Let’s face it, if you’re a well loved dog then pretty much every day is a holiday.
Tasty food. Plenty of exercise. Comfortable bed(s). Toys to play with.
That pretty much sums up my life with mum, and it ain’t half bad.
Sometimes though it’s nice to get away – no work for mum, new smells for me and the chance for both of us to get outdoors in a new environment.
Oh, and Squirrel Patrol of course.
So as the year draws to a close and the holiday adverts start appearing on the telly (anyone seen a Creme Egg one yet?), you might be pondering where to take your pooch in 2018.
We’ve stayed numerous times at Forest Holidays locations, so here’s my lowdown on holidaying in the depths of the woods.
One of the main draws of Forest Holidays for us has been that they allow up to four dogs per cabin – pretty unusual as many holiday homes allow a maximum of two.
This has suited us brilliantly as we’ve always gone with mum’s sister and brother-in-law – auntie C and uncle J – and their three dogs, my cousins Nelly, Arthur and blind Arry.
Mum and I have stayed at five Forest Holidays locations:
- Blackwood Forest, Hampshire
- Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
- Ardgartan Argyll, Scotland
- Cropton, Yorkshire
- Thorpe Forest, Norfolk
The cabins are of a good standard, whether you choose a Copper Beach (the ‘entry level’ choice), Silver Birch (with a hot tub), or Golden Oak (with a hot tub and log burner).
They’re modern, comfortable and clean – although mum says don’t look too hard under the beds or settees, as the dust has come for a holiday too. If there’s a problem – we had a slow-flowing sink once – the Forest Holidays maintenance staff sort it out PDQ.
And there’s wifi! This is important for humans, otherwise they might have to talk to one another.
There are some fabulous locations across the UK. The one we’ve been to most often is the Forest of Dean – a three hour drive from home for us, so it’s manageable for a three or four night stay. The forest is enormous, so it’s quite possible to walk for hours and see hardly anyone else around – which as you know, makes for a good dog walk in our opinion.
Oh, and there are piggies! Wild boar to be precise. I found some of them too, but they didn’t want to be friends with Wilsy. Silly piggies.
Cropton, which we visited in January this year, was fantastic and the snow that arrived on day two made it chocolate box pretty, even if mum did entertain herself by chucking snowballs at me. It was the first (and so far only) time I’ve seen snow, and it was great fun.
We were blessed with some cracking winter sunshine for our stay at Thorpe Forest – the UK’s largest manmade lowland forest. It’s near RAF Lakenheath too, so if you’re really lucky you might see some spectacular flying machines. We were treated to an Apache helicopter overhead – what an impressive sight and a bit more meaty than the gliders we’re used to at home!
Blackwood was my first Forest Holidays experience, when I was a mere whippersnapper at four months old. It’s also super-local being less than an hour’s drive away – and very kindly, they let the search dog team train there and have a collection tin for us in the Forest Retreat.
But our favourite location is Ardgartan Argyll – such stunning scenery! I swam outside for the first time in Loch Long (despite living a mile from the Solent, I waited until I was 488 miles away to properly take the plunge outside).
The cabins are almost literally a stone’s throw from The Cobbler – aka Ben Arthur – and there are some other super walks that don’t involve a 920m ascent.
The only negative was the distance from home – a 10 hour drive with four dogs crated in the back of a Citroen Berlingo, and three humans squished up at the front. That made for a l-o-n-g journey…
The main drawback with Forest Holidays in general is the cost. The cabins aren’t cheap and it’s an extra £10 per dog per night. A quick Google of ‘dog friendly holiday cottages’ shows you that many other places charge a set fee per pooch and it’s considerably lower than £70 per week.
We also wouldn’t bother with paying extra for the hot tub. While clean and well maintained, it’s fair to say they’ve been worked hard over the years and the warm temperature and bubbles can both leave a bit to be desired. Like a warm temperature and bubbles.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter might also remember the flow rate from the hose to clean dogs at the Forest of Dean, which was, in a word, useless. In mum’s view, every cabin should have an outdoor tap with warm water that flows at a rate that means you won’t spend the rest of the holiday trying to get the mud off your dog from the first day’s walk.
In my view, I think taps should be banned and we should just be allowed to get wet and muddy.
Will we stay again at Forest Holidays? We’ve no plans to, at this stage. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed every visit, but the rising costs have made us look elsewhere. And on our last visit, the fact they left one toilet roll for a cabin that sleeps four and had been booked for a week was a bit on the stingy side.
Mum and I are off to Dorset next month for four nights, booked through Hoseasons, and next September we’re back to the Forest of Dean but staying at a different location for auntie C’s 50th (whisper it) birthday.
Stay tuned for some holiday frolics in 2018, and in the meantime if you’ve got some suggestions for great dog-friendly self-catering places to stay, please let us know below.
All opinions expressed are genuine and not influenced in any way by any third party.