Slow Travel With A Dog: Apply These Principles for a Relaxing Holiday

slow travel with a dog

Take a deep breath and press ‘paws’. 2024 is the year to escape the daily grind and slow down on holiday with your dog. Ditch the mighty bucket list packed with things to do with your four-legged friend, and let your holiday plans unfold mindfully and spontaneously.

Welcome to the art of slow travel with your dog: Meaningful travel that connects you more deeply to landscapes, cultures, people and pets.

So, how do you do ‘Slow Travel’?

Slow Travel is the opposite of heading off with a list of experiences and activities to tick off. It’s all about exploring at a slower pace dictated by mood, nature and your surroundings. And your dog is the perfect companion with which to do just that.

It is “to travel lightly and adventurously,” says Jo Tinsley, author of The Slow Traveller: An Intentional Path to Mindful Adventures.

So, here’s how to slip into the slow travel mindset on your next holiday with your dog.

Be Spontaneous

Time off is precious, so it’s tempting to pre-plan every minute of your holiday to pack in as many dog-friendly adventures as possible. But slow travel is all about discarding the tick list and giving yourself the time and freedom to live in the moment.

It’s fine to plan a few dog-friendly day trips in the area you’re visiting, or to have an idea of some of the places you might want to explore with your pooch, but give yourself the breathing space to be spontaneous.

Dog walking in the Lake District

You might wake up to a glowing sunrise and decide to hike up the nearest peak, or ditch your plans for a busy day to sniff out the local paw-friendly coffee shops. Once you’re out on an adventure, you could veer from your designated walking trail to make a pit stop at a dog-friendly inn, or detour to a secret cove. With your four-legged friend at your side, it’s a fantastic opportunity to swap your phone for a map and let the terrain and scenery dictate where you roam.

Some of the most memorable adventures are the spontaneous ones that lead us to unexpected destinations – and the journey there is as much a part of the experience as the end destination.

Pad Along to Nature’s Rhythm

Ditch routines and the restrictions of conventional time, and let the daylight, weather and surroundings shape your adventures with your dog. Step out into landscapes under the glow of sunrise and sunset, hit the beaches on the lowest tides when you can make the first set of paw prints in the sand, and change your course to find shelter in cosy, pooch-friendly pubs when the storm clouds scud in.

paw prints in the sand

When the moon is full, set out on foot after sunset to experience the eerie glow of the woodland and meadows, and on the darkest nights, wrap up warm to experience starry skies and meteor showers.

Ditch the Car

Taking a holiday with your dog is a great opportunity to ditch the car, slow down and explore your surroundings on foot or by bike. It’s also a great way to exercise and have fun with your canine companion, so why not take the time to tackle well-known cycle routes such as the Tarka Trail, Camel Trail or the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway?

dog travelling by bike

Alternatively, set out along National Trails, coastal paths or mountain passes. Travelling at your own pace means you can pause for pictures, picnics and ‘wow’ moments at your leisure, make the most of dog-friendly attractions you find en route, and change course according to whichever route or path takes your fancy.

Travel on Local Transport

While a car is convenient for getting from A to B with your dog, it’s more environmentally friendly – and often more scenic – to use local buses, trains and ferries that welcome dogs onboard.

Mix walking with wonderful views from your window seat, on an old-fashioned steam train ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway between Whitby and Pickering, along which Harry Potter fans will recognise Goathland Station, which became Hogsmeade in the first film. Slow down into the Victorian pace of life when you climb aboard the heritage Bluebell Railway in Sussex, or why not take a fast train from London to Margate for a nostalgic day out at the seaside?

Boat-trip-with-dog-at-Lake-Coniston

Dogs are welcome on scenic bus journeys throughout the UK too, including Cornwall‘s Atlantic Coaster, from which you can get a gull’s eye view of the coast from an open-topped double-decker. You can even slow travel through cities such as London, Edinburgh and Glasgow on a dog-friendly bus tour.

Ferries can also be a great way to slow down and enjoy the scenery, with plenty of stunning routes to choose from. Perhaps our favourite location to drink in the scenery by foot and boat is the sublime Lake District, where Windermere Lake Cruises welcomes dogs aboard all of its trips. You can also explore Cornwall’s Carrick Roads aboard Fal River ferries, and take the chain ferry from Poole to the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset.

Explore Under Paddle Power

If you and your dog love the water, paddle-powered adventures are the perfect way to slow down and experience your surroundings at your own pace. Enjoy a kayaking expedition along Cornwall’s Fowey River, or why not feel the wind in your sails and cast away from Salcombe by yacht?

Man kayaking with a dog on board

Paddleboarding is one of the UK’s fastest-growing watersports, and taking your pooch aboard on flat water is relatively easy. Whether you choose to paddleboard along the coast of the Isle of Wight or explore the far reaches of Scotland, just make sure you use a doggie life jacket and include plenty of hopping-off spots for your pet.

Sample Slow Food

One of the finest elements of slow travel is the food. Never has it been more important to care about the provenance of what we eat, and there are more places than ever beckoning us to slow down and fuel up on local produce in pooch-friendly eateries, farm shops and delis.

Tuck into the finest Northumbrian produce and browse local artworks at the dog-friendly Rocking Horse Cafe & Gallery in Alnwick, during a dog-friendly holiday in Northumberland. Or, if you find yourself in West Sussex, sample the most succulent, sustainable, organic meats from the family farm at Farmer, Butcher, Chef in Goodwood.

slow food dog

Whether you’re staying beside the coast or tucked away in the countryside, seek out the menus stacked with local ingredients plucked from the soil and sea, as well as tipples made from nearby orchards, vineyards and breweries. Many local taprooms welcome your waggy-tailed friends, and at BrewDog’s craft beer paradise in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, your dog can join you at the beer school, library, museum and bars.

Ready to book your slow travel holiday with your dog?

Ditch your bucket list and book any of our incredible dog-friendly cottages where you can slow down and live in the moment with your canine companion.

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