This exciting riding holiday is made up of everything that makes the north coast world famous, such as white sand beaches, rugged coastlines, verdant countrysides, enchanting forests, mountainous trails, and Irish hospitality! You’ll spend the days winding in and around the magnificent Causeway Coastal Route stopping at key iconic locations and sites along the way. There are no other treks in Ireland that include such spectacular sites and scenery. Each day, you’ll be in the saddle approximately 6.5 hours with several breaks throughout the day. This ride is for intermediate to advanced riders and not suitable for beginners.
You will spend one night at a boutique Dublin hotel and five nights at a seafront hotel.
Welcome to Ireland! The afternoon and evening are at your leisure, you may relax at the hotel or head out and explore this vibrant city. Take in sites such as Trinity College or St. Patrick’s Cathedral, take a tour at Guinness Storehouse, or treat yourself to a Dublin institution, a sumptuous afternoon tea in one of one of Dublin’s fine hotels.
This evening, you will enjoy a welcome reception where you’ll meet other members of the riding group and a member of Bespoke Equestrian Ireland. Afterwards, you will retire to your room for a relaxing evening or head out and experience one of Dublin’s many wonderful restaurants or take in an Irish Cabaret, complete with ballad band, champion Irish dancers, and a three-course traditional Irish dinner.
After breakfast, you’ll say goodbye to Dublin city and make your way north to the world-famous Causeway Coastal Route, 120 miles of rugged coastline and breathtaking scenery that has aptly been described as “One of the Worlds Top 5 Road Trips”. The coastal route is dotted with historic castles and a changing canvas of natural landscapes, such as incredible fishing villages, quiet beaches, rolling green hills with lush hedges, mountain streams, and rugged coastlines with majestic cliffs, all overlooking the magnificent sea.
You’ll meet up with your local historian outside Belfast who will accompany you on the coastal journey starting in the seaside town of Carrickfergus, which sits on the northern shores of Belfast Lough. You’ll drive past Carrickfergus Castle, one of the finest Norman castles in Ireland before continuing north towards the hamlet of Magheramourne and past the Magheramourne quarry, an abandoned limestone quarry that Game of Thrones fans may recognize as the set / location for Castle Black (The Wall of Westeros) and HardHome.
You’ll make your way past the seaport town of Larne and a holiday resort town of Ballygally before entering Glenarm (‘Glen / valley of the Army’), the first of the Nine Glens (or valleys) of Antrim. It is here that you'll stop for lunch at a tea room on the grounds of Glenarm Castle. Throughout its long history, Glenarm has been a Norman stronghold, the power base for Irish warlords and one of the most important ports in Ireland. Today, the village enjoys a much slower pace of life and is filled with rich heritage and nature. Immaculately preserved Georgian streets paved with history, a pristine river that’s teeming with wild salmon and walks with stunning panoramas of the Glens and the coast of Scotland come together to make up charming Glenarm village.
Glenarm Castle was the ancestral home of the Earls of Antrim. Today, you can stroll the grounds of this beautiful estate or take a tour of its famous walled garden. The Glenarm Castle Walled Garden is one of Ireland’s oldest, dating from the 18th century and originally created to supply the estate with fruit and vegetables. Today, the garden is filled with impressive flowers and specimen plants to interest the keenest garden enthusiast. This hidden delight is a treasure trove of horticulture gems, exciting herbaceous borders, beautiful water features, wonderful orchards, and floral displays. A stroll around the immaculately kept gardens is perfect for stretching your legs before enjoying lunch in the Glenarm Castle Tea Room.
You’ll continue north on the coast before heading inland towards the McKinley Family farm located in the beautiful County Antrim countryside. This magnificent hilltop farm is surrounded by 1,000 acres of rolling hills lush with green grass and dotted with white, fluffy sheep. As you make your way up the long, scenic driveway, it soon becomes clear that this isn’t any ordinary “Irish farm”.
You’ll be welcome by Mr. McKinley, members of the BEI team, and “Lana”, the resident farm dog. Before meeting the horses, you’ll make your way to the loft above the stables for introductions, light refreshments, and to hear exciting details of the week’s adventure. You’ll head down to the barn for a quick tour and meet the team of horses and if you wish, you can assist with grooming and tacking. After a short riding assessment, you will mount up and head out towards Mount Orra, with views guaranteed to take your breath away.
