Is Center Parcs Whinfell Forest Dog Friendly?

We love visiting Center Parcs and have visited 6 or 7 times. When Fozzy joined our family, we didn't want to give our Center Parcs holidays up but were also aware that Center Parcs didn't have the best reputation for being particularly dog friendly. 

I always think it's best to see these things for yourself though and I booked a dog-friendly lodge for our 2023 break. We usually book a year in advance which I would definitely recommend booking as far in advance as you can if you're planning on bringing a dog with you as there are a limited number of lodges which accept dogs. 

Is Center Parcs Whinfell Forest Dog Friendly

We stayed at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest with Fozzy
  • I found our dog friendly lodge to feel luxurious and it was super clean. Wildlife weren't put off visiting us either 

  • It is an additional £79 to bring one dog or £99 to bring two dogs (per short break) 

  • Dog-friendly lodges start at £399 for up to 6 people per short break 

  • Dogs are welcome inside the Lakeside Inn which is a lovely pub for food or drinks and there is a tucked away soft play (dogs also welcome on the outdoor terrace overlooking the lake)

  • Dogs are welcome inside Starbucks by the lake 

  • Dogs welcome outside the Sports Cafe where you can order food/drinks from the bar and watch sports on the outdoor big screens. Some of the outdoor seating is undercover and there are two playgrounds within your eyeline if the kids want to play 

  • Loads of walks, nature trails & geocaching around the forest 

  • Dogs can be left inside the lodge unattended if you/they are ok to do so 

  • Dogs need to be on a lead at all times except for the small enclosed dog exercise areas 

  • There are takeaway options to order on the day which work well in the evenings if you're staying with a dog 

  • Dogs are not permitted in most of the indoor areas 

  • Adults can observe many of the outdoor activities with a dog including the high ropes, zip wire and outdoor sports 

  • Overall, it worked for us. We had lots of quality time with Fozzy, enjoyed the forest walks were able to leave him for a few hours when doing some activities together such as swimming but did make some compromises when eating out / choosing other activities 

Dog Friendly Accommodation at Whinfell Forest

Meadow View executive detached lodge at center parcs whinfell forest dog friendly

There isn't a set 'dog area' at Whinfell Forest and the dog friendly lodges tend to be in small clusters at various locations across the site. It is currently £79 to add a dog onto your booking (which they say is a deep cleaning fee) but you also get to choose your exact lodge location on booking which is handy (and usually costs £50-£65). 

In 2023 we stayed at 33 Meadow View which is on the outskirts of the park. I kind of wanted to be away from it all. We stayed in a New Style Executive 3 Bed Detached Lodge which is the highest grade of accommodation you can stay in with a dog. 

For our 2024 break, we have booked the same type of accommodation but this time have chosen to stay slightly closer to the centre in Fell View in a lodge which is kind of just behind the sports courts / near the Lakeside Inn Pub. 

Expect to pay between £600-£750 for up to 6 guests for a 3 or 4 night short break in this kind of lodge off peak. I have no idea how much it would be during peak periods (and I am too scared to look!). 

There are cheaper dog-friendly lodges available (the cheapest being around £399 for Jan-March outside of school holidays). 

Dog Friendly Accommodation at Whinfell Forest

Our new style executive lodge was fantastic. It felt really spacious and all of our bedrooms had an ensuite bathroom. I really likes that it was wooden flooring in the main areas and there is an entrance porch which was perfect for drying paws etc..... 

There are stairgates fitted as standard on all lodges and this worked brilliantly for making sure Fozzy didn't go upstairs. 

The executive lodges have log burners, your own private decked area, a wine cooler and your own infrared sauna which were nice little touches. 

Our lodge was spotlessly clean and I personally couldn't tell that another dog had been there before us. 

Most lodges (including ours) do not have enclosed outdoor space. Our patio doors led to a decked area with steps directly down into the woods. 

On the decking there is a hook you can tether your dog to and plenty of space to sit. I really liked that we could step out straight into the woods which was great for early morning and late night walks when your dog just needs a quick sniff and a wee rather than a decent walk. 

I thought with us being a designated dog lodge we wouldn't see much in the way of wildlife but we had red squirrels visit us, a woodpecker landed on our decking one morning and there were loads of regular tits, finches and robins.

I loved walking Fozzy around our lodge as you could hear lots of birds tweeting and woodpeckers and in the evening we heard lots of owls. 

sauna in the executive lodge at whinfell forest

Dogs are not allowed on the furniture and Fozzy didn't really try and get on the sofas to be honest. Even so, we brought our own throws to cover the sofas with just in case. You are able to leave your dog in the lodge unattended and just need to pop a sign in your window to let staff know. 

Fozzy wasn't too keen on visiting squirrels so on the occasions we went out without him, we closed the patio curtains so he wouldn't be bothered by them. 

