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The UK

Walks

The UK's best woods and forests to explore with your dog

Clare Willcocks 22 June 2021

The phrase ‘shinrin yoku’ describes the Japanese practice of forest bathing; the simple act of being in nature, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of the woodland around you. It’s all about slowing down and finding solace in your leafy surroundings - noticing little things, like the subtle differences in the green hues of the trees, or the texture of bark beneath your fingertips.

two dogs bounding through a forest

Connecting with nature calms and relaxes you, and no doubt your four-legged friend loves a good forest frolic too. Luckily, in the United Kingdom, we have no shortage of green, woodland areas to explore, from sprawling ancient forests dotted with 500-year-old trees, to tiny copses providing escapism amidst an urban jungle.

female owner cuddling her dog in a forest, dressed in autumnal clothing

Steeped in interesting smells and criss-crossed with walking routes aplenty, there’s nothing more enticing for the adventurous pup than a new woodland to explore. And if you’re looking to head off on a dog-friendly break to enjoy walkies in one of the places we mention, why not check out our collection of dog-friendly cottages?


We’ve rounded up some of the most wonderful woodlands in the UK to enjoy with your canine pal, so if you’re looking for dog-friendly forest walks or hunting for the perfect woods for dog walking, read on for our top picks.

Did someone say squirrel?

Run on ahead:

Dog-friendly forests in Scotland

waterfall in Uig Wood

Uig Wood, Isle of Skye

On the enchanting Isle of Skye, amongst the idyllic scenery of the Trotternish Peninsula, lies equally captivating Uig Wood. The trees line the steep-sided ravines of the valleys of the Rha and Conon rivers as they tumble down towards the sea, and the woodland continues along the shore of Uig Bay.

In a place where woodlands are few and far between, it is a refreshing haven for a walk with your four-legged friend, with three waymarked trails to choose from. Choose the Rha Glen Ramble along the ridge of the ravine, and descend the steps to view the crashing waterfall. Or opt for the mellower Shore Wood Wander along a well surfaced path. The third route is the Conon Glen walk: a short, 120-metre ramble to see the river and old weir. As you amble along the various woodland paths you’ll be able to observe a whole range of flora and fauna, from the beautiful broadleaved trees themselves to the intriguing lichens, of which 142 have been recorded!

With three short routes to choose from, Uig Wood is the perfect choice for a pup who enjoys an adventure but doesn’t like to be out for too long! 

Stay nearby: Sealladh Beinn Edra | Sleeps 1 dog and 4 humans

Reflections in Barnluasgan Loch

Knapdale Forests, Argyll and Bute

There is choice in abundance when it comes to woodland dog walks in the beautiful forests of Knapdale in Argyll and Bute on the west coast of Scotland. Amble through wonderful scenery, taking in loch, canal and even sea views. The Information Centre for the area is found in Barnluasgan, which incidentally is the perfect spot to start your explorations.

If you’ve come here for dog-friendly forests, we’re afraid that the woodland itself is going to take a back seat for a while. As captivating as the Atlantic oakwoods and views of Knapdale Forest are, they’re somewhat overshadowed by the families of beavers who call Barnluasgan Loch their home.

Coinciding with the best time for walkies, the best time to see these shy little creatures is at dawn or dusk. If you’re not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the beavers themselves, keep an eye out for signs of their activity along your walk. From stores of branches and gnawed stumps to beaver-engineered wetlands, you’re sure to find evidence of their presence.

Bringing the focus back to woodland dog walks, when you’re done wildlife watching, head off on the Barnluasgan Oakwood Trail to ogle wonderful ancient oaks and birches and enjoy views of the glittering lochs.

If pounding the peaceful walking trails isn’t enough of a draw, the chance to come face to face with another furry critter is sure to get your dog’s tail wagging! Just make sure they’re not about to dash off and disturb the beavers. 

Stay nearby: Slate Cottage | Sleeps 2 dogs and 2 humans

Galloway Forest Park

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of dog-friendly forest walks in the epic, 300-square-mile Galloway Forest Park in Dumfries and Galloway. Mountain hikes, gentle lochside strolls, awe-inspiring views and a whole heap of history make this an interesting place to walk your pup!

There are lots of waymarked trails to choose from, so pick one which suits you and your dog’s capabilities or energy levels on the day you visit! Kirroughtree is home to the forest’s Visitor Centre, and with a play park, bike tracks and café, it’s a good starting point for families.