Your afternoon trek takes you high on Orra Mountain (Slieveanorra), specifically chosen for its historical significance and breathtaking views. In October 1942, eight US airmen lost their lives when their WWII B17 crashed on the mountain during heavy cloud cover. A memorial has been erected at the site in their honor. From the mountain’s peak, it is possible to see the Inner Hebrides off the Scottish coast, all the way to the majestic Mourne Mountains in County Down. When you return to the farm, your driver will be waiting to transport you to your seaside hotel. This evening, you may relax at the hotel or head out and enjoy an area restaurant.
Enjoy a hearty full Irish breakfast before setting off to begin your adventures in County Derry. Your driver will transport you to the church at St. Aidan’s where tacked horses await. After a stop at the church’s holy well (which is said to cure ills), your riding adventure begins. From the churchyard of St. Aidan’s, nestled in an ancient hazelwood underneath the towering misty slopes and steep cliffs of Binevenagh mountain, you’ll ride across deserted country lanes to the picturesque Benone Beach, or Benone Strand, as it’s also referred to.
With a magnificent mountain backdrop, cliff scenery, and views across to Scotland and Donegal, you’ll take a swift canter or gallop across miles of flat open beach towards the lonely Mussenden Temple regally perched 120-feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Inspired by the Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Rome, Mussenden Temple was used as a summer library for Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol, and sits behind the ruins of the Earl’s 18th century home, Downhill House.
You’ll leave the beach and after a brief hill climb, with panoramic views of ocean and land, you will sneak through the Bishops Gate, which was once the entrance to Downhill House towards the seaside town of Castlerock. You’ll stop for lunch at a local coffee shop and restaurant, Crusoe’s, renowned for its unique panini’s and homemade soups, to rest and recharge before heading out again.
You’ll work off lunch with a leisurely ride on quiet back roads high on the Antrim coast with magnificent panoramic views of Bushmills, Portballintrae, the Skerries (a small group of islands off the coast of Portrush), and the famous Dunluce Castle. You’ll make your way down to Dunluce Castle and take a quick tour of the castle to learn some of its intriguing history (especially the bit about the kitchen and staff plunging into the sea during a storm in 1639) before heading out towards the tiny harbour town of Portballintrae.
You’ll cross the River Bush following an old tram trail across sand dunes and past the stately Runkerry House before ending the day’s ride at the famous Giant’s Causeway. You’ll dismount for the day, walk down to the Giant’s Causeway and enjoy the award-winning visitor experience before taking a scenic drive back to the hotel for the evening.
Today’s ride begins high above Whitepark Bay, located near the picturesque village of Ballintoy. You’ll mount up and ride down a winding and picturesque path to the famous beach below. With sand so pure it shines for miles (on even the cloudiest of days), it’s the perfect backdrop for a refreshing morning. Afterwards, you’ll make your way over sandy dunes and across lush farmlands towards the fishing harbour of Ballintoy.
Located at the end of a corkscrew road, Ballintoy Harbour was mainly associated with salmon fishing. In its heyday, cartloads of salmon made their way around hilly roads to catch the train at Ballycastle and onwards to Belfast. Game of Thrones fans may recognize Ballintoy Harbour as the setting for the Iron Islands and Lordsport in the Isle of Pyke. Like most places along the north coast, the views from here are spectacular and offer some amazing photo opportunities.
After the harbour visit, you’ll make your way up the winding road past Ballintoy’s most distinctive site, the white Ballintoy Parish Church, perched on a hill overlooking the vast Atlantic. Ballintoy Parish Church was built in 1813 to replace the original church built in the early 17th century. It is one of the most scenic churches in the country and is often pictured with stunning views of Rathlin Island in the background. Many notable landed families are buried in the church’s cemetery including The Stewarts of Ballintoy, Downing Fullerton, and members of The Stewart-Moore family.
