Dog-friendly holidays in Scotland

More and more of our clients are wanting to bring their best friend on holiday, and we love making that happen! But how easy is it to holiday in Scotland with a dog?

In this article we'll answer all the questions we often get asked about dog-friendly holidays in Scotland.

What are the best dog-friendly places to visit? Where can you stay that will not only tolerate but welcome your dog with open arms? And where can you eat with your canine companion in tow?

Pack a suitcase for your pooch, as we're sure you'll be heading to Scotland before too long!

Image: Unsplash / Hardebeck Media

The best dog-friendly hotels in Scotland

roberto-nickson-ey5s8rNHG-c-unsplash.jpg

Image: Unsplash / Roberto Nickson

Many of Scotland's hotels are a triumph, with stunning locations, a warm welcome, beautiful interiors and excellent food. What's even better is that many of these top-notch places to stay are also dog-friendly.

If you want to enjoy 5* luxury with your loyal pet in tow, look no further than the incredible Fife Arms in Braemar. Set in the heart of the Cairngorms with a hunting lodge feel, this exquisitely decorated and furnished property is full of eye-popping art installations. Quite a few of the bedrooms allow dogs, your pooch will be given the full 5* service as well, of course, and you can take them with you if you dine in the Flying Stag pub on site (for fine dining in the Clunie Dining Room, your dog will have to take a nap in your room and wait for you to return).

Also offering 5* luxury with dog-friendly options is Fonab Castle Hotel in Pitlochry. Set in a pretty woodland and overlooking a loch, this striking hotel mixes old and new, with the orange-pink castle building stealing the show and tastefully complemented by more modern buildings, including an excellent spa. Dogs are permitted in the Loch View Lodge and Woodland Lodge rooms for £30/night, or if you want to stay in the main castle, complementary kennel facilities are available on site, so you can put your pooch to bed securely close by and check on them whenever you want to.

Dog-friendly city breaks are also an option, with the slick 5* serviced apartments in Cheval Old Town Chambers in Edinburgh being a highlight for dog-loving city-fans.

Up in Nairn on the north-east coast, well-located for the NC500 or NE250 routes, is Boath House, a Georgian mansion and your home away from home in the northern Highlands. There are several dog-friendly rooms to choose from.

In a remote location on the west coast, although perfectly located for those driving the iconic NC500 route, you'll find the Kylesku Hotel. Well-behaved dogs are welcome and allowed throughout the property, which is a good thing to as accommodation options in this area are few and far between, but don't worry - your dog can join you here!

A beautiful new boutique hotel on the seafront in Oban, No. 26 By The Sea has been dog-friendly from the get-go. You and your dog will get the best of welcomes, and the location is perfect for some walks along the seafront and out onto the local beach, Ganavan Sands. Your pet will have the perfect stay here, and we're sure you will too!

Even on the tiny Isle of Iona, your pooch won't be forgotten - try the Argyll Hotel for dog-friendly rooms. There is a charge of £15 if you're bringing a dog.

Please note: Although the picture is cute, even some dog-friendly properties will kindly ask you not to let your dog on the bed!

The best dog-friendly places to eat in Scotland

Unsplash / Sebastian Coman - dog in restaurant on chair

Image: Unsplash / Sebastian Coman Travel

Unsurprisingly given the number of dog owners and dog-owning and -loving visitors in Scotland, there are a lot of places to eat where your dog will be welcome to join you. It's impossible to do them all justice in a short article, so we highly recommend that you check out Dugs Welcome for a comprehensive guide to the best dog friendly places to eat and drink across Scotland.

A few of our favourite recently-visited dog-friendly eateries include Rockpool Cafe in Cullen, where you can enjoy Cullen skink in its place of origin with your best pal by your side. The Applecross Inn allows well-behaved dogs on a lead to sit with you as you dine, and it's accessed via one of the coolest drives in Scotland - the Bealach na Bà. The Oyster Inn in Connel, with sweeping views of Loch Etive, allows and encourages dogs in the Glue Pot pub. Finally, we love Fyne Ales near Cairndow, where they even serve non-alcoholic dog-friendly beers in the pub, so your pooch can join you for a leisurely pint!

Wherever you dine, please keep your pooch with you at all times and be mindful of other guests who may not be as comfortable as you are around animals.

The best dog-friendly visitor attractions

Unsplash / Gibbon FitzGibbon - Culzean Castle

Image: Unsplash / Gibbon FitzGibbon

Scotland is full of great activities and attractions to keep you busy while on holiday, and a great many of these are also suitable if you want to bring your dog.

Scotland's castles are wonderful places to visit while you're on holiday here. Whilst it's unusual to be allowed to bring your dog into the castle buildings as these often house antiques and other fragile historic items, many of the best castles in Scotland do allow dogs in the gardens and grounds, so you can still enjoy seeing these grand buildings in their glorious surroundings with your dog by your side. Some examples of castles with dog-friendly policies where you can walk dogs in the grounds (note: although welcome, dogs are often required to be on a lead when walking in the formal gardens of the castles) include Castle Kennedy in Dumfries & Galloway, Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Floors Castle in Kelso, Scottish Borders, Dunottar Castle in Aberdeenshire and Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye.

