Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A jolly dog-friendly holiday in Pembrokeshire

Last week we piled the dogs into the car and headed off to explore the delights of Pembrokeshire in Wales.

Fargo, Billy and Stanley are old hands at holidays, but this was the first time Oscar the Lurcher had joined us. Oscar is a young dog who we adopted at the beginning of June from Southern Lurcher Rescue. A lot of the experiences would be new to him, so I planned to keep a close watch on him to make sure he behaved himself. I needn’t have worried though, he was a star from start to finish and he really enjoyed himself.

A growing number of holiday cottages welcome one or two dogs, but it’s still difficult to find one that will welcome four. We stayed at the Old Cowshed, a little cottage with a big garden in the village of Woodstock. It’s inland and quite isolated, but still within easy reach of Pembrokeshire’s lovely coast, so it was perfect both as a base for exploring the whole area and as a lovely, chilled-out place to come back to. We booked it through Coastal Cottages, which focuses entirely on Pembrokeshire and has a wealth of knowledge about dog-friendly holidays. They even sent us a booklet of good dog walks in the area.

Our travels took us to various beaches including Barafundle Bay, where a shipwreck scene was being filmed for TV. A small part of the beach was taken up with actresses in period costume lying in the sea (I didn’t envy them), and the beach was quite busy with spectators so we headed off for a lovely walk around the headland before stopping off for a drink at the Stackpole Inn nearby. 

We also visited Saundersfoot and walked through the old railway tunnels to Wisemans Bridge, where Winston Churchill watched troops practising for the D-Day landings in 1943.

We didn’t get to all the beaches in the area, but our favourite one so far is at Newgale – also popular with other dog-families, judging by the comments in the visitors’ book at the cottage. This being September, part of the beach still had dog restrictions in place, but there was plenty of room for us and we had a whale of a time. All the dogs enjoyed racing about on the sand and Oscar, who generally doesn’t care to step in water, developed a great love for paddling in the sea. We went back to Newgale a couple of times and I can’t wait to visit it again.

About five miles up the coast from Newgale is the beautiful village of Solva, where we found a very dog-friendly pub (the Harbour Inn) and restaurant (ThirtyFive - also a B&B) overlooking the harbour. Solva isn’t a very big village, but it expands as soon as you go for a walk around the harbour. Everywhere we looked we found more paths to explore and we enjoyed looking around the old lime kilns by the beach.

Pembrokeshire is known for its ancient castles, many of which allow dogs in. Carew Castle gave us plenty to explore, with its spiral staircases leading to magnificent views from the turrets. Our ticket included entry to the old mill too, where we learned all about flour milling. Like many dogs, Fargo wasn’t sure about the open-tread stairs in the mill, but he’s a brave dog and he soon learned to handle them.

We finished our adventures with a welcome pint at the Carew Inn across the road. 

The weather was warm all week and sunny for most of it, so Fargo coped well with his adventures. But he does have arthritis in his hip, so we limited the castle visits to one and the next day took it easy on him with another trip to the firm, flat sands at Newgale where he enjoyed a more sedate walk around the rocks and caves. 

The beauty of Pembrokeshire is that there’s plenty of opportunity to tailor your activities to the weather, your dog's arthritis or your own whims. You can walk all day up hill and down dale, or you can take it easy with shorter walks, for example around the old fort at Fishguard.

It was such a brilliant holiday we really didn’t want to come home at the end of the week. There's so much to do with dogs in Pembrokeshire that we barely scratched the surface. It's a perfect place for holidays with dogs and we're already planning a return trip for next year.