You’ll make your way through the village of Ballintoy and take in the views of the Western Isles of Scotland before stopping for lunch at the Red Door Cottage Tea Room. This traditional Irish tearoom sits in an idyllic rural area surrounded by grazing cows and sheep on one side and the mighty Atlantic on the other. Enjoy a pint, a glass of wine, or a cup of tea on the outdoor patio or head inside to dine. Expect good, straightforward locally sourced main dishes such as seafood chowder or Irish stew, terrific sandwiches, and quite literally, the best homemade desserts in Ireland! The Red Door Cottage is the perfect place to rest and recharge. While you dine, the horses will load up and head towards your next destination, Ballycastle, where they are treated to some R&R before your ride through Ballycastle Forest.
You’ll work off lunch high in the hills with a leisurely trek through Ballycastle Forest. Aside from the occasional hiker passing by, you’ll have the forest to yourselves to explore before heading back into town and onto Ballycastle Beach. Before you hit the beach, you’ll stop for a group photo under the Ballycastle Swans, a sculpture depicting the Children of Lir, an Irish legend of children who were turned to birds by a jealous stepmother.
The tale tells people that the siblings spent 300-years on Lough Derravaragh in Westmeath and the island of Inishglora off County Mayo’s coast. They found sanctuary across from where their statue sits today on Rathlin Island. The endings to the tale vary, but all agree that it was Rathlin Island where the swans returned to their human forms and breathed their last breaths. With sweeping views of beautiful Rathlin Island, you’ll take one last canter down the beach before dismounting for the day in Ballycastle.
This morning, you’ll saddle-up deep in the famed Glens of Antrim at Glen Ballyeamon Barn. Home to the world-renowned storyteller, Liz Weir, Ballyeamon Barn is a hostel with its own “session house” where visitors have the chance to hear local musicians and singers. Before heading out, you’ll hear a few tales of the valleys you’ll pass through on today’s ride. A short trek leads you into Glenariff Forest Park, a 2900-acre park, home to some of Ireland’s most spectacular waterfalls. You'll dismount and take a walk up to the Glenariff Waterfalls before returning to Laurel Lodge for tea and refreshments. Afterwards, you’ll make your way to the seaside via the small coastal village of Waterfoot, and where tide permitting, you’ll take a long trot or brisk canter over the beach.
From Waterfoot, you’ll make for the coastal village of Cushendall, passing Nanny’s Caves, once used as a Hedge School, before climbing a winding path to the ruins of Red Bay Castle, one of Chieftan Sorley Boy McDonnell’s earliest keeps. You’ll ride directly into the center of Cushendall and stop for some modern Irish cuisine at the award-winning restaurant, “Upstairs at Joe’s”. After lunch, you’ll head downstairs to McCollum’s Bar to enjoy a hot whiskey (Slainte!) or a pint of “the Black Stuff", and as you chat with the owners and locals, the horses will be transported to the ancient hamlet of Knocknacarry. You’ll meet up in Knocknacarry then head towards picturesque Cushendun.
In 1912, Clough William Ellis designed the scenic village of Cushendun at the request of Ronald John McNeill, 1st Baron Cushendun. The village’s Cornish appearance was deliberate, designed to please the Baron’s wife, Maud, who was born in Cornwall, England. After Maud’s death in 1925, he erected a row of whitewashed, quaint cottages in her memory, affectionately known as Maud’s Cottages.
An unusual character of Cushendun is “Johann the Goat”, a bronze sculpture situated close to the mouth of the River Dun. Johann lived in the harbour area for many years, grazing the riverbanks, and welcoming visitors bearing apples or carrots. In 2001, he was the last animal to be culled during the foot and mouth outbreak. His statue remains a memorial to the farmers in the district who lost their livestock. Today, another goat carries on Johann’s tradition and can be seen resting beneath the feet of Johann’s sculpture or grazing along the banks.
You’ll make your way to the famous Cushendun Caves, an impressive system of caves formed over 400-million years ago. More recently, the caves doubled as the caves of ‘Storm’s End’ in the HBO hit series, Game of Thrones. As you leave Cushendun, you’ll ride past Maud’s Cottages, towards Cushendun Strand and past the ruins of Carra Castle before making your way through the Glen of Glendum towards its impressive viaduct that crosses the glen in several mighty spans. You’ll follow the Glendun River (that’s sometimes meandering and other times a raging torrent) while viewing stunning fauna and flora as you ride through ash and hazel. Ends your ride in the beautiful Glen characterized by bright green rowans, purple heather, and soaring birds of prey.
