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Visiting The Mournes with your dog

Visitors walking their dog on the circular trail around the lake at Buttermere Valley, Cumbria
Dog sitting with owner on lead at the Mournes | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

With miles of footpaths to explore, the Mournes is a great place to explore with your four-legged friend. Find out about dog walking on the Mournes, including where you can go and the guidance you should follow when you're walking near livestock and nesting birds.

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.

The Mournes 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?

You can bring your dog with you on all the trails on The Mournes, but please pay close attention to the guidance we’ve put together here.

What do I need to be aware of on The Mournes?

The Mournes is home to livestock and many different species of plants and animals. For this reason, we ask that you always keep your dogs under close control, and on a lead.

But there are certain times when you must keep your dog on a short lead (maximum 2 metres), in line with the Countryside and Rights of Way Act:

  • During nesting season (1 March to 31 July each year)
  • Whenever you are near livestock (at any time of year)

You should never let your dog chase wildlife or grazing animals.

Sheep grazing on moorland at White Moss on Marsden Moor Estate, West Yorkshire
Sheep grazing on the Mournes | © National Trust Images/Robert Morris

Walking your dog near sheep

Grazing season is from April until October but do be aware that sheep may be on the Mournes before or after this time.

It's really important to keep your dog under control around sheep, especially during lambing season. Even if a sheep isn’t injured, scaring a pregnant ewe can cause it to miscarry. As a last resort, farmers can take legal action against the owners of dogs that worry sheep.

Walking your dog near cattle

Cows graze on some parts of the Mournes too. Cows are naturally curious, so if they approach, walk slowly with your dog at heel. If you feel threatened, let go of your dog – it can run faster than cattle and escape. Once you're safe, regain control of your dog.

Always walk around cows with calves because they may feel threatened if you walk between them. If you're unsure, try to find an alternative route around the animals.

Breeding birds

The Mournes is an important breeding site for ground nesting birds which are vulnerable to curious dogs when they’re sitting on eggs and raising chicks.

Please stick to footpaths and keep your dog on a lead during nesting season (1 March to 31 July). These restrictions are vital to help us give breeding birds the best chance of success. And after a series of devastating fires, it's more important than ever to leave them to nest undisturbed.

Dog walking at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire
Owner holding dog at Slieve Donard Car Park. | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

Canine Code

To make sure that everyone has an enjoyable day, please follow our Canine Code:

  • Take the lead: help reduce the chance of your pup disturbing wildlife by keeping them on a lead
  • Scoop that poop: bag it and bin it to keep your favourite places beautiful
  • Paws for thought: look out for information signs (and take extra care on cliff paths)
  • Be on the ball: not everyone loves dogs, so keep them close by

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