How dog friendly are Britain's National Trails?

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One reader asks whether some trails in Britain are better than others for dog walkers.

Q How dog friendly are Britain’s national trails and are some better than others for dog walkers?

Michael Askew, County Durham.

Stephen says: Much depends on what you mean by ‘dog friendly’. 

All national trails in England and Wales are open for walkers with dogs, although you may find some small diversions and on-lead sections at sensitive times for wildlife.

Sections of the trails, especially in upland areas (like the Pennine Way), are grazed by farm animals, so dogs often need to be on a lead (but release them if threatened by cattle).

There’s far less exposure to farm animals on the many coastal trails and the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and so these are better for off-lead walks especially along beaches. However, dogs are best on-lead near cliffs for safety reasons. 

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Ladder stiles can be difficult for people and dogs to negotiate.

The Ridgeway and Pennine Bridleway also have much less walking through fields with livestock, as they often run along mostly traffic-free walled lanes, but you are more likely to meet cyclists and horse riders.

Also consider how agile you are, as some routes, notably the Hadrian’s Wall Path, have lots of ladder stiles that can be hard to get over. 

The national trails website (www.nationaltrail.co.uk) also suggests the best options based on your preferred landscapes and walking distances. There are pre-planned itineraries, completion certificates (personalise them with your dog’s name), and details of accommodation and other support services. The related trails shop (www.thetrailsshop.co.uk) makes it easy to purchase all the maps and guidebooks for your chosen route.

As you are in the north of England, also consider Scotland’s long-distance routes where dogs are also allowed: www.scotlandsgreattrails.com