Top spring dog walks

Be aware: Some plants can be toxic to dogs if eaten, including bluebells and daffodils, but cases are rare. If your dog is likely to chew on plants while out walking, keep them on a short lead or consider avoiding areas with potentially poisonous flowers. Read our advice on what plants to avoid and what to do if your dog eats any it shouldn't.

Remember: Keep dogs on leads around livestock. When letting your dog off the lead, it’s crucial to have built up good recall. Read our training advice here.

Sutton Bank, near Thirsk, north Yorkshire

The ‘finest view in England’, so said vet-turned-author James Herriot. And the vistas from this elevated spot 295 metres above sea level certainly don’t disappoint.

Sutton Bank marks the gateway to the vast, beautiful North Yorkshire Moors National Park, and on a clear day you’ll see spring in full swing with panoramas stretching across the neighbouring vales, the Gormire Lake and up to the Pennines, 30 miles to the west.

Part of the view that vet and author James Herriot dubbed 'the finest in England'.

Once parked up at the Sutton Bank National Park centre, there is a short but winding 550 metre trail to the very point lauded by the late Herriot, who lived in nearby Thirsk. From the car park there’s also the option to cross the road to take the White Horse Walk, which takes you further along Sutton Bank – also visited by poet William Wordsworth in 1802. Then it’s down into rich, mossy woodland and round to the foot of the cliff face with the Kilburn White Horse etched into it. A steep and challenging set of steps then take you back up to the top of Sutton Bank. Ensure that you keep your dog on the lead when on the clifftop footpath due to the steep escarpment.

Address: Sutton Bank National Park Centre, North York Moors National Park, Sutton Bank, Thirsk, YO7 2EH

Find more information here.

Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke, South Downs Way, Sussex

This stretch of long distance trail the South Downs Way takes in some of its most stunning landmarks and scenery, including the view from Devil’s Dyke which was once described by 18th Century artist John Constable as the “grandest in the world”. Come spring, wild flowers pop up in the meadows lining the route to add a riot of colour to the lush, undulating countryside. You’ll also discover Iron Age history, windmills, a Saxon church, ancient woodlands and a 16th Century hamlet along the way.

View north from Devil's Dyke, South Downs, West Sussex [credit: National Trust].

The South Downs Way in its entirety stretches 160 km from the ancient city of Winchester, the first capital of England, through to the white chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head at Eastbourne. Almost all of the walk is off road, and it is the only National Trail in the UK to lie entirely within a National Park. 

Address: Ditchling Beacon, West Sussex, BN1 9QD

Find more information here

The Golden Triangle, Gloucestershire

Daffodils in Kempley [copyright Roger Davies via Geograph.org.uk]

Wild daffodils are the very symbol of spring, and the meadows and woodlands around Kempley, Dymock and Oxenhall – known as Gloucestershire’s ‘Golden Triangle’ - showcase them in abundance. In March, the four nature reserves making up this Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust area are carpeted in yellow and the surrounding villages often put on special daffodil teas for the hundreds of visitors who flock to the area to enjoy nature’s dazzling display. There are a series of walks, including the eight mile route between Dymock and Ketford along Poets Path, which take in the Vell Mill and Ketford Bank nature reserves, which are both renowned for their spring carpets of daffodils.

Address for starting point for Dymock to Ketford walk: The Village, Dymock, GL18 2AQ (layby parking available)

Find more information here.

Heartwood Forest, near St Albans, Hertfordshire

Ancient woodlands with blooming bluebells, a newly-planted native forest with 500,000 trees and wildflower meadows bursting with a kaleidoscope of colours await dog walkers here. The Woodland Trust is transforming Heartwood Forest into the largest continuous native forest in England, and it is fast becoming one of its most popular destinations with people eager to see nature develop and unfold at the site.

Heartwood Forest bluebells [credit: Flickr]

There are three easy waymarked routes here, including the 2.7 mile Heartwood Hike which will take you through the ancient woodland, new forest and wild flowers buzzing with bees and butterflies in spring, bringing you back through Langley Wood, a spot renowned for its vibrant bluebell displays.

