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The dog-friendly guide to holidays in Scotland holiday cottages

The dog-friendly guide to holidays in Scotland

Jemima Kirkwood 28 September 2021

For many dog owners, it is hard to leave the dog at home; it can be like leaving a child or a best friend behind. 

At Cottages and Castles, we understand this, with many of our team being dog-lovers! This is why a lot of our owners provide dog-friendly cottages and why we like to keep providing you with top-notch information on how to enjoy your holidays in Scotland with the dog.

Let your dog enjoy an adventurous holiday in Scotland

Enjoy our ultimate guide to dog-friendly holidays in Scotland where we highlight some of the best areas to visit and some great things to look up and book. Start planning your trip today.


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Scotland’s dog-friendly regions

A lot of people describe Scotland as one big outdoor playground, and we happen to agree. In Scotland, there is more countryside and wilderness than there are cities and towns, with two national parks and miles of coastline, making it the perfect spot for those to come and enjoy some much-needed fun with their fluffy friend. 

However, to make the holiday planning easier for you, we have picked out some particularly special regions which are great for taking the dog to. Keeping woodland, lochs, countryside and hills in mind, here are some of our favourite spots.

Enjoy dog-friendly breaks in the Highlands

The Highlands and Islands

The Highlands in the north of Scotland cannot be missed off the dog-friendly bucket list. From winding rivers and peaceful lochs to acres of woodland and impressive hills, there is lots of wild terrain to be explored on foot – the dog's favourite way of travelling. Here are some of our favourite dog-friendly regions which offer some of the best dog walks in the country.

Head over to the north-west coast where you will find beautiful white-sand beaches to play on, clear oceans to splash in, and lots of nature and wildlife to spot. They will love all the new smells which come from the sea – seaweed, rock pools, sea life and sand! Small villages like Torridon, Shieldaig, Ullapool, Gairloch and Poolewe make lovely quiet bases to get out and explore from, and the friendly locals always love an excuse to play with a dog! Discover more Highland towns here. 

The isle of Harris is a great dog-friendly destination

The islands of Skye, Harris and Lewis are also spots we would recommend. The Scottish spirit on these islands cannot be beaten and you can all soak up the welcoming atmosphere in the many dog-friendly pubs and cafes. The ferries over to the islands are dog-friendly and the small, compact size of the islands means they are easily travelled with the pooch in tow. They all offer days by the seaside, beaches to play on and countryside walks to run free on. Explore more of our Scottish Islands today

Enjoy dog walks in the Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms National Park is one of the two impressive national parks in Scotland and is a haven for those who want to come and enjoy history, wildlife and beautiful scenery all in one place. The characterful towns of Kingussie, Kincraig, Aviemore and Speyside all offer lovely places to stay and are great bases for explorations. Loch Morlich, Loch Garten and Loch Insh make for lovely long walks amongst woodland and, for those dogs who like a challenge, Ben Macdui is waiting to be climbed! All sorts of nature can be seen here, from capercaillies to red squirrels, so make sure you have a lead for those moments where the dog might get too playful! Discover more of the Cairngorms here.

Argyll and the Isles and Loch Lomond National Park

Further down the west coast of Scotland is the county of Argyll and Bute, bordered by Glencoe to the north and Loch Lomond National Park and Glasgow to the south. This is a wild and wonderful part of Scotland, boasting craggy coastlines, impressive sea lochs, rocky peninsulas, and remote and dramatic islands.

The Crinan Canal in Lochgilphead offers lovely dog walks

The Kintyre peninsula is home to the little towns and villages of Campbeltown, Carradale, Tarbert and Lochgilphead – all small and quaint, offering peaceful places for dog-friendly holidays. Heading into the heart of Argyll, there is Loch Awe, Loch Goil and Loch Long, all offering lovely waterside walks which can be a great day out with the dog, especially with a picnic packed and a nice sunny day ahead. The views out to the Firth of Clyde can be truly magical and, spending time around Dunoon and Helensburgh, you will be surprised how close you are to Glasgow, one of Scotland’s biggest cities.

The isles of Mull, Jura, Bute, Coll and Islay can all be reached from the mainland at different points and, if the dog is confident on a ferry, they make for wonderful days out or a longer stay too. Visiting the Scottish islands is a lovely way to see the mainland from a different perspective, but also to soak up the different cultures of each one. Oban is the main ferry port in this region and is also a lovely place to visit with its impressive harbour port, traditional stone-built buildings, and a characterful town set on the side of a hill. There is a lovely stony beach cuddling the town which offers up the most magical sunsets. The views around this area are immense, so any time spent outside soaking it all up is time well spent.

