Sussex is home to many dog lovers and I’m often found bimbling about with one of my hounds. What finer way to while away the winter than by enjoying the wonderful Sussex countryside and sampling local hospitality with our four-legged friends. And with more and more hotels, pubs and cafés opening their doors to dogs, there is some great walking to be done.
South Downs National Park
What better place to start than the glorious South Downs AKA dog walking heaven. Blow away the cobwebs with the many miles of footpaths and conquer steep climbs up to viewpoints like Devil’s Dyke and Cissbury Ring. In fact, you could walk from South Harting (near Petersfield) all the way to just north of Shoreham and beyond on the South Downs Way.
For those with dogs that struggle with stiles, there is a series of “Miles without Stiles” routes, which are also marked in respect of ease of gradient for wheelchair or pushchair users. And as you’d expect, there are lots of dog-friendly pubs along the way like The Blue Bell in Cocking. Or if you want to make a weekend of walking, Park House Hotel and Spa near Midhurst welcome “well-behaved dogs” into the hotel and the White Hart at South Harting told us “We love dogs! We allow them in our bar side of the pub for dining and drinks and also in our overnight accommodation for a small pet charge“.
Goodwood House, Westhampnett
Glorious Goodwood is famed for its Festival of Speed, but it also offers a taste of indulgence for you and your four-legged friend. There are a number of stunning walks across the estate which include fields, woodland and views of the racecourse. The estate welcomes dogs at The Kennels and there’s even a dog membership available to dogs whose owners have Goodwood Club membership. Goodwood also has dog-friendly hotel rooms, with a comfy dog bed and treats, and dogs are welcome in the restaurants and on both of the golf courses.
Such is their love of our four-legged friends, that on the 7 November, dog owners and their families have been invited to take their pets on the historic 2.4-mile Goodwood motor circuit track, in aid of the estate’s chosen charity Canine Partners UK. Canine Partners train assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities. There will be entertainment and the opportunity to learn more about the work of Canine Partners with a suggested donation of £10 per dog. What a great way to see the Goodwood track!
Ferring beach and the Blue Bird Café, Ferring
Ferring beach, just outside Worthing, is one of Sussex’s hidden gems. Visit at low tide and enjoy mile after mile of sandy beach and on a fine day, far-reaching views of the coastline. Then finish off your early morning beach walk, with a full English breakfast, in the dog-friendly Bluebird Café. There is free parking, and do check tide times before you travel to ensure plenty of beach.
The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton
Seven miles north of Chichester, this 40-acre open-air museum recreates the lives of ordinary people dating back over the last 950 years. Dogs are welcome and can enter all of the museum’s buildings with the exception of the watermill and Winkhurst Tudor kitchen, where food is prepared.
St Leonard’s Forest, Horsham
Part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and just east of Horsham, St Leonard’s Forest is famed for dragons, a hermit and an Indian princess. There are dozens of footpaths across the forest which is dog friendly, and again, you could actually keep going and follow the High Weald Landscape Trail all the way from here to Cuckfield and then on into East Sussex and all the way to Rye! The refurbished and aptly named Dragon pub at Colgate on the edge of the forest is also dog friendly when refreshment is required.
Another of my favourite spots, there is ample parking at Ardingly Reservoir and the option of short or long walks. There is the well-signed Kingfisher trail for short hikes or try a long walk that will take you past the famous Viaduct, across the Balcombe Estate and up to the edge of Wakehurst Place. For a meal or refreshments, I always head to The Gardeners Arms (just past the main entrance to the showground – lots of dog events held there too), not least because it was partly home to my misspent youth!
Borde Hill Gardens, Haywards Heath
Borde Hill just outside Haywards Heath is a stunning English Heritage Garden and Parkland. The more formal gardens are known for their “living garden rooms” and stunning views and there are also 200 acres of woodland and parkland to discover. You are asked to keep your dog on a lead and they’re not allowed inside the café or restaurant but you could head into nearby Cuckfield where you can book a dog-friendly table at the Rose and Crown.
Petworth Park, Petworth
Petworth Park is a National Trust property with 700 acres and dogs are welcome. There is a large herd of deer at the park, so you do need to be vigilant. Although dogs are not allowed in the Pleasure Grounds, Servants Quarters or House, the beautiful grounds more than make up for this and there is a very high chance of spotting the deer as you walk.
One of my favourites, if most unusual, walks of the year was around Thorney Island which is dog friendly even if you do have to stick to the footpath. It’s about 12 km but nice and flat, and when you’re back, The Travellers’ Joy pub at nearby Nutbourne which dates back to the 14th and 17th centuries, is dog friendly.
Parham Estate, Pulborough
Described as one of the country’s finest Elizabethan houses, Parham House dates back to 1577. It sits in majestic gardens and has 875 acres of working park and woodland known for its rare wildlife. There’s a footpath across the estate and dogs are welcome in the gardens and Pleasure Grounds as well as outside at the Mower Shed and Big Kitchen restaurants. The footpath starts at the Main Lodge Gate and although dogs do need to be kept on a lead, it’s still a wonderful chance to enjoy a glimpse of times gone by.
Cowdray Estate, Midhurst
This magnificent country house with its Tudor ruins and estate dates back to the 1500s. With a delightful café and farm shop (dogs are welcome outside and dog friendly treats are available), the vast estate includes rivers, lakes and woodland. Some of the estate’s cottage accommodation is also dog friendly. The estate is within the South Downs, has some panoramic views and is home to one of the oldest oak trees in England.
Well, that should keep you and your dawgs busy for a while, and rest assured, I’ll be out and about in East Sussex soon, exploring the best dog walks round there.