Travel: For the garden lover who can't leave their pooch behind
If you are planning a trip this spring and can't leave your dog behind, the National Garden Scheme, which raises funds for health charities and other organisations supporting nurses, is giving people unique access to more than 3,500 gardens this year, some of which are dog-friendly. So, you can find horticultural inspiration while keeping your four-legged friend happy.
Many National Trust gardens will also welcome dogs with their owners, offering a paw-print grading: three paw prints shows the best places to visit with your dog, where you'll be able to take your pet to most areas, including indoors for a cup of tea and a treat. There will also be clearly signed dog zones and pooch-friendly experiences.
Two paw prints indicates these places have water bowls, dog bins and some dog access; one paw print means dogs are allowed but facilities are limited.
Here are seven gardens to visit in the UK with your pooch this spring.
Abbotsford, Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scottish Borders (open every day - check website for times)
Set in a mammoth 1,400 acres, Abbotsford is the home of the great writer Sir Walter Scott, who designed the garden, taking advice from artists, architects and friends. It is a rare surviving example of a Regency garden layout and completely different from the English landscape garden style of Capability Brown. Scott's garden aims to bring harmony between the luxury of the interiors of the house and the wonders of nature in the wider estate, through a series of secluded, richly detailed and sheltered 'rooms'.
Ashley Court, Tiverton, Devon (open for NGS on April 8)
Set in 19 acres of woodland, gardens and pasture overlooking the Exe Valley, Ashley Court visitors and their dogs can enjoy a short circular woodland walk. They can also access the historic walled kitchen garden, which is likely to pre-date the 1805 small Regency country house situated in a deep valley.
In spring, highlights include acres of wild garlic in the woodlands, daffodils, magnolia and camellia, plus fruit-tree blossom in the walled garden.
Dogs must be kept on a lead, as the garden is in an area with livestock, although when possible a paddock is provided for exercise. Speciality cakes are available, and dog biscuits are likely to be on offer too.
Castle Ward, County Down (open all year)
Take part in family activity trails over Easter and your dog can come too, provided it's on a lead. Trails wind their way through atmospheric woodland, parkland and gardens of this 820-acre mansion, which overlooks the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough in County Down.
The quirky 18th-century house comprises two completely different styles: gothic on one facade and Palladian on the other, while a farmyard that doubled up as Game Of Thrones' Winterfell adds to the charm of the grounds.
The Stableyard Tea Room is dog-friendly, and a dog exercise field is available, near the main car park and admission hut.
The Old Vicarage, Washington, West Sussex (open for the NGS on Thursdays from March to October and on Easter Monday)
Spring bulbs are among the highlights of this beautiful three-and-a-half acre garden, run by owners Lord and Lady Walters who themselves have three dachshunds. In spring, visitors can admire thousands of tulips, as well as cyclamen, hyacinths and daffodils.
Other dazzling features include mature and specimen trees, a Japanese garden, an Italianate gazebo, water gardens, and creatively planted herbaceous borders. Dogs must be kept on leads. Throughout the garden, there are well-placed seating areas to take in the stunning West Sussex scenery.
Bryngwyn Manor, Gwent (open for the NGS Apr 1, pre-booking essential)
This relaxed, family-friendly garden set in three acres, is another good dog-friendly choice. After the winter snowdrops have come and gone, visitors can enjoy the daffodil walk, bee- and wildlife-friendly plantings, mature trees, walled parterre garden, mixed borders, lawns, ponds and shrubbery. Seating is dotted throughout the garden for visitors to admire the view, and there are plenty of areas for children to play and explore.
Home Farm, Huntley, Gloucestershire (open for the NGS Apr 2 and 30)
This unspoilt piece of English countryside with fantastic elevated views of the Cotswolds offers visitors the chance to enjoy primroses, wood anemones, lady's smock, violets and early purple orchids, followed at the beginning of May by swathes of bluebells, against a backdrop of sweet chestnut, larch, lime and cherry.
Visitors who want to brush up on their tree names can do so in 'Alphabet Wood', which features trees ranging from A to Z, using either Latin or common names. If you can't make the NGS dates, group visits are welcome by appointment.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire (open all year apart from selected days in November and December)
This three paw-print-rated World Heritage Site offers acres of land to explore through the water garden, abbey and deer park. Visitors are asked to use a short lead to prevent dog from disturbing ground-nesting birds and farm animals. You can take your pooch to most areas, including indoors for a cup of tea and a treat. There will be clearly signed dog zones and hounds are also allowed in the visitor centre restaurant.