Hiking – The Three Peaks

This blog by Jessica Knowles (@chilli.pepper.dog) is part of the Dogs Die in Hot Cars Campaign. This summer please don’t take the risk and leave your dog alone in a car. ‘Not long’ is too long. Happy Walking! 

We wanted to share with you some of our favourite walks in Britain for you to enjoy. We love to explore as much as possible and so we wanted to give you some of our best finds on the road be it food stops, places to stay or trails to embark upon. We set ourselves a bucket list at the start of the year with lots of fun activities we would like to achieve within 12 months and one of those challenges was to climb The Three Peaks … this is why we created our Three Peak Pooch challenge. We climb The Three Peaks, but Pepper joins us every step of the way.

The Lake District – England

Scafell Pike Hike (978m)
Duration: 3-4 hours up and down with a break for a sarnie at the top
Difficulty: Hard (dependent on your fitness level)
Parking: A painful and unavoidable £7 for the day but it goes to the National Trust
Cost: £7
Location: Wasdale Head is CA20 1EX

Paws for thought: It is going to be busy so bear that in mind. Take plenty of water and wear well supported shoes as it has very loose rock. Also if visibility is poor it is recommended to have a map and a compass.

The first of our Three Peak Pooch challenge. This trail is a bit of a slog to start…but once you get into it you soon find your stride. The beginning ascent feels like you’re climbing stairs which is a great thigh burner. Once you creep up the mountainside you find the ground becomes less steep and the view spectacular. You overlook the glorious mountains and can see lakes and peaks for miles and miles. Along the way there are plenty of suitable perches to rest up and have a sandwich break. When you approach the top the track curls around and you can finally see the rocky summit. This spurs you on for those last few strides to the top. Once at the top you can take in the views and relax by the trig point with everyone else who is celebrating their achievement. This is the moment you can definitely pull out your bottle of water and well-earned flapjack and take a few moments to enjoy the Lake District scenery at its best.

Pepper has climbed up a few mountains with us but this one we had heard mixed reviews about taking dogs up. There is a lot of loose rock and in winter this could be quite tricky with your four legged friend. In our opinion if climbing with a dog stick to the warmer months when the frost has thawed and you can safely make your way up the mountain. We were warned by the National Trust volunteers, who kindly greet you in the car park and offer friendly advice, we should be careful having dogs off lead as there are sheep up the mountain and had been a number of dog attacks recently.

Good grub
There is a small burger van at the bottom of the mountain, however if you’re looking for a spot of lunch after your mountain excursion then you might like to plan somewhere to go beforehand. The last thing you want to do when untying your laces and packing your gear away is start trying to Google somewhere to eat, especially with the patchy signal! We ate at a lovely, well priced, pub called the Santon Bridge Inn, who were very dog friendly and had a fantastic pub garden over looking a slow flowing river. There is access to the river also, so if you’ve small children do keep a close eye on them.

A pillow for the night
After a long day walking you really need a good night’s kip. We stay near Penrith at Greenthwaite Hall on Air BnB for around £40 a night with Pepper in tow. Odette who hosts the estate, is incredibly welcoming and makes you and your four legged friend feel right at home. Greenthwaite Hall Cottage is a seperate dwelling attached to Greenthwaite Hall and is approximately 600 years old! The house is full of character and charm that makes the stay an experience as well as a place to sleep. If you’re looking for a hotel like stay, this isn’t it. It is fun, quirky, quintessentially English and is bursting with historic charm.

You have access to the kitchen and lounge areas with a nice garden for the dog to have a wander whilst being surrounded by mountainous countryside.

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© The Weekend Warriors
© The Weekend Warriors

The Nevis Range – Scotland

Ben Nevis – 1,345m
Duration: 5-7 hours up and down with thigh burn breaks
Difficulty: Really hard (dependent on your fitness level)
Parking: You can park in the car park by the Visitor Centre or park for free 200m down the road.
Cost: Free
Location: PH33 6ST – postcode for the road parking

Paws for thought: We walked up Ben Nevis on quite a hot day. If you’re planning on doing the same, then it’s very important to pack additional water for both you and your pooch. Dogs get dehydrated just as humans do, they also don’t plan for a long hike and so only drink when thirsty rather than in preparation as we do, therefore allowing your pooch to drink in streams is only half the picture. Our top tip is that once you finish water bottles you fill these up whenever passing fast flowing water, these will act as a reserve for your dog. Our second top tip is during the climb there are some small pools/streams during the summer months, these aren’t large enough to swim as these are mere trickles escaping down the mountainside, so scoop up some water and cover your dog with a coat of cool mountain H2O.

There are lots of amazing walking trails with your dog in Scotland. The rugged landscape and empowering mountains make any walk feel like a real adventure as you never know what’s around each corner, whether it be a wild boar or an outstretched loch – there is excitement in it all.

The one walk we have at the top of our list is Ben Nevis as part of our Three Peak Pooch challenge. The biggest of all three climbs…This climb is a tough one but the views carry you to the top making it well worth the effort (and burning blisters). We took the trail from the Visitor Centre and the path was signposted the whole way up. As with Scafell, there were large flat rocks formed into steps to help you ascend up the zig zag path. Initially there is a lot of climbing involved with little breaks in between however, the scenery from the word go is, dare we say it….spectacular. The majestic beauty that Scotland has to offer is undeniable. The everlasting lochs, leading into the sea, the powerful mountains and the peaceful, unpopulated wilderness is beyond compare. In our opinion, it’s Europe’s version of Canada right on your doorstep.

