractions or joining you for a pint in a country pub, you will find a whole host of things for four-legged visitors to do here.

Fields of lavender in the Cotswolds
The colourful Cotswold Lavender fields

Dog-friendly Cotswolds: the must-sees

If you’re lucky enough to visit in the summer months, make a beeline for Cotswold Lavender, near Snowshill. From June to August, you can visit the farm and surrounding fields and you can even take your dog. When the lavender is in full bloom, not only does it look amazing but it smells great too – and any pictures you take are guaranteed to be Instagrammable. There are more than 90 acres to explore and entry is £7. There’s also a great shop onsite where you can pick up some sweet-smelling souvenirs to take home.

Adventurous pets will also enjoy a visit to Cotswold Wildlife Park, where they can meet animals like rhinos and giraffes. This fantastic attraction, just outside Burford, welcomes well-behaved dogs on leads and they can get surprisingly close to all the local residents! Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around the park or, between April and October, pay £1 to hop on a narrow-gauge railway. Adult tickets cost £16 on the gate or £14 online. Dogs go free.

Rhinos at Cotswold Wildlife Park
Say hello to the rhinos at Cotswold Wildlife Park

When visiting the Cotswolds, make time to visit one of its beautiful arboretums. The area is home to two – Westonbirt in the south, near Tetbury, and Batsford near Moreton-in-Marsh in the north. Westonbirt, the national arboretum, is home to an incredible collection of trees. Dogs are welcome to explore both The Downs and Silk Wood (where they can go off-lead), but not the Old Arboretum. Entry costs £8 per adult, while it’s £8.95 at Batsford, where dogs must be kept on lead at all times.

If quirky is your thing, then the Painswick Rococo Garden is well worth a visit. It’s the UK’s only complete rococo garden, complete with charming follies and a maze. Dogs on leads are allowed throughout, as well as in the cafe and shop. Adult tickets cost £10.30. And don’t miss out on a trip to the 65ft high Broadway Tower either – home to some of the best views in the country. Pets are not allowed to climb the tower but they can enjoy a lovely circular walk in the surrounding park and a dog agility course. Adult tickets to the tower cost £8 while park access will set you back £4.

Broadway Tower, Cotswolds
The Broadway Tower is a real landmark © Philip Halling

In Broadway, you’ll also be able to board the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, which runs to Cheltenham Race Course. The return journey is approximately 28 miles. In normal times, dogs are welcome to join their owners in standard class carriages and travel for free – but at the moment, only assistance dogs are allowed due to Covid-19 restrictions. Adult tickets cost £23 when bought online in advance, or £27 on the day. The price includes unlimited train travel as well as access to the North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway at Toddington.

If you’re interested in ghosts and ghouls, or just want to learn about the area’s dark past, take the Bloody Bourton Walking Tour. It takes around two hours to complete and in that time, you’ll hear tales of the paranormal, of witchcraft and even murder. Dogs are very welcome to join the tours, which cost £8 per adult. They usually take place every Friday and Saturday evening.

Ernie explores Bourton on the Water
Ernie explores Bourton on the Water

Dog-friendly Cotswolds: the best walks

Start with the Cotswolds Way National Trail. This runs for 102 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. The trail takes in a number of quaint villages, such as Broadway, Winchcombe and Wotton-under-Edge. It is said to be one of the best marked in England so it’s easy to make your walk as long or as short as you please.

For an alternative walk close to Chipping Campden, head to Dover’s Hill. This natural amphitheatre is a local beauty spot and it’s where the original English Olympic Games were held more than 400 years ago. The sporting tradition continues today too, with the annual Cotswold Olimpicks – or World Shinkicking Championships. Dover’s Hill, which is now owned by the National Trust, consists of a mix of grassland and woodland. It also has fantastic views across the Vale of Evesham.

Cotswold Water Park
Enjoy a stroll around Cotswold Water Park © Gareth James

To combine a walk with a great day out, head to Cotswold Water Park. There are plenty of public footpaths and bridleways to stroll along but dogs must be kept on leads, away from the beaches and, ironically, out of the water. Head to the Gateway Information Centre to pick up a Walks Guide for £1 or check out some of the suggestions for circular walks here.

Another great place to explore with your pooch is Tewkesbury Abbey. Amazingly, dogs are allowed inside this former Benedictine monastery and are welcome to explore the grounds and water meadows nearby. From the abbey, walkers can also pick up the Severn Way, which follows the River Avon and runs for a total of 210 miles. Simply start from Victoria Gardens and head east.

Tewkesbury Abbey
Dogs are welcome to explore Tewkesbury Abbey and its grounds © Martin Dawes

If you’re craving dramatic scenery, head to Cleeve Hill. This scenic spot, near Cheltenham, has far-reaching views over the Malvern Hills and Severn Valley. The hill is ideal for dog walkers, with lots of open space away from roads. Be sure to do the short but steep walk up to Trig Point which marks the highest point of the Cotswold Hills.

If you’re keen to explore the picturesque villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter, try taking this 5.5-mile circular walk along the Windrush River. It also takes in Bourton-on-the-Water, which is a great place to stop for a bite to eat. Keep reading to see my suggestions of dog-friendly pubs and cafes.

