Visiting Dunster Castle and Watermill with your dog
Dogs are welcome throughout the year at Dunster Castle and Watermill, and there are some great spots to stretch those legs, whether you have two or four. Take a walk around the parkland that follows the River Avill, or into the wider estate.
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.
Dunster Castle is a two pawprint rated place.
These places have water bowls, dog bins and dog-friendly walks. You’ll be able to take your dog into some areas, but not everywhere. If there’s a food and beverage outlet, you can have a cup of tea with them, probably outside. Read on to discover exactly where you can take your dog.
Where can my dog go?
Dogs on leads are allowed everywhere except inside the castle. Explore one or all the different areas during your walk.
Why not visit the less formal parkland, a beautiful place to spot wildlife including otters and kingfishers during your stroll? You can take your walk into the garden or join the path which leads to the wider estate and the deer park. A circular stroll will take you through the parkland following the River Avill.
The River Garden, watermill and South Terrace
Home to giant redwoods, giant rhubarb and a handkerchief tree, the River Garden is also home to the watermill which is also dog-friendly. When open, you’ll be able to see the wheels turning and possibly milling in progress.
Visit the South Terrace with your four-legged friend, a little piece of the Mediterranean dropped into Somerset. You may spot a herd of Exmoor ponies on the surrounding hills.
The Keep and Victorian reservoir
The original location of the motte castle, the Keep was levelled out in the 18th century to create a bowling green. Winding your way up the hill there are plenty of different paths to explore, some taking you to the Victorian reservoir, another to Aunt May's Garden.
A walk around its perimeter gives views out across the countryside and on a cloudless day Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor, can be spotted.
Where can't my dog go?
The castle itself and lawned areas of the garden, otherwise adventure awaits everywhere else!
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
Facilities available for my dog
You can find dog bins across the site and noted on the welcome map. There are water bowls found by the Visitor Reception, Ticket Office and on the South Terrace.
Discover the best places for a dog walk, from coastal adventures and dramatic mountains to more leisurely walks near you. Plus find information on dog-friendly cafés and read our Canine Code.
If you’re bringing your dog to the places we care for, here’s information on the Canine Code and pawprint rating system to plan your visit.
After a good dog walk in the fresh air, find a place to sit and relax with your dog in a dog-friendly café.
We've partnered with natural pet food maker Forthglade to create the Dogs Welcome project, helping you and your dog to get the most out of the places in our care.
Explore the highlights of the garden at Dunster Castle, which takes you around the world and through four different microclimates
There are several places to enjoy a bite to eat and a drink during your visit to Dunster Castle and Watermill. Find out more about what each outlet has to offer.
Discover a thousand years of history at Dunster Castle. Follow its journey from a Middle Ages fortress to a Victorian family home.