Top Weekend Horse Riding Destinations in the United Kingdom
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The United Kingdom holds many pockets of wilderness, and there’s no better way to explore the Welsh valleys, Scottish Highlands, and English moors than on horseback.
Why wait for your next vacation to go on an adventure when you can have one every weekend? Well, maybe not every weekend, but as often as you wish and are able to. The UK has an abundance of national parks, many of them offering extensive networks of bridleways. Just pick the one closest to you and saddle up for adventure!
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing ride or something more challenging, want to gallop on the beach or canter across wild moorlands, you’ll find a variety of two to four-day itineraries for a horse riding weekend break in the United Kingdom.
If you’ve been wondering what the best destinations are, here are the most popular national parks in the UK for a short horse riding getaway:
Dartmoor, Devon, England
Around 23% of Devon’s pathways are bridleways, summing up around 730 miles (1,200km). In South Devon, Dartmoor is one of the UK’s last wilderness areas and the number one attraction for horse riders in southern England.
Dartmoor was the setting of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse was filmed in this location. Often covered in mist, drenched in history, myth, and legend, these landscapes have not changed much over the centuries.
Semi-wild ponies roam the rugged and boggy landscape. Historic trails link remote towns and villages, with many pubs welcoming both you and your hoofed partner. This is a horse riding heaven!
Dartmoor National Park offers a variety of terrain for adventure riders. You can enjoy fast-paced canters through wide-open grasslands and moorlands, gentle trots along ancient bridle paths and woodland trails, past bogs, sparkling streams, sweeping valleys, and tors (Dartmoor’s iconic granite hilltops).
The park is divided into three sections. Southeast Dartmoor has the most accessible trails. For novice riders and those who are new to Dartmoor, this is the place to go. Southwest Dartmoor is preferred by experienced riders, and offers remote wilderness at its best.
The Northern Half is the wildest section. While this may sound appealing, please take note that many parts are inaccessible and the Ministry of Defense uses some of these areas for training. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you join an organized horse riding tour that will show you the safe and accessible trails.
You’ll find numerous accommodation options and stables offering horse riding tours in Dartmoor of various lengths. You can either opt for a long-distance trail or a weekend horse riding trip around the many bridleways that criss-cross Dartmoor National Park!
Exmoor, Somerset, England
One of England’s finest national parks, widely acclaimed as one of the best destinations for countryside riding in the world, Exmoor National Park has 400+ miles (640km+) of well-maintained bridleways for all levels of riders.
You can canter through wide-open moorland, or go pony trekking on long oak and beech woodland tracks. You’ll encounter challenging river crossings and rocky uphill trails. You can follow ancient ridgeways to remote hamlets, picnic along the banks of the Barle River, cross the Tarr Steps, Britain’s longest stone clapper bridge, and see Exmoor’s rich wildlife up close.
Exmoor’s varied landscape and terrain has long inspired writers and poets. For a horse riding trip with a cultural twist, join the Coleridge Bridleway, one of the most popular rides in the park. The trail extends for 33 miles (53km), from Nether Stowey to Exford, passing through the very lands that inspired the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
You’ll find numerous horse riding facilities in Exmoor, from riding schools offering lessons to stables that organize rides of various lengths.
Brecon Beacons, Wales
Whether you opt for Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, or Pembrokeshire, horse riding in Wales never disappoints. This is the birthplace of pony trekking, where Welsh cobs run wild among sandstone peaks and Celtic ruins.
Brecon Beacons National Park is home to some of the most sensational horse riding trails in the world. Open moorland, forests, hedgerows, rolling hills, and narrow mountain ridges await adventurers. Hay-on-Wye is the most popular base camp for exploring the Brecon Beacons, with over 600 miles (960km+) of bridleways and tracks.
There are numerous mountain trails to choose from, and you can either ride for a couple of days, an entire week, or even more. It’s all up to you!
The Three Rivers Ride is a four-day (95mi/253km) way-marked trail that starts in Tidbach near Bromyard in Worcestershire, and ends near Brecon. You can choose to embark on the entire trail, or simply focus on the Welsh section of the route – 35 miles (56km) of bridle paths along the western flank of the Black Mountains, through farmlands, round Llangorse Lake, and across the River Usk.