If you’re up for spotting wildlife on your walk, head for the Wild Goat Park or The Red Deer Range, both of which you can take in along the Queen’s Way. The Loch Trool Loop is a glorious woodland walk around the loch, while the Water of Trool Trail spoils you with sights such as Spout Head Waterfall and the Martyr’s Tomb.

During your visit, keep your eye out for red kites, red squirrels and an abundance of other forest dwellers which hide out in the undergrowth. There is signage for dog owners at different times of the year and you may prefer to keep them on a lead if they’re prone to disappearing in pursuit of wildlife!

With a choice of routes, there’s something for every dog, from sprightly pups to old hounds. The 10-mile Raiders’ Road is a popular route amongst locals; take a picnic to enjoy at The Otter Pool beside the River Dee.

Stay nearby: Professors Cottage | Sleeps 1 dog and 2 humans

Tay Forest Park, Perthshire

This magnificent and varied park encompasses an astoundingly beautiful slice of Highland Perthshire near Pitlochry, a land where trees tower to dizzying heights, hillforts stud the dramatic landscape and the footsteps of centuries of visitors echo amongst the trees.

A good place to kick off your explorations is the Queen’s View Visitor Centre, where you can plan your walkies while enjoying the views of Loch Tummel alongside your pup.

In an article about forest dog walks, it would be remiss to not mention the rich woodland of Faskally. Created by the owners of Faskally House in the 19th century, there’s an incredible array of tree species to admire, set within the beautiful surroundings of lochs Dunmore and Faskally.

Other parts of Tay Forest Park to explore include Carie, with its ancient Scots pine, Douglas firs, Norway spruce and oaks (where better to practice shinrin yoku?); Grandtully, awash with conifers, juniper and birch, with an Iron Age hill fort and views of the River Tay; and Allean and Weem, the latter home to the holy well of St. David’s. There are wheelchair-friendly walks at Queen’s View and Faskally.

Why choose Tay Forest Park? Any trip which combines water (lochs), woodland and walkies is a good day in your dog’s book!

Stay nearby: 4 Viewbank Gardens | Sleeps 2 dogs and 3 humans

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Another generous helping of dazzling lochs, tree-draped hills and austere mountains await at Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre is the place to head to gen up on which trail you’d like to tackle with your dog, and grab a coffee while you decide. You can even linger a while at the wildlife hide to get to know the local fauna, or get going to start your forest adventure.

From the ancient oakwoods of East Loch Lomond to the peaceful woodland trails at Aberfoyle, there are days and days of walking and cycling routes to enjoy. At Loch Ard, try and spot the wildlife sculptures, and at Loch Katrine you can even spice up your day with a dog-friendly steamer cruise.

If you’re not feeling active, or if long walks just aren’t for you, then head off on the Three Lochs Forest Drive which has viewpoints and stops for strolls along the way. Wonder at the sound installations on the Little Drunkie Trail, absorb the peace and quiet of the oak woodlands on the Loch Drunkie Trail, or take things to new heights on the Pine Ridge Trail for views across the loch. The Three Lochs Drive is open March to October and there is a small charge for vehicles.

With such variety to enjoy, and oodles of dog-friendly forest walks, this one’s sure to be a hit with any discerning dog!

Stay nearby: The Steading – Balfron Station | Sleeps 2 dogs and 6 humans

Dog-friendly forests in England

Symonds Yat

Symonds Yat, Herefordshire

Symonds Yat in Herefordshire is most famous for its outstanding views over the River Wye, but it’s earnt its place in our list of dog-friendly woods due to its wonderful woodland trails.

Six routes meander through the forest, taking in sights such as an Iron Age Fort, and of course, the iconic viewpoint. Ranging in length from a 35-minute circular walk to a 5-hour ramble which includes a ferry crossing over the river, you’ll find a trail to fit your itinerary.

When you’re up at the viewpoint, scan the skies for peregrine falcons, sparrowhawks, goshawks buzzards and ospreys.

The car parks and viewpoints can get very busy, but head into the forest and you’ll find sanctuary amongst the trees.

Stay nearby: Poplands | Sleeps 2 dogs and 8 humans

Man walking his dog through the New Forest

The New Forest, Hampshire

A natural area like no other, The New Forest in Hampshire encompasses ancient woodland, vast moorland, heathland and even clifftop trails. Wandering through the various landscapes, you’ll encounter free-range cows, donkeys, deer and the famous ponies.

