Penny - our Yorkshire Canine Critic - took a trip to East Sussex to sniff out historical sites, sandy beaches and vibrant cities. Her owner, Danielle, tells us why they had a ball:
As proud first-time dog owners, we relish in taking Penny everywhere with us. Her addition to the family has encouraged us to explore all the sights (and smells) that the UK has to offer and we couldn’t be more delighted than to be Yorkshire’s Canine Critic. As they say, “Life was made for good friends and great adventures,” and with Penny by our sides, we couldn’t agree more.
With this in mind, we were open to suggestions when it came to selecting our canine cottage. The wonderful team behind the scenes suggested the lesser known (to us at least!) Sussex holiday town of Hastings for our doggy retreat. I can safely say we were not disappointed in the slightest and we have never visited a more welcoming area for both hound and human!
After squeezing the kitchen sink and our overgrown puppy into our tiny car, we set off south for our first-ever family retreat. After only a few hours of driving, where Penny mostly caught up on her beauty sleep, we pulled up to a neat little row of white Victorian townhouses full of character and charm. What we didn’t expect however, was the sheer size of our luxury property. Boasting four impressive floors with gorgeous original features and high ceilings, The Salty Stack truly is the epitome of style and class. This property’s size and stature will certainly be keeping your daily step count covered during your stay!
Despite only three of us enjoying our holiday break, The Salty Stack would have plenty of room for a much larger family. Penny took great pleasure in touring us round the property’s extensive five bedrooms, four bathrooms, two living rooms and generous kitchen/diner. Everything featured in the property was suitable for groups of varying sizes; from a ten-seater dining table to the super-king beds, nothing in the property could be described as small. Our four-legged fluffy rug even had room to spread out unimpeded without becoming a trip hazard.
Additionally, the property came well equipped with everything we needed for our stay, including a fridge, freezer, dishwasher, washing machine and large country-style stove. As someone with strict dietary needs, I sometimes find travel stressful and having a fully functioning kitchen relieves the pressures of continually eating out. It did also help save those all-important pennies for extra sightseeing and day visits! The incredibly deep, free-standing bath was a must-have for soaking after the long days exploring and the beds were soft and warm, perfect for recharging the batteries.
The Salty Stack is located just seconds from the beach and it was a novel experience being able to wake up to the refreshing salty air and see the coast from our bedroom window. There is also a small-but-beautiful garden located just around the corner from the property to let off some of that holiday excitement as required.
Our first task, however, was to introduce Penny to her new frenemy: the sea. As a timid but exuberant puppy, Penny threw herself at the waves and was less than impressed to find out that they not only move but they do in fact get her wet! Despite her initial reservations about this newfound wonder, Penny could not have been more at home when trawling the beach for exciting new shells, hidden crabs, and the best pebble to select as her doggy souvenir.
Exploring the sea front, we found various dog-friendly attractions and amenities within walking distance of our cottage, including Hastings Pier, the Old Town, and miniature and cliff railways. The Old Town was a particularly enjoyable area to explore during our stay, and was full of independent local businesses which welcomed Penny with open arms. Every shop was quick to sneak her gravy bones and provide a quick cuddle - a much-needed distraction while the humans selected some holiday gifts to bring home to the family.
Not only were the shops welcoming, but so were the restaurants. Penny was accepted into all local pubs, our favourite being the Albion near the beach front, as well as other local eateries. One noteworthy mention was Radley’s Bistro. Not only was the restaurant dog-friendly but it also featured a fully gluten-free menu and incredibly accommodating staff. With freshly caught ingredients straight from the market, it was hands-down the best fish and chips we had ever eaten – a must-have on a beach holiday! Penny sat like the model dog tucked neatly under the table during our meal and was rewarded with her own little fish at the end of the evening.
Not only did we explore the local area, but we visited a variety of attractions nearby – all of which Penny thoroughly enjoyed. There was a perfect mixture of nature, history and culture to experience during our time away and we didn’t have to leave Penny for even a second of it. The south of England lived up to its reputation of having better weather (slightly) than the north, and only on one day were our activities hindered by excessive rain! Fortunately, we all packed coats (including Penny) and did our best to make the most of every day.
The most impressive and noteworthy attraction we visited was The Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, about a 40-minute drive from our cottage. The magnificent cliffs and long pebble beach are utterly breathtaking. We were blessed with bright clear skies, shallow waves and gentle winds during our time there and it was the perfect walking retreat. Not only does the area give you opportunity to learn the ever-changing geography of the landscape, but it is also home to some exciting evidence of our country’s history. To experience the full glory of the landmark, you can either walk across the cliffs to the old lighthouse or down along the beach front. A café conveniently sits in between the two walks for a quick pick-me-up to keep the whole family going.
