Cruising on the Thames can be a lovely way to spend a couple of hours and see London from a different perspective with your dog. Turk Launches has a fleet of 5 dog-friendly boats on the river Thames, travelling between Richmond, Kingston upon Thames and Hampton Court. In this post we tell you all about it, including our experience on dog-friendly Turk Launches’ Yarmouth Belle ferry boat, the oldest boat on the river. ** Turk Launches has just reopened with a reduced service (more in this post) so what best time to go for a visit!
A dog-friendly cruise on the Thames with Turk Launches’ Yarmouth Belle
The Yarmouth Belle is said to be the oldest boat on the Thames, dating back to 1892. With its white keel and paddle wheel ornated by red and blue decorations and its wooden fittings it is truly a special one to travel on. Dogs are very welcome on board of the Turk Launches’ Yarmouth Belle, as well as on the other four boats of the fleet (the beautiful Missisipi-style stern wheeler New Southern Belle, side wheeler Kingston Royale, Richmond Royale and open vessel Jeff).
This makes it a great one to keep in mind if you live or are visiting West London and you are looking for dog-friendly things to do in Richmond, Kingston or Hampton Court, or simply want to have a go at a different transportation method. There are many activities you could to combine with this and you will find plenty of tips and inspiration in this post.
What to expect from your dog-friendly cruise on the Thames
About the experience
On the map, Richmond and Kingston are pretty close to each other, taking just below half hour by car or public transport. Cruising from Kingston to Richmond takes double the time – one full hour – to reach Kingston from Richmond cruising with the Yarmouth Belle, and another 45 minutes from Kingston to Hampton Court. This is actually rather nice when you are looking to slow down, and take time to discover the river and enjoy the ride. Judging from the little crowd we joined when we visited (much before COVID), that was waiting to get on the Yarmouth Belle on a sunny Sunday, this is something visitors know and love.
The Richmond St Helena Pier, where the Yarmouth Belle docks, is just opposite the (dog-friendly) White Cross pub in Richmond (reopening 20th July 2020), which can be an excuse for a roast before sailing off. On normal times, tickets are purchased on board during the sailing and you don’t need to worry booking or purchasing your ticket beforehand, but this means that it is advisable to get to the pier in good time and not to be too far down in the queue and risk being grounded. Also, if you are among the first onboard you will be able to get the best seating. *
* During these COVID times, things work a bit differently and you will have to pre-book your trip on Turks Launches’ website.
In fact, the day we visited it was ram packed from Richmond to Kingston. We also met a sweet miniature schnauzer called Mabel, sitting on the lap of her owners for the full trip. Our way back, with the last ride, was much less crowded and so more enjoyable – Argo was taken as a mascot, with everyone on the boat wanting him to stay next to them and pet him. As it can get really busy, we would advise to pick a less crowded time if you can, avoiding the central hours of the day.
In terms of seating, the Yarmouth Belle’s bow deck has two benches on the sides and additional seating in the middle of the bow (as opposed to front-facing seating rows like Circular Cruises).
There is also an indoor space accessible to the public, with a bar selling drinks including spirits – this area may do with some upgrades, as it had plastic chairs and a large rubbish bin and a bit of a decadent atmosphere, but people take the trip to sit on the deck rather than staying indoor. The stern was closed to the public and the gladd covered by curtains, so we didn’t see that part.
Staff loves dogs and when we visited Argo was warmly welcomed on board and offered a dog water bowl by the crew during the cruise. Argo also got a photo with the captain, who was a big dog lover!
What you will see
The Thames’ meanders between Richmond and Kingston are beautiful. Historic houses, parks and nature, stunning villas and small islands, Teddington Lock, the river pointed by boaters, paddlers and the odd bather is the landscape you’ll see.
Teddington Lock – Crossing Teddington Lock in particular can be an exciting experience. I had never passed through a lock before, and found it fascinating on both ways. Going towards Kingston, as the boat drives into the lock and the bottom gate closes, you can see the water flooding the lock from the top gate, lifting the boat. Upon return, sinking into the lock is a peculiar experience too.
Once in Kingston, normally you would change boats on the same pier – another one flying Turks Launches’ flag – to get to Hampton Court. If you embark on that second section of the journey, the landscape will be still quite pleasant, although a bit different and will see perhaps more villas on the river and you will be able to admire Hampton Court Palace on your right-hand side just before docking.
* During these COVID times, Turks Launches currently only has the Yarmouth Belle on water, and only does round trips of the duration of 40 minutes, meaning that there are not be any stop/drop off points (departing and arriving back at the same pier: Turks Pier in Kingston and St Helena Pier in Richmond).
We had a great time on board of Turks Launches’ Yarmouth Belle. It was a very pleasant journey, on the open upper deck, watching the banks from a different perspective. The day was sunny and warm, with not wind but just a gentle breeze, which made it the perfect weather for the trip, while the return trip, in the shade started being a bit more chilly, so a sweater and scarf came in handy. The staff was corteous and welcoming, especially with Argo, who was also offered a bowl of water.
