My other half is lucky enough to celebrate his birthday in summer which makes a great excuse for a few days away with Ricci, our mini schnauzer. What we hadn’t bargained for was this glorious summer and it’s mediterranean-style temperatures. By the time we headed for the coast in early July all three of us were desperate to escape the heat of London and breath sea air. If you are looking for a dog friendly escape from the city this might just be the perfect mini-break.
First Stop: Whitstable
We set out after a late birthday breakfast on Thursday morning. We don’t have a car so we hired a Zipcar on a four day bundle – dogs are allowed as long as they’re in a crate or carrier. On route we stopped to purchase a cool mat for Ricci which proved to be a great investment. Whitstable is just 60 miles away but it takes time to get out of London and it took about an hour and forty to drive there, not including our stop.
Fisherman’s Hut No. 6
We stayed one night in Whitstable’s famous Fisherman’s Huts along the harbour front – hut 6, dog friendly with a sea-view. You collect keys from the Hotel Continental where breakfast (which is included) is also served. We had our breakfast on the shaded terrace looking out to sea but dogs are also allowed with you in the bar dining area.
The black painted two-storey huts are cute beyond belief. They are completely charming historical buildings so they are tiny with low ceilings and ladder stairs. Be aware that anyone over six foot is going to have to watch their head! The sea-view was from the bedroom window overlooking a pretty boatyard. On a hot night, with windows and shutters open, we were woken very early by the seagulls – but thankfully this was just in time to admire the sunrise. Deck chairs are provided to sit out front but the view from the ground floor is obstructed by the harbour wall and car park. A small parking space is included beside the huts. Reversing into ours proved too difficult until the occupants of another hut returned and moved their vehicle over. Even so it was pretty hairy and I had to put the birthday champagne on hold until after the maneouvre.
Dog friendly eats and walks
Whitstable has some famous eateries including the Royal Naval Oyster Stores run by the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company and The Sportsman in nearby Seasalter – neither of which allow dogs. There are plenty of dog friendly options nearby though. You can eat pub grub on the beach (or in the bar) at The Old Neptune. Nearby gastropub The Pearson’s Arms allows dogs in the bar and, like so many French restaurants, Birdies on Harbour Street is dog friendly.
At lunch we shared a plate of fish and chips overlooking the beach at the Hotel Continental (just before they stopped serving at 2.30pm). From here you can walk the coastal path that runs in front of the hotel to Herne Bay. The walk takes you past colourful beach huts and the Seaview Cafe on the slopes of Tankerton before giving way to the dog friendly seascapes of Swalecliffe.
98% of beaches (shown on this pdf) along the Canterbury coast are dog friendly all year round. This includes the shingle beach west of the harbour making it perfect for an evening stroll towards Seasalter before returning for supper. We ate ours watching the sunset at the outdoor tables round the back of The Lobster Shack . Owned by the Oyster Co. this place has great views and offers fish, crab and lobster meals. It’s right next door to their working fishery so be warned – it can be a bit whiffy.
Second stop: Ramsgate
After breakfast on Friday we headed to Ramsgate via Canterbury where we stopped off for a cold drink and a quick look round. If you want to stay with your pooch in Canterbury try Yorke Lodge whose website includes extensive information about dog friendly Kent. Back on route, as we drove down the hill into into Ramsgate we glimpsed our Georgian hotel, Albion House, perched high above the harbour.
We booked two nights at Albion House through Pets Pyjamas. It’s not often we go through a travel agent – usually preferring to book direct – but the fab website and promise of a truly dog friendly stay was seductive. We could not have been made more welcome and the little extras (like sending a bag of goodies for Ricci) were delightful. This super stylish boutique hotel felt sumptuous after the spartan hut, with a huge bed, marble tiled bathroom and deep carpets. It also has a foyer full of Peter Blake artworks.
Our sea view room was at the very top of the house and it was hot – even with the windows open – but a vertical fan helped us sleep. They supplied a bed for Ricci along with a dog bowl, a chew and a ball. The two rooms felt spacious and the hotel was a sanctuary from the heat.
A swim before breakfast
I’d pre-booked a table for dinner on Friday night at the hotel’s dog friendly restaurant, Townleys. There was a busy event on so they showed us to the elegant parlour dining room next door with a view of the harbour. Ricci curled up under the table happy to have carpet instead of floorboards.
Breakfasts were sublime. A choice of cereal and fruit was followed by a cooked menu that included all the classics – from a mini fry up to the quintessential mashed avocado on sourdough. We got our first taste of Kefir water too. This fermented drink is supposed to be an excellent probiotic and it’s tempted us to have a go at making our own. A post about this will follow very soon.
On Saturday morning we took towels to swim before breakfast at east cliff, which is just a short walk away. Dogs are allowed on this part of the beach all-year-round. Only a small section of sand remains at high tide, but it’s enough to have plenty of fun in the surf. The main beach is out of bounds between May and October but to be honest it’s no loss, flanked as it is by a huge Wetherspoons and all the usual litter and food left behind by humans.
The walk between Ramsgate and neighbouring Broadstairs takes less than an hour walking along the beach at low tide. The walk is dog friendly from east cliff all the way up to the headland at Broadstairs and includes the lovely bay at Dumpton Gap with it’s own cafe. If it’s high tide (or on its way in) you can walk from Ramsgate along the clifftop, through King George IV Memorial Park, then down to Dumpton where you can continue along the promenade into Broadstairs. It’s easy to walk in one direction and take the bus back using the Loop bus that runs between Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate! On a cooler day it would be great to walk all the way into Margate and stop for lunch at Wyatt & Jones in Broadstairs which is dog friendly and specialises in seafood.
In search of supper on Saturday we headed out on foot for The Belle Vue, famed for it’s terrace – the ‘Balcony of Kent’. We passed Western Undercliffe, Ramsgate’s other dog friendly beach, and climbed the cliff to Pegwell. It was a pleasant forty five minute hike and the view was fabulous but the food was basic. After one drink eight tired feet padded back into town. Luckily we stumbled upon The Falstaff, a boutique hotel and restaurant in the heart of town with one dog friendly bedroom. We had burgers, his was steak and I had a portobello mushroom version – both exactly what we’d been hoping for in the first place!
Last stop: Margate
Sunday was all about visiting a stylist friend in Margate and seeing the progress on her house renovation. This seaside town is going through a rapid renaissance and is now the weekend destination of choice for the young folk of east London. It deserves a whole post to itself but needless to say our day was spent admiring a pink bathroom and swimming in Margate’s tidal pool. To say the place was rammed is an understatement. Extended families and hipsters alike had donned swimsuits to enjoy the sun, sea and sand.
There’s a a bit of confusion over dog restrictions on the beach in Margate after last year’s proposed total ban. Many of the signs are now out-of-date so check the dog friendly pages of the Visit Thanet website for the latest information. According to locals Palm Bay seems to be where the cool dogs hang out. Many of the bays allow dogs before 10am and after 6pm even in the summer months – which is perfect for Ricci who hates the midday sun.
You can dine with your dog at many of Margate’s eateries but two worth a mention are the Angela’s exquisitely understated seafood restaurant or, for more casual dining, the GB Pizza Co. The eccentric Wallpole Bay Hotel is pet friendly, or if you fancy a late summer break my mate‘s place Pearl House is pet friendly and will be available on Air B&B from mid August.
After the beach at Margate we were homeward bound for a sweltering London and Ricci was already dreaming of her next pet adventure.