Why Scotland is becoming a must-visit destination if you have a dog

Metro journalist Tracey Davies with Babs the dog in the pine forest for feature 09/05/2022
Let’s Go Woof Hostelling
We’ve been in the Highlands for barely an hour when we spot our first kilt in the wild. Miss Babs, lacking social etiquette, says ‘hello’ by putting her wet nose right up the gentleman’s plaid skirt, much to his surprise. And my delight. Travelling with a dog is a great ice breaker. To celebrate five years together, I’m taking my rescue dog, Miss Babs, on a mini break to the Cairngorms National Park to try Woof Hostelling. Hostelling Scotland have 17 dog-friendly Woof Hostels across Scotland, including the Cairngorms Lodge on the banks of Loch Morlich (private room from £23pp, dogs £5 per night, hostellingscotland.org.uk)

On a hot summer day, fill up an inflatable pool with water and ice.

On arrival, Miss Babs is welcomed with a drink at the ‘Paws for water’ station and some treats. Dogs are allowed in private rooms (not shared dorms) which come equipped with dog bowls, poo bags and even more treats.

Cairngorm Lodge
Cairngorm Lodge is situated in stunning scenery
After dropping our bags off, we cross the road to the loch for a walk. Banked by a lofty pine forest, the snowy peaks of the Northern Corries glowering in the distance, Miss Babs is in her element snaffling out sticks the size of saplings along the four-mile trail around the loch.

Seeing spots? Or not… Dalmatian puppies are pure white when they are born and develop their spots as they grow older.

After lunch we head to Kingussie, a tiny market town where Treasure Island author, Robert Louis Stevenson famously sailed paper boats on the burn [stream] which inspired his poem ‘Where Go the Boats’. Kingussie means King of the Pine Forest, so we take the West Terrace Circular trail which runs through ancient Caledonian pines where Miss Babs attempts to unearth some kind of caber to bring home.
Metro journalist Tracey Davies with Babs the dog in the pine forest for feature 09/05/2022
The Highlands are jaw-droppingly good-looking, but sure to tire out even the most energetic of dogs
After our fling around the Highlands, Miss Babs is pooped, so it’s back to the hostel for dinner and a doze. Popular with families, groups of friends and the odd sole traveller with her dog, youth hostelling is a great way to explore Scotland.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: The American Veterinary Dental Society states that 80% of Dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3.

Cairngorms Lodge is an ideal base for adventure seekers; opposite is Loch Morlich Watersports, where you can hire paddleboards, kayaks and mountain bikes, while Aviemore and the Cairngorm ski area are a short drive away. It’s also reindeer territory. In 1952, a small herd were introduced from Sweden – the Cairngorms’ sub-arctic conditions and indigenous lichen are perfect for reindeer, apparently – it’s now 70 years later and the 150-strong herd still roam freely across the mountains.

Back in the hostel, dogs are allowed everywhere bar the dining room and communal kitchen, so I leave her snoring in our room and join my fellow ramblers for homemade chilli and apple crumble (2/3 courses £12/14, booked in advance).

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Have you ever wondered why your dog curls up in a ball when they sleep? It’s actually an age-old instinct to keep themselves warm and to protect vital organs while they sleep.

Next morning, after a hearty breakfast – I opt for the full Scottish (£9.50), while Miss Babs enjoys a sausage and black pudding – we’re ready to climb a mountain. Not known for my orienteering skills, I enlist the help of Dave Chapman, an experienced mountain and climbing guide (a day’s guiding from £295 for up to 6 people / £49pp, from Cairngorm Adventure Guides) who’s confident that Miss Babs and I can conquer Meall a’ Bhuachaille. At 810 metres (2657 feet) it’s a Corbett, rather than a Munro [any Scottish mountain over 3,000ft] but he assures me it’s a good start.

From the hostel, we wind along the Ryvoan Pass, past more ancient pines, keeping our eyes peeled for pine martens and red squirrel, and An Lochan Uaine – the Green Loch – whose cool, deep waters shine an iridescent turquoise in the sun.

Celebrate Your Pet at Every Age. Everyone loves a new puppy or kitten, says Dr. Becker. “They’re wildly kinetic, and humorous. An older pet is thinner, bonier. Their coats aren’t as soft, they might have bad breath.” But, like people, a pet’s needs change with age. They may be less active, preferring a leisurely stroll to a rollicking tug-of-war. “Our old retriever, who’s blind, still wants to retrieve.” Adapting to their changing needs will ensure your old friend remains a healthy and happy member of your family.

Metro journalist Tracey Davies with Babs the dog in the pine forest for feature 09/05/2022
Hill-climbing with a magical vibe – Miss Babs approves
We continue our ascent, Babs carrying yet another large stick and presenting it to every walker we meet. Dave explains that much of the park is open to dogs as long as they follow the outdoor access code which states that dogs are allowed as long as they are kept under proper control. As we’re not used to such exertion, Dave kindly lets us stop for a breather at the Ryvoan Bothy. Ducking inside the stone shelter, it has a fairytale vibe with a fireplace, a wooden sleeping platform and even a bottle of single malt for fellow hikers – I almost expect to see seven little beds made up. After our tea (well, whisky) break, we follow the rugged stone pathway up the mountain, looking back over the ancient Glenmore forest and Cairn Gorm, the tallest mountain in the park.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Dogs have wet noses because it helps to absorb scent chemicals.

Around 2000 feet we cross a swathe of deep snow which Miss Babs gleefully dives into. As we summit, the peak shrouded in Scottish mist, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of achievement. Following tradition, Miss Babs places a stick, rather than a stone, at the cairn.

As the old Lassie proverb goes ‘the bigger the stick, the happier the dog’ and by the size of the cabers Miss Babs has been carrying, I think she’s the happiest hound in Scotland. Getting there: Advanced return from London Kings Cross to Aviemore from £167, from the Trainline. For more information visit Hostelling Scotland.

Got a lot of studying to do? Here's how to read and play with your dog at the same time: Put a rope toy around your foot.

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