There are many excellent routes for horse riders to follow around the UK. Whether you want a leisurely, relaxing ride, challenging terrain, spectacular scenery, or simply good pub pit stops, we’ve picked out ten of the best places to go exploring with your horse.
1. The New Forest
Renowned for the ‘wild’ ponies which roam free across the Forest, exploring this unique place on horseback seems only natural. Explore open forest, paddle in shady streams or canter along a picturesque beach, wherever you choose there’s always stunning flora and fauna along the way.
The Crown Lands of the Forest permit open access for horse riders and provide plenty of suitable tracks, although riders are expected to keep to the tracks, roads and bridleways. Riders will find plenty of country pubs and restaurants along the way, as well as accommodation offering livery facilities.
2. South Downs Way
Explore some of England’s finest countryside, stretching from historic Winchester to the white cliffs at Eastbourne. From short hacks to epic challenges, the South Downs Way provides miles of designated bridleways, meaning you can ride off road for hours – or even days! With plenty of attractive wildlife, pretty villages and fine pubs, the chalk downland provides good going, even after rain. Some parts of the trail can be quite challenging in places, particularly higher up, but the dramatic views and beautiful countryside are definitely worth the hill work. Although it’s worth saying that If you’re going to ride the whole distance, make sure your horse is fit enough and that you have a crew to support you along the way.
3. Pennine Bridleway
Well marked and largely off road, this historical trail offers a variety of riding, from gentle rolling landscape through to more challenging hills. Often called the rugged backbone of England, there’s opportunity to experience some of the finest upland riding on the UK’s first National Trail, designed especially for horse riders, mountain bikers and walkers. Connecting the Peak District, South Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria, there’s 200 miles of fantastic riding to be enjoyed.
4. Strath Brora, Sutherland
Experience the dramatic beauty of the Scottish Highlands and follow an old trail high in to the hills above Loch Brora. The ride offers stunning views and the opportunity to spot red deer and osprey. Let your pony have a splash in the loch or canter along the banks before exploring a woodland trail. Local centre Highlands Unbridled offers exciting trekking holidays and accommodation.
The wild Dartmoor landscape is completely unforgettable. Ride out on the open moor and really stretch your horse’s legs, or follow woodland trails and bridleways for a gentle trot. The High Moor is a must for experienced riders, as long as you plan your route around the blanket bog. In addition there are a historic networks of byways linking towns and villages which riders are entitled to use. Your horse will receive just as warm a welcome as you at many of the pubs along the way in Dartmoor. You’ll find plenty providing water and paddocks or tie rails, often with a convenient picnic table for yourself nearby.
6. Holy Island, Northumberland
The white sandy of beaches of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne offer enjoyable rides along the beach, with the impressive backdrop of Lindisfarne castle. Cut off from the mainland twice daily, both an island and a picturesque village, there’s lots to see. For nature enthusiasts there’s the opportunity for seal and bird spotting in the North Sea and perhaps a dip in the sea too if you and your horse can stand the sometimes icy temperature!
7. Studland Beach, Dorset
With three miles of sandy beaches to enjoy there are also cliff top rides overlooking the impressive Dorset coastline and around Old Harry Rocks. With backdrops like this for your ride and plenty of sand to run on it’s a great experience for horse riders. Be aware that beach riding permits are not available all year round.
Known for its wonderfully long beaches and beautiful forests, as well as being the mythical home of Merlin, there are plenty of riding routes to explore. Horse riding is welcomed in many of the forests and woodlands and there are lots of bridleways, forest roads and riding trails to enjoy.
9. Radnor Forest Trail, Powys
This trail offers riders glorious views of tranquil Welsh countryside – ideal for those wanting to step off the beaten track and explore parts of Wales that are virtually untouched. It’s a fairly remote trail, with few pubs or restaurants along the way, but if well planned, offers a wonderful chance to escape from the hustle and bustle.
10. Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path
Ride along a historic Roman road, along low cliffs and extensive sandy beaches. Separate riding and walking routes are available and there’s something to suit every rider, from short hacks to longer full day excursions. Ride out along the coast in an area of outstanding natural beauty or visit tiny flint villages and quiet streams.