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Scots town named the most dog friendly in the UK

Dog model Phoebe sampling the ice-cream in Girvan Gelataria <i>(Image: Victoria Rose @ Flaunt&Flourish)</i>
Dog model Phoebe sampling the ice-cream in Girvan Gelataria (Image: Victoria Rose @ Flaunt&Flourish)

A Scottish town has traded in its dark history for a bright, fluffy future after being named the most dog-friendly destination in the UK.

Girvan was crowned the winner at the DogFriendly Awards at London's Kennel Club on Wednesday (November 29), having received the highest number of votes from the public.

It's hoped the Ayrshire town will now be known for its cuddly canines rather than the famous legend of Alexander "Sawney" Bean, a clan leader who was said to have cannibalised more than 1,000 people.

Girvan fought off 122 entrants in the town/city category at the awards, claiming first place over finalists including Eastbourne and Bury St Edmunds.

It comes after tourist body Go Girvan launched a dog-friendly initiative to make the seaside town a destination for canines and their owners.

More than 30 local businesses have signed up to the scheme, with stickers in shop windows and a dog-friendly page on the Go Girvan website showing visitors where their four-legged friends are welcome.

The Herald: Parker enjoys a shop in Girvan-a-Damn
The Herald: Parker enjoys a shop in Girvan-a-Damn

Parker enjoys a shop in Girvan-a-Damn (Image: Victoria Rose @ Flaunt & Flourish)

Among them is The New Café Royale, which even has a dedicated dog menu including burgers, hot dogs, and Sunday roasts.

Owner Michelle Thomson said: "We were the first dog-friendly café in town. We love the dogs coming in, they are not a hassle for us.

"We wanted to be quirky so we introduced a dog menu. We've recently started doing dog scones.

"It works well for us as a community, family-run café. Sometimes we serve 20 dogs a day. It's not bothered any customers.

"I have a two bark and you're out rule, but the dogs are so friendly. It definitely does bring a lot of customers."

The Herald: Phoebe looking at the flavours in Girvan Gelataria
The Herald: Phoebe looking at the flavours in Girvan Gelataria

Phoebe looking at the flavours in Girvan Gelataria (Image: Victoria Rose @ Flaunt & Flourish)

Cafes, pubs, shops and even the local amusement arcade have joined the scheme. Bike hire company Biosphere Bikes has added two dog trailers to its range of equipment and dogs can now accompany their owners on a boat trip to Ailsa Craig.

Susanne Arbuckle, project officer for Go Girvan, said: “This is the first year we have put Girvan forward in the UK DogFriendly Awards and everyone is over the moon that we have won.

"Local businesses and attractions have been fantastic at welcoming dogs and their owners to the town. Most of the businesses that have signed up to our dog friendly initiative are independently owned and really appreciate the extra custom from visitors with dogs.

"However, we won’t be resting on our laurels as we have lots more planned for 2024 so watch this space...”

Local MSP Elena Whitham is a regular visitor to the seaside town with her own dog Mojo. She has been a big supporter of the initiative since it started, posting about Girvan’s dog friendly status on her own social media channels.

The Herald: Girvan
The Herald: Girvan

Girvan (Image: Shutterstock)

Ms Whitham said: “I am thrilled that Girvan now holds the prestigious title of the UK’s most dog-friendly town. This is all down to the hard work and initiative of Go Girvan which has collaborated with businesses and the community to market the town as a place for dog lovers to flock to.

"A massive well done is owed to them and the people of Girvan for this achievement. I look forward to heading to Girvan with my dog Mojo again soon!”

VisitScotland’s regional director Lynsey Eckford said: “It’s fantastic that Girvan’s been recognised for the warm welcome the tourism businesses offer to dog owners and their four-legged family members.

Read more: Scotland's 10 best dog-friendly days out for 2022

"As well as attracting dog owners from across the UK and boosting the local economy, visitors will be able to create even more special memories on holiday by bringing their pet with them, to enjoy Girvan’s beach and great visitor experiences.”

The DogFriendly website has the largest database of dog friendly places in the UK with more than 50,000 registered businesses.

This is the 11th year it has held awards to recognise businesses that "go the extra mile" to cater for canines, with winners from each category chosen by public vote.