We'd been to the historic Dalkeith Country Park in Midlothian many times before, but not since their recent £7million revamp. We didn't know how dog friendly it would remain - would it be taken over by prams and pushchairs, leaving little room for families and their dogs to enjoy this wonderful setting?
It's safe to say we were suitably impressed at the hard work that has - and still is - going on to redevelop the park.
The roads have been improved, the catering facilities - although we didn't go in - looked classy, and everything just looked very professional, clean and welcoming.
There is plenty of parking near all the facilities, and a one-way system ensures there are no scary head-on moments on the narrow roads.
Yet again we were so proud of the dog friendly spirit in Scotland, as most of the park is accessible to your dog.
Online advice states "dogs are not allowed in Restoration Yard or Fort Douglas and are kept on a lead in the Palace Field area until across Montagu Bridge." That seems pretty reasonable to me, as there are many countries (some not too far away!) where dogs would not be made as welcome like this.
The River North Esk runs through the park, and is where we went with the dogs straight away to give them a swim and tire them out.
There hasn't been much rain recently (amazingly) so the water levels were low and we easily found a few safe spots to throw the ball into. As usual, we saw minimal wildlife due to the Barkly Twins, but did see some Dippers with their chicks.
Oh and a duck. We saw a duck. There's loads of signs telling you about the wonderful flora and fauna in the park, but that's pretty much as close as we came to any of it. I didn't take a picture of the duck.
I hadn't seen this before - a field fenced off and specifically welcomes dogs to be let off their leads.
I think it's a rather good idea - a safe space. Do note, however, that it is not a 100% secure field, so dogs that are a high flight risk will still need to be watched very carefully.
Fort Douglas is a new adventure area for kids, and I mean the non-furry kind of kid. We were with a friend who went in with her (human) offspring, and she said it was a good, fun place.
I'm sure there are reviews of it elsewhere online, and I bet they are positive. All I know for sure is that although dogs are, sensibly, not allowed inside the Fort, they tell you this using one of the best dog images possible.
And to be fair, Fort Douglas does look excellent from the outside, making me wish I was a small child instead of a six foot tall one.
Worth taking the dogs?
There was a worry before re-development began here that it would commercialise too much in the direction of families with children over families with dogs, but that simply hasn't happened.
Whilst some of the roads are a bit busier with cars than before, that's a small price to pay for a vastly improved park, and I'd rather have it that way and have it used by the community than let it slip into disrepair. We barely touched the number of walks you could go on here, each one different from the next. You dog will surely love all the smells and new sights in a park that is also a working farm. We really do recommend you spend time here.
Here's a few shots we took to encourage you to visit and have a look around this new jewel in the crown of Midlothian's parks.
And as ever, we're always looking out for new walks in the Lothians, so if you have any you think we would love and could review, leave a comment below.
*EDIT* Since writing this blog, we've got a few updates on the poop pot, and they're not great i'm afraid. See the bottom of the article.
This week, Cheryl and I have been struck down separately with lurgy. Whilst Cheryl had a small, trifling cold, I had a ferocious case of the man flu and nearly required the last rites, no matter what she tells you.
So to cheer ourselves up, we bought two things. A Top Gun Blu-ray so we could safely enter the Danger Zone, and a PoopPot, so we could safely dispose of the mess that comes out of our dogs' danger zones.
The Growth of Poo Trees
In recent years, the UK has been slowly invaded by a new species of tree: the Poo Tree.
How sick are you of seeing this?
How annoyed are you when the fruits of the Poo Tree drop and we get this?
Yeah, it annoys us too. Whilst we applaud people picking up their dog’s mess, hanging them onto trees like the worst Christmas decorations ever or leaving them in the middle of the path doesn’t really help matters and is somewhat missing the point.
Very British Poo Problems
Cheryl and I enjoy long walks in the country, meaning zero chance of bins most of the time. But as we have dogs, we believe we have the responsibility to leave nothing other than footprints and that includes our dogs’ poos. We don’t like kicking it off to the side of the path, because often it is off the path we like to walk and have our adventures, especially when foraging for our mushrooms and wild garlic.
