DISCLOSURE: This post is in paid partnership with cottages.com. All opinions are our own.
Marcel is a member of our family. When we welcomed him exactly six years ago, we were determined to combine our love for travel and good food with our new found love for him.
Every family needs a break from time to time, far away but also close from home. These help de-stress everyone, strengthen bonds, create memories... and that includes all members, even those with fur!
I was shocked to find out a few years ago, whilst filming to raise awareness for this, that every year, people "dump" those who have been the most loyal companions... especially ahead of the Summer, before going away! The reason often given are that dogs are often not welcome, or expensive to have looked after if left behind...
It could not be further from the truth! Of course some adapting and compromises are needed, but unless they risk to be stressed or taking them is not reasonable (ie flying for a short period of time, dog in cargo hold), dogs (and cats) can often join the fun. It does not have to cost a fortune either (I often find it less costly to have him with us, and definitely more relaxing). And it made us discover a lot of places we would likely never have visited otherwise, including many stunning parts of the UK and France (where dogs are also often welcome in eateries).
Cottages.com, with their "More Than Dog Friendly" collection (the largest in the UK - with over 163,000 pets welcomed every year) are ticking all the boxes for us, and even go beyond this. The curated properties (in the UK, Ireland, France and Italy) comprise of a variety of stunning homes away from home: from coastal retreats to country castles, or cottages with a hot tub or a swimming pool.
These properties do not just tolerate dogs, they welcome them as a member of the family. The owners adhere to the collection's criteria, making sure that dogs too feel perfectly comfortable and at home.
So we were excited to head to Suffolk in late Summer 2019, invited to celebrate Marcel's 6th birthday in one of those properties: the Coach House.
What is the criteria of the "More Than Dog Friendly" collection?
First and foremost, pets stay stay free in the hand-picked properties. No extortionate or "surprise" additional fee (often tied to no extra service).
There is no size limit for the dog, and multiple dogs (2 in the property we stayed) households are often welcome too.
A fully enclosed garden provides peace of mind when exercising and playing in the property’s outdoor space (or for "that" lazy morning potty break before breakfast and a proper walk).
Extra special treats (for dogs and humans) await when checking in your cottages.com home-away-from-home. Marcel received some doggie biscuits from the owners, in a ceramic dog bowl, and were greeted with scones, jams, cream, and even some liqueur.
A list of local dog-friendly activities, walking routes and eateries is also often provided in the property's welcome pack.
In addition to this, many of the properties' owner will go above and beyond and also provide their guests with very practical additions for dog owners such as towels, poo bags... or in the case of The Coach House a very handy garden hose, ready to use in front of the house after a muddy walk or a trip to the beach.
Some of the highlights of our "More Than Dog Friendly" stay at The Coach House in Suffolk included:
Walking to the nearby farm (5 min away), saying hello to the horses and picking fruits and vegetables from the outdoors stall, paying via the honesty box, and Pierre making dinner and brunch from the local produce.
Taking a stroll in the fields (after harvest), admiring the village's thatched roof cottages, or getting near the water along the bridleway (feet to be rinsed post walkies).
Marcel getting to play with the owner's dog, in their garden (situated opposite that of the cottage).
Driving to nearby Jimmy's farm, where dogs (on leash) can get close to many species and help their owners pick local meat for dinner at the farm shop.
Getting lost in the sunset over the waterways.
An impromptu candle lit evening (thanks to the owner of the house's quick reaction - they brought us some candles and liqueur to wait) following a general powercut in the region.
The properties part of the "More Than Dog Friendly" collection by cottages.com offer a more needs-specific holiday than generic pet-friendly accommodation, providing a much more enjoyable experience for dogs (and their owners).
We loved our stay The Coach House, and already plan to come back to another of the properties by cottages.com, perhaps one with a hot tub next time!