Burgers at the Stroud Brewery
Enjoy a tasty burger with your pint at the Stroud Brewery © Stroud Brewery

Dog-friendly Cotswolds: the best pubs and cafes

Fans of craft ale should head to Stroud Brewery, which creates impressive organic beers. Its trendy taproom, which overlooks the River Frome, also serves tasty American-style food and dogs are allowed both inside and out. The towpath running along outside the bar is perfect for a pre or post-beer stroll, too. Dunkertons Cider Company, just outside Cheltenham, is also worth a visit but pets must stay outside.

Lovers of Italian food will be in heaven at The Stump, near Cirencester. This funky pub, housed in an ancient roadside inn, serves delicious pasta and wood-fired pizza that has been praised by several national newspapers. Dogs are very welcome and if you like the food that much, you can even stay in one of the pub’s ten stylish rooms.

Afternoon tea at The Snooty Fox in Tetbury
Afternoon tea at The Snooty Fox in Tetbury © The Snooty Fox

Pets can dine and stay at The Snooty Fox in Tetbury too, where you can enjoy upmarket pub grub and delicious afternoon teas. The Mousetrap Inn, a short stroll from the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water, also loves dogs and has several unfussy rooms. Crime writer Agatha Christie used to be a regular at the pub, which is one of the oldest in the Cotswolds. Be sure to try its British-style tapas.

Dogs can often be seen at The New Inn in Coln St Aldwyns, too. They are invited to help themselves to treats from the bar and curl up in one of the many dog beds dotted around the pub. The pet-friendly Seagrave Arms in Weston-sub-Edge, is also highly regarded for its food. The pub, near Chipping Campden, is popular with dog owners as it has a great enclosed garden.

Pretty patio area at The Lion Inn in Winchcombe
The pretty patio area at The Lion Inn in Winchcombe © The Lion Inn

The Lion Inn in Winchcombe has an ever-changing seasonal menu and lovely garden. Dogs are allowed to dine with their owners both there and in the bar area, and they are also welcome in all of the eight bedrooms. The Queen’s Head in Stow-on-the-Wold is also regularly voted one of the most dog-friendly pubs in the Cotswolds. As well as great food and drink, this traditional pub has a large open fire for your four-legged friend to curl up in front of.

Also, while visiting the Cotswolds, be sure to visit Be More Bob – a fantastic pet boutique near Cheltenham’s Pittville Park. Here, you can stock up on treats and toys for your four-legged friend – and treat yourself to a coffee and locally-baked cookie. Dogs are, of course, very welcome in the shop and Bob himself, who is a friendly Bordoodle, might even join you for a snack in the garden.

Bedroom at the Bear of Rodborough, Stroud
One of the beautiful bedrooms at The Bear of Rodborough © Cotswold Inns & Hotels

Dog-friendly Cotswolds: where to stay

Pets are genuinely viewed as part of the family in the Cotswolds so many accommodation providers welcome them with open arms. All eight properties run by Cotswold Inns & Hotels are pet-friendly and dogs can expect their own beds, bowls and treats upon check-in.

The Hare & Hounds in Tetbury is a lovely place to stay, with cottage-style accommodation and fabulous food and drink. The grand hotel has a sunny outdoor terrace and acres of grounds. There’s even an outdoor dog wash! The quirky Bear of Rodborough, near Stroud, also has some fantastic outdoor space and a rambling collection of rooms where guests can dine with their dog. Watch out for the free-roaming cows on the Common, though!

Ernie asleep on the sofa at the King's Arms, Didmarton
Ernie relaxes on the sofa in our cottage at The King’s Arms, Didmarton

In the historic market town of Burford, dogs will get a warm welcome at The Lamb Inn. If you book its Rosie room, you’ll have your own private enclosed garden. The King’s Arms in Didmarton also has a range of en-suite rooms and cottages, not to mention Snuffles dog beer behind the bar.

Prefer to stay in self-catering accommodation? No problem. Bolthole Retreats has a range of apartments and cottages to suit groups of all sizes. Alternatively, click here to check out the places recommended on the Dog Friendly Cotswolds website.

A vintage car in the Cotswolds town of Broadway
A vintage car in the Cotswolds town of Broadway © Bryan Conlon

How do I get to the Cotswolds?

Whether you’re travelling by road, rail or air, the Cotswolds are very easy to access. Gloucester and Cheltenham lie at the heart of the area and the journey time from London is approximately two hours. The main roads to the Cotswolds are the M4, M5 and M40.

Great Western Railway services cover many of the main towns in the Cotswolds, including Cheltenham, Gloucester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Kemble and Stroud. The National Express bus network also links to many of the above destinations.

It’s easy to explore the area using local buses and trains, too. The Cotswolds Conservation Board has produced a handy public transport guide. And if you plan to arrive by air, the nearest airports are Birmingham and Bristol – both of which are around an hour’s drive from the Cotswolds.

A bench on the Cotswolds Way
A bench on the Cotswolds Way © John Winder

Where can I find out more?

For further information and ideas when it comes to dog-friendly attractions and places to eat and drink in the area, visit the Dog Friendly Cotswolds website. Alternatively, visit the official tourism site. The Visit Cotswolds website and are also packed with useful information for tourists.

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