Dog-friendly motorway services and more holiday cottages


Dog-friendly motorway services and more

Ed Roberts 08 March 2020

Looking for the best motorway services and places to stop and have a rest with your dog on the way to your pet-friendly holiday cottage? Then read on for some of our recommendations.

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Some of us love driving; chances are if you do, the holiday begins the minute you’ve reversed out of the driveway. The travelling is all part of the show. The journey is the destination as the open road beckons. But what of your dog? How does your canine pal feel about the long journey ahead of them to your dream holiday cottage?

As dog friendly as your adapted automobile may be, it’s still just as important to take a rest. Us humans need to take time out from being in a car, so it follows that your pooch also needs to stretch their legs, take in some fresh air and have a toilet break. Not all motorway services have been designed with dog owners in mind, that’s why we’ve begun to compile a work in progress of some of the best stopovers where you don’t have to keep your four-legged buddy in the car the whole time.

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We’ve compiled a short guide about a few of the best dog-friendly motorway service stations in the UK and a few other ideas for places close to the road network where you can go for walkies as well.

Dog-friendly motorway services

Motorway services are beacons of life along the long stretches of our road network. Some are better than others, and some are out of this world!  The best ones for dog owners are those that have a designated trail for you to exercise with them, away from the busy road and out of harm’s way.  

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However, in virtually every case, dogs are not permitted inside the shopping and dining complexes at the UK’s many motorways services. Small friendly concessions to dog owners such as water bowls are a common feature, often seen at the main entrance foyer. There are, however, exceptions to this almost universal rule. We have found one chain (with just two outlets) that welcome dog-travellers with open arms. 

Hog & Hedge 

Location: Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 1DJ (M4 – Junction 13)

Location: Okehampton, Devon, EX20 2QT (A30 – Whiddon Down exit)

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The Hog & Hedge is very special indeed as they make sure that dogs are made to feel as welcome and as catered for as their human guests. Dogs are welcome to head inside and sit tableside with you; water bowls and dishes to pour dry treats into are located by the door, and the staff are warm and friendly. With large exercise spaces at both the Newbury and Okehampton bases, the Hog & Hedge is a wonderful example of dog-friendly service stations done right. For humans, there’s a play area, comfortable lounge areas, organic and locally sourced foods and pristine loos!

Maybe one day, The Hog & Hedge will expand beyond two outlets. It’s rare that you’d make a detour just to travel to a motorway café but in this case, it’s worth the effort.

Motorway services worth stopping at with your dog

It’s true, you could take your dog out for a walk around the car park on the lead, so it’s possible to exercise your pooch at every motorway service station in the country. This isn’t ideal for all dogs because it can be quite a scary place and you need to be extra vigilant too, as most drivers are tired after a long trip. However, some do have designated small exercise areas for dogs.

Here are a few we’ve been to that have excellent dog walking areas and scope for on-lead exercise away from the cars.

Gloucester Services

Location: GL4 0DN. M5 (between junctions 12 & 11a)

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Gloucester Services is the motorway stop-off to beat, as there are outdoor areas for relaxation and walkies at both the M5’s north and southbound complexes. A pathway from the car park reaches around young parkland to an ornamental pond at the rear of the shopping and dining area. You can even eat outside with your hound too. The food for humans is unbelievable here, as there is even a farm shop on the premises.

Solstice Services

Location: SP4 7SQ. A303 near Amesbury

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Located a few miles west of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, this modern open-air complex has lots of grassy areas to take your dog for a wander. With a choice of leading fast food brands, there’s a seating area to enjoy your takeaways outside to save sitting back inside your car.

Take a small detour 2 miles north from the A303 to Woodhenge, which is situated in a small park close to Larkhill. There are some great views across Salisbury Plains here and some large areas to let your hound off the lead for a leg stretch.

