The Driving with Dogs team was recently asked to help find a selection of dog-friendly cottages for an extended family group coming to the UK from France with their two dogs. Members will know that we're experts on dog walks, but we don't do holiday accommodation listings and so this was a bit of a one-off project. One of the people coming helps massively with the Driving with Dogs France listings so we wanted to do our very best.
I quickly found that there are dozens of websites offering exactly the same properties, and sometimes with surprisingly different prices and availability. Specific dog-friendly websites didn't have any overall advantages over the more general ones, which was disappointing.
What I wanted for the group was a selection of holiday homes that represented the most lovely homes that the area had to offer. Not over-the-top luxury, but a warm and welcoming space in a really special location. The websites I liked the best had 'real' people in the office who really did know the properties they were managing, and a quick, easy to use process for making the reservations. For our French friends a translation link would have been handy, but none of the sites I looked at had this.
Rural Retreats are based in Gloucestershire and they have incredible dog-friendly manor houses and barn conversions throughout the UK. I felt really comfortable with this website because they start by asking 'how many dogs?' rather than you having to add the dog as an extra. Not only that, Rural Retreats has a collection of dog-friendly lighthouses. How totally brilliant is that?
English Heritage have a selection of dog-friendly holiday cottages in the grounds of some really famous and historic attractions, such as Dover Castle or Rievaulx Abbey. Absolutely the 'real deal', and they give guests free entry to English Heritage sites and events, shopping discounts, a hamper and tea room discounts.
Exmoor based Holiday Cottages UK had one of the best selections of dog-friendly seaside cottages and their team was really helpful in sorting out our group's different arrival dates and slightly complicated combinations of dogs and children. Their cottages weren't quite as special as Rural Retreats or English Heritage, but they were a bit cheaper too and had a greater choice.
Our French friends made a mixture of reservations for 7 adults, 3 children and 2 dogs using properties from these three companies over 16 days, and they were really happy with each of their stays. I asked the kids to choose a photo that summed up their stay in the UK and they went for the Rollright Witches in the Cotswolds!