We’ve always been big fans of travelling around the UK with the dogs in ‘low season’ – less people, roaring log fires and a perfect way to break up the dark and cold winter.
So, we were excited when The Merry Harriers invited us to try out their ‘doggy getaway’ experience. In all honesty, Surrey isn’t really somewhere we’d ever thought of visiting – i’ve always thought of Surrey as an extension of London really! Yet here lies the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a rural gem in remarkably easy reach of London and the South of the UK. The Merry Harriers is located within the AONB in such an unspoilt, quiet and rural area that as soon as you arrive it’s impossible not to just sit back, switch off and feel instantly relaxed.
The Shepherd’s Hut
We were staying in one of the 5 shepherds huts at the Merry Harriers, all of which surround the pretty pond and have their own parking and fire pit. The interior of the hut has been so well thought out and felt incredibly spacious compared to other shepherds huts we have stayed in. We really appreciated the little dog friendly touches, with a dog bed, toy, water and food bowl for each of the dogs as well as treats and poo bags. Humans were taken good care of too, with a bottle of wine, chocolates and homemade brownies waiting for us when we arrived.
We were treated to pretty wild weather from Storm Arwen on the weekend we visited, so our Shepherd’s Hut was the perfect place to hunker down and ride out the storm. With cosy sheepskin chairs, plenty of blankets and a log burner, the dogs soon found their preferred spot to warm up!
When the skies eventually cleared, the night time stars were so visible it’s crazy to think we were less than 20 miles away from the M25. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have enough of this clear weather to make use of the firepit and enjoy the settings around the hut and instead took full advantage of the underfloor heating and log burner!
Food and drink
The Merry Harriers Inn itself originates from the 16th Century and there are subtle nods to this – the names of previous Landlords all the way back to the 1700s are adorning the walls. The bar boasts a wide selection of gin and ales, many of which are sourced from producers in the local area and are well worth sampling – we enjoyed the Silent Pool Gin which is distilled just a few miles away!
Unlike most places that claim they are dog friendly although they really aren’t, it was so refreshing to not be confined to the bar area for our dinner. Instead we were shown through to the dining room, which is split off from the main bar allowing for a more intimate dining setting for food. Like the rest of the Merry Harriers this area warmly welcomes dogs – Maple even had her own dog bed to settle on!
We enjoyed a hearty 3 course meal of pub classics – particular standouts were the homemade panko chicken goujons and a lovely fish and chips. We liked the goujons so much we had them for lunch the next day too! As part of our doggy getaway, Poppy and Maple were treated to the ‘Doggie Dinner’. This comprised bowl of sausages, rice and peas which was enormous and honestly looked good enough for even humans to eat!! I can certainly vouch for Poppy’s enjoyment, where she seemed to desperately lick the enamel off the bowl along with every tiny piece of food. Unfortunately, little puppy Maple slept through the whole thing, completely zonked out after wearing herself out earlier in the day!
Things to do
Home to a herd of 11 llamas, it wouldn’t be a trip to the Merry Harriers without at least a visit to the resident llamas. You can’t help but smile when you’re around them and we were so excited to head out on a llama trek for the morning with Head Trekker Clara. I think this has to take the prize for the most unique dog friendly experience we’ve ever done but we had so much fun and this was a real highlight of our stay.
We were fairly confident Poppy would be fine around the llamas as she’s a fairly relaxed dog, but with a 14-week-old puppy, anything could have happened! Thankfully we didn’t have so much as a bark out of either dog and they were soon happily trotting alongside our llamas Mungo and Goji!
Don’t expect to go anywhere fast on your llama trek, they rather enjoy a slower pace of life munching on all of the hedgerows at every given opportunity!
The surrounding area
One of our favourite touches in the Shepherds Hut was the specially designed walk and cycle guide, with 10 walks of varying length and difficulty detailed for us to try out. With leisurely routes from 1.5 miles up to demanding full day hikes of 14 miles, the guide really does have something for everyone.
One of our favourite things about the Merry Harriers was the number of walks from the door. Making use of our guide, we enjoyed a sunrise walk into the stunning nearby woodland one morning before returning for a full English and freshly baked pastries.
Only a few miles away, Winkworth Arboretum is the National Trust’s only arboretum and well worth a visit, particularly in autumn when the trees put on a spectacular show of colour. Unfortunately, most of the leaves had fallen when we visited, but we couldn’t resist a little leaf ear photo with Maple!
A little further afield, we enjoyed a visit to the understandably popular Box Hill, with far reaching views over the Surrey Hills. As we had the puppy with us, we couldn’t complete the full 8 mile route as detailed in the walking guide but we did enjoy a shorter marked circuit with stunning views.
Overall, we genuinely loved our stay at the Merry Harriers. The Shepherd’s Hut was beautiful, everyone was so friendly and it was so lovely to stay somewhere that genuinely understands what it means to be dog friendly. Llamas – we’ll be back!
You can book your own doggy getaway direct through their website.
This post is a collaboration with The Merry Harriers Inn and we enjoyed a complimentary ‘doggy getaway’ stay in return for an honest review.