We're also concerned about the dangers poo bags can be to horses, as seen in the image, who are attracted to the smell of the bags, ingest them, and could potentially die.
So we’ll tend to carry the poos tied round our fingers; in a bag or slipped inside a pocket.
However, there are few moments more grotesque than reaching in for your gloves only to find…er…something a little more squidgy.
We had been looking for something we could use to avoid this happening again.
So this led us to buying a PoopPot*, which we bought in an effort to be more responsible. It claims to be “…the hands free, odour free solution to carrying dog poop”. Oh really? We’ll be the judge of that, thank you.
Claiming to have an air tight lid which keeps the smell inside, it attaches to your belt or bag for ease of carry, and is made of a soft plastic so it only needs to extend as big as you need it.
The pot we bought is the large version, and comes in at around 5cm thick when fully collapsed, and around 14cm tall when extended. Empty, it weighs 194g, including the carabiner it comes with.
It’s probably worth noting that the PoopPot is designed for you to put your bagged-up poo into. Please don't have your dog poo directly into it. I mean, can you imagine cleaning that out? Don't be that guy.
No no, get some nice eco friendly poo bags*, pick it up and tie it in as usual, and pop it in the pot so you can hands free carry it to the nearest bin without smelling anything. Well, that’s the idea, let’s see if it works.
A Pot Full Of Poo
Here's Cheryl showing the glitz and glamour of our lives by modelling a pot to put dog poo in.
So off we went on out nice river walk. There is a path next to the river which is quite narrow, meaning any poo left on the ground is liable to end up on your wellie/bicycle/dog, so any opportunity to stop this from happening is good.
Before long the pot was called into action. Whilst Sprocket is used to have his photo taken (Cheryl being the Edinburgh Dog Photographer), he's not used to being papped in compromising situations.
To action! Well, Sprocket had clearly been enjoying his Easter break because this was a right ponger.
So into the PoopPot it went without any mess or fuss. The lid came off with little effort, and went back on with a satisfying click very easily and was secure once in place. The lid is attached to the main pot, so no danger of dropping it on the ground.
Then Indie wanted in on this action as she is a diva.
So two poops up and off we carried on with our walk. We were quite happy that not a smell could be smelled. The lid was air tight and the carabiner that came with the pot was suitably strong for carrying it. It wasn’t heavy, but I guess if your dog poos a heavy poo then it will be. Because that’s how science works.
We added another couple of poo bags to the pot as we went, managing four in total but we could probably have slipped another couple in if need be.
Once back at home, with the poo pot a suitably far distance from the nostrils, in the bags were tipped to the deepest depths of our bin, and it was a jobbie done.
Buy Or No Buy?
So, whilst I can’t comment on the longevity or sturdiness of the PoopPot over time (yet), we were really happy with our first outing and meant no more squelchy surprises in our pockets. I'll update this blog with any relevant info as events warrant.
We’d happily recommend a PoopPot of these for anyone who likes to get out of the parks and other areas with bins already supplied. Handy and lightweight, we’ll be taking this out with us again for sure. It's a buy from us! **EDIT: After using this regularly, we have decided we wouldn't recommend it, or buy one again. See Edit 2 below.**
We bought our PoopPot from Amazon and it cost us £14.99 + £3.99 UK delivery. You can view and buy the same PoopPot we have by clicking here.* Other sizes are available.
Do you use a PoopPot? Or something similar? Perhaps you carry a plastic bag for the same purpose, or have a handy gizmo of your own. Let us know in the comments below.
UPDATE 1, 22/06/2017: We've been using the pot daily for a few week now. It still holds up very well and certainly keep the smell in, but it's not great when it reaches capacity as the lid often pops open. We feel it could be better secured somehow, perhaps with a simple clip or similar. With many of the dogs we board, it doesn't take long for this bad boy to fill up, so knowing you're safe from a faceful of fecal ferocity if it pops open would be rather welcome.
