Connemara Horse Riding Holiday
Experience the wonderful green and rugged scenery along the Wild Atlantic Way
Day One Welcome to Ireland Arrival on Sunday
Morning arrival in Dublin airport, meet with your Spanish speaking guide and luxury coach before transfer to the West of Ireland in county Galway.
Our journey takes you through the rich agricultural lands, green fields and ancient stone walls to the heritage town of Athlone.
On the way stop and visit Clonmacnoise an ancient heritage site.
An early Christian site founded by Saint Ciaran in the 6th Century on the banks of the River Shannon. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, eight churches (10th – 13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and a large collection of early Christian slabs. The original high crosses and grave slabs are on display in the Visitor Centre. There is an audio-visual show as well as a number of exhibitions.
Journey onwards through Athlone located on the River Shannon it is well known stop for cruising along the inland waterways of Ireland. The town boasts a historic past and the skyline is dominated by Athlone Castle which is houses the town museum
Late Afternoon arrival in Galway.
Dinner and overnight in Galway Hotel
Day Two Monday Riders Meet your horse-riding team
The riders meet at the Meyrick Hotel (formerly the Great Southern Hotel), Eyre Square, in the heart of Galway at 10am. Here you are introduced to your guide and the back up team who are on hand to move luggage, bring the picnic and help with the horses.
There is a short drive, out of the city (approx. 30 min) to the start point of the ride, at Oughterard. Here you will have your first sight of the horse or pony which is to become your companion for the week. The horses and ponies are assigned to the riders, according to the rider’s ability, weight, height etc. After tacking up the ride departs and heads straight into the mountains for a long ride that will finish at Maam Cross, the site of the famous October horse fair.
The trail takes the riders past the ruins of cottages abandoned since the famine, in the 1840’s, which decimated the Irish population. As the trail winds its way through the spectacular scenery the view is magnificent, spanning the horizon is the vast expanse of Lough Corrib, the largest lake in southern Ireland.
After lunch the ride continues through the mountains, traversing the bogs and rocks and wading through streams. Way below the trail is the ‘Quiet Man Bridge’, made famous by the John Wayne movie. The day ends with the first of many canters along the abandoned Galway to Clifden railway line. At the end of the day the horses are turned loose into a lakeside pasture while the riders travel to their accommodation.
Day Three Tuesday Maam Cross & Lough Inagh Valley
Having spent the night at the lakeside pasture at Maam Cross the horses are refreshed and ready to begin the ride from Maam Cross to Ballinafad. The first stage of the ride goes through Willie’s land at Maam Cross, where a path takes the riders alongside the beautiful Lough Sindle and past the remains of a long forgotten lime kiln, hidden in a grove of hazel trees.
Some of the trees in the area are ancient, yet they remain tiny, bent by the harsh Atlantic winds that batter this area during the winter. Lunch is eaten on a small village green, while the horses graze.
After lunch it is back into the saddle for the final stage of the days ride, through silent woodlands and through the beautiful Inagh Valley. On a clear day riders can see right over the spectacular Connemara landscape to the coast at Rosmuc. The day ends with another canter along the old Galway to Clifden railway line, before the horses are turned out in a pasture at Ballinafad, before the riders return to their accommodation.
Day Four Wednesday Clifden Town & Bog
The horses are rounded up and saddled before the ride leaves Ballinafad. This morning the horses wade through a wide mountain stream before heading up into a short stretch of mountain above the ancient Ballinafad cemetery.
The riders then go through the grounds of Ballinahinch Castle, enjoying a long canter through the woodland beforehand. The castle was once the home of an Indian Prince and also Richard Martin who founded the humane society for the protection of animals.
There is a long canter along the old railway line. The grassy track is great fun for a long canter. The horses are set free on the edge of bogland close to Clifden while the riders eat lunch.
Then it is back into the saddle for the afternoon ride which goes along a grassy track close to Clifden and then heads inland over the Roundstone Bog, site of the landing of the historic flight of Alcock and Brown, who piloted the first transatlantic biplane and the site of the Marconi wireless station. Then we follow the coast to the seaside pasture where the horses will spend the next few nights. The riders then head to their accommodation in Clifden where they will spend the next few nights.
