The little furball has firmly lodged herself into my heart and lifestyle now.
We’ve had a good few adventures with the little smelly brown bear already, taking her to cottages in the countryside for long walks and rests by the fire in convivial inns. From staying in an old Piggery in the Peak District to relaxing in a country home by the beautiful Norfolk coast – to name just a couple of her jaunts – she’s a well-travelled hound.
I think dogs deserve a holiday as much as humans do; they must get fed up of routine and want to sniff new smells and pee in new spots. If only we had such simple desires, eh?
Travelling with your pooch is great fun, but it has its limitations of course. It can be a bit frustrating wandering around to find a dog-friendly pub or to find a dog-friendly beach in the summer.
I bundled Nahla up for a long road trip down to Cornwall for some camping, pasties and cream tea (she may have tasted a few crumbs). It was just the two of us, which does add another dimension of difficulty to travelling with a dog, mainly when you need to wee. I hate leaving her tied to a chair leg, while she frowns at the spot she last saw me. But I’ve learned to answer the call of nature quickly and people are generally kind and offer to watch her for a minute.
She is a fab companion and was the warm furriness I needed at night in the tent. You’re never alone when you travel with a dog; you just become do-lally after no human contact and start having full-blown conversations with them. It’s the socially acceptable version of muttering to yourself.
I’ll post highlights of dog-friendly Cornwall, but for now, I’ll share my experiences of the camping and the journey there, to help make the long route bearable for you and your four-legged friend (because Cornwall is generally a long way for most of us!).
Driving with stops easily takes 8 hours from the north and the midlands, so I decided it would be kind to us both to break the journey into two and make an overnight stop halfway down. That made it somewhere around the Cotswolds, which I could reach in about 3 hours. With a lunchtime set-off, that gave us the late afternoon for a long walk to stretch the legs and to relax before spending the next day on the M5 and the A30.
I discovered Colgate Farm in Cheltenham during my research, which was perfect for an overnight stay. It was ideal for dogs: Nahla was allowed to run around freely, which she happily did with the farm’s little troupe of doggies. It’s also on the Cotswolds Way, so is a gateway to excellent walks. We stayed in the log cabin, which looks out onto glorious hills. It’s not a luxury option, but is a decent base for exploring nearby attractions and the walking routes.
After trundling along the Cotswolds Way as dusk fell, I relaxed in the cabin while Nahla tired herself out by exploring the new smells and sights.
They leave the place stocked with breakfast goodies so you can eat at your own pace and when you like. There’s also a bench outside so you can make a brew and just have a moment of peace, listen to the birds and take in the countryside. If you want to stay connected to the outside world, there’s free wifi.
Accommodation costs £50 per person per night and wagging tails cost £5 per night.
Halfway point achieved, we pressed on down to our campsite near St Agnes – Blue Hills Touring Park.
If you’re looking for a pool and a clubhouse, this isn’t for you. But neither is it a field with a portaloo. This site offers you the back-to-nature experience you want from camping, but also has some modern comforts to remind you it’s a holiday, not a survival exercise. It has a decent toilet and shower block – and the water is nice and hot, so no dancing around in an icy trickle. They also offer you a fridge space if you haven’t brought the entire contents of your home and need somewhere to keep your bacon. I opted for electrical hook-up too, so I could charge my phone and blow up my air bed.
The campsite is nicely out the way to feel like a break from the rush, but then again, that’s Cornwall all over. It’s a short drive from the cosy village of St Agnes, which has everything you’d need – newsagents, gift shop, butcher, florist, pubs, restaurants and takeaways. Importantly if you’re travelling with your pet, it has a vet, which we ended up in…
It’s also a 5 minute walk away from the beach or the cliffs, which, if you’ve just arrived after hours of being in a car, make you stop and breathe a silent ‘wow’. Once I put the tent up and made the canvas palace ready for the week, I took Nahla for a local reccy around the cliffs of Perranporth Airfield.
From there, you can follow the South West Coast Path a few minutes down to Trevellas Cove, a good beach for your dogs to play on. It’s out the way and too rough to swim, so all the day trippers and surfers are elsewhere. Or if you’re up for a few miles of walking, you can hike to Perranporth beach, where there are dog-friendly areas, surfing and rock-pooling.
This site is a good base to explore Cornwall from – I got familiar with the roads really easily without a satnav. Although I didn’t get it right every time and mumbled silent prayers when I ended up on a cliff-side lane in the pitch black, only just a tad wider than my car (and it’s an ickle Fiat).
The weather was shocking the week we were there (mid-July 2015), which does make camping rather difficult. I almost wept at not being able to get my stove going to make a cup of tea in the rain and practically snogged the lady who turned up one morning with a coffee van. The night of harsh rain and lightning wasn’t much fun for us either; I don’t know whether I was comforting Nahla or the other way around.
But there’s nothing you can do about that – you know you can’t bank on the weather in the UK, but generally, Cornwall is as good a bet as you can make. When the sun did come out it, you felt like you were a long way away from the UK and you wonder why everyone hasn’t tried to squeeze on that little foot of the country. The sea is blue! The beaches are bountiful! The smell of neoprene is in the air, oh my!