If you have been put off travelling abroad by the endless images of airport chaos and passport delays, yet still have a yearning for adventure and a passion for horses, it might be time to leave the madding crowd behind you and discover the best places to ride in Wales.
Affectionately nicknamed the “Land of Song” due to its historic singing tradition, Wales doesn’t get nearly as much airtime as Cornwall, yet it has much to brag about. It has five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe, a rocky coastline that makes it a favourite haunt of a huge variety of seabirds, a mountainous landscape carved out in the Ice Age, and – a boon for those trying to escape the masses – four times as many sheep as people. There are many secret gems in this country screaming out to be discovered; to do this from the back of a horse ticks every box.
Best places to ride in Wales
Brandy House Farm, Knighton, Powys
Located off the beaten track, overlooking the River Teme which creates the border between England and Wales, Brandy House Farm offers a variety of accommodation options, from traditional holiday cottages, a vintage caravan, camping pods or staying in your lorry with electric hook-up.
The fitness levels of both horse and rider will surge here as the farm leads out on to 6,000 acres of moorland which take you over the Welsh Hills hidden between Snowdonia to the north and the Brecon Beacons to the south, with flat-topped grassy paths and moorland thrown into the mix.
“The location is brilliant if you want to take a break ‘off grid’,” says one guest. “There is virtually no signal available anywhere nearby, which added to our enjoyment as we had a proper break from our devices.”
If your map-reading skills are rusty, a guided service can be organised. The local area has an array of gardens to visit, museums and galleries, a red kite feeding station, a small-breeds farm park and owl centre, cycling and walking routes.
Breakfasts, packed lunches, and home-cooked evening meals can be ordered as takeaways. Your horse can have a stable in the large American-style barn, individual turnout, or a mixture of both.
Ogmore Farm Trekking Centre, Ogmore-by-Sea, Vale of Glamorgan
For those wanting to hire horses and kit, gallop down miles of “stunning” wide-open sandy beach, a trip to Ogmore Farm could be the answer.
The trek starts by taking you back in time as you pass through the grounds of the historic Ogmore Castle, crossing the River Ewenny and its famous stepping stones, before dropping into the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr Warren and heading on to Newton Beach. The beach and dunes teem with birds; keep your eyes peeled for a kingfisher or exotic white egret.
All standards of riding are catered for: you can potter sedately along the beach, or step it up a gear and practise your jockey position racing along the sand. You might find yourself headhunted if you are a speed freak as racehorse trainer Christian Williams trains his thoroughbreds on this beach.
“How many other places can you just get on a horse and canter up a beach?” says Christian of the riding centre. “People drive three or four hours just to canter on this beach.”
On the return home the trek ascends the beach path to the ridge of the dunes, which are regarded as some of the highest in Europe. The panoramic views of Somerset and Devon will take your breath away.
Daily treks leave the farm, up to two hours long. As accommodation is not available on site, the nearby Golden Mile Country Inn is the ideal place to rest up in between treks in one of their four guest rooms. Depending on the time of year, sit by a roaring fire, or outside enjoying the views while working your way through their extensive wine list.
Crosswell Riding Stables, Crymych, Pembrokeshire
While many riding schools are facing an uncertain future, Crosswell Stables has never been busier. This could be down to its diverse services, or the fact that the approachable owner Carolyn, is determined that her lessons, treks and pony days are affordable for everyone and will bend over backwards to make sure people’s expectations are met – especially if you telephone her (01239 891262), as computers aren’t her favourite pastime.
It is situated in the Preseli Hills, in the heart of Pembrokshire’s National Park with miles of the Tycanol woodland, the Gwaun Valley, Newport Beach and mountainsides to explore.
You can take your own horse or hire from the stables. There is a three-bedroom bungalow and a mobile home on site to rent. One very popular option is the “pub rides”, for which you must be of a certain standard to take part.
“Complete amateurs and alcohol are a health and safety nightmare!” says Carolyn. “This is a great place to take the family, especially if you don’t ride a great deal as the trek can be designed around your fitness and ability, as can the horse.”
Coach House Glamping, Anglesey
Separated from the mainland by the Menai Bridge, off the north-west coast of Wales near the beautiful Snowdonia mountain range, the Isle of Anglesey was known as “the breadbasket of Wales” in the Middle Ages due to its abundance of fertile land that filled the breadbaskets of the inhabitants of North Wales. This is why you will find the remains of many windmills on the island.
Nowadays visitors flock to visit its many spectacular beaches, rolling green hills and dramatic coastal scenery. It is also the proud owner of the longest village name in the UK, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Coach House Glamping has seen such a surge in bookings with guests bringing their horses that they are in the process of expanding that side of their business. They have 10 stables and six acres of land split into paddocks as well as a shower room and solarium – your horse may refuse to load up after his luxurious spa stay here!
The humans have a choice of quirky accommodation from a shepherd’s hut, gypsy caravan, a cottage and the delightfully named Owl House. All sleep four or five and get rave reviews.
They are located two miles from Newborough Forest and Llanddwyn Beach; both offer spectacular riding, but you do need to buy a permit from Natural Resources Wales which cost £4, which can be done online, and they provide maps to help you plan your daily adventures.
The local pub, Y Groeslon, comes highly recommended as does Dylan’s in Menai Bridge which overlooks the straits – in summer it is not uncommon for the dolphins to put on a display.
Owner Joanna says, “Every morning we wake up and feel grateful that we live in a place that we don’t need a vacation from.”
07980 259333; airbnb.co.uk/rooms/50062550
Tŷ Cerrig Glamping, Rhoslefain, Gwynedd
Many people like the idea of camping but are put off by the lack of luxury, Tŷ Cerrig’s well-equipped glamping unit or glamping tent should quash these fears. Both have their own kitchens and shower rooms, proper sheets and towels, and come with a breakfast box full of local goodies.
The site is tucked away in the hills, Bird Rock to the left and the Cader Idris Mountain beyond, and near the Dysynni Valley. The riding straight from the farm is top notch, being on the coastal path as well as the bridle path; you can hack directly to Tonfanau Beach or take a long ride for miles through the mountains with sea views.
It is also easy to box up to the famous Aberdyfi Beach where there are six miles of sand to gallop along. Another short box trip will take you to the start of the ancient “pony path” leading up Cader Idris, the second highest mountain in Wales.
My experienced informant Sophia, who has stayed here, says it is her 14-year-old daughter’s “favourite place to visit, because of the unspoilt views and different terrain. She never got bored as you think you have seen it all, yet there was something different to discover around every corner we turned.”
Out of the saddle, take a trip to the beautiful Italian Riviera-inspired Portmeirion, and for the foodie to Salt Marsh Kitchen in Tywyn, widely considered to be the best restaurant in the area, which prides itself on serving locally produced food.
07590 039093; facebook.com/tycerrigglamping
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