Loch Lomond is a wonderful spot for dog-friendly holidays

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is set just to the east of Argyll and Bute and is a tremendous place to visit with the dog. Days can be spent exploring the lochside, soaking up all the views and exploring the perimeter and all the adventurous trails it has on offer. The loch itself is 39km long and there are lots of woodland and hill trails surrounding it, meaning you can get everyone nice and tired before the end of the day. Enjoy boat trips, wild swimming, shopping, eating and exploring – everything a dog can do too! Read more about Loch Lomond here

Scotland's East Coast

In the past, the Highlands and the west coast have outshone the east coast of Scotland, especially since the launch of the North Coast 500 in tourism. However, you are missing a trick if you don’t consider the east coast for a dog-friendly holiday as the long sandy beaches and charming scenery of Aberdeenshire, Angus and East Lothian should not be missed.

The north east takes in the traditional fishing towns of Cullen, Portsoy and Gardenstown - all quirky and cute in their own way. Time can be spent watching boats coming in and out of the harbours, rock-pooling on the numerous beaches and swimming in the sea on the warmer days – just watch out for the jellyfish! Gardenstown is a cliff-side village reached by a steep drop down to the sea; take the dog and marvel at the locals' way of life and their hardy attitude to the North Sea!

Gardenstown on the east coast of Scotland

Aberdeenshire has more castles per acre than anywhere else in Scotland, and in fact the whole of the UK. They have been built into a castle trail, making it simple and easy for you to make sure you can tick them all off the list. With many of the grounds being dog-friendly, these are places you can take your four-legged friend so you can all enjoy a bit of history. We feature some dog-friendly castles further down. Whilst the city doesn’t suit dogs as much as the countryside, Aberdeen itself is not massive and a day trip into the centre followed by an ice cream and leg stretch on Aberdeen beach makes for a lovely day out.

Head to St Cyrus beach, south of Aberdeen and Stonehaven, and discover a wild nature reserve on a huge golden beach. Lunan, Montrose and Arbroath all offer that perfect mix of village and countryside with endless off-track places to explore with the dogs. And, of course, the famous town of St Andrews and surrounding fishing villages can offer many days of wandering, eating, exploring and chilling amongst history and scenery.

For more inspiration on where to go walking with the dog, check out our guide to the best dog walks in Scotland

Scotland’s best dog-friendly beaches

Scotland is home to over 10,000 miles of glorious coastline consisting of white sandy beaches, craggy cliffs, rocky terrain, windswept sand dunes and an abundance of nature and wildlife. It is all there to be explored and what better way to do it than with your fluffy friend in tow? Some say exploring through a dog's eyes helps you to see things in fresh light – possibly the best way to take in such a beautiful country like Scotland.

Dogs run and play on the beach

There are hundreds of dog-friendly beaches throughout Scotland and all the Scots ask is that you pick up after your pooch and keep them on a lead when the signs prompt you to. You will always be welcomed back if you can stick to these simple rules.

Best in the north: Balnakeil Beach – Sutherland

Balnakeil Beach, Sutherland, Scotland

Close to Cape Wrath in the most northerly region of Scotland, this spectacular beach is a magical hidden gem to those lucky enough to visit it. Its crescent-shaped beach is lined with grassy sand dunes where a whole host of habitats exist and the sea can shine crystal clear on a calm day. Rock formations sitting out in the ocean can be admired from the sandy bay, and cold water swims will be on the itinerary for all. The dogs will love stretching their legs here.

Best in the south: Ayr Beach – Ayrshire

Ayr beach in Scotland

Ayrshire lies on the south-west coast of Scotland, between Glasgow and Galloway Forest Park. Hugging the town of Ayr, it is in a handy spot to enjoy days on the beach whilst having all the conveniences of food and shops close by. This is the perfect beach for sociable dog walks where your pooch can meet many of the locals, as well as enjoying ball games and Frisbee on the expanse of sand! After a full day out, the nearby fish and chip shops can fill up those hungry tummies.

Best in the east: St Cyrus beach – Aberdeenshire

St Cyrus Beach in Aberdeenshire

We mentioned this beach earlier because we can’t get enough of it! It lies halfway between Aberdeen and Dundee and is around 3 miles long – loads of space for fetch and wave jumping! Cliffs and dunes hug the shoreline, and the white sand goes on for miles. The beach is part of St Cyrus National Nature Reserve so it is important to keep your dogs controlled as to not scare off any of the local wildlife. The abundant birdlife, butterflies and sealife will keep you all entertained for hours!

Best in the west: Mellon Udrigle beach – Highlands 

Mellon Udrigle beach, Highlands

This is one of the Highlands' hidden spots, which many will never even hear about. It is a magical little beach complete with small caravan/camping grounds and grass dune surroundings. Expect clear turquoise water, a glistening sandy beach, lots of little and large rockpools, and amazingly stunning views. From this beach, you can see some of Scotland’s most impressive Munros including Suilven, Stac Pollaidh and the mountains of Coigach.

For more ideas and inspiration on which dog-friendly beaches to visit during your visit to Scotland, read our guide to the best dog-friendly beaches in Scotland.

