It is said that no view in the world compares to the one found between the two pricked ears of a horse. This in mind, add in the roaring waves, sandy beaches and rugged rock formations of the Wild Atlantic Way and a day in the saddle becomes a feast for the eyes.
Home of the horse
As any visitor to the country can testify, the emerald isle should really be named the equestrian isle with everything from sturdy ponies to fine-boned racehorses found grazing almost everywhere. Of course, a great horse nation can’t develop without a nation of horse lovers. Across the globe the Irish are famed for their feats of horsemanship by small-stature, big-personality jockeys as well as a legion of successful show-jump and event riders. When you combine quality horses and skilled horsey types with the beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way, the upshot is a multitude of top-class stables dotted along the coast, each offering the chance to watch sea battle land from horseback.
Horse riding in County Sligo
Rides on the edge of the wild atlantic way
After all, what could be more exhilarating than a gallop across untouched sands as your horse’s shoulders power beneath you like steam pistons, sea spray flying as hooves hammer the ebbing tide? For the less experienced, let the world slide by astride the back of a sturdy cob with hooves like inverted buckets and a back like an armchair. Enjoy a horsey holiday with post-to-post trail riding where you’ll move from one incredible location to another each day with accommodation catered for each night.
From spirited seaside canters to relaxing mountain treks, here are six horse-riding destinations along the Wild Atlantic Way:
Explore parklands and mountains in Kerry
The ancient oak woods, mirrored lakes, and parkland trails of Killarney National Park, Kerry are ideal for exploring by horseback. Situated adjacent to the park, Killarney Riding Stables provides one, two and three hour daily rides across the parkland trails, an ideal starting point for any beginner. For riders with a little more experience, the Ring of Killarney Reeks Trail is a two to five day guided trek where you’ll ride out across the mountains, taking in the impressive Ring of Kerry. With Eclipse Equestrian you can discover the Kingdom’s rivers and lakes as you trek through the magnificent MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. Towards the coast, the Eagle Rock Equestrian Centre offers woodland and beach treks through the surrounds of the Derrynane National Historic Park. The subtropical micro climate of the region is a result of the Gulf Stream and eagle-eyed equestrians can keep their peepers peeled for exotic plants and shrubbery.
Far and ride around the Dingle Peninsula
The majestic Dingle Peninsula by horseback
With its maze of fuchsia-fringed boreens, ancient landscapes, colourful villages and easily navigated hills, the Dingle Peninsula was made to be experienced by horse. Offering a range of jaunts for horse lovers and would-be equestrians alike, Dingle Horse Riding provides a taste of the region in shorter trek bites or week-long holiday instalments. The Cnoc an Cairn Mountain Trek takes beginners across the hills of Dingle to one of the most westerly points in Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Trail is a more advanced ride that provides a chance to let off steam on some of the most stunning beaches on the peninsula, passing captivating panoramas of the 217metre-high rock of Skellig Michael along the way. Alternatively, proficient riders can experience an exhilarating gallop on the golden sands of Ventry Beach with Longs Horse Riding. For those with a slower pace in mind, a trek up Mount Eagle offers an unparalleled view of the peninsula as the beautiful Blasket Islands beam at your back.
Ride from Burren to bog to beach in Clare
The multitude of terrains surrounding County Clare ensures that both you and your equine partner will be kept on your toes. From the rocky and windswept limestone expanses of the Burren to the lush marshes of Inchiquin Lake to the almost terracotta sands of Fanore Strand, a long-distance ride in this region will give you a real sense of the uniqueness of its topography. Mountain View Treking provides several options of hour-long to week-long treks. Ride through the Burren, stopping for a picnic lunch en route to the Caher Valley before continuing onto the charming hub of Ballyvaughan. Or how about a guided mountain trek up Slieve Elva with the staggeringly beautiful Cliffs of Moher as your backdrop, the beguiling Aran Islands at your shoulder and the hills of Connemara etched in the distance.
Galloping through the waves
Go pony trekking in Connemara
What could be better than trekking through Connemara on one of the region’s indigenous breeds, the Connemara pony? After all, Connemara’s unique landscape of rusty bogs, iridescent black lakes and wide valleys are ideal for exploring on one of these sure-footed ponies. Known for their compact conformation, many believe Connemara ponies owe their flashy looks to a Spanish Armada ship that ran aground in 1588. The Spanish horses on board fled and bred with the native stock, refining them. At Errislannan Riding Centre, Connemara Pony trekking takes place most mornings. Located in Clifden, you can experience the rush of the Atlantic Ocean at your toes, Twelve Bens at your back as well as the chance to participate in some stone-wall jumping. The fabulous three-hour trek to Omey Island across Omey Strand (at low tide) is another ride not to be missed. Provided by Cleggan Riding Centre, proficient riders will be brought for a gallop on the exact strand that the adrenaline-charged Omey Beach Horse Races take place each year.
Discover deserted beaches and islands in Sligo
Taking a dip near Trawalua Strand
As you explore north Sligo’s ancient landscape by horseback, you’ll be overwhelmed by the imposing scenery that surrounds you. To the north there’s the magnificent Signature Discovery Point of Mullaghmore, where wide sluices of rock slice into Atlantic surf. Nearby, Trawalua Strand isn’t accessible by car, so it’s often deserted which allows for a ride across unspoilt sands that will only be disturbed by your hoof prints. A longer ride continues on to Dernish Island, a private islet marked by prehistoric standing stones and mound graves. Alternatively, a trek through the barren Gleniff Horse Shoe Valley allows riders to hack along quiet roads, through woodland paths and alongside babbling mountain streams and pretty waterfalls. All these treks are available through Island View Stables. Both mountain and beach rides cater for beginners and experienced riders.
Trek through time and place in Inishowen, Donegal
When you’re immersed in its intricate mountain passes, shimmery lakes and sweeping beaches, it’s easy to understand why north Donegal has such a magical reputation. And, exploring the extraordinary Inishowen Peninsula by horse will bring you even closer to the heart of this remote and rugged place. If you’re an experienced rider, a gallop on the dark sands of Tullagh Beach is one of many memorable rides available from Tullagh Bay Equestrian. Novice riders can embark on a group trek to Tullagh Point where panoramic views of Malin Head, Glashedy Island and Binnion Hill lie before you, as does the possibility of spotting a basking shark or two in the bay. Further north, Dunfanaghy Stables, located at one of the most picturesque and varied parts of Donegal, provides day treks as well as a longer six-day post-to-post option ('Donegal from the Saddle'). Open from Easter to Halloween each year, with accommodation on site by Arnold's Hotel, riders can unwind amid all the beauty and serenity that spectacular Horn Head has to offer. Explore moors and meadows, sea cliffs and sandy beaches, forests and lakes as well as age-old settlements where Irish is still the common tongue.
This is just a taste of what the Wild Atlantic Way can offer horse riders, find out more here. Eager to hop in the saddle? Check out the Trip Planner to help you plan your ideal equestrian adventure.