Did you know we have a spectacular vineyard less than an hour from London? Well we do, 265 acres of it to be precise. In fact, Denbies Wine Estate and Dog-friendly Vineyard in Dorking, Surrey is the largest vineyard in the UK. We spent a sunny day last month exploring the vineyard and the stunning area nearby with our little friend Lilliput the Maltese.
Here’s what we discovered to have a fabulous day out for humans and hounds…
First, just a few words about Denbies Wine Estate & Vineyard. It’s a relatively new vineyard, having been planted in 1986, but it now holds the accolade of being one of the UK’s largest wine producers. Set in the stunning Surrey Hills, the vineyard blends seamlessly into miles of walks both in the vineyard itself and the areas around. It’s easily accessible from Dorking station (just 15 minutes walk) and you can spend hours exploring the Denbies hillside or the nearby Stepping Stones (more on that in a moment). In fact, from a dog-friendly perspective, it’s all about the walks and less about the wine!
Walkies at Denbies Dog-friendly Vineyard
We first heard about Denbies from a friend and fellow blogger, Climb Bike Ski who spends a lot of time cycling in the Surrey Hills. I have to say I was initially somewhat confused as to how cycling and vineyards went together. However having now visited, I can see it makes a beautiful and peaceful place to pass through when exploring the Surrey Hills. In fact, we met several people walking their dogs through the vineyard, and it seemed to be an ‘in the know spot’ for local dog owners.
Dogs are asked to stick to the main paths and are not allowed to walk through the actual vines. This is understandable both from a wine perspective and from a dog perspective seeing as dogs and grapes don’t go well together. The paths are extensive so you can still enjoy the stunning scenery of the vineyard but not disturb, or get too close to the vines.
Dogs should also stay on the lead; we let Belinha and Lilliput briefly off the lead for photos safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t take off on a vineyard doggy dash! Denbies ask that you pick up after your dog – we know you will but there’s a whopping £1,000 fine if you don’t. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any dog waste bins until we got back the main area so bring something to carry them in until then!
Where are Dogs Allowed at Denbies Vineyard?
Although dogs can only enjoy the outside areas at Denbies – that’s the vineyard and outdoor seating area in front of the café, there is still plenty to see and do. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed to join the jeep/train tour that goes around the vineyard so will have to discover the beauty of the vineyard by foot. For that reason alone, a visit to Denbies with your dog is better suited to dogs who like long walks. Although Belinha doesn’t fall into that group, we did enjoy wandering around on our first visit to a vineyard and the stunning scenery.
Dogs are not allowed in the farm shop either (where you can pick up one of the delicious dairy ice-creams on offer), but there is a little dog watering station outside the shop.
Exploring the Vineyard
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the vineyard, and although we’d been given a map by the helpful lady on the reception of all the different vines, it was a bit overwhelming. In the end, we gave up trying to decipher what part of the vineyard was producing which wine and instead just savoured the peace and beauty of it all.
Signs were not that clear, so it was somewhat confusing as to which direction to take. Fortunately, we were helped out by some friendly locals walking their dogs who gave some pointers of which routes to follow. In hindsight, it would have been better to have planned out a couple of possible walking paths before we went, but we still had a very relaxing time.
Belinha and Lilliput were also content just to sit down and enjoy the view!
We then decided to explore some spots nearby…
Where to Visit Near Denbies with your Dog?
As mentioned previously, Denbies is set in the Surrey hillside and close by to National Trust beauty spots such as Box Hill or the Stepping Stones on the River Mole. In fact, the National Trust has several suggested walks on their website, which you could follow if you’re feeling energetic, e.g. the Box Hill to Stepping Stones walk or the Dorking to Denbies Hillside walk. We decided to jump back in the car and drive the short distance to see the Stepping Stones as by this time Belinha was quite tired.
Tucked away on a side entrance off the A24 a few minutes away from Denbies, we found the Stepping Stones car park. The entrance is quite hard to see so make sure to look out for it (it’s just past a bus stop). After a short walk through some pretty woodland, we came across the River Mole. The area is in complete contrast to the open spaces of Denbies Vineyard but still peaceful and beautiful in a different way.
Strolling along the riverbank, we discovered the famous Stepping Stones stretching across the river, but not too surprisingly neither Belinha nor Lilliput were keen to try them out! Nevertheless, it was a pleasant (and refreshing) end to the afternoon before heading for a much-needed stop at a nearby dog-friendly pub.
Refuelling After Walks at Denbies
We were going to try the Stepping Stones pub but the timings just didn’t work out for food. So we decided to try the quaint King William IV pub in Mickleham (about 2 miles from Denbies) instead and are we glad we did! Hidden on a hillside, up a winding road, the pub is dog-friendly inside and out, but the best bit about it is the pretty dog-friendly garden area and the food!
All the staff were super friendly and offered the dogs water bowls and dog treats while we tucked into a smorgasbord of delicious food with plenty on the menu for vegetarians.
It was the perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable day and I’m sure we will be back next time we are nearby.
How to Get to Denbies Dog-friendly Vineyard
By Car: If you have a car, it’s a 40-minute drive from south-west London or just over an hour from London Waterloo / Victoria. Use the postcode RH5 6AA for Denbies Wine Estate & Vineyard.
By Train: You can take the train to Dorking from London Waterloo ( 50 minutes) or London Victoria (60 minutes). Then it’s a 15-minute walk to Denbies.
To get to the Stepping Stones from Denbies, it’s a 20-minute walk. From a pub perspective, if you don’t have a car, then the Stepping Stones pub is a better option as it’s closer by (10-minute walk). King William IV, although now one of our favourites, would be too far to walk.
Denbies dog-friendly vineyard is open all year except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s day. It’s also free to walk around as is a visit to the Stepping Stones.