Ride into the sunset with our guide to horse riding in the UK, with our pick of 10 of the best riding schools, horse riding routes and places you can stay with your horse.
T.M. International School of Horsemanship, Cornwall
Bodmin Moor has long inspired writers and artists with its wild, untouched character, and riding out is one of the best ways to experience it for yourself. TM International treks near Liskeard will take you past burial cairns and Bronze Age stone circles, through abandoned copper and tin mine workings, and around prehistoric settlements. What’s more, the stables are only 20 minutes away from the notorious smugglers’ haunt at Jamaica Inn (made famous by Daphne Du Maurier’s novel) – though it is now a rather more hospitable pub, perfect for a post-ride lunch. The moor rides are not suitable for inexperienced riders, but TM International is happy to offer lessons to beginners until they are able to ride out safely. www.tminternational.co.uk
Liberty Trails, Dartmoor
If you’re a confident rider who wants to try something a bit different, then this is the trip for you. Liberty Trails offers the opportunity to try your hand at Western riding on American Quarter Horses, without having to get on a plane to the States. Instead you can unleash your inner cowboy across the wild and rugged landscape of Dartmoor, with its heather-strewn high ground and secluded valleys that remain largely untouched by man. If you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to help round up some cattle. https://liberty-trails.com
Tynings Trekking Centre, near Bristol
Nestled in the Mendip Hills ‘Area of Outstanding National Beauty’ (AONB), Tynings not only has beautiful surroundings to ride in, but it also has the added benefit of a ‘No Road’ policy. All of the trails they use can be reached without setting a hoof on the public highway, so that even complete beginners can ride out safely. The Mendips bridleway network allows access to thousands of acres of forestry and moorland, with spectacular views across seven counties. Novices riders can sit back and enjoy the scenery or watch out for the herds of Exmoor ponies that have been brought in to graze the upland heath, while for more experienced riders there are plenty of open tracks for a good canter. www.tynings-trekking.co.uk
Northfield Farm, Peak District
At 1518 feet above sea level, Flash is reputedly the highest village in England, which means that there are some pretty amazing views over the surrounding countryside. Northfield can cater for beginners and experienced riders alike, meaning everyone can enjoy beauty spots such as Three Shires Head, where a bridge over the river marks the point where the counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet. This area historically caused problems for the local constabulary as ‘hawkers’ travelling from fair to fair used to squat on the land at Flash, and engage in outlawed practices such as prize fighting and producing counterfeit money. When the police arrived to arrest them, the hawkers simply escaped over the border to the next county. These days Flash is a little more peaceful, but still worth exploring. www.northfieldfarm.co.uk
Murthwaite Green, Lake District
Located in the small coastal Cumbrian village of Silecroft, Murthwaite Green is just a short ride away from the beach: five miles of golden sand and shallow water that is the perfect place for a flat-out gallop. Even less experienced riders can experience a bit of speed if they wish, as Murthwaite will send out multiple ride escorts with mixed ability groups to allow everyone to ride at the pace that best suits them. You might want to take a change of clothes though – there’s nothing like a flat-out charge through the shallows to get you absolutely soaked. www.murthwaitegreen.co.uk
Horse trekking in the UK (Getty)
Kilnsey Trekking Centre, Yorkshire Dales
Kilnsey trails range far across the rolling hills and green valleys of the Yorkshire Dales, from the old lead mines at Grassington to Malham Tarn, where Charles Kingsley found the inspiration to write ‘The Water Babies.’ Their treks are kept to a walking pace and are therefore suitable for beginners – offering the chance to explore moorland, farmland and country lanes from the comfort of a saddle. For more experienced visitors, Kilnsey offers rides that cover more ground at a faster pace. For the really intrepid explorer there are also two-day trail rides with a night in local accommodation. www.kilnseyriding.com
Centre of Horseback Combat, Hemel Hempstead
If you’ve had your fill of spectacular views and would like to try something a bit different, then the Centre of Horseback Combat will be happy to oblige. There are a variety of courses on offer from trick riding to horse archery, as well as their acclaimed ‘rider confidence course’ for anyone who finds the sport a bit nerve-racking. The Horseback Archery course can cater for total beginners to both riding and archery, and if you catch the bug the team can provide advice on buying bows, arrows etc. The centre also holds regular practice sessions throughout the summer months for established horse archers who have completed at least the half-day course. www.horsebackcombat.co.uk
Killiechronan Pony Trekking, Isle of Mull
Located in the central region of Mull, visitors to Killiechronan can benefit from some of the island’s most breathtaking scenery. Ride up into the hills to take in the spectacular mountain views from Loch Na Keal to Ben More (the highest mountain on Mull). Alternatively, head down to the beach for a canter through the sea, and if you’re lucky you might see some of the rare white-tailed sea eagles that have made Mull their home since being saved from extinction. mullponytrekking.webs.com
Newtonmore Riding Centre, Cairngorms National Park
The cairngorms are an excellent location for riding, with some of the world’s most dramatic mountains, rivers and glens to explore. Newtonmore offers various rides to suit a range of abilities, from short treks that focus on allowing riders to enjoy the scenery, to longer hacks where experienced riders can enjoy some fast canters. Beginners can opt for a special 1.5 hour session, with half an hour of tuition followed by a sedate hour’s ride out on the trails. For non-riders who would still like to explore the Cairngorms from a different perspective, Newtonmore also offers carriage rides (for 4-5 people) through the estate. www.highlandhorsefun.com
Freerein riding holidays are the ultimate in adventure for experienced riders. They offer 2 to 6-day organized guided rides, or if you prefer you and your friends can borrow some of their superb horses and set off on a 2 to 7-day self-guided journey across Wales. Freerein provide route maps and equipment, and will also arrange accommodation for each night. In these beautiful surroundings you can easily ride all day without seeing another soul, save maybe a friendly sheep or red kite. Novice riders can opt for the 3-day ‘Onto the Trail’ holiday, which is the perfect introduction to riding on open hills. Meanwhile, more experienced riders who are up for an endurance test will enjoy the Trans-Cambrian North or South routes; where they will cover 100 miles over six days and end up on the golden sands of the Dovey Estuary. www.free-rein.co.uk
Booking essential for all rides
Some rides will require previous riding experience, others are suitable for novices – if in doubt contact the stables for advice.
Riding establishments can usually offer advice on suitable clothing – check the websites or ask when booking.
Surely nothing is more invigorating than whipping up the sands as you gallop across stunning British shores. We explore the best five beaches in Britain for equestrian fun.
Useful resources for horse riders
Here is a list of resources from across the UK to give people with their own horses some hacking inspiration
Equestrian Access Mapping
BHS Ridemaps provides a map of riding routes intended to inspire you to explore new country with your horse.
- Ride Yorkshire, www.rideyorkshire.org
- Coleridge Bridleway, Exmoor, www.coleridgeway.co.uk/bridle-way/bridle-way-route-guide
- Cumbria Bridleways Society, www.cumbriabridlewayssociety.org
- Brecon Beacons Bridleways, Wales, www.horseridingbreconbeacons.com/where-to-ride
- Dartmoor Riding Routes, www.dartmoor.gov.uk/visiting/vi-enjoyingdartmoor/vi-horse-riding
- Yorkshire Dales Horse Riding Routes, www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/outandabout/gettingactive/horseriding
- Cheviot Challenge Riding Routes, Northumberland, www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/visiting/thingstodo/horseriding/cheviotchallengeridingroutes
- Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Riding Routes, Scotland, www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/visiting/horse-riding/menu-id-104.html
Places to stay with your horse