The Hay Triangle is a three-day triangular loop offering epic canters and gallops for the time-limited. The trail runs through the remote Black Mountains, up Llanthony Valley, and ends in Hay-on-Wye, a market village that is home to some 40 bookshops.
The Brecon Beacons & Radnor Loop is a four-day (75mi/120km) circular route through the Brecon Beacons National Park and Mid Wales. You will ride at the foothills of the red sandstone peaks (beacons) that the park gets its name from, including Southern Britain’s tallest summit – Pen y Fan (2,907ft/886m).
The Black Mountains Riding Loops are four circular riding trails, each taking one day to complete. If you like, you can link all four.
Scottish Highlands, Scotland
Scotland is overflowing with castles and enchanting scenery that have long inspired writers, artists, and the local folklore. In the northwest of the country, the Scottish Highlands is a historic region that has managed to escape development and has remained largely unchanged throughout the centuries.
By embarking on a horse riding trip in Scotland, you will discover a charming countryside filled with mist-covered glens, open moorlands, rocky peaks, mysterious lochs, and wind-swept beaches. Shrouded in legend, the Scottish Highlands are where you’d expect to see fairies, goblins, and lake monsters popping up at every turn.
Escape to a bygone area as you visit old monasteries and castles. Try to spot Nessie as you ride around Loch Ness. Enjoy leisurely treks in Cairngorm National Park, Britain’s largest national park.
On the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, Fort William is the preferred starting point for visiting the Lochaber Geopark, the spectacular Great Glen, and the many horse riding trails in the area.
Lochaber has been nicknamed the “Outdoor Capital of the UK”. It is home to the tallest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis (4,416ft/1,346m), the deepest lochs in Scotland, and some of the best geology in the world.
The Great Glen Way is a 79-mile (127km) way-marked trail through Great Glen, running from Fort William to Iverness and passing by some of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks – Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Glencoe, and Urquhart Castle. The route covers a great part of the Highlands, from west to east, and can be completed in four to five days. Of course, you can also choose to ride shorter sections.
Yorkshire Dales National Park, North Yorkshire
Yorkshire Dales National Park has an extensive network of bridleways, byways, and green lanes, summing up over 500 miles (800km). Ancient Roman roads, mining tracks, and drovers’ roads can be connected to form spectacular circuits of varied lengths.
Yorkshire Dales offers a variety of riding, from off-road to well-marked trails, and from gentle rolling terrain to more challenging hills. The national park is traversed by one of the most popular horse riding trails in the UK – the Pennine Bridleway.
Broadly parallel to the Pennine Way, UK’s first National Trail, the Pennine Bridleway follows ancient packhorse routes through the Pennine Hills, from Derbyshire to Cumbria, summing up 205 miles (330km). These lands are often referred to as the “rugged backbone of England”.
The full trail runs from Middleton in Derbyshire, following old tracks and quiet roads through Peak District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks until reaching Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria.
The route is made up of four main parts. For a weekend ride, you can simply choose to cover just one section of the trail. The routes through Yorkshire Dales the northern stretch of the Pennine Bridleway are the most popular among riders with limited time.
New Forest, Southern England
Hampshire has 450+ miles (720km+) of bridleways for all levels, and its most popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts is New Forest National Park.
New Forest was once the royal stomping ground of William the Conqueror. Today, it is the largest area of heathland and forest in southeast England, a paradise for nature lovers.
Only 90 minutes by train from London, over 3,000 indigenous New Forest ponies graze freely all year round. You can see them up close as you ride through these ancient woodlands and idyllic meadows.
Brockenhurst, Beaulieu, and Burley are the preferred base camps for visiting New Forest. You’ll find horse-friendly accommodation and stables, and can opt for day rides or multi-day rides, stopping for lunch at the pubs along the way.
Discover more hidden gems and historic bridle paths by going on a horse riding holiday in the United Kingdom!