UPDATE 2, 18/07/2018: Alas, we've given up on the poop pot. Some time ago the hingey bit attaching the lid to the pot itself started to crack and, not long after, it broke. We've been holding off posting an update as we've been trying to get in touch with Poop Pot to let them know, as it's a pretty serious design flaw. We were using it every day, sure - but isn't that the point? Either way, they never responded to our emails or DMs on social media, so gave up and bought a competitor product. Shame, really.
Would we still recommend buying a PoopPot?
No poos were harmed in the making of this blog - all that we saw and photographed were safely delivered to the comfort of our wheelie bin.
Poo count: We have used the word poo or poop, including those two, 35 times in this blog which, as a grown man, I am delighted about.
If I were super clever, I’d probably start this post with a poem about beaches, and how awesome they are, and how they cleanse the soul and refresh the body. But does this look like a blog that reads poetry? No, we spend our time picking up poop and discussing it. Instead, let me begin with this shot of Gullane Bents, on East Lothian’s beautiful coast.
You Crazy Beach
It's a wide beach with dunes protecting the land - dunes that are bountiful in birds and other wildlife. And then there are the rockpools which are fantastic for all ages - catch a crab, a fish or, on a cold day, a cold - it's up to you!
And luckily, chances are your dog will love the beach too - there’s something about sand coursing through their paws that they just love.
Here at Happy Home Dog Boarding, we love our day trips to the beach, and want to share our adventures and tips with you. We’re starting with Gullane Bents, a large strip of beach nestled in between Aberlady and Yellowcraigs in East Lothian. It offers a stunning place to walk and wonder at all times of the year, and the beach, along with most of this coastline, is a favourite for geologists too because of the layers of history underneath your feet.
We favour going to beaches at low tides to get more bang for your buck, and you can look at when the next low tide will occur here.
Getting There, Car Parking & Accessibility
If you don’t have a car, First Bus operate the X5 and 124 buses from Edinburgh and North Berwick which stop at Gullane.
There are enough recycling bins for all your BBQing needs, as well as toilets for the post-picnic wee and the children who never seem to empty their bladders in one go.
Usually, there is a ice cream van by the cars for all your ice creamery needs, with soft drinks available too.
The Beach Road
As you walk down the gentle slope to the sand, you’ll pass loads of spiny bushes, often with red or pink berries clinging tightly to the branches. These are Sea Buckthorn, and are delicious - if you know what you are doing.
If you want a quick blast of mouthal sensation (is that a thing?) carefully tease one off, making sure it doesn’t pop in your fingers, and stick it in your gob. BOOM! It’s like eating ten Haribo Tangfastics at once, and will make your mouth say oooooooooaaaaaaah. #Guaranteed.
Obviously, only eat if you know that’s what it is - don’t munch on a hunch!
When you hit the sand itself it curves widely to the west and east, with only the tide dictating how far you can go, as opposed to cliffs or walls.
As ever with beaches, people seem to cram themselves into the meter square directly in front of and to the sides of the entrance, so if your pup has a tendency to race for the nearest burger or sandwich, it might be best to keep him on lead until you are closer to the sea.
The wide beach is great for the dog who likes to run, swim, paddle, any or all of the above! The sand gives way to layers of rock, which themselves let us go rock pooling, and there's one or two bigger pools that are perfect for the little dogs who like a safe swim.
The water is as clean as you could hope for. Since Keep Scotland Beautiful began the Scottish Seaside Awards some quarter of a century ago, Gullane has been a winner every single year. This means that it is one of the cleanest and best managed beaches in the country.
You can get fantastic views over the Firth of Forth to Fife towards Kirkcaldy, and even on a good day the Forth bridges are seen just before the horizon.
Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve
If you continue walking westward, you will come across this sign, which made Sprocket a sad dog.
A nature reserve since 1952, Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve offers a varied range of habitats for animals, including nesting birds. It is for this reason that dogs are not welcome, for fear of disturbing ground dwelling birds.
If you keep your dog on the beach or in the sea, you'll have no concerns, other than they may feel sad...
Images of Gullane
There are only so many words that can describe a beach, but pictures tell the whole story. Here are a few, and let us know if we have inspired you to take a trip to Gullane.
And do let us know about your favourite beach, our dogs would love you for it!