Scotland’s best dog-friendly attractions in Scotland

Take a boat trip on Loch Ness

Take a boat cruise along Loch Ness

Book a boat trip with Cruise Loch Ness and the dog will be able to enjoy first-class views out over the water. Perhaps your fluffy friend will be able to help you spot Nessie, the elusive monster that roams the depths of the water! You can enjoy day or evening cruises and this is the perfect way to take in the sights and wildlife that surround this magical loch.  

Soak up history at an ancient Scottish castle

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire

You will never regret a day trip out to a Scottish castle; the history and stories to absorb are truly fascinating and each castle holds a different version of Scottish history within its walls. A lot of castles let the dogs roam through the stately rooms or ruins with you, while some restrict them to courtyards, grounds and gardens. Either way, you will have a great day out. Here are just a few which allow dogs:

  • Dunnottar Castle – Stonehaven, AB39 2TL
  • Tantallon Castle – North Berwick, EH39 5PN
  • Caerlaverock Castle – Dumfries, DG1 4RU
  • Aberdour Castle – Burntisland, KY3 0SL
  • Dunstaffnage Castle – Oban, PA37 1PZ
  • Holyrood Park – Edinburgh, EH8 8HG

Take a ride on the Strathspey Steam Railway

Take a ride on a traditional steam train from Aviemore to Nethy Bridge

Does your dog like the luxury of traveling by train? Look no further than this charming train ride from Aviemore to Broomhill Bridge on the outskirts of Nethy Bridge. Passing through stunning scenery, you can take in woodland and countryside views from the traditional steam train whilst enjoying a light lunch or afternoon tea! Remember to take treats for the dogs! 

Experience a Scottish Highland show

Admire the heavy horses at the Scottish Highland Show

Plan for 2022 and organise your ticket to the Royal Highland Show. From show jumping and sheep shearing to forestry and farriery, there are so many agricultural delights to enjoy at this annual show. You can come for a couple of days, or just one, and make the most of being around animals, people and of course other dogs! 

Highlights:

  • Heavy horses – admire these horses as they are judged on hand and ridden - they are beautiful gentle giants.
  • Cattle – say hello to native and continental breeds of cow and watch them all being judges and awarded rosettes.
  • Food and drink – sample local produce from Scottish suppliers from artisan cheese to whisky and beer.
  • Arts and crafts tents – browse wares from Scottish artists and designers from canvas art to handmade jewellery.

The best dog-friendly cafes in Scotland

We have chosen to feature cafes as they are usually the places we pop to for a quick bite to eat, hot drink or a delicious cake during, or after a nice long walk! It is likely that you will have the dog in tow when stopping at a café, so here are a few of our favourites…

The Long Dog Cafe

Located in the west end of Aberdeen, this is a lovely café where you can take your dog with you to enjoy a light brunch or a cup of tea. There is indoor and outdoor seating at the Long Dog Cafe and, once you have refreshed your palate, you can browse the next-door doggy boutique and pick your four-legged friend up a treat! Choose from dog harnesses, dog jackets and all sorts of tasty snacks. 

Location: Aberdeen, AB10 6QY 

Dog-friendly cafes offer a nice place for all to enjoy a cake

Jammy Piece

Jammy Piece is a traditional Scottish tearoom serving home-style baking and delicious light meals. The wood burner creates a cosy environment, especially in winter, and it offers a lovely place to rest the legs after days out exploring the town and further afield. We have heard their banoffee biscuit pie is totally pawsome! 

Location: Inverness, IV3 5LE 

Bridge House Café 

This beautiful little cafe in Ballater serves up freshly made food and freshly baked treats to everyone who walks through the doors. Catering for all sorts of diets including vegan, there is lots of choice on the menu at the Bridge House Cafe. Treat yourself with everything from pancake stacks to waffles. Dogs are welcome outside and in, and they will love stretching out by the wood burner. 

Location: Ballater, AB35 5QP 

Brew and Chew

This is a dog-friendly independent café with heaps of character. At Brew and Chew, the staff love welcoming the dogs and enjoy getting to know them, just as much as they love feeding you and your fluffy friend! Sourcing local coffee from the Bean Shop of Perth, they believe that everyone deserves to drink the best coffee. Your dog will love the doggy ice cream that is on the menu, along with other treats which await! 

Location: 51 High Street, PH1 5TJ 

Stay in dog-friendly accommodation in Scotland

Let your dog relax in some of the best dog-friendly accommodation in Scotland.

We hope we have inspired you to come and stay in Scotland and bring your dog with you – there is so much for you ALL to see and do. We have amazing pet-friendly accommodation for you to browse, ranging from small remote bothies to larger holiday houses which can accommodate the whole family. You will also come across cottages that accept anywhere between one and five dogs, meaning larger groups with multiple dogs will have somewhere to stay too!


Browse our pawsome collection today and start planning those dog-friendly Scottish holidays!

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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