A dog’s life at top Scots hotels

Luiz Barrato treats black Labrador Molly at Bonham's Hotel in Edinburgh. Picture: Dan Phillips
Luiz Barrato treats black Labrador Molly at Bonham's Hotel in Edinburgh. Picture: Dan Phillips
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WHO let the dogs in? Well, a growing number of Scottish hotels are rolling out the red carpet for canine guests.

A “night in the doghouse” at some of Scotland’s top hotels now includes chef- prepared gourmet menus, luxury dog beds, dog-sitting and even a dog-listening service for pampered pooches.

As more holidaymakers opt to stay in the UK and take their pets on “staycation”, rather than face the strain of travelling abroad, a range of hotels are now offering five-star doggy service to rival those on offer for two-legged owners or even those enjoyed by the spoilt pets of celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Geri Halliwell.

The Bonham in Edinburgh, offers a Doggy Dreams package which even includes a cooked canine breakfast.

“We have chef come up with a menu for each dog individually,” said Joanne Faulkner, its general manager. “We speak to the owner beforehand and find out what the dogs like, and that can go from plain chicken right up to fillet steak, if that’s what the dog wants. We recently sent up scrambled eggs and milk on room service for one of our doggy guests.”

In Perthshire, the Four Seasons Hotel in St Fillans runs a “dog-listening” service for pet owners, so they can go for a meal at its restaurant safe in the knowledge that reception is monitoring their dogs’ wellbeing.

“It means we can monitor the dog for our guests while they enjoy a meal,” said owner Andrew Low. “We also have a dog-sitter who will come in and look after the dogs if the guests are having a day out and can’t take the dog, so that they don’t get lonely.”

Both hotels also offer trips to grooming parlours.

Other hotels that now accept dogs include Gleneagles in Perthshire, Knockinaam Lodge in Portpatrick, Wigtownshire, and Glenapp Castle Hotel in Ayrshire. At Monachyle Mhor Hotel in Balquhidder, Stirlingshire, even those guests who arrive without dogs are encouraged to take the owners’ dogs out for walks.

Jo Nutten, director of Dogpeople.co.uk, a website that recommends dog-friendly hotels and restaurants in the UK, said it was a rising trend among British hoteliers.

“It is a growth industry, and it’s good that more hotels are waking up to this and giving dog owners more choice,” she said. “A lot of dog owners don’t want to leave their dogs in kennels and would prefer to take their pets with them when they go on holiday.

“There are plenty of people who have got dogs and who want to go to hotels and want somewhere of good quality.

“Just because you’ve got a dog doesn’t mean you don’t want to go and stay somewhere that’s nice.”

Adam Moore, owner of the Trigony House Hotel near Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway, where dogs receive a welcome pack and gourmet treats – their owners get a map of dog walks in the area too – said that having canine guests made for a more relaxing atmosphere.

“Once upon a time hotels had signs saying ‘no children and no dogs’. But things are changing. We have had very few problems and having dogs around the place makes for an incredibly welcoming atmosphere for everybody. It makes life easier both for the owners and for the dogs.”

The number of Britons choosing “staycations” has rocketed since the start of the recession in 2008, with less ready cash, increased security measures at airports and natural disasters such as the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud and earthquakes all given as reasons for people holidaying at home rather than abroad. During the first six months of 2011, the number of visits to Scotland from the rest of the UK increased 6 per cent to 5.9 million and figures are expected to continue to rise this year.

“Because not as many people are going abroad as in the past, more hotels in the UK are switching on to the idea that being dog-friendly will be a good business plan for them,” said Nutten.

“And from their perspective, if you’re going to provide that service you might as well do it properly. Guests who know a dog-sitter is looking after their pet while they are eating at the hotel restaurant are more likely to spend more money and time on their meal if they don’t have to rush off to feed the dog.”

More holidaymakers are also coming to the UK from abroad following the introduction of the Pet Passport scheme and the relaxation of quarantine rules, making it easier to bring dogs into the UK on holiday.

Although most hotels charge a small fee each night for each dog to cover cleaning expenses, most canine guests are reportedly well behaved.

“We very rarely have a problem,” said Moore. “Most dogs are at least as clean as most humans.”

A spokesman for VisitScotland said: “There is no shortage of accommodation providers in Scotland who are prepared to welcome ‘man’s best friend’.

Visitors to our website are able to search for ‘pet-friendly’ accommodation, ensuring that every member of the family can enjoy a holiday in Scotland.”