What Are UK Beach Coast Restrictions?

Dog walking along a sandy beach

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Dog Walking Around The UK

What Are The Dog Restrictions For Walks On Beaches?

Beautiful walks along coastal routes and sandy beaches

Great Britain is home to a stunning coastline which according to Ordnance Survey OS figures including islands is 31,368km (19,491.172 miles) with the mainland making up 17,819km (11,072.213 miles), more than most other countries.

That’s a lot of available coastline and beaches for possible dog walking, although not all suitable. Cornwall and Devon are the counties with the most coastline and possibly some the warmest during the summer months, having been perfect tourist destinations in the UK for more than a century and a half.

Wet dog on beach

The Victorians fell in love with our coastlines, creating small towns, building promenades and ‘taking in the air’. Piers with amusements halls and theatres were popular and many still survive today. These areas even today are busy tourist areas particularly during the summer months and dog restrictions are put in place as to where their owners can take them for walks.

\\\ Beach Restrictions

Beaches fall under the premise of Defra, The Department of The Environment, alongside Public Health, currently, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, powers being devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Owners and operators of beaches, countryside and coastal areas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are led by the various local government and council restrictions, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

You’ll find they will determine what they consider is right for the public to have access to in their regions, and where protecting areas of scientific regions of interest and outstanding beauty restrict dog walking.

Due to the high number of coastal and beach visitors particularly during Bank Holidays and school holidays, restrictions are put in place where dogs are not allowed onto the beaches. Public beach restrictions can start on 1 April each year in very busy local destinations or the Easter bank holiday weekend, being set by local councils so it is worth checking social media or council websites before travelling that no restrictions have been put in place.

The general start date for popular council-run beach location restrictions is 1 May through to 30 September each year.

Some councils ban dogs on beaches and promenades during this period, other councils ban dogs on beaches but allow them on leads whilst walking on the promenades. Other beaches allow dogs on the beaches only on leads and some beaches have a total ban all year, fortunately, there are not too many.

These restrictions like local park restrictions are enforced under Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO). Fines can be imposed by officials for failing to not adhere to the rules where dog wardens can patrol these areas.

Restriction and other notices are placed in beach car parks, and by the entrance walkways to the beaches. Do check these guidance notices as beach restrictions differ from one beach to another. They’ll give guides and sometimes illustrative maps showing the zones where you can and can’t walk with your dog.

Sometimes there are abnormal events, such as a boat being marooned on a beach, which may result in the beach being cordoned off temporarily so it’s important to check local social media before making a special journey.

\\\ Dog Poop

One of the reasons why there are beach restrictions is because of the problems of owners not picking up dog poop.

Dog poop and urine affect water quality and could threaten the Blue Flag status of a beach. Blue Flags are very important to the tourist industry for beaches to gain and maintain every year, bringing in high visitor footfalls, helping the local economy.

Dog poop is generally meat-based excrement which can cause the risk of Toxocara in humans, and in severe cases, where humans have come into contact with dog poop, can lead to blindness.

You’ll find most councils operate beaches that provide dog poop bins for safe disposal by owners. These can be found on promenades, on beach walkways and in car parks. As usual, don’t leave home without dog poop bags when out dog walking.

Horses are allowed to walk on beaches accompanied by their rider as they only eat grass so any excrete left on beaches or in the sea is not harmful.

\\\ Tides

The UK experiences some of the largest tides in the world, with a range of up to 15 metres. Because of our large tidal range, the UK is vulnerable to Ocean Tide Loading which moves the earth up and down each day. In Cornwall, the range is up to 10cm, one of the largest ranges in the world, explaining the surfer’s love of the seas in and around Devon and Cornwall.

Tides are important to consider when dog walking as some beaches have little sloping low shores and the tide can race in very quickly, stranding both you and your dog. Picking not only dog-friendly beaches is important, but checking tidal times is a must for visitors before setting off for a special journey.

A great time for walking is a couple of hours after the tide has reached its highest and is on the way out. This can expose some lovely lower foreshore sandy beaches and provides time for the sand to be less squashy and ‘dry out’.

Low and high tide information times are available on most met office websites.

Warning signs are placed where beaches have notorious dangerously fast tides and sometimes sound warning claxons and sirens for everyone’s safety. They can also fly red precautionary flags. Generally, during busy months, lifeguards are posted to these beaches and popular tourist beaches. The RNLI have useful details and tips on their website about lifeguard and beach safety rules.

When letting your dog swim in the water ensure you watch at all times, that they do not wander into deeper waters and only swim in safe designated areas.

Useful tips before leaving home

  • Check if your preferred beach has any local issues flagged up on social media. This is normally the quickest way to check if anything unusual may prevent you from dog walking on that day.
  • Check tide times for the beach.
  • Take a look at the RNLI local website for any news about the beach.
  • Prepare by taking plenty of freshwater for your dog and a collapsible bowl for the end of the walk.
  • Take lots of drying towels particularly to help remove excess salty sand from your dog’s coat and paws.
  • Take dog poop bags.
  • Take short and long leads and muzzle if your dog needs one.
  • Check your dog have their ID tag and collar and GPS tracker when worn.
  • Remember your mobile phone.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • Stay clear of the most crowded areas.

You may like to read the government Covid-19 Guidance for managing beaches and coastline areas.

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