There are likely to be sheep grazing on the way up so it is best to keep your dog on a lead unless fully trained around livestock and they stay close on command. Although you may own a small dog, if a ewe is pregnant just the shock of a dog chasing/barking may cause it to miscarry so it’s really important to use the lead as appropriate for your dog.

About 80% of our journey was off lead which is better for you and your pooch allowing you both to move at your own pace and to keep you both safe. We strongly suggest that if you’re not 100% confident with your four legged friend being off lead then you invest in an extendable lead, allowing your dog to move freely without risking making you unstable as you scramble up the tougher sections. We have trained Pepper to ‘stay close’ and not wander into the distance so we can keep an eye on her.

Good grub
Naturally, after hiking up Ben Nevis we were ready for something more substantial than a toastie. The unique location of the Ben Nevis Inn at the very foot of Ben Nevis is a place for great food, real ale, live music and bunkhouse accommodation. This pub is popular with walkers, mountaineers and locals alike boasting a great outdoor area overlooking Glen Nevis. We sat outside with Pepper as it was such a lovely day and took in the views whilst sipping a cold, refreshing beverage. There are plenty of dog bowls out for water too, so your pooch can enjoy a good slurp before journeying back home.

A pillow for the night
Most years we look for a deal with the Daily Mail as they offer an absolute bargain of a holiday with their £20pp caravan offers. We use the caravan as a base, we don’t stay in it all day or use the facilities like the pool etc but they are there should you want them. We like the fact we can afford to do several holidays a year all over Britain because of the fantastic price for 5 nights away in lots of locations. Staying in a caravan brings back lots of happy memories from previous family holidays. The carpeted upholstery mixed with the smell of gas from the cooker makes the experience very nostalgic for us and sometimes…it’s just what you need. A cosy little base to keep you all tucked up in the evenings after a long day out. Make sure to check out some of their deals.

Doing something a little different with your pooch …
We try our best to incorporate Pepper into anything we do. Whether it be climbing a mountain, following us on a bike trail, kayaking down a lazy river or exploring the water on a paddleboard. We try to make each adventure more interesting than the last and endeavour to include her in them. We highly recommend going kayaking with your dog, big or small!

We first took Pepper kayaking last summer in Wales and she absolutely loved it! Initially we weren’t too sure how she would cope on it as it is an inflatable and we were worried it would easily tip the three of us out being quite light weight. Fortunately she learnt pretty quickly to sit in between one of our legs and not wriggle too much risking us all being tossed in to the water. You have to be fairly firm with your dog to ensure they understand the commands you give them on the water are ‘must dos’ and have to happen straight away. Lots of praise and encouragement supports this to work when they are doing just as you would want them to.

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© The Weekend Warriors

Dolgellau – Wales

This was a long weekend away trip with lots of fun things to offer. We stayed in Maes yr Helmau (Stabal) near Dolgellau off Air BnB for £55 a night making our trip an affordable but a lovely time away. We are keen mountain bikers so we went on a lovely walk around Coed y Brenin in between bike trails. We explored the Waterfalls and Goldmine Trail which was about 3.5 miles total. The trail is well sign posted so you can’t get lost mid walk and the gushing sound of the waterfall leads you straight to where you should be.

Both trails follow a forest track north along the river Mawddach in a steep sided valley surrounded by mature forest, passing through Ferndale towards the waterfalls. Make sure you take your camera as there are lots of beautiful snaps to be had along the way.

As you explore the trails you will pass relics of a gunpowder factory, gold mining works and the Gwynfynnydd mine (which closed in 1999) making this route historic, rugged and interesting. Follow the waymarkers along the east side of the river to return – the shorter blue route crosses the river at the aerial bridge while the yellow route follows the river further down stream (which is what we did) before crossing at the Bailey Bridge at Cae’n y Coed. The trail is nearly all on forest tracks with one section of very rough private track before the waterfall and one short but steep climb after leaving them. The route contains no steps or stiles making it even more dog friendly so you can avoid luring your dog over stiles with treats!

As we usually bike with Pepper we took her along some of the bike trails too giving her a run around as they are great fun and a good chance to explore more. We highly recommend the trails, you can get more information from the Visitor Centre if you need to assess which is best for you.

A pillow for the night
The cottage was cute, cosy and perfect for the three of us on our long wintery weekend away. We stayed in Maes yr Helmau near Dolgellau (another Air BnB find) for £55 a night. The cottage is a converted stable offering heaps of character and is a cosy hideaway for the weekend with enough room for you and your dog. For us the location was perfect. As you wash the dishes in your quaint Kath Kidston themed kitchen, you look over stunning mountain views and are close to walks, restaurants and all things outdoor.

Just to note – There are chickens on site so be wary to keep your dog on a lead just in case they chase any of the livestock.

Good grub
After a morning of walking around Coed y Brenin we enjoyed breakfast in the café on site just next to the Visitor Centre. There are lots of tasty treats and hearty breakfast offers too which most people took advantage of. This location is certainly a room with a view. As we sipped our lattes and chomped on a bacon butty we cast our eyes out at the pine trees scattered across the mountainside and felt quite content.

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© The Weekend Warriors
© The Weekend Warriors
© The Weekend Warriors

Mount Snowdon – we intend to climb Snowdon this summer to complete our Three Peak Pooch challenge. This will be completed in the summer.

You can find more details on trips, itineraries and a bit more about us on: the-weekend-warriors.co.uk

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