Dining Options with Dogs at Whinfell Forest 

This is where I did feel most limited as eating out usually forms a big part of our holidays and you are fairly restricted with where you can do this with your dog at Whinfell. 

Places you can dine with your dog: 
  • Inside or outside the Lakeside Inn Pub 
  • Inside or outside Starbucks overlooking the lake 
  • Outside the Sports Cafe (there is a covered area as well as uncovered) 
  • Picnic tables around the site 
  • Inside your lodge (either cook or order takeaway/collection)

Outdoor area of the pancake house at center parcs whinfell
Outside seating near Starbucks Lakeside 

I would say the best place to book a meal with your dog is the Lakeside Inn. It's a beautiful pub overlooking the lake and they are super welcoming to dogs. I'd recommend booking ahead online and there is an option to pick a dog-friendly area. The staff are lovely and there are complimentary dog treats.

The tables are well spaced out and we felt as if we had plenty of room. / weren't on top of other tables etc....  

There is a free indoor soft play in this pub but it is kind of hidden around the corner and you don't even notice it. 

In the warmer months (or if you're feeling brave in winter), outdoor seating is available too and it's such a beautiful view. 

We visited for Sunday lunch which is served carvery style (£16.99 for one course). I can hand on heart say it was the best carvery I've ever had. All of the veg was cooked perfectly and really well flavoured, the beef was lovely and tender and the gravy nice and rich. 

They also offer a carvery option on a Sunday and on other days it is typical pub food. 

Sunday carvery at the dog friendly lakeside inn, whinfell forest
Carvery at The Lakeside Inn

The boys ordered fish and chips which they both really enjoyed and Dee ordered veggie pasta from the kids menu. 

Bookings open for restaurants 3 months ahead of your stay and you pay £5 per person deposit which is taken off your bill. It kind of takes the sting away from the high prices. 

I have always found service at Center Parcs' restaurants to be super attentive and quick. 

Fish and chips at dog friendly lakeside inn, center parcs whinfell forest
Fish and Chips at the Lakeside Inn 

If you haven't booked anywhere and fancy a quick drink / bite to eat and the Lakeside Inn is fully booked or you fancy a drink while the kids play, the Sports Cafe is a good bet. 

Dogs are welcome in the outdoor area here which overlooks a bowling green and two nice playgrounds for kids. It's also super close to the outdoor sports courts and part of the Sports Plaza which is where a lot of the indoor activities take place. 

The outdoor area has a covered section and big screens up showing the football / live sports (with the sound on). There is a soft play area just inside and you can order food and drinks from the bar. This bar/cafe does not accept reservations and is always walk in only. 

Outdoor dog friendly seating at Sports Cafe Whinfell Forest

There are two Starbucks at Center Parcs Whinfell - one inside the Sports Plaza (where dogs are not permitted) and the other by the main village centre in a beautiful location overlooking the lake where dogs are welcome (inside and out).

Starbucks does not take reservations and you just need to walk in. They serve drinks, breakfasts, sandwiches, cakes and snacks. 

Dining in our lodge worked well for us during this break. We had a wine and cheese night and a spa breakfast with things we had brought from home. You can easily order 'dine at home' takeaway deals through your booking (which you do on the day you'd like it to be delivered) and there is a choice of meals that will be delivered directly to your door. 

At Whinfell you can also order an Indian Takeaway to be delivered on the day, again, order through your booking on the day you'd like it delivered.

I had heard mixed things about both of these options though with most recommending pizzas from Bella Italia as the best option on site. Sadly, these cannot be delivered but you can order through your booking to collect. Bella Italia is close to the swimming pool so we just ordered to collect after swimming and they were really delicious. I'd definitely do this again. 

Alternatively, you can order an external takeaway from Penrith and walk to the security hut to collect it. You can read more about doing this in my 'Ways to Save Money at Center Parcs' post.  

There are lots of restaurants where dogs aren't permitted including Cafe Rough, Hucks, the Pancake House & Dexters. If you'd like to visit one of these options, you will need to leave your dog in your lodge. 

Walks with Dogs at Whinfell Forest 

Long walks in a forest setting was one of the best things to do with Fozzy. Whinfell isn't a huge site but it feels really spacious and the only place it ever feels crowded is the village centre / around the sports plaza. 

You can follow the owl trail and find all of the owl sculptures or walk deeper into the woods where you probably won't see another soul. Dogs do need to be kept on lead. 

The main paths around site are separated from the road and although Whinfell is largely car-free, bikes do use the roads so it's nice having this separation and not having to worry about cyclists whizzing past. 

There are a couple of enclosed dog exercise areas where you can let your dog off lead. Just to warn you, these are pretty small and not the same as the acres of land you may be used to if you've ever hired an exercise field yourself. 

