Take a river cruise through storybook hamlets, admire snowdrops in a rococo garden or let your four-legged friend run free through the North Wessex Downs at these scenic and storied destinations.
Planning a getaway when you have a pet to consider isn’t easy, especially when you’re reluctant to leave your pup behind. But you can still explore some of the best countryside England has to offer while staying within striking distance of major Great Western Railway train stations. Up to two dogs per passenger travel free with GWR, so you can relax and leave the logistics to us with this list of easy, dog-friendly trips that you’ll love just as much as your pooch.
Broughton Castle is a fortified manor surrounded by an impressive moat and walled gardens brimming with roses. The original house was built in the 1300s and has survived through medieval sieges, the scandals of Regency-era high society and 21st-century film sets (it has been featured in classics like Shakespeare in Love). Dogs aren’t allowed inside the house, but it’s still worth visiting for a stroll through the dreamy gardens, especially in summer when they are in full bloom. It’s a ten-minute taxi journey from Banbury station, and if you want to make a long weekend of it, stay at The Castle at Edgehill. It has unbeatable views over Warwickshire, a pub with a seasonal menu and two dog-friendly rooms. You’ll need to bring your own dog bedding, but your four-legged friend will be treated to a welcome chew.
Spend a tranquil morning or afternoon walking around Thrupp Lake, a wetland reserve that’s equally beautiful throughout the seasons. In autumn, colourful foliage and misty waters make for an atmospheric setting, and in spring and summer the landscape is teeming with wetland birds. It’s a leisurely 20-minute walk through Radley village and into the countryside to get there, and the one-mile (1.6-km) loop around the lake is the most peaceful for miles around. Also within easy reach of the train station, Millets Farm Centre is only a 20-minute taxi drive away and encompasses a wood and wetland nature trail, restaurant, cafe and garden centre – all of which welcome dogs on leads in the outdoor spaces. Think you have a particularly pretty pooch? Enter them into the annual Millets Farm Family Dog Show where they can show off everything from their biscuit-catching skills to their smartest pet threads.
The ornate pastel-coloured facades and curvy mazes of Painswick Rococo Garden create a unique setting for an afternoon in the Cotswolds, a short bus or taxi ride from Stroud train station. Stop for a light lunch or alfresco coffee at the cafe in the old coach house, or visit in February to see the snowdrops at their peak before warming chilly hands and paws beside the cafe’s wood burning stove. If you’d rather explore the waterways around Stroud, Cotswold Canals Trust runs scenic boat trips from Ebley, a five-minute taxi ride or 30-minute walk from Stroud train station. Board with a picnic and cruise past hamlets, historic churches and unspoilt countryside. Back on dry land explore Stroud and the canal corridor of the Golden Valley further with two trail maps developed in partnership with Gloucestershire Community Rail Partnership. Choose the Walking and Cycling map, which includes a canal rail trail, or the Food and Farms map to explore local produce from Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds.
On arrival at Oxford Station make a beeline for Christ Church Meadow Walk, a beautiful historic space in the heart of the city. A loop of the meadow will take you 30-40 minutes, and lead you and your canine companion through the War Memorial and Rose Garden, along Dead Man’s Walk, over Jubilee Bridge and around Boathouse Island back to Christ Church College. The pathways are well maintained and there’s a small shop and the Longhorn Cafe at the end at which to reward yourself with baguette, cake, coffee or glass of wine depending on how well you think you’ve done.
The Lambourn Valley Way walking trail runs roughly 20mi (32km) across the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but some of the highlights are to be found around the start of the trail in Newbury. The 14th-century Donnington Castle is on the route and is just 2mi (3.2km) from Newbury train station. Make the walk as long or short as you’d like, then rest up at the Lock Stock & Barrel pub in the centre of Newbury. It’s the perfect place for lunch, not least for its pup-friendly policy (water and dog biscuits are available) and adorable resident dog, Belle. Its outdoor terrace is right on the edge of the River Kennet, and its menu includes dishes like Dorset lamb with burnt aubergine and fregola salad, and tea and hop smoked haddock fish pie.
Save a third with a railcard. Find out more and book your next adventure at GWR.com, on the GWR app, or at a train station.