Dog Days: The Best Kentish Places to Explore with your Pooch
Greet January by giving it some gusto! Get outside, embrace the fresh winter air and enjoy some of Kent’s most breathtaking landscapes with man’s best friend – your dog.
They’ve always been your loudest cheerleader and most supportive confidant, loving you no matter what and completely unconditionally. This makes your four-legged friend the perfect partner to take with you on adventures during what is said to be the gloomiest month of the year.. To a dog, January is no rival. If you haven’t got a pet pooch then it doesn’t matter! You’re sure to meet some friendly canines out in Kent’s countryside just waiting to bound up to you and lift your spirits.
According to UK charity Mind, spending time in nature has been found to help with anxiety and low moods, as does the addition of exercise and of course quality time spent with our pets. And with so much glorious countryside, beaches and open space for our dogs to roam, Kent is the perfect place to get out and about embracing the fresh winter air.
In November 2023, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) were given a brand new name: National Landscapes. Area of Outstanding National Beauty, as they have been known since their inception in 1949, has been elevated to ‘National Landscapes’ to place them alongside their larger and more well-known counterpart ‘National Parks’, highlighting their equal place in the country’s aims around health, wellbeing, sustainable public access, climate change and nature recovery. This includes the Kent Downs, which covers 25% of Kent and is a key land area for the county. A collection of enchanting landscapes, the Kent Downs is closely linked to tourism, the diverse rural economy, nature, health, wellbeing and even the water we drink! It spans coastlines, farmland, woodland – a sprawling 900km2 in total. “The landscape is there for everyone to enjoy, with opportunities around tourism and local economics, not to mention the health and wellbeing benefits,” says National Landscapes. “Kent has a unique biodiversity which is being enhanced, protected and highlighted to visitors as a reason to come.”
As well as infinite miles of countryside to explore, these beautiful places in Kent have more than their fair share of award-winning venues to eat and stay at. From cosy pubs and cute cafés complete with puppuccinos to bijou boltholes ideal for days of family rambling – dogs included! As well as these places to snuggle up with your pooch, there’s plenty of unique landmarks to include on your explorations when you’re out and about. One such example is Wye Crown. A wonderful way to see the Wye Downs (part of National Landscapes) is via a short hill climb from the small town of Wye to this iconic landmark. A chalk crown carved into the hillside, this mural dates back to when Wye was home to a thriving agricultural college. Keen to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, the college’s principal came up with the brilliant idea of carving a crown into the hillside above the village. It took 35 students four days to complete, and 7,000 barrow loads of soil and turf was removed!
Today, it is still a spectacle to behold and can be seen close up by hikers. Start in the village itself, within which a clearly marked footpath at the bottom of the hill can be found, taking you past the old greenhouses and labs of the agricultural college. Before doing this, we recommend you take some time to admire the beautiful carvings and architecture of the college itself, which was once a thriving hub to generations of young people in the industry. The footpath itself leads through fields and pretty woodland – ideal for muddy paws to run around in – before you reach the top. When at the crown, admire the hard work it must have taken to make this commemoration, as well as the far stretching views that reach all the way to neighbouring Sussex and out to sea.
Back in the village, there are two inns with boutique rooms and exquisite menus. The New Flying Horse boasts a roaring fire and a menu made up of delicious local produce including veggies from their own allotment. An innovative kitchen team has also created a delicious Sunday roast and the bar serves authentic Kentish ales making it the perfect pitstop after a walk up to the crown. There are nine splendid guest rooms that make an ideal base and stylish place to rest after a ramble in the Kent countryside. Best of all? Your dog can stay for free! The New Flying Horse loves canines so much that they even have a dog charity donation box on their bar should you wish to help another dog who is not so lucky. The Kings Head is another great option for those looking for wonderful dining. In the heart of the village, on the most iconic street in Wye, this pub serves an exquisite menu that’s passionate about showcasing the incredible produce Kent has to offer. There are also seven country contemporary decorated bedrooms, one with a roll top bath and all en-suite; cosy comforts all combining beautiful traditional features.
For big groups looking to explore this area and have more of a home-away-from-home as a base, look no further than boutique holiday lettings agency, Bloom Stays. An ideal holiday home on their portfolio, sleeping up to 17 guests and four of their four-legged friends, is The Homestead in Waltham. A large modern house,it provides wonderful views of the surrounding paddocks and countryside complete with roaming horses and wildlife. Flexible accommodation is available across two floors with a combination of twins and doubles plus a large family dormitory style room at the very top. The owners welcome you to meet their friendly horses and enjoy the stable yard community which makes this unique country getaway so very different from the working stable yard across from the property within the estate.
