After our guide to dog-friendly historic houses and gardens in and near London, today we tell you more about Hatfield House and its huge woodland, just a 30-minutes ride by train from London Finsbury Park train station or 20-minutes fast train from Kings Cross station. While dogs can’t access the house itself (and its formal gardens), they are welcome in its beautiful grounds and trails, that are perfect for a day out with your dog in Spring or Summer. After its Winter closure, Hatfield Park and Gardens are re-opening on Saturday 4th April 2020 until 27th September 2020, while the House will be re-opened in July 2020, depending on COVID-19 updates.
A dog day out at Hatfield House
If you like woodland walks, Hatfield House’s park and woodland, in Hatfield, is a great place to head to with your dog. While the house and the formal garden (the West Garden) are not dog-friendly, the park, with its woodland walks – which you can access purchasing a ticket – welcomes four-legged friends and is definitely worth a visit.
Dogs can also join at the picturesque Stable Yard, with its red bricks ancient buildings, home to shops where you can find a diverse range of products and where we ended up buing a tweed dog bed for Argo for a very good price. There you can also find the Coach House Kitchen, which unfortunately doesn’t allow dogs inside, but you can sit at the tables outdoor. A curiosity: the oldest Real Tennis court is located in one of the buildings (you can’t enter with your dog, but in case you are with someone we’d recommend popping in for a couple of minutes to watch people playing if you can).
The ancient buildings, built on top of the hill, now are venue for wedding ceremonies and the oldest indoor tennis court, as well as some shops, while Hatfield House has been the set of some famous films.
For accessing the Park (as for the House and Gardens) you need a ticket (all about tickets at the bottom of this post) and, good thing is that for no extra charge you can make your ticket seasonal, so you can come back at any time later (more below). I recommend accessing the park from the Stable Yard rather than from the gate opposite the station, as the impact is nicer. Past the gates there is Hatfield House on the right hand-side. The House is built on top of a hill and walking downhill there is the start of the woodland walks.
Dog-friendly woodland walks
Hatfield House’s map does not include the woodland walks, which are shown in this separate map below. There are 3 different routes: the green walk (30 minutes walk – but on their website it seems that this has now been replaced by a “yellow walk” of 40 minutes), the blue walk (2.1 miles / 3.4 kilometres / 60 minutes) and the red walk (3.1 miles / 5 kilometres / 90 minutes), which have some parts in common. We chose the red route, as it was the one allowing to explore the most of the woodland. Keep in mind that dogs are allowed on leads only, which makes sense given that there are sheep and wild animals at the estate.
The smell of grass and wood, the changing landscape and some impressive ancient trees were great highlights, although in the first section of the woodland walk we could still hear the sound of the highway nearby, which spoiled the atmosphere a bit. The ground is not flat so you’ll walk up and down hill, which is good exercise. There is a lake too, where you can stroll feeling a bit like in a painting by Monet. The woodland is huge and we loved the walk.
To make the walk more enjoyable, we attached Argo to our canicross harness: Argo tends to get quite excited on adventures and can pull on the lead, so we found that this was really a fantastic solution for this type of walks. We had brought a collapsible bowl and we found there was also a tap not far from the sheep enclosure, where we stopped for a refill for Argo.
On the day we visited, there were some Panalux trucks in front of Hatfield House (otherwise a great photo opportunity) and filming in progress in the House. Apparently the location is very popular for films and scenes from Shakespeare in and the Avengers were filmed here. We took turns (one of us waiting with Argo outside) to visit the Gardens, which are marvellous.
This year the event has been cancelled, but normally in March Hatfield House hosts a lovely dog event: Dogs and Daffs, a charity dog walk of with dogs.
Hatfield House | Key info for your dog-friendly visit
We would very much recommend a walk to Hatfield House if you have the chance. Best on a sunny day, probably not a too warm one. Most of the walk is in the shade of the woods, but not the whole of it.
Dogs are not permitted in the House and in the West Garden, but can access the park and woodland walks.
The ground is not flat – there are wide and narrow paths running uphill and downhill – and it is a good walk if you choose the longer trails, so make sure to pick the route which is more appropriate for you and your dog’s abilities. Also, make sure you wear appropriate walking shoes.
The Park is open seasonally, from the beginning of April to the end of September (dates for 2020: 4th April-27th September). However, before the re-opening, they normally host an annual Dogs and Daffs Charity Walk (this year’s one has been cancelled due to COVID-19 situation). The garden, park and woodland walks opening time is 10.30am-5pm Thursday to Sunday during the opening season.
For the Park and Woodland (and include the Garden, which is not dog-friendly): Adult £11, Child (5-15 years) £7, Child under 5 years old and dogs go free (last checked March 2020). Please note that different prices apply if you wish to purchase the tickets that include access to the house (not dog-friendly). You can make your ticket seasonal at no extra cost, simply by having your ticket stamped, fill in your name and agree to the terms and conditions, at the House Reception, any ticketing point (after 1pm) or in the Gift Shop (more info here).
How much time to allow for your dog-friendly visit:
We spent a bit over 3 hours at Hatfield House park, inclusive of 1 hour and 45 minute walk to complete the red route (with a stop at the lake) and the time to visit the Garden (for which we had to take turns outside with the dog). However, you can easily spend more time if you bring a picnic, for instance, or take more time for the walk (we are fast walkers). In case you wish to visit the House, keep in mind that it is not dog-friendly, so you’ll have to take turns inside while somebody stays out with the dog (don’t leave dogs in cars!).
How to get there
- By public transport: You can get Thameslink trains from Finsbury Park station (30 minutes) and there is a fast service (20 minutes) from Kings Cross too for under a tenner. There is a pedestrian entrance just across the street from the station, but we recommend walking to the Stable Yard for nice views and effect, you can find it in Fore Street – a handy map is available.
- By car: Sat Nav AL9 5HX. Exit the A1(M) at junction 4 (after the Hatfield Tunnel if travelling from the South) and follow the brown leisure signs for Hatfield House via the A414 and A1000. As you approach Hatfield House please follow the brown tourist signs as these will take you to the visitor car park. If your Sat Nav tries to take you through Old Hatfield please ignore it and rely on the brown tourist signs. There is free parking on site.
What to bring
- Dog bowl and water bottle are a must, poo bags and a poo bags container if you can, as you won’t find many bins around.
- Dogs must stay on a lead on the estate. If your dog tends to pull on the lead, you could try with a canicross harness. This has a belt for the handler, a bungee line and a harness for the dog and has a few advantages: the dog helps , the handler has free hands (we used one when we visited, which we purchased on DogFit website).
- Walking shoes recommended.
- A picnic (picnics are allowed in the Park provided you do not leave any litter around; no BBQs allowed).