Horsing around in Ireland

  • While hunting in its traditional state has been banned in the UK, Irish packs have been enjoying extremely good business. Thrill-seekers have been flooding in from across the world, with the most regular visitors arriving from England and the United States.

    The Dunraven Arms Hotel in County Limerick is known as the Foxhunting Centre of Ireland and is an ideal location to enjoy the best hunting the country has to offer. Established in 1792, the four-star hotel is less than an hour away from nine local hunts and can organise hunting on nearly every day of the week during the season.

    Riders will be able to test their skill and mettle across a range of terrain and scenery with the County Limerick Foxhounds, Scarteen Black & Tans, County Limerick Harriers, Golden Vale Hounds, The Galway Blazers, Stonehall Harriers, County Tipperary Foxhounds, County Clare Foxhounds and Duhallow Foxhounds.

    Managers Louis and Bryan Murphy are heavily involved in the local hunting world and can advise visitors on the most suitable day out, as well as hiring the right horse.

    If you need to boost your confidence before taking on the steep walls and banks of the local hunting country, the Clonshire Equestrian Centre is two kilometres down the road. Set in 120 acres of parkland, the centre offers pre-hunting courses to enable riders to brush up their skills and is a valuable opportunity to find the ideal hunter for your level and to acquaint yourselves before joining the action.

    The centre is open throughout the year for dressage, show jumping and trekking, and if you are not looking to hunt the best time to visit is May or September, according to the centre’s Sharon O’Brian. “During June, July, August it can get very busy and you may find yourself in a group of some eight riders. The middle of summer is also a very popular time for large groups and families from the United States.”

    For adventurous riders searching for an extreme equestrian vacation in the wilds of Ireland, the Connemara and Coast Trails is an ideal destination. The renowned Irish horseman Willie Leahy takes visitors on a six-day trail through the outback of Connemara. During the hunting season, guests can take the Aille Cross, Cross-Country Ride and jump the walls and ditches of local farms in the area. A six-day package can include up to three days’ hunting with the Blazers.

    For those preferring to take life at a more sedate pace, a Mayo Horse Drawn Caravan Holiday could be right up your street. Visitors can explore the Mayo countryside from onboard a traditional covered Irish wagon, which sleeps four people and is set up with everything you need for self-catering purposes. It doesn’t matter if you have never driven before, as you will receive instruction in harnessing up, driving and caring for your Irish Cob before being allowed upon your way.

    And if your companion wishes to enjoy some if Ireland’s other delights, such as the fabulous golf and fishing available, most country hotels will have facilities near by to ensure that everyone’s needs are catered for. The combination of outstanding scenery, friendly people and some of the best bars in the world makes Ireland a great destination for either a short or a long break.

    For more details on riding holidays in Ireland visit: www.horseridingireland.info

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