Renowned as ‘the land of the horse’, Ireland has a deep connection to horses and horsemanship. With about 35 horses per 1,000 people, horses, and especially horse-racing, are very much a part of Irish life.
A dark green, often mist-shrouded and drizzly country, horseback riding vacations in Ireland can sometimes feel like you’ve traveled back in time, to a more peaceful place, where days unfurl before you in slow motion, and the countryside almost shimmers with the centuries of life it has seen.
One of the perks of holidaying in rural Ireland is that the likelihood of being near a really good traditional pub is high, where, after a long day in the saddle, you’ll be guaranteed an excellent Guinness or a warming hot whiskey – and if you’re lucky, live music.
Here’s the Between Two Ears top three horseback riding vacation spots in Ireland. Expect to ride lots of Connemara ponies and Irish Sport Horses with a little bit of Thoroughbred and a lot of Irish Draught!
Bel-Air Hotel, Ashford, Co. Wicklow
Bearing the glamorous name of Bel-Air, this is a unique place to stay and to horseback ride. Nestled in historic County Wicklow, Bel-Air has a thousand acres of woodland to trek through, their own cross-country course, and an arena if you’d prefer to take riding lessons. The hotel is charmingly old fashioned, with walls adorned with photos and paintings of the local hunt, and rumors of a ghost, as well as the best cream tea for miles. Less than an hour from Dublin, you can take a day off from riding to explore the city, if you can bear to leave the tranquility of the countryside.
Prices start from €130 per person sharing for one night B&B with a two hour trek.
Find out more here: http://www.belairhotelequestrian.com/
Dingle Horse Riding, Dingle, Co. Kerry
On the wild and wind-lashed Dingle Peninsula, just outside picturesque Dingle town, you’ll find what is reputedly Ireland’s most westerly riding stables – Dingle Horse Riding. Views don’t get much more spectacular than from between the ears of a sturdy Connemara, at the top of a County Kerry mountain, looking out onto the roaring Atlantic Ocean. If you’re game, expect lots of galloping – whether you’re on the mountain trail or on the long, sandy beaches. Accommodation in Dingle is plentiful, with lots of cottages to rent, as well as the famous Benner’s Hotel. The town’s many pubs, some of which double as shops, are legendary.
Rides start at €45 for an hour long trek.
Find out more here: http://www.dinglehorseriding.com/
Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan
There’s a peculiar slant to the light in this northerly part of Ireland, and it lies especially low and golden over Glaslough, illuminating the pretty cut-stone buildings long after the sun has gone down. Staying in Castle Leslie feels more like spending a weekend in a country house in the 1920s than in a hotel. Gloriously decorated and preserved, it sits on 1,000 acres of rolling fields, woodlands and lakes, all of which you can spend days exploring on horseback. Best of all: you can bring your own horse.
Prices start from €160 per person per night for accommodation and a one hour trek, or €140 per person per night if you bring your own horse.
Find out more here: http://www.castleleslie.com/
This is a guest post by Alex Calder. Alex works in communications with one of the world’s biggest equestrian brands, writes on style for British equestrian magazine The Gaitpost, and is most likely to be found Instagramming from the back of a horse as @BetweenTwoEars.