Tuesday 13 November 2018

Horses for Courses: Top 10 Irish equestrian holidays in Ireland

Giddy up! Regular rider Siobhán English has 10 great places to get into the saddle in Ireland… at every price point

Trekking at Westport
Trekking at Westport
Dunfanaghy Stables
Abbeyfield Farm
Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan
Gerarda and Derek Arnold at Arnold's Hotel, Dunfanaghy.

Siobhán English

Looking for equestrian holidays in Ireland? We've got 10 great places to get you going, from Donegal to Kilkenny...

1. Dunfanaghy Stables

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Dunfanaghy Stables

If you’re heading to Donegal any time soon, be sure to check out this spot at the very northern tip of the county, close to the start of the Wild Atlantic Way. Keen riders can opt for a seven-night equestrian package which takes in the sights at Muckish Mountain and Sheephaven Bay, or beginners can take a leisurely hack along one of the many Blue Flag beaches on this off-radar stretch of northern coastline.

Details: Accommodation is available at the family-run Arnolds Hotel in Dunfanaghy (arnoldshotel.com), or at local B&Bs. A three-hour ride will set you back €86. See dunfanaghystables.com

More: A Circuit of Donegal: 12 great reasons to visit Donegal

2. The Munny Trail

Gone are the days of holidaying in leaky tents — glamping is all the rage these days. There’s an attractive and affordable package at Munny House, where you can take a mini glamping vacation with your trusty steed. Situated on the Carlow/Wicklow border, the estate boasts over 600 acres of lush farmland and woodland with spectacular scenery, some 55 cross-country fences and endless trails to explore. Sleeping arrangements come in the form of yurts or a log cabin, with toilets, hot showers, barbecue area, kitchen and dining area, all within walking distance. In case you run out of alcohol at camp, fear not. The Crab Lane Pub is only a stone’s throw away and guests are regularly spotted refuelling during a trail ride before meandering back to base for a night around the fire.

Details: Prices start at €140 for a two-night midweek break. See themunnytrail.ie

3. Abbeyfield Farm

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Abbeyfield Farm

Set on 240 acres, Abbeyfield Farm in Co Kildare caters for all levels of riders, with the option of leisurely strolls around the quiet lanes or a fast-paced spin on a cross-country course. There’s a real family atmosphere here and if you are not into horses, there’s plenty to do besides, including clay pigeon shooting, archery and air rifling. Take note: it gets very busy over weekends during summer months, so book well in advance. Abbeyfield is particularly popular with corporate team-building groups year round.

Details: Prices range from €40 for an hour’s riding to €55 for a 50-bird clay pigeon shoot. For more information, see abbeyfieldfarm.com

4. Castle Leslie Estate

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Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan
 

Guests love the Blue Book’s Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan for its charm, while others adore the adjacent Lodge, which overlooks a bustling stable yard. Self-catering is available at the Old Stable Mews or one of the townhouses in Glaslough village (both are ideal for families or large groups). Bring your own equine, or avail of the many well-schooled horses and ponies for a choice of a quiet hack, cross-country ride, or a dressage- or show jumping lesson. Afterwards, treat yourself to a well-earned massage in the Victorian Treatment Rooms or try a spot of fishing on the lake.

Details: Prices start from €150pps at The Lodge. This package is based on two adults and two horses. For more, see castleleslie.com or irelands-blue-book.com

5. Flowerhill Equestrian

Proprietor Oliver Walsh is the ultimate host, guaranteeing a seriously fun few days at his outfit outside Ballinasloe, Co Galway. During the summer, it’s particularly popular with teenagers (aged 12–16 years) availing of the residential week-long clinics, which cover everything from show jumping and cross-country training to morning hound exercise with the local Roscommon Hunt. Hunting trips during the winter months are available for both Irish and overseas visitors.

Details: The teenager package costs €1,100 and includes six days’ riding and seven nights’ full-board in the local B&B. For more information, see flowerhill.net

6. Drumcoura Lake Resort

Yeehaw! If being a cowboy for a day is on your bucket list, why not take a spin down to the Western-themed Drumcoura City in Co Leitrim for a riding experience with a twist. Home to the annual Cowboys and Heroes Festival, everything about this place is Western. This type of riding is a little different to your average English style, so each rider — experienced or not — will need to learn the ropes in an enclosed space before heading out into the country. Accommodation is available nearby, as are some other activities for non-riders, such as tennis, boating or fishing.

Details: Prices start at €30 per hour for trail rides. See drumcoura.ie

7. Crossogue Equestrian

Crossogue House in Co Tipperary is a real home away from home. Guests of all ages can live in with their hosts, ride horses across some of the most picturesque terrain and help out on the farm whenever needed. Cross-country is the speciality here. Their busiest time is between mid-June and mid-August, when they run residential camps for young riders (aged 11–18). Adults who wish to sleep over, as well as daytrippers, are facilitated from April to mid-June and again from mid-August through to the end of November.

Details: Prices for adults start at €735 for three nights, including all riding activities and meals. See crossogue-equestrian.ie

8. Connemara Equestrian Escapes

Connemara is home to one of Ireland’s native breeds, and there’s no better way to see Omey Island than on horseback. Factor in some cantering on the long, sandy beaches and this makes for an adrenaline-filled holiday. Accommodation and home-cooked food are provided at Curra Farm just outside Moycullen or Renvyle House Hotel, where non-riders can explore the area on foot. Local attractions include Kylemore Abbey. Safe and reliable horses and ponies are available for novice and experienced riders, and there’s also the option of bringing your own for a fun weekend, a wellness retreat or even a training clinic.

Details: Prices start from €250 for a three-day/two-night break, which includes accommodation for rider and horse, meals and cultural tours. See connemaraequestrianescapes.ie for more information.

9. Mount Juliet Estate

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Mount Juliet

Home to one of the finest golf courses in Ireland, Mount Juliet is also well-known as a popular riding destination for both overseas visitors and Irish guests. Its top-class facilities make it attractive to families in particular. The estate boasts 16 miles of bridleways and caters for all levels. The team can put together bespoke equestrian packages to suit families or individuals. Even a private Champagne river ride is an option. Accommodation ranges from the five-star Presidential Suite in the 18th-century Mount Juliet House, or the ultimate privacy and flexibility of a Rose Garden Lodge, to the more informal four-star club rooms at the new Hunters Yard (pictured left).

Details: A one-hour riding lesson will cost you €50. See mountjuliet.ie for hotel rates.

10. Go Trekking Ireland

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Trekking at Westport

The Westport Woods Hotel is one of two hotels in the West of Ireland that run the hugely popular Go Kids Club during the summer months. Catering for both toddlers and young children, activities include horse riding on the grounds of the hotel itself. Adults, meanwhile, can indulge in some mountain riding or on one of the countless beaches that stretch along the coastline.

Details: A five-night package, with two dinners and four days’ trekking, costs €699pps. Three nights’ B&B, plus two evening meals, a beach and mountain trek as well as a seaweed bath runs to €399pps. See gotrekking.ie

NB: All prices subject to availability.

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