Dog-friendly boat trips in the UK and Ireland

The 4 Best Dog-Friendly Boat Trips in the UK And Ireland

No matter what part of the UK or Ireland you travel to, there’s some excellent boat trips to enjoy. Whether a cruise on a lake or a trip to one of the many smaller islands. And if you’re travelling with a dog, they don’t need to be left behind, with most of the boat trips being dog-friendly. Here’s my pick of the best dog-friendly boat trips in the UK and Ireland that you should add to your itinerary!

1. Cruise on Windermere

Lake Windermere Holding Dog
Cruising on Lake Windermere, the largest lake in the Lake District, with Schnitzel

A cruise along Lake Windermere is one of the highlights of a visit to the Lake District in Northern England. And given that the area seems to be one of the most dog-friendly areas in England (I spotted many dogs accompanying their visiting owners), it’s no surprise that dogs are allowed on the Windermere Lake Cruises boats.

There’s a variety of cruise options available, from short return trips that start at 45 minutes, to open-ended passes. (Great if you are combining a cruise with hiking along the lake foreshore – dogs welcome, of course!)

Lake Windermere Boat
We cruised aboard the Teal, one of the larger Lake Windermere Cruises vessels

Naturally dogs are required to be on a leash and well-behaved on the boat, but there’s no restrictions against them even coming inside the cabin. Although unless the weather is bad the best spot is out on the deck with the wind in your hair, taking in the peaks around you.

More Info: https://www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk

Lake Windermere Behind
Looking back towards the peaks that surround Lake Windermere at its northern end

2. Day Trip to Aran Islands

Aran Islands Dog with View
Beautiful views while hiking around the Inisherr, one of the Aran Islands, with Schnitzel

Located off the west coast of Ireland, the Aran Islands are a wonderfully scenic and relaxing spot to visit. It’s also one of the few areas in Ireland where the locals mainly still speak Irish Gaelic as their first language. And given that many of the locals own dogs and need to take the ferries across to the mainland, it’s no surprise that dogs are allowed on the ferries.

The main year-round ferries run from Rossaveel to the west of Galway, but during summer there’s also multiple ferries that run from Doolin, to the south of Galway and close to the popular Cliffs of Moher. It’s possible to stay overnight out on the islands, or else do a day trip. We elected to do the latter to Inisherr, combined with a cruise past the towering Cliffs of Moher.

Aran Islands Boat
One of the many boats that travel to and from the Aran Islands from Doolin
Aran Islands Dog on Boat
Schnitzel taking in the views from the boat – he’s not quite sure of this boat business!

On Inisherr, our dog got plenty of friendly attention. Many visitors hire bicycles to easily get around the 2km by 3km island, but being accompanied by a dog, we just elected to walk to the scenic spots closer to town. All of the pubs and cafes had outdoor seating, which worked well with the fine weather during our visit, although if it was raining it might be a bit tricky.

Aran Islands Beach
The main beach on Inisherr: beautiful white sand and crystal clear water (albeit with clouds today)

As there’s multiple companies that cruise to the Aran Islands, check in advance that the company that you’re booking with has dog-friendly boats. Additionally, if you’re wanting to stay overnight, there’s limited dog-friendly options, so book that first.

More Info: https://www.doolinferries.com

Book a Great Value Trip through Viator: https://www.partner.viator.com/en/22941/tours/Western-Ireland/Inis-Oirr-Island-and-Cliffs-of-Moher-Cruise-from-Doolin/d23308-24984P3

3. Cruise on Loch Ness

Loch Ness Boat
The Jacobite Warrior departing on a cruise

Thanks to the legend of the Loch Ness monster, a cruise on Loch Ness is a popular part of a trip to Scotland. Loch Ness is the largest lake in Scotland, due to both its length and great depth. It’s not far to the west of the large town of Inverness, plus it’s within day trip distance of Edinburgh.

The cruises are run by a single company, Jacobite Cruises. They offer multiple cruise options, with the shortest being a one hour cruise from Clansman Harbour. This is the cruise we took, which is a dog-friendly cruise. Note that it’s not possible to take a dog on the cruises that visit Urquhart Castle, as dogs are not allowed at that site.

Loch Ness Castle
View of Urquhart Castle from the boat

It’s best to book in advance, as some cruises do get booked out by tour coaches. Although during the summer some cruise run hourly, so it’s not too long to wait on shore. Just one warning from Jacobite Cruises: keep an eye on your dog, in case Nessie is feeling peckish!

More Info: https://www.jacobite.co.uk

Loch Ness Dog
Schnitzel getting a tad annoyed by the wind in his ears

4. Day Trip to Orkney Islands

Orkney Islands
Beautiful but wild beaches on the Orkney Islands

Located just off the northern tip of Scotland and a 3 hour drive north of Inverness, the Orkney Islands are another group of islands that you can easily travel to with your dog.

There’s a few different vehicle ferry options, plus a passenger ferry that runs from John O’Groats, the most distant point on Britain from Lands End in Cornwell. I highly recommend booking the combined John O’Groats ferry with their coach tour of the island. We found it to be very well organised and our bus driver kept up a constant and fascinating commentary.

Skara Brae
The neolithic houses at Skara Brae, the World Heritage Site visited during the day trip

Dogs are allowed on both the John O’Groats ferry and the coach tour. The only issue is if you elect to add on the coach trip from Inverness. We did this (to save on a 6 hour return drive), and on this long coach trip dogs are not allowed.

Orkney Islands Boat
Waiting to board our boat, the Pentland Venture, at John O’Groats

More Info: http://www.jogferry.co.uk/Home.aspx

Book the Maxi Day Trip through Viator: https://www.partner.viator.com/en/22941/tours/The-Scottish-Highlands/Orkney-Islands-Day-Trip-from-John-OGroats/d768-2746MAXIDAY

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