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Visiting Formby with your dog

Dogs play on the beach at Formby, Merseyside
Explore Formby with your dog | © National Trust Images/John Millar

With long stretches of beach, sand dunes and woodlands stretching over 1000 acres, dogs love walkies at Formby's nature haven. Find out where you can go with your dog, what facilities are available to them and other important information.

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.

Formby is a one pawprint rated place.

Dogs are welcome here, but facilities are limited. They’ll be able to stretch their legs in the car park and walk in the nearby open spaces, depending on the season. Read on to discover exactly where you can take your dog.

Where can my dog go?

Well-behaved dogs are welcome to wander with you right across the site. We do ask that dogs are put on a lead along the Squirrel Walk. This helps protect the precious red squirrels and gives you and fellow visitors more chance of spotting one. Please keep dogs under close control across the rest of the site. It’s always best to keep them on a lead if you’re unsure.

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

Helping to protect Formby’s wildlife

We know how much some dogs love to run free, but please remember there are lots of wild creatures out and about and we need your help to protect them. Many of Formby’s rare species are protected by law, so please be careful not to disturb them. This is particularly important during breeding seasons.

  • Natterjack toads emerge from hibernation and lay their spawn in the dune pools between March and August. You can help their chances of breeding successfully by keeping your dog well away from the pools so that they don’t disturb the spawn, tadpoles and toadlets.
  • Great crested newts will also be laying their eggs in the dune pools between March and June.
  • Sand lizards and common lizards emerge from hibernation and start breeding in May, but it’s unlikely your pet will get too close to these shy, and very fast, critters.
  • Ground nesting birds like skylark and meadow pipits, and low nesters like whitethroat and reed bunting, will be trying to raise families. Varying your walking route will help reduce the chance of disturbing nest sites repeatedly. Some species of bird may adopt hovering distraction displays to lead you away from their nests. Unfortunately, this gives their nest position away to egg-stealing animals including magpies and stoat.
  • Wading and sea birds, including knots, oystercatchers, sanderlings, dunlins, terns and sandpipers, can often be seen in flocks along the shoreline, particularly during the autumn and winter months. Many are resting and preparing to travel thousands of miles when they migrate. It’s a wonderful sight to see, but please keep dogs from running through them as flying away suddenly makes them use up vital energy reserves, which they need for their long journey ahead.

To help protect wildlife along the Sefton Coast, a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) for Dog Control is in place. You can find out more about it here.

Thank you for your support.

Facilities available for my dog


Although there are some shaded areas in our car parks, please don’t leave dogs unattended in cars as even on cloudy or cooler days a dog can overheat quickly. Find out more here.


At Victoria Road, there are self-filling water bowls by the toilets and in the parking areas. There’s also a woodland picnic area where dogs on a lead are welcome to join you. At Lifeboat Road, the welcome team usually have a dog bowl and water.


Please bring plenty of dog waste bags and clean up after your pooch. Nobody likes to step in dog mess. Dog waste bags decorating the trees or left on the beach are unsightly and can also cause significant damage to the wonderful wildlife all around you.


Like many special countryside places, you won’t find small bins across the site. This is to protect wildlife by reducing rubbish hotspots and the risk of bin fires.

Please dispose of dog waste bags in the large car park bins or in the bins on pavements nearby. If you don't pass a bin whilst you wander, please take your dog waste away with you.

There are some great products available to seal and carry your dog waste until you find a bin, including the Dicky Bag (click here). Or you could use a plastic tub and lid.


If you forget your lead, please ask at the car park entrance as there may be a spare available.

Being mindful of other visitors

As much as we love dogs at Formby, please spare a thought for those who don’t. Some people don’t want dogs near them even if they are only being friendly.

Horse riders may ride across the beach from Formby to Ainsdale, and on some of the paths across the site. Be aware that horses may kick out if they are frightened by a dog. Please prevent dogs from barking at horses or running up to them.

Be aware of harmful bits and pieces

All kinds of interesting things wash up on the beach. In amongst the treasures there can be harmful objects, particularly for our furry friends. Please be aware and try to avoid your dog eating anything on the beach. 

The beach and sea at Formby, Merseyside

Discover more at Formby

Find out how to get to Formby, 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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