Choosing where to go for a first holiday with a four-legged friend is an exercise filled with uncertainty. Andrew White strikes gold in the Lake District

BINDI, our ten-year-old whippet, has the lovely temperament which is common to her breed, but she can be a little nervous – especially around strangers or in unfamiliar surroundings. She can get rattled when her usual daily routine is broken and she really hates being left on her own.

So after deciding to take our pooch with us on a much-needed break, my partner Frances and I looked very carefully for somewhere we felt she would be comfortable and confident.

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The Lake District was an obvious place to look and, after some thorough online research, we settled on Grizedale Lodge, a former hunting lodge close to the picturesque villages of Hawkshead, Ambleside and Coniston.

The location was a major factor in our choice. Situated on the edge of Grizedale Forest, we figured we could spend much of our stay exploring the Forestry Commission woodland. And our judgement proved just about perfect.

We love forests and Grizedale is a stunning spot, with acres of well maintained land to explore. There are a series of walking trails to follow, graded in difficulty from easy to strenuous. Most don't take too long to negotiate – we fitted in two per day – and all feature a spectacular variety of scenery, from mountain views to lakes and, of course, trees.

Bindi thrived in the fresh air and took it all in her stride. We did take a wrong turn once or twice when we missed markers placed along the trails after a difference of opinion over which way to go, but it all added to the adventure.

A very welcome feature in Grizedale Forest is a sculpture trail, with public artworks dotted around at various locations. We had much fun trying to spot the artworks – some of which are quite subtle – which added a fascinating extra dimension to our walk.

Although we contented ourselves with sticking to the walking trails, there are plenty other ways to enjoy a forest which has something for everyone. There is an extensive network of cycling routes – with bikes available to hire – a Go Ape tree top centre for the more adventurous, and a Gruffalo trail for little ones.

If the forest location was ideal, then our choice of accommodation was inspired. Our stay at Grizedale Lodge was first-class, more than living up to its dog-friendly billing – and we needn't have worried about Bindi as our pet settled in straight away. From the moment owner Richard Charnley gave us friendly greeting as we arrived, we realised this would be a home-from-home.

The bedroom was smart and comfortable, with a superb view, and the food was delicious. Frances particularly enjoyed Richard's famous whisky porridge from the breakfast menu – which provided ample internal insulation throughout the day.

As always, it's the small touches which make a stay like this extra special. Leftover breakfast bacon scraps for Bindi, torches provided for late night or early morning strolls along unlit roads and the unfailing politeness of the host all contributed to our comfort.

Not just dog-friendly, but positively dog-welcoming, Grizedale Lodge is a class act and our experiences were replicated throughout the Lake District during our short stay. Bindi was greeted warmly wherever we went – I don't think she's ever had so much attention and one excited tourist even insisted on taking a photograph of a breed she'd never seen before.

A special mention here for the Red Lion Inn, in Hawkshead. It's the first pub I've seen which offers a canine menu - with treats available to keep the dog happy whilst its owners enjoy their meals in relative peace. We ate here on two consecutive evenings, the highlight of which was a magnificent steak and ale pie - a proper pie, with proper shortcrust pastry and chock full of proper hearty meat. A thing of beauty indeed.

In summary, our maiden voyage with our faithful family friend Bindi surpassed all expectations. And we know where to look the next time we fancy a trip away with our precious pet.



  • If the thought of a festive break without your four-legged friend is bleak, The Devonshire Fell, in the Yorkshire Dales, welcomes dogs. From December 24-30 packages cost from £400pp. Yorkshire breakfasts, candlelit dinners, festive lunches and mulled wine are on the menu for the Christmas House Party or New Year Celebration packages. Go for long walks in the Yorkshire Dales or relax in the Devonshire Spa on the Bolton Abbey Estate. There's even a Midnight Mass. The trip can be booked through PetsPyjamas.