After a leisurely breakfast, your ride begins beside Garron Tower near the village of Carnlough. Known today as “St. Killian’s College”, Garron Tower is a romantic, cliff-top Victorian castle, built as a summer retreat by Frances Anne Tempest, 3rd Marchioness of Londonderry, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Vane-Tempest. You’ll mount up and head towards the coast on a quiet back road that runs parallel to the coast road, making your way to the coastal, scenic village of Carnlough.
Carnlough, known for its picturesque limestone harbour whose name means ‘Cairn of the Lake’, lies at the bottom of Glencoy, ‘The Glen of the Hedges’ (Gleann Cloiche), the 2nd of the Nine Glens of Antrim. Carnlough’s recent fame comes from its appearance in Game of Thrones and for sports fans, as the birthplace of Brendan Rodgers, former manager of the Premier League Liverpool F.C.
Upon arriving in Carnlough and tide permitting, you’ll ride onto Carnlough Beach which sits on a portion of the world-famous 2014 Giro d’Italia bike race. The second biggest bike race in the world after the Tour de France, the 3,445 kilometers (2,141 miles) Giro d’Italia chose Northern Ireland for the race’s first 3 Stages. In 2014, horses from Bespoke Equestrian Ireland (BEI) team made national headlines when they ran with the peloton during Stage 2 down Carnlough Beach. You’ll take a brisk canter on the beach before stopping for a quick break and refreshments.
From here, you’ll ride to the edge of the village and join private farm tracks that will take you high on the hills above Carnlough village. You’ll get one last look of the magnificent Antrim coast and the distant coastlines of Scotland before heading back into the village for lunch at the historic “Londonderry Arms Hotel”. In addition to Garron Tower, Lady Londonderry built the “Londonderry Arms Hotel” originally as a coaching house in 1848. Through a series of inheritances and deaths, the Londonderry Arms Hotel was eventually passed to Lady Londonderry’s distant cousin, Sir Winston Churchill.
Today, the hotel is owned and operated by one of the longest-running hotelier families in Ireland, the O’Neill family. This ivy-covered boutique hotel is filled with history and charm and the perfect place to stop for lunch. Enjoy a creative menu of locally sourced ingredients, such as specialty sausages, steamed local mussels, or an Irish farmhouse cheeseboard to name a few.
Before you leave, be sure to stop by the hotel’s “Arkle Bar” named after the famous Irish Steeplechaser and the Arkle Club, a club formed in the 1950’s for enthusiastic fans. To recognize the hotel’s support for the Arkle Club, Tom Dreaper, Arkle’s longtime trainer and Pat Taafe, the horse’s jockey, presented a horseshoe that the famous horse wore when he won the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1965. Today, the shoe proudly hangs in the bar for tourists and fans to see, some say touching the shoe brings good luck!
After lunch, you’ll take a scenic route back to the hotel for some final sightseeing and pictures. This evening, you will enjoy a farewell gathering with dinner, Ceili dancing, and traditional Irish music.
After breakfast, you’ll be transported back to Dublin to continue your holiday or to prepare for your departure back home.
Bespoke Equestrian Ireland's stable is filled with over 40 quality Irish-bred horses and ponies, such as Irish Cobs, Irish Drafts, sports horses, and Connemara. Bred for their gentle temperament, the horses are fit and surefooted which provides a safe and comfortable ride. Based on your physical height, weight, and ride preference, the dedicated team can expertly match you to your mount for your holiday.
This horse riding holiday will take place in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The locations include:
You will be served daily full Irish breakfast, five lunches at local eateries, and lunch at Glenarm Castle. There will be a farewell gathering with dinner, Ceili dancing, and Irish music as well.
Please book your flight to arrive at Dublin Airport (DUB) or Belfast International Airport (BFS). Transfer from and to this airport is available upon request. Bespoke Equestrian Ireland is a full-service vacation provider and their US team can assist with and arrange travel logistics.
For this organizer you can guarantee your booking through BookHorseRidingHolidays.com. All major credit cards supported.