When it comes to picking out a route to explore with your dog, you truly will be spoilt for choice. The New Forest website features 40 walks in the area, many of them making the most of the idyllic woodland scenery.

It’s hard to pin down a favourite walk, but the Bolderwood: Radnor Trail is a good choice if you’d like to spot some of the resident deer. Families will enjoy the Reptile Centre Discovery Trail, which is a circular, sensory route through the woods.

Perhaps the best walk for appreciating the woodland itself is the Blackwater: Tall Trees Trail. Set off on the 1.4-mile walk with your pooch through the Blackwater Arboretum, learning extreme tree facts from the sensory information boards. Ogle some of Britain’s oldest Douglas fir trees and the astounding redwoods.

While you look up, your dog will be more than content with their snout down, sniffing out all the interesting smells on the forest floor!

Stay nearby: Clare’s Cottage | Sleeps 2 dogs and 2 humans

Kielder Forest

Kielder Forest and Water Park, Northumberland

Cyclists, ramblers, outdoor enthusiasts and dog walkers are enticed by this paradise of lakeside forest, fascinating art and architecture, and mesmerising starscapes on dark nights. There are opportunities aplenty to spot wildlife, including the ospreys which are bred in Kielder Forest; salmon, which you can learn about at the Kielder Salmon Centre; and a plethora of birds and animals.

Kielder Forest in Northumberland is more than just a woodland to walk through, there are numerous ways to add interest to your visit. While dogs will be happy to follow your lead, other family members might enjoy giving their brains a workout on a hunt for the Wild at Kielder geocaches which are hidden around the park.

Lovers of art and architecture will be delighted by the wonderful collection of pieces dotted around the lake and throughout the forest. Works such as the mirrored ‘Kielder Belvedere’; light sculpture, ‘Kielder Skyspace’; and camera obscura, ‘Wave Chamber’ invite you to engage with the landscape in different ways.

Whether you are seduced by sculptures or fall in love with the lake itself, this is one of the most interesting woods for dog walking on our list!

Stay nearby: Kielder Kip House | Sleeps 3 dogs and 6 humans

River running through Grizedale Forest

Grizedale Forest, Lake District

A sprawling mass of trees at the heart of the Lake District, Grizedale Forest is criss-crossed by a network of trails, some short and sweet like the Ridding Wood Trail, others more demanding like the 10-mile Silurian Way.

Punctuating the forested routes are a fascinating selection of sculptures to spot. In fact, there’s plenty to keep families occupied, with a café (seating outside for dog owners), picnic areas and adventure play area for burning off steam. Why not send a couple of members of your family off to tackle the Go Ape course or to explore the forest on two wheels, while you enjoy the serenity of a stroll with your dog?

Stay nearby: The Kennels – Hawkshead | Sleeps 2 dogs and 5 humans

Little white dog in the woodland

Holt Country Park, Norfolk

A leafy haven of 100 acres of mixed woodland lies close to the north coast of Norfolk. Scots pines and broadleaf trees tower above, forming a cooling canopy which is ideal for dog walks on a warm summer’s day. In the winter, the woodland is carpeted with snowdrops, in summer, the orchids steal the show.

While your dog dashes here and there, taking in the exciting new smells, see if you can spot some of nature’s more timid beings, including goldcrests, woodpeckers and even deer.

The Green Flag Award-winning park boasts a number of short trails, from the 0.7-mile Children’s Trail to the 1.8-mile Feature Trail. Events are organised throughout the year, so check to see if there’s anything you and your family would like to get involved with. After stretching your legs, you’ll be pleased to know that Hetty’s Tea Room is dog-friendly and offers a mouthwatering array of cake, coffee and light bites in a gorgeous setting.

Holt Country Park is the perfect choice if you’re looking for dog-friendly woods in Norfolk to visit during your stay.

Stay nearby: Pebble Cottage – Grove Lane | Sleeps 1 dog and 4 humans

Dog-friendly forests in Wales

Swallow Falls Gwydyr Forest

Gwydyr Forest, Snowdonia

An enchanting forest which envelops lakes and mountains, Gwydyr Forest sits at the heart of Snowdonia. It is packed with opportunities for action and adventure, if a leisurely dog walk is just too tame for your group! Steep wooded hills swell from the Conwy Valley, around Betws-y-Coed and beyond.

Studded throughout the forest are vestiges of the area’s industrial heritage, including engine houses and reservoirs which once would have been a hive of activity. With your dog by your side, head out from the village of Betws-y-Coed on your choice of waymarked trails, which include steep, forested climbs, lakeside walks and a sedate boardwalk wander.

