The Canine guide to Swanage holiday cottages

Towns and cities

The Canine guide to Swanage

Kate W 10 December 2020

On the very edge of the strip of land that makes up the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, you’ll find dog-friendly Swanage and a host of excitement and adventure for your entire pack.

Investigate scenic reserves bursting with wildlife, and seek out a fossil-laden Swanage beach for dogs to race about on. Venture out on a dog walk in Swanage to an ancient crumbling castle, or wander the town streets to pick up local produce and goodies for your stay.

There are plenty of things to do in and around Swanage with dogs; you’ll have a wonderful break during your getaway to this peaceful escape on the Isle of Purbeck. Get to know all about this enchanting destination in our guide before planning a dog-friendly holiday to Swanage to discover this beautiful setting for yourself.

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Dog-friendly days out near Swanage

Studland and Godlingston Heath Nature Reserve

Studland and Godlingston Heath Nature Reserve

Best for spotting wildlife, sweeping views and birdwatching: Whether exploring on two legs or four, every member of the pack will have a wonderful time traversing this impressive beauty spot on the Purbeck Coast. Studland Nature Reserve is a firm favourite among locals and visitors alike who visit for the stunning scenery and freedom that can only be enjoyed in the great outdoors. Follow the myriad of trails and tracks, take in the sweeping views from imposing Agglestone Rock, and wander down to Studland Bay for a paddle at the sandy beach.

Why your dog will love it: Your pup will get the chance to follow wildlife tracks, run through long grass, and play a round of fetch in this outdoor haven.

Swanage Steam Railway

Swanage Steam Railway

Best for seeing the sights: Hop aboard the train to take in the scenery from a different point of view. Your canine will love watching the world speed by on a trip with Swanage Steam Railway and you can get to know this fantastic corner of the UK from the comfort of a cosy train carriage. They even offer a range of wonderful events across the year from Christmas lunches and light-up carriages, to specialist enthusiast days. These heritage trains have been beautifully preserved and will take you back in time with a ride.

Why your dog will love it: They’ll be eager to watch the world speed by of course!

Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve

Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve

Best family-friendly day in the great outdoors: There’s a second enchanting nature reserve that’s a must-visit just south of Swanage, and that is the impressive Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve. A fantastic place to take in the beauty of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, there’s a visitor centre and cafe, a wealth of wildlife and exquisite coastal views. With plenty of outdoor space to discover, this parkland is a delightful destination for a day out with the dog.

Why your dog will love it: Serenity and exploration await at this dog-friendly attraction in Swanage.

Top dog walks near Swanage

Stroll along Swanage harbour

Stroll along Swanage harbour

Best for getting to know Swanage: The first place for a stroll with your canine companion by your side is down by the harbour of pet-friendly Swanage. It’s a delightful spot and a great place to pop by on the first day of your visit to begin getting to know this delightful seaside town on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset. If you’re keen to venture further, you could head either north or south along the coast path for fantastic rambling opportunities. Heading north will lead to Studland Nature Reserve, while south will take you to the iconic Old Harry’s Rocks – and if you fancy walking one to the other, the full length of that coastal route is a relatively moderate 3.8 miles.

Why your dog will love it: Old dogs and hounds with little legs will appreciate a gentle wander around the harbour, while the longer route is full of sights, smells and sounds to entertain lively pups.

Lawrence of Arabia Trail

Lawrence of Arabia Trail

Best for rural beauty: For a bit of literary history, follow this 7.1-mile loop that will lead you past the former home and final resting place of T. E. Lawrence, famously known as Lawrence of Arabia. The Lawrence of Arabia Trail is a relatively gentle route with one steady climb to Lawrence’s former home of Cloud Hill, and there are mainly wide tracks, with the route marked out with wooden waymarkers.

Why your dog will love it: It’s a straightforward route with lots to look out for, best for history-loving hounds and owners.

Corfe Castle to Swanage

Corfe Castle to Swanage

Best for big views and challenging climbs: For the more energetic pup and their human companion, a ramble along this 12.5-mile-long Corfe Castle to Swanage trail may be the perfect way to stretch the legs and get fresh air into your lungs. It is a challenging trail crossing fields and ancient rutted tracks, and you’re likely to encounter mud along the way – good shoes are a must! There are lots of ascents, descents and even steps to tackle too, but the history-rich landscape all around makes this a scenic prospect for keen ramblers.

Why your dog will love it: A day full of outdoor exploration – your dog will have a ball!   

Top dog-friendly beaches near Swanage

Swanage Beach

Swanage Beach

Best for a classic day at the beach: Wondering if dogs are allowed on Swanage Beach? Of course, they are! There are summertime restrictions on Central Beach, however, part of the beach known as Monkey Beach welcomes our four-pawed friends year-round. If you’re staying in the heart of Swanage you can enjoy a sandy stroll anytime, perhaps go for a morning dog walk beside the sea or before returning to bed at this Swanage beach for dogs; it's the perfect end to any day.

Why your dog will love it: It’s a beautiful space for seaside walkies right by town so you can explore Swanage on your way to this beach, before letting your canine companion splash about in the water.

