From the seemingly endless miles of coastline to the snow-capped mountain peaks, down the fells to glistening lakes and all the rolling hills in between, the UK countryside offers a diverse and beautiful playground for horse riders to explore.
Whether it’s day-dreaming or planning your next horse-riding holiday, we’re ready to slip into the saddle with you and enjoy these equine escapes.
Well into the 5th week of lockdown, we have started dreaming about some of our favourite destinations for horse riding in the UK.
1. The Brecon Beacons, South Wales
The mountain path cutting through rural South Wales and the heart of Brecon Beacons national park have come to be known as Beacons Way. An iconic trail, the ‘Beacons’ refers to two of South Wales largest peaks – Pen y Fan and Fan Brycheiniog. Stretching for 99 miles east to west through the National Park, riding this trail you will pass through the most important landmarks and mountain peaks in the mountain range and descend through deep verdant valleys flanked by rolling hills and fells stretching off into the distance. You will find horse-friendly B&Bs along all of the routes, but we do recommend bringing a day’s worth of feed in your saddlebag.
2. Studland Beach
Run by the National Trust, four miles of golden sandy beach is surrounded by a vast area of heathland; a fascinating mosaic of habitats from heaths and downlands, to wetlands and shoreline. Designated trails through the sand dunes and woodlands allow for exploration and spotting of deer, insects, wildflowers, as well as views of Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight. Here’s a good sample itinerary if you are staying in Bournemouth.
3. Totternhoe Knolls
A brilliant network of bridleways to get lost in for hours amongst nature reserves, ancient mountains, and views of the historic landscape all await you at Totternhoe Knolls Nature Reserve in South Bedfordshire! An important medieval quarrying area now makes for a relaxing ride; there’s plenty of opportunity for a blast or just take it steady. Gallop up the chalky hills for a stamina builder then soak up the spectacular views from the top.
4. The Pennine Bridleway National Trail
The Pennine Bridleway is a 205 miles long National Trail through the Pennine hills from Derbyshire to Cumbria. Specially designed for horse riders, you can follow ancient packhorse routes, drovers’ roads and newly created bridleways. The trail provides an amazing long-distance, and largely off-road, ride through beautiful countryside. You can choose between 2 loops – the longer 47-mile loop or a 10-mile loop that makes for an excellent day’s ride.
5. Cotswold Hills
Honey-coloured stone cottages and rolling grassy hills spring to mind when you mention the Cotswolds! Rides through the Cotswold Hills are catered for all abilities, with an endless choice of routes to hack and miles of quiet lanes and bridleways to explore. You’ll see plenty of picturesque villages featuring unique village pubs!
6. Gallowhill, Stranraer (Scotland)
One breathtakingly beautiful place to hack, Gallowhill is a great escape if you are in the area. The bridleway leads you to the top of the hill with magnificent views out over the sea. As it is nestled into the southwest of Scotland, you can imagine that it’s best in the nice summer months to take on this hack! Nearby in the Galloway Forest Park, you can enjoy over 400 miles of forest, woodland, lochs and bridleways and some of South Scotland’s most dramatic scenery.
7. The New Forest
Home to the ‘wild’ ponies that roam free across the forest, this is a natural place for exploring on horseback. There is always a stunning landscape to choose from, open forests, paddling along shady streams or cantering along a picturesque beach. Riders are expected to keep to the tracks, roads and bridleways where you can find plenty of pubs and restaurants along the way.
With its open moorland and deep river valleys, Dartmoor has a rich history and rare wildlife that is completely unforgettable. Stretch your horse's legs on the open moor or gently trot through the woodland trails and bridleways.
9. Ridgeway National Trail
Who would not want to hack along Britain’s oldest road? Ride along the high ground, the same route used by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers since prehistoric times. You will experience wide, open views of rolling chalk downland and find many archaeological monuments including Stone Age long barrows, Bronze Age round barrows, Iron Age forts and the figures of white horses cut into the chalk. The section clearly identified as an ancient trackway extends from Wiltshire – making this one very close to home for us!
Hopefully, this has given you something to look forward to, at the very least we hope you were able to indulge in a blissful moment of day-dreaming with us. Just think how sweet the first long ride after isolation will taste!