Monday, 02 April 2012

A dogged pursuit of fun

Written by Beverly Cuddy
I have so many treasured memories of holidays spent with the loves of my life. Walter and I were almost joined at the hip on those long walks on the beach. Oscar and I exchanged deep, meaningful looks over many a sumptuous afternoon tea and I hardly ever fought with Sally about the duvet. I am, of course, talking about vacationing with a succession of beautiful and faithful bearded collies.

More and more of us are choosing to take our pets away on holiday, and being the editor of a dog magazine, I am lucky to have been asked to sample quite a few of the very best – and some of the worst, dog-friendly holidays.

Sadly, we find that some establishments are merely tolerant rather than actively dog-friendly. Pet-friendly accommodation can sometimes just mean you being given the grottiest most dog-eared room and discouraged from coming out of it.

But equally, being given overly pristine digs can lead to frayed nerves and upholstery! On a recent trip to review a beautiful boutique hotel in Devon I was alarmed to find that our allocated rooms had spotless white carpet and furnishings. We decided to confine the dogs to walking only on a pebble beach to try to keep muddy paw prints to a minimum.

But to our horror, both dogs almost instantly turned a bright shade of orange. The soil beneath the pebbles was just such a vivid colour that it would have taken hours of bathing to get the dogs clean. The walk of shame through the hotel was just too dreadful to contemplate.

We made our excuses, collected our luggage and left.

The poshest place I've ever stayed with a dog was Cliveden, the impressive antique-filled Berkshire pile that was the setting for much of the Profumo affair. It is exactly the sort of place you wouldn't expect to be at all dog-friendly. But the room-service menu even includes a chicken fricassee of Winalot. And they'll find someone to walk your dog so you can indulge in one of the treatments in their celeb-filled spa. When I had a massage, the lady was fabulously gossipy and told me that Paul Merton's bottom was very much firmer than Pierce Brosnan's!

I used to rave about a beautiful historic hotel in the Cotswolds. When I visited to review it the staff would greet my dog by name with what seemed like genuine enthusiasm. The rooms were an amazing mix of ancient and luxurious. The manager assured me he welcomed dogs into the hotel as they matched the decor and made it look even more beautiful. Everywhere I went I said how this was probably the best dog-friendly dog hotel in the world.

But one day I returned unannounced – someone was treating me for my birthday. As I wasn't working, my press card stayed in my pocket.

Exterior-FountainCliveden, Berkshire

We were assigned to a grotty room in a crumbling 1970s wing that I'd never even seen before! My poor dog almost suffered an identity crisis, as every employee studiously ignored her. Horrified by the double standards, I decided in future, to try to be a secret shopper when reviewing.

I'm a big fan of the dog activity holidays that are springing up. At Bowerland Cottage holidays in Devon you can book lessons with an agility instructor. Or at Yarn Market Hotel in Exmoor they have special dog-walking weekends so you can mix with other dog lovers.

A dog on holiday is an amazing social lubricant. My old Sally was a very shy dog, due to being ill as a pup, but was so pretty she always attracted attention. I remember one pub in the Lake District where the superficially gruff landlord was so enamoured with her that he lay flat on the floor proffering crisps, trying to win her trust. The same scene was repeated in Ireland – where we discovered that visiting dogs are adored and almost worshipped!

Various singular hairy dogs have shared my holidays for decades and more recently I've added a rescue English springer spaniel to the mix. Multiple dog holidays are trickier to get right. For a start, there's less luggage space in the car.

A way around this is to hire one of the dog-friendly VW Camper vans from Camp in a VDub. This makes the journey so much fun. Plus there are lots of dog-friendly campsites to stop at en route.

Christine Bailey (a member of the Dogs Today staff for more than a decade) probably holds the record for the most dogs taken on holiday at one time. When booking, she's often told that an establishment will take, 'one well-behaved dog' and her stock answer is, 'Well, we have 11, so one of them is probably well-behaved!'

With the recent changes to pet passports, international travel with dogs is now so much easier, but it should not be undertaken without a lot of planning. Eurotunnel makes travel to Europe with pets very simple with their dedicated pet lounge and vast experience, but there are many more nasties abroad than just rabies and you need to chat to your vet about preventative measures to make sure your dog doesn't pick up something really nasty in the Med. Sandflies and other bugs can be deadly.


In France the restaurants are so much more dog-friendly than ours. I have seen so many immaculately dressed single women dining with their dogs in superior restaurants – and that's dogs seated at the table and served by a waiter. And I have to say the dogs' table manners have been impeccable in every case.

I don't understand how people can truly relax on holiday while one member of their family is sulking in solitary confinement in a kennels or cattery. There are now armies of very good pet sitters who will look after your dog or cat at home if the destination is simply not suitable for your four-legged companions.

If you want some more pointers on holidaying with your pet, please do check out Dogs Today magazine. We'll do a special sample price for readers of the Lady. Just phone 01276-858880 and we'll send you the next three issues for a bargain price of £5 if you quote this article.

Sample dog menu

From Cliveden Please advise the portion size required: small, medium or large

  • Dry food, £15 Bacon, liver and vegetable Chicken and vegetable
  • Semi-moist food, £22 Pan-fried chicken pieces and rice, moistened with light gravy Fillet steak and rice, moistened with light gravy (£5 supplement)
  • Moist food (tinned), £18 Pedigree Country Casseroles in Gravy, with biscuit mixer Pedigree Better by Nature Country Meals, with biscuit mixer
  • All meals can include YUMEGA oil food supplement. YUMEGA contains one of the richest sources of essential Omega 3 and 6 oils from natural plant sources to maintain a healthy skin and coat. The high levels of essential Omega 3 oils from golden flax seed improves you dogs coat conditions and then the Omega 6 from starflower will nourish and replenish their skin

For more information, please see

Please specify if you wish to have YUMEGA included on your dog's meal. All prices are inclusive of VAT. Service is not included and is at your discretion.

For reservations: 01628-668561 or email


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