Walking to Sycamore Gap with Dogs - Easy Route

Visiting Finchale Priory with Dogs

This post is based on a visit in March 2022. Please always check with the venue direct for the most up-to-date info when making plans. 

Finchale Priory in County Durham is free to visit with no booking required. It is open daily from 10am-4/5pm and managed by English Heritage (you don't need to be a member though - it's free to visit for everyone). 

Founded in 1196, the beautiful ruins are perfect for a mooch around with a dog and the beautiful woodland setting on the banks of the river wear are perfect for an extended walk afterwards. 

Need to know: 

  • Dogs are welcome to walk around the Priory but must be kept on a lead on this side of the river
  • There are woodland walks across the bridge where you can let your dog off lead (but obviously under control still) 
  • There are places to paddle in the river 
  • There is a dog-friendly cafe (where dogs are welcome inside and out) on site which sells doggy ice cream 
  • Dog waste bins are available and there are human toilets on site too 
  • Find out more here. 

Car Parking at Finchale Priory  

Address: Finchale Priory, Finchale Avenue, Framwellgate Moor, County Durham. DH1 5SH. There is a private car park on site (not managed by English Heritage) which is operated with a barrier / token system. A token is £3 and you can buy from a machine (with cash) or from the tea room with cash or card (£5 minimum card spend). I would probably bring £3 in cash just to be sure though.

The car park is just outside of the Priory and there are toilets here which are free for those who have paid to park (honesty box donations for those who have not used the car park). There is an overflow car park further into the woods (signposted from the main car park) but this was closed on the day of our visit. 

There is also parking in a lay by on Cocken Road (nearest postcode DH4 6QP) which is free. If you park here, walk down the 131 steps through the woods and cross over the bridge to get to the Priory. 

Visiting Finchale Priory with Dogs 

I absolutely love visiting old ruins with dogs and they seem to like it too. Lots of places for them to have a good sniff and different levels to explore. For humans there is normally a chance to learn about the history of the place you are visiting and enjoy some lovely views too. 

Finchale Priory is a fairly large site and I'm really surprised that it's free to visit. There are lots of different areas to explore. Unlike most English Heritage sites, it does seem to lack any kind of information boards which is annoying as I like to read about the places we are visiting. There was phone signal though so google was our friend. 

Finchale Priory is actually pronounced Finkle. It is a grade I listed building with some remains dating back to the 12th century. St Godric, a retired sailor and merchant retired here and it was later used as a rest facility / holiday home for the monks of Durham Cathedral. Love this! 

There is a fair bit to explore and a mix of grassed areas, stones and steps to climb. You can go down into the basement and climb up some areas too. The priory itself isn't staffed and you are free to come and go as you please. 

Ollie and Fozzy had a brilliant time exploring and there were other dogs enjoying the ruins too. 

It was fairly quiet on the day of our visit and we mostly had the place to ourselves but I know in the warmer months and school holidays it can get busy with day trippers. 

Cafe and Facilities at Finchale Priory 

Just in front of the Priory, there is a privately managed cafe where dogs are welcome inside and out. They also sell seasonal farm produce including fresh duck eggs. There is a £5 minimum spend for cards and they take cash payments too. 

You can order from the little hatch by the side of the building to takeaway or enjoy inside the cafe. There are picnic benches by the river just to the side of the tea room and you can bring your own picnic to enjoy at the outdoor picnic tables too. 

The cafe sells ice creams, soup, toasties, hot dogs, scones, beef sandwiches etc..... as well as hot and cold drinks and chocolate bars. Plus they stock ice cream for dogs too. We found the lady who served us to be really lovely. 

Riverside and Woodland Walks at Finchale Priory

If you cross over the bridge next to the Priory, you can enjoy a woodland walk through Cocken Wood and along the river. You can find out more about the walks in this guide by Durham Council and this blog post by All About Nothing. 

If you find some sticks, the bridge is brill for Pooh Sticks. 

On the day of our visit, the river was high and fast moving but I believe on calmer days, it is easy to access for a paddle. I found these photos on Instagram and this area is often recommended to me as a place that is great for kids to have a paddle. Obviously be aware of the dangers and currents etc..... before entering the water. 


There is a caravan / touring / glamping site joined onto the Priory. This is an adults only site and looks like a nice and peaceful place to stay. Dogs are welcome to stay. Find out more here: https://www.finchaleabbey.co.uk/

Other Places to Visit Nearby 

The Doggy Diner, a lovely dog cafe in Durham is a short drive away and Chester-le-Street Park is perfect for a stroll too. 

Nearby pubs which welcome dogs in their bar and beer garden include: Three Horseshoes Leamside , The Rose Tree Durham and YeOld ElmTree 


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience visiting Finchale Priory with your furry friend! As a fellow dog owner, I always appreciate hearing about new places to explore with my pup. However, it's important to remember that with great outdoor adventures comes the responsibility to clean up after our dogs. That's why I highly recommend using a reliable and easy-to-use pooper scooper product like DoggKetcher Max. It's the perfect accessory for any outdoor adventure and ensures that we're doing our part to keep these beautiful places clean and enjoyable for all. Give it a try on your next adventure and see how much of a difference it can make!

  2. Finchale Priory sounds like a fantastic spot for a dog-friendly day out! Exploring the historical ruins and enjoying riverside walks with your furry friend must be a delight. I'm especially excited to visit the dog friendly cafĂ© and let my dog indulge in some doggy ice cream. Thanks for the detailed guide—can't wait to visit with my pup!


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