There are very few places that can tick as many boxes as Edinburgh.
Beautiful - tick.
Historic - tick.
Gorgeous accent - tick (obviously!)
Historically, dogs have been welcomed in Edinburgh - as evidenced by the world-famous Greyfriars Bobby. In fact, some say that one of the best things Edinburgh has going for it is it’s dog friendly culture. So let's refine this idea as we explain why you should bring your dog to Edinburgh!
Dog Friendly, Not Just Dog Tolerant
Many pubs and bars in the UK claim to be dog friendly these days, because it’s good for business. In reality though, some are merely dog tolerant. They might let you sit at a small bar with your pup so you can order peanuts, or allow you to sit in their windy beer garden with all the smokers, but if you want anything more substantial to eat, or a more comfortable seat to eat it in, you’ll have to hope there’s a burger van nearby or you’ll both be going home hungry.
Edinburgh offers a truly dog friendly atmosphere, with your dog accepted into many places you would never have expected.
I can take my two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Sprocket and Indiana, to more cafes and eateries than I can count.
This ranges from beachside pubs like The Espy in Portobello (Edinburgh’s seaside town) to city centre gastropubs like the Scran and Scallie, run by the Michelin starred Tom Kitchin.
Such is the number for dog friendly places in Edinburgh that a site has been specifically set up to keep track and advise you on where you can happily take your pup.
Dugs 'n Pubs started in 2009 and has exploded in popularity since then. It is an invaluable resource for anyone in the city who simply wants to go out for a nice day with your best friend and not have to worry about where they can go for a drink.
Dog Friendly Events
The city also hosts a variety of dog friendly events throughout the year, including the Foodies Festival, which tours the UK celebrating great food and drink, and the more local Meadows Festival.
The Meadows Festival, as you can see from the images below, is an annual weekend event of music, food and stalls selling everything from artwork to jewellry. Held in a central park only moments from the Royal Mile, it's also a wonderfully dog friendly event, with dog shows and events run by the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home - you might even walk away with a rosette!
For more photos from this and previous years' Meadows Festival, check out the Edinburgh Dog Photography Facebook page.
Edinburgh's Stunning Outdoor Spaces
Over and above all of this, Edinburgh has so much outdoors space to play with your pup on a visit. 49.2% of Edinburgh is green space, and has recently been named the UK’s greenest city.
Of course, the biggest green space - and one that is hard to miss - is Arthur’s Seat, a hill which towers over the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace near the city centre.
This remnant of an extinct volcano welcomes tourists and residents alike to walk and run up its sides, providing a massive playground for dogs of all sizes and capabilities.
The opportunities to explore Edinburgh from above don’t end there. You can enjoy a walk up Blackford Hill, where you can take in the view of the castle, Arthur’s Seat and further into East Lothian and an unusual looking hill around the coast, North Berwick Law.
Then there’s Calton Hill, five minutes walk from the city centre.
On it, you can see a great deal of eclectic architecture, including the National Monument. This was built in the 1820s to remember the fallen of the Napoleonic Wars, in the style of Greece’s Parthenon. Unfortunately, it ran out of funding midway through and sits unfinished to this day, giving Edinburgh the beautifully sarcastic name, ‘Athens of the North’.
The Dog Friendly City Folk
But here’s the biggest tick of all. Here’s why you need to bring your dog to Edinburgh.
Strolling around with your wee pal through the winding, gorgeous, cobbled streets can often take longer than planned because of the community spirit amongst fellow dog owners.
Don’t be surprised if you are stopped so your dogs can fuss each other - or so you can fuss a new puppy pal! You never quite know who you are going to end up chatting with, and during the Edinburgh Festival, you never know - could get a pleasant surprise!
To finish, here's a list of some more of our favourite dog friendly places to go with your dog in Edinburgh:
Holyrood 9a - a wonderful pub not far from the Scottish Parliament that adores dogs.
The Espy - we can't get enough of this place!
Cloisters - a lovely traditional real-ale pub with a fireplace to stay snug in winter.
City Cafe - travel back in time with this funky diner by day, drinks by night!
The Southern - this used to be our regular haunt, and was also visited by Nirvana once!
What other places would you suggest visitors with their dogs go to in Edinburgh?
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!