Cornwall days out: a dog-friendly day the Cornish Seal Sanctuary
It’s very rare that we can take Tin Box Dog with us on a wildlife day out. So when we found out the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek was a dog-friendly day out we were very excited to be invited for a visit.
The aim of the Sanctuary is to rescue seal pups that have become orphaned or are found injured, help them to recuperate, and, if possible, release them back into the wild. In recent years the Cornish Seal Sanctuary has taken in between 50 and 60 seals every 12 months. During the past 40 years, it has saved more than 1,000 seals.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary welcomes dogs on leads in most areas of the attraction.
Here’s a bit more about our Easter holiday in Cornwall:
A visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek
The Sanctuary is located on the Helford River in East Cornwall and has amazing views, which were quite distracting on the beautiful sunny day that we visited. When you arrive at reception you have the option to walk to the main Sanctuary facilities or catch a land train. We chose to walk the few hundred meters there and rest our legs with a ride on the way back. The walk is along a shady road with a slight incline.
The first building you come to is the hospital where you can meet the Sanctuary’s newest arrivals. There are several tours during the day or you can walk through on your own. Tin Box Dog was not allowed in this part of the park so we skipped straight to the outdoor seal pools.
There are several pools, all with different purposes and for different species of seals. The first we came to was the Common Seal Pool, which is home to three boys. We saw more of them later. From here we walked down to the rehabilitation pools and then the convalescence pool where the young seals learn how to socialise and get their fair share of the food. The rescued seals are guided through the process by some of the adult seals who are permanent residents.
There are also pools for Californian Sea Lions, Grey Seals and Sea Lions.
Talks and feeding times
There were talks at the various pools every half hour on the day we visited. During these the keepers shared their work to rehabilitate the seals and introduced us to the different characters in their care.
We were given the wonderful opportunity to feed a few of the resident Common Seals – Bo, Buddy and their dad Babyface. Their lunch consisted of fresh fish and a fishy ice pop, which is more about the fun of playing with it than the food. Handling the fish was smelly work, even with gloves, but feeding the seals is something we’ll remember for a long time! The Cornish Seal Sanctuary offers premium experiences like this to supplement their conservation work. I love the sound of breakfast with the seals.
Other things to do at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary
As well as the seals you can see penguins, otters and farm animals at the Sanctuary. The penguins seemed to be playing with the girls in the underwater viewing area, swimming backwards and forwards as they dashed to get a better view. The girls also enjoyed scouring the reconstructed rock pool for small sea creatures, and playing on the pirate ship playground.
Tin Box Dog was fascinated by the otters, who she probably thought were small dogs. There were also activity sheets and a nature trail along the river.
We spent more than four hours at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. By this time our girls, aged four and nearly two, were flagging, but we still hadn’t seen everything. We’ll have to save the meeting the ponies, goats and sheep in the paddock for another visit.
Handy things to know about a family day out at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary
- The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is buggy friendly. Use the land train if you have younger kids who tire of walking quickly. The walk between the reception and main pools might be a bit boring for them.
- Do the talks. They were really informative and regular so you could fit in a lot of learning.
- Dogs must be kept on leads at all times but are welcome everywhere with the exception of the hospital and playground.
- There are toilets and baby changing facilities in the main reception and next to the paddocks by the seal hospital.
- The cafe opened at about 11.30am during our visit, and had reasonably priced kids and adult meal deals, including the obligatory Cornish pasties.
If you’re looking for more holiday and days out inspiration check out our essential guide to family holidays in Cornwall.
Final thoughts on our visit
I was surprised by how much there was to do and see at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. Its work to help this characterful species is also impressive. The keepers know the residents really well and clearly have a great affinity with them. We would definitely recommend a visit here. It’s a great Cornwall day out for families and their four-legged friends.
Disclosure: Visit Cornwall kindly arranged for us to visit into the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and those of my family.
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