You might be forgiven for thinking that a boat trip in Scotland is something you'd have to undertake without your faithful friend by your side, but there are a good number of boat trips where well-behaved dogs are allowed to join you. A few examples include the Jacobite cruises on Loch Ness, Staffa Tours boat trips from Mull and Iona to the Treshnish Isles and Isle of Staffa, and Forth Boat Tours, operating from Edinburgh (note: a £1 charge applies per pet on the latter).

An attraction that deserves an honourable mention - as it really does an excellent job of not only welcoming but celebrating your furry friends - is the popular Inverary Jail. There's free entry to all areas for dogs, a dedicated outdoor exercise area with grass, and water bowls are available at the entrance and throughout the attraction on request. Well done guys!

Always check the pet-friendliness of a particular attraction or activity before you travel (or ask us to check for you if you're travelling with us), to make sure you and your dog have a great time.

The best walks to do with your dog in Scotland

Unsplash - Florencia Viadana - dog running in forest with stick

Image: Unsplash / Florencina Viadana

Scotland is an unrivalled place to go for a walk - whether it's on the beach, in the forest, in a glen or up a mountain, your dog will have an amazing time on your holiday in Scotland.

There are a large number of dog owners in Scotland (over 485,000 households and 23% of the total population had a dog in 2018), and the country is really well set-up for going on holiday with your precious pet, as many people who live in Scotland do every year. That's great news for visitors with dogs as it means they are spoilt for choice with the best walks, facilities and dog-friendly places to eat and stay.

So where are the best walks? It depends a little on you and your dog's preferences and stamina, but here are some suggestions:

  • Climb a Munro - If you and your dog are fit for challenging and steep long-distance walks, the routes up Scotland's Munros (mountains which are over 3,000ft high) are extremely rewarding with spectacular views on a clear day. Even for the 'easier' Munros, the term is relative and even the fittest among you will need to allow at least a half day to complete the walks. It's so worth it, though, and you and your dog will finish the day tired, happy and ready to enjoy an excellent dinner.
  • Walk in the forest - Scotland has some amazing evergeen and deciduous forests, which are perfect natural adventure playgrounds for dogs and their owners alike. Some of the most amazing forests in Scotland to walk in include Galloway Forest Park in the south-west of Scotland, Abernethy Forest in the Cairngorms National Park, and Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Wherever you're visiting or staying in Scotland with your dog, you'll always be within reach of a lovely forest to take a walk in.
  • Walk on the beach - Scotland is known for its beautiful beaches and it has some of the most scenically stunning seaside locations in the world. Many dogs absolutely love the seaside - running on the beach, digging in the sand and generally enjoying the freedom of being outdoors. You're really spoilt for choice in Scotland when it comes to beaches, but we especially love the ones on the south coast of Dumfries & Galloway, the north-east coast from the Moray Firth to Fraserburgh, and the west coast around Oban and Kintyre. That's just a fraction of the incredible beaches you'll see in Scotland - there's even a great beach in the middle of Edinburgh, Portobello beach, where you can take your dog if you're on a city break.

Scotland's Outdoor Access Code has a guide for dog walking, which is a great place to start to help you understand the legislation that determines how and where you can access land, where you can and cannot walk with your and how to ensure you remain on the right side of the law and enjoy the Scottish countryside responsibly.

Wherever you walk with your dog, please keep them under control and pick up after them. If you are walking near livestock, you must keep your dog on a lead, especially in the lambing season.

The best ways to travel to Scotland with your dog

Unsplash - James Frewin - Dog in Car

Image: Unsplash / James Frewin

Many of our clients choose to bring their dog to Scotland when self-driving in their own vehicle, as they find that the quickest and easiest way to transport their dog is in a familiar environment.

However, many dogs travel well and very much enjoy travelling on the bus or train, and it is definitely possible to bring your dog to Scotland using public transport.

Avanti West Coast Mainline trains to Glasgow Central allow you to bring up to two pets with you on your journey for no extra charge. If you want to bring more than two, there's a charge of £5 for each additional pet.

LNER trains to Edinburgh have a similar policy to Avanti - allowing up to two pets for free, but charging £5 for each additional pet you take with you on your journey.

Scotrail trains, which connect all key destinations within Scotland, also welcome up to two pets of any kind.

The Caledonian Sleeper trains also permit up to two pets in a cabin. Pets are not allowed in the seated carriage but can join you in your sleeper cabin. There is no fare for bringing pets, but a £30 cleaning fee is charged for any cabin(s) where you have stayed with a pet. We've written a guide so you can read more about travelling to Scotland with the Caledonian Sleeper.

For any other rail provider, please check with them directly (or ask us to do so if you're booking a trip with us) before you travel.

On National Express coaches, only assistance dogs are permitted, so pet dogs cannot travel with you. Stagecoach allow one well-behaved dog per customer but reserve the right to charge a fee, and permission is granted at the driver's discretion so you are not guaranteed to be allowed to travel.

When travelling on public transport with a pet, you must keep them off the seats and either on a lead or in a pet carrier. Please remember that you are responsible for ensuring that your pet remains under your control at all times.

For longer journeys, plan carefully to ensure you give your pet enough breaks and take plenty of food, water and supplies with you in case of delays.

We hope you have found this information helpful and that you have a wonderful journey to Scotland with your dog, and we'd love to see your dog-friendly holiday pictures on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - please tag us in!