Address: Heartwood Forest carpark, High Street, Sandridge, St Albans, AL4 9DQ

Find more information here

Ickworth, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

It's described as a "pleasure ground for dogs" by the National Trust, but there's plenty here for their owners, too. Spot snowdrops in early spring, before the dazzling floral display in the walled garden blooms with an incredible 60,000 bulbs when the season is in full swing. A circular walk will take you round this meadow and canal lake, which is a haven for wildlife, and give you a sneak peek of the church and Rotunda in the distance. Dogs must be kept on the lead at all times in the estate, but can wander freely around the parklands and woods. There is also a dog-friendly cafe and water stations where your hound can quench their thirst.

View of the walled garden at Ickworth with St Mary's Church in the background [credit: National Trust].

Address: The Rotunda, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP29 5QE

Find more information here

Fowey Estuary, Cornwall

The very best of British landscapes are combined on the Hall Walk from the Fowey Estuary to Pencarrow Head. The pathway takes in countryside, rivers, forests, farmland and striking harbour and estuary views, with diversion trails leading to the beach so your dog can feel the sand and sea beneath its paws. The eight mile circular route also comprises two dog-friendly ferry crossings from Fowey to Polruan and Fowey to Bodinnick.

Address: Bodinnick, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1LX

Find more information here

The circular walk in Fowey takes in two dog-friendly ferry crossings [credit: National Trust].

Highgate Wood, Highgate, London

Being in London doesn’t mean you have to miss out on spring's floral displays. You’ll find 28 hectares of ancient woodland at Highgate Wood, which is blanketed in a carpet of fragrant bluebells between April and May. Stick to well-trodden footpaths and be mindful to keep your dog on the lead where needed to prevent any of the flowers being trampled on, as they take many years to regenerate.

Address: Muswell Hill Rd, Highgate, London, N6 (on road parking). The nearest train station is Highgate (Northern Line).

Find more information here

Dartmoor National Park, Devon

A dog enjoys dipping its paws in the water at Dartmoor National Park [copyright: John Spivey via Geography.org.uk].

Marvel at butterflies, wildflowers and birdsong as spring brings Dartmoor National Park to life, with thriving hedgerows, woodlands carpeted with bluebells and wild daffodils, as well as vast swathes of moorland covered in a vibrant display of wild flowers. Bluebells can be found in Holwell Lawn and in the woods at Lydford Gorge, Meldon Woods, Holne Woods, while wild daffodils are found in Dunsford Wood and Hembury Woods.

There are a vast number of walking trails criss-crossing this land of contrasts, including the Bellever Walk – a six mile long circular route starting at Postbridge Information Centre, which combines woodland, moorland and riverside walking to showcase every aspect of spring on this National Park. Audio guides for many of the walks are available. Bear in mind that owners are requested to keep their dogs on leads in particularly wildlife-sensitive areas.

Address: National Park Visitor Centre, Postbridge, Devon, PL20 6TH

Find more information here.

Ilam Park, Peak District

Spot newborn lambs, rich birdlife and flowers including bluebells, wild garlic, early purple orchids and wild daffodils on this walk through the limestone countryside of the southern Peak District. Starting at Ilam village, the 2.5 mile trail takes you across fields and into the spectacular valley, leading you to the River Dove, which marks the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Here you’ll find the famous Dovetail Stepping stones across the water, which have been a magnet for visitors to the area since they were put in place in the middle of the 19th Century. From here you can continue walking along the valley or head back. For those with dogs looking for a more challenging route, there’s also a 10 mile circular walk from Wetton Village to Ilam Park.

Address Ilam Park, Peak District National Park, Derbyshire

Find more information here.

Gazing out over spring lambs at Ilam Park [credit: National Trust]

Newark Park, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

What speaks spring more than newborn lambs and calves exploring daisy-dotted meadows? Perhaps pathways lined by blooming daffodils and primroses? Well, you’ll find all of this on a seasonal walk along twisting trails through ancient woodlands and the Cotswold farmland here, with stunning views up to Newark Park House and across the Ozleworth valley beneath it. The historic Tudor hunting lodge, a National Trust site, sits proudly on the top of the Cotswold Edge, and on a clear day its views reach as far as the Mendip Hills.

Address: Ozleworth, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 7PZ (follow signposts rather than satnav to avoid an extremely narrow and steep country lane)

Find more information here.

— Page last updated 5/07/2017