Enjoy meandering beneath lofty Douglas firs, leaving the shelter of the canopies to cross pretty upland meadows, admiring river and mountain views, or soaking up the tranquility of Llyn Elsi lake.

If you and your dog share a thirst for adventure, why not try one of the orienteering routes which range in difficulty from ‘medium’ grade to ‘very hard’, for experienced orienteers?

Stay nearby: Min Y Don | Sleeps 2 dogs and 4 humans

Afan Forest Park

Afan Forest Park, Neath Port Talbot

Stretching out along the idyllic Afan Valley in South Wales, Afan Forest Park offers nine waymarked trails to suit visitors of all abilities. Boasting cycle trails, a bike shop, showers and bike wash facilities, it’s a top pick for cycling enthusiasts, but when it comes to dog-friendly forest walks in Wales, it’s also a favourite for our canine pals.

As in Gwydyr Forest, there are remnants of abandoned mines, tramways and railways, which nature has reclaimed and enveloped back into the landscape. If your pooch just needs a morning stroll, set out on the 1.25-mile Old Parish Road Walk, strolling leisurely through the woodlands and glades in the direction of Neath. If you’ve got an energetic pup and you’re feeling ready to tackle a challenge yourself, choose the Gyfylchi Ridgetop Trail which ascends a calf-quaking 250 metres to reward you with breathtaking views.

Whichever trail you choose, your dog is bound to enjoy sniffing out all sorts of scents. Animals such as fallow deer, redstarts, woodpeckers and bats are just some of the resident critters you may be lucky enough to spot!

Stay nearby: Ty Hiraeth | Sleeps 3 dogs and 4 humans

Dog in the woods

Nant yr Arian, Ceredigion

Overlooking a breathtaking Welsh valley, Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre in Ceredigion is the place to head to plan your forest dog walks and learn about the area. Daily feedings of red kites are not to be missed, and children will be kept engaged by the Animal Puzzle Trail with its list of wooden creatures to spot. Free discovery backpacks are available to borrow from the Visitor Centre, containing binoculars, a magnifying glass, a bug pot and nature identification cards.

There are mountain biking routes aplenty for members of your party who want to go and tear round the forest on two wheels, and a skills track to help you polish your technique. If you and your dog enjoy running together, pack the sports gear and head for one of the forest’s running trails which are waymarked from the car park.

When both two legs and four legs are weary from walking, head for the dog-friendly on-site café, which is light and spacious, offering hot and cold snacks and a tantalising array of cakes. After a pit stop, two play areas for toddlers and older children give parents the chance to let their children expend some more energy.

Stay nearby: Spring Barn | Sleeps 2 dogs and 6 humans

Newborough Forest

Newborough Forest, Anglesey

This stunning coastal forest is made up of Corsican pines and is a haven for wildlife and walkers in equal measure. Lying alongside Newborough Warren on Anglesey, it offers the choice of peaceful woodland walks or stunning coastal rambles.

Waymarked trails begin from the Newborough car parks, including the Animal Puzzle Trail which helps children engage with their surroundings as you head off into the forest. The Princes and Pines Heritage Trail takes in a bit of everything, with forested sections, dunes and farmland en route.

As if being surrounded by the sea on Wales’ Isle of Anglesey weren’t enough, there’s also a hidden lake within the forest, with picnic tables on the shore where you can pitch up for a woodland picnic with your pooch. If you can keep your pup’s wanderings to a minimum while you eat, you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive red squirrels as they dash between the trees.

As with the other Welsh woodlands we’ve featured, Newborough Forest also offers bike trails and orienteering opportunities.

Stay nearby: Snowdon View Vineyard | Sleeps 2 dogs and 4 humans

View the UK’s best woods and forests to explore with your dog on a map

That rounds off our list of the UK’s best woods and forests to explore with your dog, though it goes without saying that there are hundreds more where your playful pet will have no end of fun, running for sticks, making new canine pals and sniffing EVERY new smell! 

Find more ideas for walkies in our blog ‘The UK’s best dog walks’ or pack your holiday itinerary with dog-friendly places to visit with the help of our Dog Friendly Index of attractions, beaches and eateries where your dog is welcome too. 

Planning a dog-friendly holiday in the UK has never been easier. Our extensive collection of dog-friendly cottages makes finding the perfect place a breeze. Tap the button below to view them all now.

 

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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