Alum Chine, Bournemouth
A blue flag beach that’s fantastic for families – and dogs are welcome all year from the area by the beach office up to the border with Poole’s first beach, Branksome Chine. Take an hour away from the beach to visit the re-opened Bobby & Co department store, home of Drool, the first food hall devoted entirely to dogs. Pick up fish and chip-flavour dog treats, cherry barkwells or one of the extraordinary doggie gateaux. For human culinary treats, Chineside is set above the beach, with dog-friendly terraces and a nice line in burgers and local fish.
Saunton Sands, Devon
A vast sprawl of a beach that’s as welcoming to dog-owners as it is surfers, paddleboarders and the families who come for the safe, shallow waters and sugar-soft sand. The only part of the three-mile beach that isn’t dog-friendly is the small strip to the right of the slipway that leads to the beach. If your dog isn’t good with crowds (and Saunton does get busy) there’s a well-marked trail leading through the dunes that brings you out further down the beach. The beach has its own surf-hire shop, beachside grill and dog-friendly beach villas, available to rent (sauntonbeach.info).
Rhossili Bay, Swansea
Until you’ve walked on Rhossili, it’s impossible to truly understand the scale of this behemoth of a beach. Lead-free dog walking is welcomed all year and the sheer scale of the sands means it never feels crowded. At low tide, the sea rolls back to reveal the Worm’s Head – a small island that can be accessed for about two hours either side of low tide. It’s quite a steep climb down to the beach – fuel up beforehand at the Bay Bistro, perched on the headland above, with spectacular views. Dogs are welcome in the garden, but must be kept on a lead.
A long arc of golden sand stretching out from the village of Golspie. Dogs are welcome all year. A beach car park gives easy access and there are panoramic views of the Moray Firth. Back in the village, the Golspie Inn is a cosy hotel, bar and restaurant; dogs are welcome everywhere, including as overnight guests (£10). Besides the beach, there are plenty of lovely inland walks, too.
Vast skies and a seemingly infinite horizon characterise this wide expanse of the north Norfolk coast. This year, a new zoning scheme has been introduced to protect the birds who nest close to the beach; 70% remains free to roam, while the central “Holkham gap” area requires dogs to be on leads between April and September.
One of the only beaches on the Sefton coast where dogs can run free all year, Formby is a gorgeous swathe of sand, rolling out from a wave of low dunes and lush woodland. Self-filling water bowls can be found in the picnic areas. The only place dogs are not allowed to run free is the squirrel walk, named after the red squirrels who live in the trees. A short walk behind the beach on Victoria Road, Kitty’s Tea Room is a dog-friendly café, serving up hearty breakfasts, homemade cakes and excellent coffee.
Watergate Bay, Cornwall
Beloved by surfers and sandcastle-builders, Watergate is also a great choice for dog-owners, with two miles of free-to-roam sand. Time your walk for low tide if you want to give your dog a really good run, or go early in the morning, when only a handful of serious surfers will be out. The beach hut, a chic eaterie right on the sand, is a great spot for breakfast, with dogs welcome inside and out, while the Watergate Bay Hotel, set directly above the beach, allows two dogs per bedroom, with hounds welcome in the living space, restaurant and bar.
Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire
Restriction-free all year round, Robin Hood’s Bay has a backdrop of craggy cliffs and a long sweep of sand that’s ideal for dogs who want to really run free. When the tide goes out, the beach is dotted with rock pools. The fishing village of the same name opens out on to the beach and is dotted with dog-friendly cafés and pubs; the Bay Hotel, right on the waterfront, welcomes both owners and their dogs – on cold days, the firelit lounge is a delight.
Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire
It’s all about the tides at Marloes Sands – a stunning, National Trust-owned beach that disappears at high tide. When the waters recede, however, it offers shallow waters and soft sand for dogs to play on (the beach is restriction-free all year). It’s also a great spot for bird watching. Once you’ve had your fill of beachy pleasures, head to the Lobster Pot Inn in the village, where dogs are as welcome as their owners.
Seacliff, East Lothian
A hidden gem at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, Seacliff beach is privately owned, meaning it comes with a small admission charge (£3) to access the track leading to the car park. Worth every penny, the beach is dog-friendly all year, with plenty of rock pools to explore at low tide and spectacular views of Tantallon Castle. Tucked away down a rough road from Auldhame, it’s under-the-radar nature means it never gets very busy, so it’s ideal for dogs who aren’t good with crowds. There are plenty of cafés and pubs in North Berwick, three miles away.