Sick of riding on the roads or the same old bridleways? It’s time to start exploring. Box your horse up, check out local riding schools and hire a horse, or simply dream about riding some of the best hacking routes in the UK and Ireland.
Studland Beach, Dorset
Hacking along this glorious four-mile stretch of golden sand, in a sheltered and safe bay, is a dream come true for most riders. A National Trust nature reserve, you can wind your way among the sand dunes into the heathland beyond, spotting deer, insects, birds and beautiful wild flowers, before blowing the cobwebs away with a good old gallop across the beach. Studland is also home to the best-known naturist beach in the UK – your horse won’t know where to look! You will need to obtain a riding permit first.
Holkham Bay, Norfolk
Voted the best beach in Britain by leading travel writers because of its stunning natural beauty both in the heat of summer and on a crisp winter’s day, perhaps the best thing about Holkham Beach is that you can ride on it! Home to many rare flora and fauna, with gorgeous, fine golden sands as far as the eye can see, who wouldn’t want to head out for a blast? You don’t need a permit and there’s pay-and-display parking for horseboxes in Holkham Village.
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Exmoor National Park, Devon
Ancient Exmoor, full of Mesolithic monuments, standing stones and undisturbed archeological sites, is a magical place. It’s also fantastic riding country; with over 300 miles of bridleways across varying terrain, riders can spend many happy hours exploring its wild moors, hidden valleys with trickling streams, and mysterious woodlands – and of course, meet the wild Exmoor ponies. It’s also home to some of the darkest skies in Europe, making it perfect for star-gazing – so romantic.
Horses are as much a part of the Irish landscape as its green hills, and a huge part of its mythology – according to Irish legend, the great hero Oisin rode his beautiful white steed into the sea to be with his true love Niamh in Tir Na Og, the Land Of Eternal Youth. Home to the feisty grey horses, Connemara is a horse lover’s paradise. Majestic mountains, long beaches, bubbling bogs, enchanting woods and quiet roads – it’s got it all, and you can explore on horseback, along the ancient Connemara Trail.
Cheviot Hills, Northumberland
There’s no better way of enjoying the fabulous views in Northumberland National Park than from the back of a horse. Follow ancient cattle-droving routes used by our ancestors (who would have also herded on horseback) and ride the border between Scotland and England through a wild and romantic hilly landscape dipping into lush valleys. This route is across the Cheviot Hills, and it’s a wonderful place for experienced riders to let their hair down, make like the Celts who once lived here, and gallop across the hills.