To enjoy nature closer to home, there was also Hastings Country Park – another high-level coastal walk boasting beautiful views over the town of Hastings. It even provides wide, open spaces for dogs to roam. The environment is both quiet and peaceful and you may even be lucky enough to encounter the ice cream man on your visit.
Further out in Sussex is the cosmopolitan city of Brighton. This incredibly dog-friendly location features an exciting mixture of old and new attractions – all worth a visit. Once again, Brighton’s beaches were dog friendly and we started the day by stretching Penny’s legs along the expansive sea front. Along this stretch, it is worth stopping at The Grand Hotel for a spot of afternoon tea. This five-star location is completely dog friendly and we were welcomed with open arms despite being less than dressed for the occasion in wet coats and wellington boots. Penny positioned her wet fluffy bottom next to a grand piano in the bistro area while we enjoyed an hour of sophistication and tip-top tea. From here, we made sure to visit the Royal Pavilion. This exiting palace boasts a colourful history and has a variety of treasures to explore inside. For our trip, however, we only managed to view the outside architecture and royal gardens which were still well worth a visit. Lastly, we explored The Lanes, Brighton’s eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. The Lanes provides a unique and exciting shopping experience for everyone and again was dog friendly at every turn. With classic architecture and a narrow winding maze of streets to explore, The Lanes felt quintessentially British.
Not only did we view parks and cities, but we also explored the rich history of East Sussex. Hastings famously provides lasting ruins at some key sites where the history of Britain changed forever. We visited two English Heritage landmarks during our stay which were fairly priced and were fascinating to explore. Firstly was Battle Abbey and Hastings battlefield, conveniently located just 10 minutes from our cottage. The buildings were constructed by William the Conqueror, are still largely intact and provide an amazing picture of what life was like during the infamous battle of 1066. There are informative audio tours and even special events for the whole family. Penny was welcome throughout the entire site and particularly enjoyed climbing parts of the ruins and sneaking views from the abbey towers. She finished off a full day of exploration by stealing an umbrella from an unsuspecting battlefield actor and beguiling various members of staff into providing her with treats from their well-stocked tins.
Another noteworthy historical site is Pevensey Castle. With history stretching back 16 centuries, the area is truly remarkable in telling the story of Britain’s coastal defences. The area is fully accessible to dogs and features a large area to roam inside the still-standing Norman fort. Penny was even allowed in the castle ruins and made sure to explore every nook and cranny. She did, however, chicken out half way down to the castle’s dungeons, which led to a very awkward and entertaining rescue mission trying to turn around and carry a Bernese mountain dog up a flight of narrow winding stone stairs. We don’t blame her, honestly – not many of us want to visit a dungeon!
Lastly, our visit brought us to the quaint and charming town of Rye, a location just 15 minutes from Hastings but full of medieval history and architecture. We began our very wet and soggy day with a stop in Café des Fleurs, a charming coffee shop/florist that provides the best Christmas flavoured coffees around! With our spirits high and our hands warmed, it was time to explore the town. The cobbled streets are filled with quaint shops to visit, all of which welcomed Penny. We took the opportunity to purchase some handmade local crafts - perfect for Christmas - and were amazed at the variety on offer in this small town. Not only were we impressed by the shops, but also with the eateries in the area. We made sure to stop off at The Fig for a spot of lunch and much-needed time to dry off. The food was exquisite and the décor felt both modern and cosy during the rainy day.
Additionally, we made sure to visit the historical Mermaid Street - a beautiful cobbled street straight out of the movies (quite literally) that made us feel truly in awe of the local area. This route finally led us back round to the famous Knoops, a hot chocolate cafe that draws in chocolate lovers from miles around. Safe to say we were not disappointed. Weather permitting, there are lots more natural areas for you to explore in the town of Rye. It is home to a beautiful sandy beach (Camber Sands) as well as some species-rich wetlands which, despite the title, were definitely too wet to visit on this particular day!
Overall, our holiday was an absolute joy. The location was perfect and The Salty Stack was the ideal home to come back to for a well-deserved rest. Our time away was unforgettable and has revived our passion for exploring what Britain has to offer. We would head off on another Canine Cottages holiday in a heartbeat and we are already planning our next adventures. It has been truly a rewarding experience for us all.
We would without hesitation encourage anyone to take a visit to East Sussex this year - the area is truly a hidden gem.