Dogs, like their owners, love playing in the sea, sand and surf of the beach and with the British coastline stretching for 6,000 miles you are never more than 70 miles from the nearest beach. While some beaches restrict dog access between May and September, outside these months most beaches welcome dogs and their owners. Even in areas where dogs are banned during the summer months there is often an area close by that does welcome dogs all year round, although this is not always obvious when you arrive, so it pays to do some research before grabbing your bucket and spade and heading to the seaside
There are great beaches all the way around the British coastline. Some of the best for dogs will include long stretches of open sand with relatively few people about, so your dog is less likely to disturb other users, while a good coastal path nearby provides a fine start to the day.
In Cumbria, St Bees beach is the start of the Wainwright ‘Coast to Coast' walk and also offers vast open sands for dogs to run and play in the surf. A walk along the cliffs of St Bees Head can be combined with a visit to the beach. At the eastern end of the Coast to Coast Path, Robin Hood’s Bay beach at Whitby has no dog restrictions and is great for a dog walk. Further up the coast in Northumberland the sands of Bamburgh Castle beach provide a particularly bracing seaside experience during the winter months. And Snettisham Beach near Kings Lynn in Norfolk offers open sands with no dog restrictions through the year. In Essex, Thorney Bay Beach on Canvey Island is popular with dog owners, while Milford on Sea at Bournemouth in Hampshire is a south coast favourite. There are lots of great beaches in the southwest, one of the best being Barrow South Beach at Burnham on Sea in Somerset. The list goes on, as there are so many to choose from.
Many beaches are covered by the Land Fouling Act meaning it is an offence to leave dog mess, so dogs are often restricted from beaches due to some owners not clearing up after their dogs. Even where dogs are allowed it is very important to clean up and remove dog mess from the beach; use the bins or walk with it until a bin is found.
Care is also needed around wildlife, as dogs are often restricted due to disturbance of coastal birds. During every autumn and winter, many thousands of wading birds pass through coastal areas of the UK and so it is important to take more care in these locations, even if dogs are not restricted. Some flocks can exceed as many as 30,000 birds and, for instance, Hoylake beach has been designated part of the North Wirral Foreshore Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to help protect the wildlife. The most important time is high water, as the birds have no where to go at high tide and disturbance can mean they leave the area completely.
To make it easier for dog owners to act responsibly, many beaches do have signs that indicate when and where it is best for dogs to run and play on the beach and there is often a nearby beach that will welcome dogs. Also there are some great resources on the internet that detail where dogs are welcome and which beaches are best for dog owners, such as nearestbeach.co.uk which details 351 beaches that allow dogs and a further 450 beaches with dog restrictions in summer but free access in winter. With that many beaches to visit, there is space for everyone to enjoy the sea and sand of Britain’s coast.