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Visiting Sandscale Haws with your dog

Visitors walking along the shore with dog at Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve
Enjoy a peaceful dog walk at Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve | © National Trust / Paul Harris

Sandscale is a popular spot for dog walking. With a long stretch of coastline and rolling dunes to explore it’s a great place to visit with your four-legged friend. Help keep Sandscale special for people and wildlife.

Our pawprint rating system

We’ve been working on making it easier for you to find out how dog-friendly your visit will be before you and your four-legged-friend arrive. To help with this, we've created a new pawprint rating system and given all the places in our care a rating. You can find this information in the National Trust members’ handbook.

Sandscale Haws is a two pawprint rated place. These places have water bowls, dog bins and dog-friendly walks.

Dogs are allowed in all areas here, but please consider that Sandscale Haws is a National Nature Reserve and certain times of year are more sensitive for the wildlife living here. Please read on to find out more.


Sandscale is a haven for special wildlife. Between March and July, please keep your dog close to you or on a lead to stop them from disturbing nesting birds, as this could cause birds to leave their nests and abandon their chicks.

In the winter months a whole crowd of migratory shoreline birds descend on Sandscale for some well-needed food. Keeping your dog on a lead will mean that they’re not disturbed when feeding.

The pools on site look tempting for dogs but they are important for breeding natterjack toads, other amphibians and a huge diversity of insect life. Please keep your dog away from these pools to prevent disturbing the wildlife and introducing chemicals into the water from spot-on parasite treatments.

Farm animals

Livestock grazes across Sandscale throughout the year to help keep down scrub and encourage wildflowers to flourish. Over winter and spring our tenant farmers have lambs and pregnant ewes out in the dunes and calves from late summer.

Cows may become defensive if they have calves with them and they are not always obvious. Remember if you are approached by cattle with your dog it is safer to let go of the lead and call your dog back when safe to do so.

Dogs off leads can cause a huge amount of harm to farm animals which can impact farmers’ livelihoods. You can reduce the amount farm animals are disturbed and injured by keeping your dog on a short lead.

A small dog on the lead standing at the beach
Dog on the lead at the beach | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

The Canine Code

We’ve worked with our partner Forthglade to come up with this Canine Code, which helps to make sure everyone can enjoy their day:

  • Keep them close: using a short lead helps to keep your dog from disturbing ground-nesting birds and farm animals. It's essential to use a short lead around sheep. But if cattle approach you, it's best to let your dog off the lead, and call them back when it's safe to do so.
  • Pick up the poo: please always clear up after your dog. If you can't find a bin nearby, take the poo bags home with you.
  • Watch the signs: keep an eye on local signs and notices wherever you're walking. They'll tell you if a beach has a dog ban, for instance, or if a path has been diverted, or if you're in an area where dogs can run off-lead.
  • Stay on the ball: remember that not everyone loves dogs, and some people fear them. So make sure your dog doesn't run up to other people, especially children.

Keeping control of your dog

Our definition of close or effective control is: ​

  • Being able to recall your dogs in any situation at the first call
  • Being able to clearly see your dog at all times (not just knowing they have gone into the undergrowth or over the crest of the hill). In practice, this means keeping them on a footpath if the surrounding vegetation is too dense for your dog to be visible
  • Not allowing them to approach other visitors without their consent
  • Having a lead with you to use if you encounter livestock or wildlife, or if you are asked to use one

Safety tips for your dog

The pools at Sandscale are great for wildlife but not so great for your dog. At times toxic blue-green algae may be present and even just small amounts of this can make dogs very ill.

Every tide will bring in new materials, not all of them welcome. Palm oil, dead animals and chemical containers can wash up from time-to-time. Palm oil is not a toxic substance, but it is indigestible and is often a breeding ground for bacteria which can make dogs very ill.

It’s best to keep your dog close to you and to put them on a lead if any hazards are present. Keep an eye out for any warning signs and please let us know if you see any new hazards.

Grasses at Sandscale Haws, Cumbria, with the Duddon Estuary beyond and a rainbow and wind turbines visible on the hills in the background.

Discover more at Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve

Find out how to get to Sandscale Haws National Nature Reserve, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

Our partners


We've partnered with natural pet food maker Forthglade so that you and your dog can get even more out of the special places we care for.

Visit website 

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