Beaconsfield Services 

Location: HP9 2SE. M40, junction 2

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Even though dogs aren’t allowed inside Beaconsfield Services, the landscaped grounds and gardens are designed to entice you outside anyway. It’s not faint praise to say that this is one of the best-looking motorway services in the UK because it really is. With a very wide selection of eateries on site, if you are heading down the M40 or indeed the west side of the M25 (4 miles from junction 16), then this is a great place to reinvigorate yourself and your dog.

Cornwall Services

Location: A30, PL26 8UF (close to St Austell)

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The largest services west of Exeter, Cornwall Services has a large exercise area to unburden your dog at to the east of the main car park. The complex is only a few years old and the facilities are pristine, as well as offering a good mix of local fare and high street favourites. As you probably know, beyond the A30 the miles have a different currency as the roads thin down to country lanes, so these services are a good last opportunity to rest and unwind before hitting the narrower lanes.

Dog walks near motorways

Here’s our top five scenic timeouts from behind the wheel.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

Location: BS27 3QF. M5 (junction 22)

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Cheddar Gorge is a wonderful beauty spot close to the M5 just south of Bristol. With lots of open space to scramble and explore, Cheddar Gorge is an inspiring spot to do a quick recce for a future holiday. If you are feeling ambitious and have time to spare, climb Jacob’s Ladder, or simply drive along the windy road at the bottom of the gorge. Don’t forget to buy some Cheddar cheese!

The Angel of the North, Tyne & Wear

Location: Gateshead, NE9 7TY. A1

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As the A1 enters Gateshead, you are greeted quite literally with open arms by Antony Gormley’s colossal statue. This is a great place for a photo opportunity as the 20-metre sculpture is situated in a small park with ample parking. There’s plenty of space to go for a pleasant walk with the hound too.

Shustoke Reservoir, Warwickshire

Location: B46 2AN. M6 (junction 4) M42 (junction 7)

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If your dog loves walking by a lake, then this 2-mile trail is a good bet for those looking for a rest on their way past the cities of the Midlands like Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. The low landscape consists of neat grasslands and a sealed level path around the lake. There is free parking and a pub in the nearby village for a spot of lunch or supper.

Belhaven Bay, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland

Location: EH42 1XF. A1 (West Mains exit)

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Literally 1.5 miles from the main road, you’ll find the bonny sand beach of Belhaven Bay in Scotland which is also adjacent to the breathtaking John Muir Country Park, which stands on a peninsula by the Firth of Forth. Even if you are staying in Edinburgh, which is just down the road, this coastal pitstop is well worth your time.

Newton Beach, Porthcawl, Wales

Location: CF36 5NE. M4 (junction 37)

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This lovely bay close to Porthcawl in Wales is 2 miles long, but that’s just enough to take a well-earned breath of sea air and refreshing walk with your dog. Children will love the rock pools and there are plenty of places to sit and watch the waves, and maybe eat a picnic.

We need your input!

We are always looking for tips on finding out the best places motorway services with exercise areas all across England, Scotland and Wales, whether your journey to your dog-friendly cottage takes you down the M4, M5, M6, M40, M42, M62, A303, A1 and beyond. Keep an eye out on your trails and be sure to let us know about any motorway service spots with excellent facilities for dogs.

You can also read our guide with handy tips for long distance journeys with your dog. We show you some hacks to use and some pitfalls to avoid when heading off on your holidays to one of our self-catering dog-friendly cottages.

Top tips for travelling with dogs

Stay at one of our pet-friendly holiday homes in England, Scotland and Wales this season. We have properties large and small for couples’ breaks or getaways with friends or extended family. Whatever your holiday requirements are, we have the perfect rental waiting for you.

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Photo credits:
pic 1 - @ manorvets247
pic 2 - @ luispedreegal
pic 3 - @ dogsismyfriend
Pic 4 - @ salesherrif
Pic 5 - @ laurenbarberr
Pic 6 - @ dogpanion
Pic 7 - @ mydogist
Pic 8 - @ jacobijim2303
Pic 9 - @ zirahpug
Pic 10- @ Rubyandmolly_cavoodle
Pic 11- @ ioniarees
Pic 12- @ izravet

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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