Weekends with the dog: Devon in summer

Dogs - and their humans - love Devon. Its cliff-lined beaches, wild moors and rugged coastal paths are some of the most tempting spots to scamper about on four legs and two. Magical year-round, Devon gets lively in the summer when crowds flock to its magnificent coast with their buckets and spades for a classic beachside holiday. Happily, with a little planning ahead, there are ways to dodge the pack and our dog-friendly weekend guide to south Devon should help. Save yourself getting lost down hedge-lined lanes by taking a scenic boat trip, soak up Jurassic coast views on a funicular railway, take your pick of excellent eateries, and discover off-the-beaten track beaches.

Written by Jem Brownlee

5 minute read

Friday night

Dinner at The Bull Inn, Totnes

Dogs are welcome in the restaurant of this cool little inn in free-spirited Totnes, and its buzzy vibe is just perfect to kickstart your weekend in Devon. The rambling mid-19th century building has been thoughtfully revived with a good mix of colours, eclectic furniture and local art. Owner Geetie Singh opened the first organic pub in the world over 20 years ago in London and continues to fly the flag for super sustainable cooking and sourcing. Everything is made from scratch and there's an emphasis on veggie dishes and proper bar snacks - don’t expect bags of crisps here. Menus change daily: try crab on toast with cucumber and fennel salad; crispy cauliflower with pesto and beans; finish with a white chocolate miso ganache.

Saturday morning

Sugary Cove beach walk, Dartmouth

If you’re staying in or near Totnes, pop to the Market Square for a morning browse around the Saturday market, with over 50 pitches you’re sure to find a hidden gem, a freshly baked cake or a jar of local honey to take home. Next, head to the delightfully named Sugary Cove - a remote shingle and rock beach at the mouth of the River Dart, overlooked by Dartmouth castle. Take the coast path from the castle (the tea rooms welcome furry, four-legged types) and keep your eyes peeled, there are no signs and it's hidden by trees until you’re right above it. It’s worth the adventure though and you often won’t see another soul. Remember to check the tide times because the beach disappears at high tide.

Saturday afternoon

Ferry from Brixham to Torquay

Ferries are a fantastic way to explore Devon from a different perspective. We love the Brixham to Torquay route on the Western Lady ferry service which welcomes dogs for a small fee. The 30-minute crossing leaves from New Pier in Brixham, overlooked by a jumble of teetering pastel-hued houses, and docks in the centre of lively Torquay. Promenade down the palm-lined esplanade, slurp an ice cream - Scoopy Doo’s is dog-friendly - then take a trip on the funicular Babbacombe Cliff Railway (dogs ride for free) from nearby Oddicombe Beach. Built in 1926 it’s a charmingly quaint way to soak up the English Riviera.

Saturday night

Dinner at The Cary Arms, Babbacombe Bay

Dinner at The Cary Arms is a treat and the bay setting is bliss. Hovering above Babbacombe Bay with huge views of water and sky that shoot off to Dorset's Jurassic coast, this is a cool little place – half seaside pub, half dreamy hotel. Five beautiful terraces drop downhill towards a small jetty where locals fish. The bar is a cosy spot with rustic-chic tables in front of a glowing fire that burns every day, but in good weather you eat on the terraces. Try seared Brixham scallops, follow with courgette, tomato and mozzarella tagliatelle, finish with raspberry crème brûlée. Dogs are welcome to dine with you anywhere except the conservatory.

Sunday morning

Piddledown Common walk, Dartmoor

Squeeze in one last run around on splendid and idyllic Dartmoor before your journey home. There’s a short one mile walk across Piddledown Common that takes in dramatic views of the Teign Gorge and the crags of Sharp Tor. Start from the main car park next to Castle Drogo - designed by Edward Lutyens for millionaire Julius Drewe, and constructed in the early 1900s, it was the last castle to be built in England - then follow the signs to Teign Valley. Meander through woodland and onto the open common, across the deep gorge you’ll spot Whiddon Deer Park, before looping around and back to your start point. The area is a haven for flora and fauna: spot stonechat, meadow pipit and woodpeckers, butterflies (23-species have been recorded) and heaps of rare plants.

Written by Jem Brownlee

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