Knoll Beach and Middle Beach

Knoll Beach and Middle Beach

Best for space and picturesque scenery: Over in Studland Bay, surrounded by the scenic Studland Nature Reserve, Knoll Beach and Middle Beach sit side by side providing plenty of wide-open space for dogs to race about. Both these dog-friendly beaches near Swanage welcome pups all year round so you can enjoy a winter ramble or a summertime stroll on this picturesque coastline.

Why your dog will love it: These are both popular dog-friendly beaches so, chances are, your four-pawed pup will make a few friends during their visit. 

Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge Bay

Best for swimming and wildlife: Pups are welcome all year at this wonderful dog-friendly beach and it is also a great stopping point for families as it’s a top place for rock pooling for deep-sea critters, and snorkelling in the shallows too. It’s purely a rocky beach, however, the lack of sand ensures the water visibility is beautifully clear, ideal for a paddle or swim. From the beach you can see across to Clavell Tower, a Victorian folly on a hill, making this a stunning setting whether taking a dip or enjoying a peaceful dog walk along the shore.

Why your dog will love it: Quiet and peaceful, your pup will enjoy a gentle wander at this tranquil seaside destination. 

Dog-friendly places to eat in Swanage

Black Swan Inn

Black Swan Inn

Best dog-friendly pub: Cosy, warm and welcoming, this traditional old English pub is the ideal place for a roast lunch or a few drinks in a wonderful atmosphere. This dog-friendly place to eat in Swanage boasts original beams and a wood burner which all add to the ambience, the fire a perfect addition in the winter, and the hearty food on offer at the Black Swan Inn varies from homemade beef burger to Moroccan tagine.

Why your dog will love it: It’s the perfect place to curl up under the table for an after-walkies snooze.

Tawnys Wine Bar

Tawnys Wine Bar dog-friendly resturant in Swanage

Best dog-friendly restaurant: Another homely bar offering a relaxing space to dine and catch up with family and friends, Tawny’s Wine Bar serves a variety of well-researched wines, from aromatic mediums to dry whites, alongside select beers. Their menu at this dog-friendly restaurant in Swanage includes such mouth-watering dishes as beef bourguignon, homemade veggie shepherd’s pie with goats cheese mash, and homemade meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.

Why your dog will love it: If there happen to be any titbits leftover, we’ve no doubt your canine companion will happily wolf down this quality grub.

Love Cake

Love Cake dog-friendly cafe in Swanage

Best dog-friendly cafe: For lighter fayre, stop off at Love Cake and delight in savoury toasties, hot drinks and sugary cakes at this dog-friendly café in Swanage. The café has a ‘shabby chic and cosy interior’ full of stylish and pretty decor. They offer local brews, ciders and cocktails if you fancy a tipple, as well as cream teas too for a small lunch break as you shop and explore Swanage centre. You could even pick up a few treats to take back to your holiday cottage to enjoy.

Why your dog will love it: This is a fun and sociable space so your faithful friend might get a bit of fuss from other diners on a stop in this quaint establishment.

Towns and villages to explore near Swanage

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle for dogs

Best for beauty and tranquillity: Ancient and scenic Corfe Castle is an exquisite village with the iconic old castle ruins towering over it, creating a serene backdrop to your dog-friendly day out. Discover secret corners, 'murder holes' and arrow loops on a dog walk through the grounds of the magical castle ruins, a remarkable site which boats over 1,000 years of history. You can also visit the dog-friendly Corfe Castle Model Village and Gardens while there, and drop by pet-friendly pubs for a much-deserved warming meal.

Why your dog will love it: There’s plenty to see and do, your faithful friend will be all tired out after a day exploring Corfe Castle.


Tyneham for dogs

Best village for discovering the past: Mystery and intrigue await at this curious ghost village hidden in the lush hillside of the Jurassic Coast. It was evacuated in 1943 when it was needed for training troops during the war effort, and the residents were never able to return. The buildings have been left to crumble although you can enter the restored Church and School buildings to see exhibits about the village and the people who lived there. During a trip, you may like to venture down to Worbarrow Bay, a dog-friendly cove that’s about a mile’s walk from the village.

Why your dog will love it: There are plenty of secret corners and places to discover as you wander around this old site, do be careful though and keep an eye on your pup as some parts of the village are closed due to safety concerns.

Poole and Bournemouth

Poole and Bournemouth

Best places for lively days exploring: The closest town to Swanage, at 19 miles away, is Poole while Bournemouth sits right next door offering a wealth of places of interest, dog-friendly places to eat, and high street stores to peruse on a visit. For an even shorter trip, a ferry crosses between Studland and the unique sandy spit that is Sandbanks, a novel way to travel during your holiday. Visit Poole Park, Compton Acres, or Bournemouth Parks Lower Gardens on your trip across Poole Harbour.

Why your dog will love it: There’s plenty to see and sniff out in these two busy hubs full of attractions and people bustling about. 

Dog-friendly holidays in Swanage

Bay Watch (top), Stafford House - Swanage (bottom left), Little Steppes (bottom right)

Retreat to this beautiful destination on a Swanage holiday with the dogs, and enjoy an unforgettable adventure. To delve deeper into this exquisite region, read through our guide to Dorset.

Pet-friendly Swanage is a fantastic choice for a getaway, and we have a delightful selection of cosy cottages for dogs and their owners to unwind in on your next break. Enjoy browsing through our paw-friendly escapes.

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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