The ideal place for hillside chalk figures, the Kent Downs is home to no less than four individual murals. As well as the Wye Crown, there is also Shoreham Memorial Cross, a Christian cross landmark sited to the west of Shoreham Village. The project to carve the cross was championed by a local man named Samuel Cheeseman after both of his sons were killed on active duty in World War I. He was determined to commemorate his sons and the other 48 men from Shoreham who were lost in the war. The site was donated by local landowner and war veteran, Francis Mildmay, and the cross was completed in September 1921 after 16 months of work. As part of the annual remembrance, Samuel Cheeseman would pull a small cannon up the hill to the cross. Shoreham Memorial Cross can be viewed from the village and a public footpath leads from the village up the hill to the cross making a poignant walk for owners and their dogs.
In Shoreham, find one of Kent’s best-loved pubs, The Samuel Palmer. A charming 15th-century pub hidden away in picturesque surroundings yet minutes from the thriving town of Sevenoaks, diners and their dogs can delight in a taste of The Garden of England through a beautiful seasonal menu. Freshly prepared on the premises with produce from local suppliers, dishes are certain to be mouthwatering and leave diners feeling contentedly full – especially after a long walk! When it comes to drinks, many of the ales are locally brewed and the wines are individually chosen to complement each dish, including those from The Mount Vineyard, the pub’s own vineyard.
As well as the Shoreham Memorial Cross and The Samuel Palmer, Shoreham is home to the The Samuel Palmer Trail: a circular walk around the village and its surrounding landscape in the heart of the delightful Darent Valley. The perfect way to enjoy the outdoors, appreciate the landscape and learn about some of the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the Darent Valley is to download the Darent Valley Trail App and set off on this self-guided walk. Wonder at chalk slopes with woodland tops, ancient trees towering over Lullingstone Park and awe inspiring views across Shoreham Village. Walk in the footsteps of British artist Samuel Palmer in the company of the artist himself! He will accompany you on your walk via the audio guide, telling you all about his time in Shoreham and the paintings he made here inspired by the beautiful Darent Valley.
A coastal county, Kent is full of chalky hills and pretty valleys with rivers running through them. One of Kent’s most well known valleys is the Stour Valley, which is home to one of the county’s most significant rivers: the River Stour. A great way to explore this area of Kent with your dog is by walking all (or parts of) the 58-mile Stour Valley Walk. This beautiful, and typically Kentish walk, ends (or begins) at Pegwell Bay, which is said to have seen the arrival of Julius Caesar himself. During winter, dogs are welcome at this nature reserve beach – and all dogs love the beach whether they choose to keep their fur dry or have a full frolic in the water.
Pegwell Bay extends into Sandwich Bay and the delightful medieval cinque port town of Sandwich. A quiet town great for strolls with the pooch, Sandwich is home to plenty of dog-friendly cafés, pubs and restaurants. This includes Goats That Dance, a sweet corner café in town serving lots of treats including hot chocs with whipped cream and homemade cakes. For more of a substantial meal, visit The George and Dragon, a dog friendly inn originally built during the first reign of Henry VI in 1446! Sitting on the picturesque Sandwich Quay, this is the perfect establishment with plenty of charm for a pub lunch or dinner after a walk at the beach or through Sandwich’s picturesque streets. With ingredients sourced from local suppliers, expect fresh seasonal produce making up wholesome and traditional English pub grub.
Why not give yourself more time to explore Sandwich and the surrounding areas by booking a dog-friendly holiday home with Keepers Cottages? Keepers Cottages are such a dog-loving bunch, just last month they were nominated for Best Dog Friendly Business in The Beautiful South Awards. Just one example of their abodes in Sandwich is Poplar Farmhouse, a beautiful Victorian detached house that has been lovingly renovated by the owners. Many period features have been retained along with high ceilings, stunning picture windows, decorative fireplaces and wooden floors – perfect for tired pooches to spread out upon.
When staying at a Keepers Cottages’ property, you will be in prime position for exploring the iconic White Cliffs of Dover and Samphire Hoe. Both glorious coastal spots with panoramic sea views, dogs will love these blustery open spans of nature. Created by Eurotunnel and managed with The White Cliffs County Partnership in 1997, the time of the construction of the Channel Tunnel, Samphire Hoe is now a vast and extraordinary nature reserve – and for this reason dogs must be kept on a lead. Home to a plethora of flora and fauna, it is one of the few places for short, easy-going routes which allow walkers the opportunity to appreciate the dramatic scenes of the White Cliffs. Samphire Hoe is wheelchair and pushchair friendly with a recommended ‘access for all’ way around the Hoe. The route follows the front path, signposted ‘West shore via the Hoe’ passing through the chicane. The full circuit is two kilometres long and the section through the Hoe is tarmac. The sea wall is smooth concrete with two ramps giving access to and from the middle terrace providing good sea views. Refresh yourself with a hot drink from the tea kiosk, which is open every weekend.