Day Five Thursday Swim horseback in the Atlantic Ocean
This is a full day spent on the fabulous Mannin Bay beach. There is mile after mile of sandy beach where riders can gallop and jump over the small stone walls and sandy banks.
This is an unforgettable day. Riders are welcome to swim their mount in the clear water of the ocean. It is a unique and very special experience as the horse begins to swim under you. The horses dry off and rest in a beach side pasture while the riders eat a picnic lunch on over the beach over looking the ocean. Then it is back into the saddle for another ride along the beach to discover more of the wonders of this coastline.
Day Six Friday Mountain Ride
The ride begins at the sea and ends at Toombeola, inland over the mountains. The ride follows the coastline, passing small farmsteads, where generations of small farmers have lived and worked. The coastline is beautiful, the water often the colour of a tropical sea. The ride continues into Errisbeg mountain along an old grassy track before our lunch stop, which is eaten in the mountains, overlooking the pasture where the horses eat. Then they are saddled for the ride that takes us high into Errisbeg mountain high above the seaside village of Roundstone. Watch out for the leprechauns that are known to inhabit this area. Below is the stunning scenery of Dogs Bay, which curves out into the Atlantic Ocean. The horses spend the night in a pasture at Toombeola while the riders travel back to Clifden for the night.
Day Seven Saturday
The riders will be collected from the Hotel / Guesthouse in the morning and brought to Dartfield, Willie’s purpose built Equestrian and Heritage Centre. After a warm welcome with hot Port or Whiskey we will tack up the horses and enjoy trekking through the 350 acres estate. The ride goes through woodland and across fields and there is the option to jump in our Cross Country Course which already hosted an international 3 Star event. Lunch will be in our Cafe here at Dartfield and you have the chance to visit the only Museum in Ireland dedicated to Irish horses / ponies and Dog Breeds and browse our Tack and Gift Shop.
The afternoon is again spent riding here at Dartfield, going out hacking and jumping before it is time to say good bye to your four legged friend.
Farewell Dinner and overnight in Galway City Hotel
The trails are true post to post trails, guided through the mountains and along the Connemara Coastline by Willie Leahy or his professional staff. Ride for 6 – 7 hours daily through the spectacular mountain landscape and along deserted beaches to your mount’s next pasture. Every day start in one place and end the day approximately 20 miles away. See the landscape change as you travel vast distances, becoming one with your surefooted Irish horse or pony, in the spirit of a true explorer.
Dartfield Equestrian Centre
During the winter Willie Leahy is based at his Dartfield Equestrian Centre, a 20,000 sq foot purpose built facility with a cross country course to suit riders of all levels set in 350 acres of parkland. Riders are based in Loughrea and trail ride through the beautiful rural landscape of County Galway. This trail offers plenty of jumping and fast riding for experienced riders, but can be tailored to suit any level.
The Coast Trail (May – October) Aille Cross Trail (October – May) Fox hunting with Galway Blazers Pony rides for children Instruction for all levels Cross country course to suit all levels Horses and Ponies always for sale
Willie owns over 400 Irish bred horses and ponies of varying ages and sizes, so you can be sure there will be one to suit you. All the horses and ponies used by Willie have been carefully selected for their superb temperaments and wonderful jumping ability. Horses and ponies sold by Willie can be found in all corners of the globe, competing or being used for pleasure riding. Many of our Connemara ponies are sired by Willie’s own stallion, Gary Hinch Finn, who has twice won the Clifden Connemara show. He is the sire of Kiltartan Easter Prince, one of the top ponies currently on the UK circuit.
About the Facilities and Accommodation
All of the accommodation used has been chosen to combine superb quality and a true Irish welcome. Guests can stay either in a luxurious four star hotel or in friendly and comfortable family run bed and breakfast accommodation.
All our packages include riding, accommodation, transfers during the ride and all meals. Delicious Irish breakfast to set you up for the day, tasty picnic style lunch and dinner eaten either at your accommodation or at one of a selection of restaurants chosen for their high quality cuisine.