They are kept in good condition though and free to use at any time. They are clearly marked on the map. It was just about big enough for us to play ball with Fozzy for 10 mins and it would be fine for smaller breeds. I'm not sure whether they would be much use for larger breeds or super energetic dogs though. 

If you are desperate for some off lead time, Wellys and Tails is an enclosed dog walking field in Penrith which is available to book for private hire. 

Dog exercise field at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest

Dog Exercise Area at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest

Owl Trail at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest

Activities with Dogs at Whinfell Forest 

There isn't a specific activity that's dog friendly at Whinfell (well, except walking) but there are quite a few activities you can bring a dog along to and spectate. This only really works if someone doesn't mind standing with the dog of course. 

Dogs would be welcome to join you on outdoor activities you do on your own such as geocaching. 

There are a couple of nice playgrounds and you can sit outside of them with your dog while the kids play. 

Playground at Sports Plaza at Center Parcs Whinfell

Adventure golf is outdoors and someone could watch with the dog from outside the fence. 

Adventure Golf with dogs at Center Parcs

I've seen people with dogs watch other members of their group on the aerial adventure, zip wire, go karts and outdoor sports courts. Basically anything that's outdoors would be fine for dogs to spectate. 

A few people have mentioned that they have been able to take their dog pottery painting if the weather has been nice as there are outdoor tables you can use where dogs are welcome. 

Dogs did used to be allowed on boats on the lake but sadly, they are no longer permitted. 

If you visit over Winter Forest Lights, dogs can walk through with you and they are welcome in the outdoor drinks area here. I assume it would be the same over Christmas too. 

Winter Forest Lights with Dogs at Center Parcs

As parents of teens, it is easy for us to let the kids go off and do there own thing or watch from afar but I think if you're visiting with younger kids who require more supervision and would like to try a few different activities, you're probably going to have to end up leaving your dog in the lodge for activities. 

Fozzy is fine to be left for a few hours at a time. We just made sure we walked him before going out and were only out for a few hours at a time. We left him to go swimming and to visit the pancake house. Other times, we split up into smaller groups to do activities and while the others stayed with Fozzy or we just did something where we could be with Fozzy. 

Dog Rules & Tips at Whinfell Forest 

  • Book as soon as you can, ideally a year or more in advance if you can as dog-friendly lodges go quickly
  • Dogs are not permitted on the furniture or beds 

  • You can leave your dog in your lodge unattended (if they are ok with this), just make sure they cannot access upstairs and you put the sign up in your window 

  • Choose your lodge location carefully. If you want to leave your dog for the least amount of time, book as close to the village centre as you can 

  • Don't just turn up with your dog without booking a dog-friendly lodge. They do check and if you haven't booked a dog lodge, your dog won't be allowed to stay. They won't have a spare one just in case

  • Book the Lakeside Inn for your meals out , cook in the lodge or order takeaway on the day 

  • Dogs need to be kept on leads at all times with the exception of the dog exercise parks 

  • There is an additional charge of £79 to bring one dog or £99 to bring two dogs 

  • Dogs are not permitted inside the main village (which is also where the supermarket is), swimming, the spa, the sports plaza or most of the restaurants. 

  • If you spend over £40 inside the supermarket they will deliver to your lodge free of charge 

  • There are fridges in all of the lodges so it's great for raw feeders 

  • If you can't leave your dog in your lodge, book outdoor activities and plan for one adult to watch everyone else whilst supervising the dog

Overall, I feel like Whinfell is somewhere in between dog-friendly and dog tolerant. It isn't the best place we've visited with Fozzy but it certainly isn't the worst either. 

We made it work for us and I think having older kids who can do their own thing, having already visited Center Parcs multiple times so not being bothered about booking lots of activities and being a larger group who could split up to do activities did help. 

It also helped being able to leave Fozzy for a few hours when we all went swimming together or for lunch at the pancake house. 

I do feel that Fozzy had a good break too. At home, it's not usual for us all to be downstairs every day. The kids are more often than not in their rooms or out with friends so we felt like we had lots of quality time with him with us all being together, especially in the evenings. He also really loved the walks around the forest with lots of new and exciting smells and although small, he did like visiting the exercise field too. 

I'm not sure how many dogs can book to visit Whinfell at one time but it's not a place you will see loads of dogs. There weren't any other dogs in the pub or outside the sports cafe when we visited and there was only one other dog in the dog exercise area once. We did see a couple of other dogs but it definitely seemed to be less frequent than other places we have stayed. 

Looking for other dog-friendly accommodation reviews? Make sure you read our Guide to Dog Friendly Holidays next. 

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Is Center Parcs Whinfell Forest Dog Friendly?


1 comment

  1. Brilliant review, we are looking to book next year as a family and take our dog with us. This has helped in our decision and definitely going to book now 😊 thanks


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