Argo really likes being on boats and loved watching the world pass by during the trip, putting his head over the taffrail and sniffing the air. The only thing that scared him during the trip was when the captain blew the horn when a boat came too close and he wasn’t expecting it.
Perhaps the outbound trip was a bit too crowded compared to what we would have liked, but we were still to able to enjoy it. The return was much better, more quiet and spacious and full of dog lovers who made a fuss of Argo. At the moment there is no risk that you’ll find it overcrowded, as COVID measures have been adopted to allow social distanced seating arrangements, so it may be a good time to take the trip (on the downside, though, you won’t be able to get off at another pier as this will be a 40-min round-trip, also meaning that it won’t cover the full route it normally would).
The boat has a bar, in case you wish to have a drink, and there are also toilets on board.
We did not travel on board of any of the other four boats in Turk Launches’ fleet, but we look forward to taking a trip on the New Southern Belle when it will get back on the water and we’ll report back.
We would very much recommend taking a trip on the Yarmouth Belle if you are looking for a quiet dog-friendly activity and adventure in London (actually Surrey!) with your dog.
Tips for making the most out of your trip with Turk Launches vessels
Dog-friendly things to do in the area
Richmond, Kingston and Hampton Court offer plenty of dog-friendly things to do with your dog that you can combine with a trip on the Yarmouth Belle (and other vessel to get to Hampton Court). Some inspiration:
- have a go at dog-friendly rowing boats in Richmond
- visit one of the historic houses along the way: Ham House and Garden or Marble Hill House
- visit Hampton Court Palace (all you need to know about visiting Hampton Court Palace with your dog here)
- have tea or browse plants at dog-friendly Petersham Nurseries in Richmond
- go for good long walk on the Thames Path
- visit Duck Pond Market in Richmond on a Sunday
- visit one of the great parks on route, Richmond Park and Bushy Park top of the list
Dog-friendly pubs nearby
- In Richmond visit the White Cross pub, just in front of St Helen’s Pier.
- In Kingston, riverside pub and beer garden the Boaters Inn in Canbury Gardens.
- In Hampton Court, visit the Prince of Wales or the Mute Swan.
Tips for your cruise on the Yarmouth Belle
1. Choose the right time of the day:
- there is no shade on the deck, so you may want to avoid the hottest Summer days and/or central hours of the day to ensure your dog does not suffer the heat – we are not sure about whether it is sufficiently cool indoor at those times;
- get to the pier well ahead the scheduled departure time to ensure you are not too behind in the queue;
- it can get really crowded, so picking a less busy time will allow you to enjoy the ride more, being able to move around more freely and give your dog more space. *** Please note this refers to normal non-COVID times – measures for social distancing and reduced capacity are being taken during these times.
2. How to dress: bring a jacket and a scarf in case there is a breeze or wind.
3. Turks Launches boats are heavy and stable, so your dog shouldn’t have any issues, but as per dog policy, keep him/her on a leash under and close control. In case you are not sure of how they would be on a boat, make them wear a harness for better control.
Turk Launches dog-friendly cruise on the Thames
Where: During normal times Turk Launches boats are departing and arriving from/at:
- Richmond St Helena’ Pier Richmond (in front of the White Cross pub);
- Kingston: Turks Pier Kingston, before Kingston Bridge (outbound) and Town End Pier Kingston (inbound);
- Hampton Court: Turks Pier Hampton, near the Palace and before Hampton Court Bridge
The Yarmouth Belle normally serves the route between Richmond and Kingston, while the Kingston to Hampton Court route is served by other boats of the fleet.
*** During COVID times, only the Yarmouth Belle is running, as it is the most suited for social distanced seating arrangements. Round-trips are run on different days of the week from the Richmond and the Kingston piers. Hampton Court pier will remain closed for this year’s season.
At normal times prices are:
- Richmond-Kingston: single £9, return £11
- Kingston-Hampton Court: single £8, return £10
- If you purchase the whole route ticket (Richmond – Hampton Court): single £10, return £12,50
Dogs and children under 2 years of age go free of charge, while children between 2 and 16 and senior 60+ get £2,50 off the adult fare.
* Currently different prices apply for the 40-min round trips
You can pay by debit/credit card on board (minimum spend is £5). At normal times you can just show up and there is no booking system. *** At these COVID times, you need to pre-book your trip on their website here.
Dogs of any size are welcome on board on a lead.
Opening times and timetable
Cruises are seasonal and run March to October – after Winter and COVID closure, Turk Launches has reopened in July 2020. During these COVID times, boats run Wednesday to Sunday and serve either the Richmond round trip on Fridays and Saturdays, and the Kingston round trip on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Find the full timetable here.