We recently discovered that there is a (partly) dog-friendly castle in London! It is Severndroog Castle, a well-preserved gothic tower on top of Shooter’s Hill, one of the highest points in London, in the royal borough of Greenwich, not far from its border with the borough of Bexley. This is a lovely destination for a dog walk immersed in nature without leaving town, as the castle stands in Castle Wood, adjoined with Jack Wood and Oxleas Woods, covering over 77 hectars of land. In this post we will tell you all you need to know about visiting Severndroog Castle with your dog and how to make the most out of it with a dog day out with a dog walk in Oxleas Woods.
Severndroog Castle is a small gothic tower, so don’t set your expectations to seeing a big castle or you may be otherwise be disappointed. The castle is actually a folly and was designed by architect Richard Jupp as a memorial to William James of the East India Company, with foundations laid in 1784. Its size doesn’t mean that the castle does not have its charm, though, and it is a popular destination among walkers for a pit stop at its tea room.
Dogs are very welcome at Severndroog Castle’s tea room on the ground floor, for some treats and refreshment, while they are not unfortunately allowed inside the rest of the castle or on the viewing platform at the top. To get your tour fix, though, given that the tower is quite small, if you are accompanied by friends or family, you may be able to take turns visiting the castle rooms and climbing the 86 spiral stair-case leading to the top to enjoy a great 360° view of London and beyond.
Severndroog Castle is also available for wedding ceremonies; for these instances, well-behaved dogs kept on a leash may be allowed inside the castle for the ceremony at the castle’s discretion.
Dog-friendly tea room at Severndroog Castle
What’s in for dogs. The castle’s dog-friendly tea room has dog water bowls, treats and it even had Frozzys doggy ice-creams on sale – although what they have in terms of doggie edibles may vary from time to time -, so your four-legged pal will be enthusiastic about it! We also confirmed that they normally leave a dog biscuit tin out of the door, for dog owners to help themselves.
Menu for the humans. The menu at the tea room includes sweet and savoury so if you are not into classic English tea, you can opt for a brunch, trying their soup of the day, jacket potatoes and sausage rolls. The Traditional Cream Tea includes a selection of cakes and scones served with preserve and clotted cream and a pot of tea priced at £6.50, while the High Noon Cream Tea includes a selection of sandwiches, scones with preserve and clotted cream and a selection of homemade cake and a pot of tea (£12). Full menu available here.
Walking with your dog in Oxleas Woods
Castle Wood, Jack’s Wood and Oxleas Woods surround Severndroog Castle and are said to be part of one of the last remaining woods that are over 8,000 year old. From the castle, walking in the opposite direction from the car park, you will find Jack Wood, where a terraced garden lends an view on the South East of London. Continuing downhill, the vegetation becomes thicker and huge trees and less beaten tracks make your walk more adventurous. Get lost in the tracks, it won’t be too difficult to find your way around.
Reach the large open esplanade and hill on top of which there is Oxleas Woods cafe’ and have a rest there in the meadows or in the shade under a tree. There is a water fountain by the cafe’ with a dog bowl, so your dog can have a drink and you don’t have to worry if you forgot your bowl.
The Castle and Oxleas Woods are also on route of the Green Chain Walk, a 50 miles route which runs from Thamesmead on the river Thames and the Thames Barrier in South East London to Nunhead Cemetery and Crystal Palace. During lockdown we picked up hiking (up to 27km = 16.77 miles in a day walking across London), including some some sections of the Green Chain Walk and will tell you all about it soon on the blog!
A visit to Oxleas Woods and Severndroog Castle is….
… great if
- You are looking for a green place for a walk in nature that is easy to reach without leaving London
- You want to see London from a different perspective
- You want to enjoy walking an ancient woodland
- You are keen for tea time with your four-legged or a brunch!
… not recommended if
- You are looking for a place where to hear nothing else but the sound of birds and nature: despite the large size of the woods, you can still hear the sound of cars on the highway running nearby, which spoils a bit the atmosphere.
- You expect a classic large castle: Severndroog Castle is a small one, so set your expectations right!
- You prefer flat terrain for your walk.
Dog-friendly Severndroog Castle & Oxleas Woods
- Castle: We confirmed that dogs are welcome in the tea room of Severdroog Castle, on the ground floor, as well as in the courtyard, but not in the rest of the castle/platform.
- Woods: In the woods dogs are allowed off-leash, provided they are kept under control.
When to go
- Castle: check the latest castle’s opening times here (these may vary during the Covid outbreak, please check in advance). The castle’s tea room is currently open on weekends 10am to 3pm only, check the latest news on opening hours here.
- Woods: the woods are not gated, so you can enjoy them any time dawn to dusk.
- Castle: Entrance to the tea room is free, while there is a small fee to enter the castle (£3 adult single, £2.50 child, £8 family). Up to date prices available here.
- Woods: Access to the woods is free of charge.
Tips for your visit
- How much time to allow for a visit? Allow 2-3 hours for a good walk in the woods and stop at the tea room or at Oxleas Woods cafe.
- What to wear? Wear appropriate shoes (see next point).
- Is it appropriate for all abilities? The paths run downhill/uphill and the terrain is not flat, so it may be challenging if you or your dog has mobility issues. It can be difficult to walk the tracks with buggies, so you may want to consider baby/dog backpacks if your child or your dog cannot walk the whole way.
- What to bring? You won’t really need packed lunch or water if you go there during the opening hours of the two cafes (the castle’s one and Oxleas Woods one), but it is a good idea to if not.
By car: Don’t trust Google Maps as we did or you’ll end up somewhere different. Instead, use as a navigation point the address of the Memorial Hospital: Shooters Hill, SE18 3RG. The street and path leading to the castle is just down hill from there. Free parking is available on site, although limited, so visit out of peak hours if possible.
By public transport:
- Jubilee Line to North Greenwich and then the 486 bus from North Greenwich, alighting at the Memorial Hospital
- DLR to Woolwich Arsenal, then the 244 bus from Woolwich or Queen Elizabeth Hospital alighting at the Memorial Hospital on Shooters Hill
- 89 bus from Lewisham or Slade Green
On foot: Severdroog Castle and Oxleas Wood are on the route of the Green Chain Walk, that runs from the Thames Barrier/Thamesmead to Nunhead Cemetery, so you could make it part of your Green Chain Walk exploration.
COVID NOTE: Please ensure to follow the Government’s guidelines on social distancing, hygiene and avoid using public transport.