Country Escapes In the Saddle
British Equestrian Weekends
by Bridget Arsenault
by Bridget Arsenault
The English countryside is a year-round destination, somewhere that has equal appeal for long walks in the summer heat as it does curled up around a stone fireplace in mid-January.
And there’s a growing number of country hotels with heaps of charm and history, while still catering to every last luxury an urbanite traveler relies on – from Aesop soap dispensers to thread counts in the thousands to multi-starred chefs. Despite all of England being about the same size as Louisiana, it’s a country rich with diversity - from untouched Jurassic coastlines to wooded countryside to centuries-old cobbled villages. Herein some of the most exciting spots to while away a weekend in the saddle.
Four Seasons HampshireAs well as being the birthplace of Jane Austin and Charles Dickens (among other things), Hampshire is a wonderful place to ride. Situated on the site of the old dairy, the Equestrian Centre at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire caters for all abilities. For families, you can choose a quintessential equestrian experience and enrol your child in the “own a pony” programme, where the kids have to bath, feed and care for a pony throughout their stay. For more seasoned riders, there are 500 acres of estate to explore on horseback. They’ve also recently launched a series of carriage rides across the sweeping grounds.
Photos with the courtesy of Four Seasons Hampshire
Coworth ParkIt was Her Majesty The Queen who first planted the idea of using the lawn at Coworth Park as a polo ground. This was 1954, years before the Dorchester Collection turned the 18th-century country house into a 70-room boutique hotel (that wouldn’t happen until 2010). Today, these world-class polo grounds near Ascot, in the English county of Berkshire, host more than 600 matches - including those with Princes William and Harry. The stables are on the hotel’s 240 acres of rolling hills and meandering pathways. If you’re not certain about polo, there is an outdoor ring and incredible trails for hacking. You can bring your own horse, as Coworth offers a horse hotel. Expect five-star pampering for your pony, including an equine massage, a bubble bath and special handmade treats created by Coworth’s Michelin-starred chefs.
Photos with the courtesy of Grand Luxury
Ashford CastleWith an 800-year-old castle as your backdrop, at Ashford you’ll find world-class cuisine, decadent interiors, a state-of-the-art spa and Irish hospitality. Once the estate of the Guinness family, after a reported £75-million refurbishment in 2015, Ashford is now Ireland’s top-rated property. Steeped in history and surrounded by anarchic ancient forests, this is a spectacularly beautiful spot to ride. From the lapping shores of Lough Corrib or the Herculean mountains of Connemara, there’s a never-ending diversity to the views and terrain. Offering everything from pony rides to trail rides, indoor or outdoor private lessons or carriage ride, there’s no excuse not to explore the idllic surrounds from atop a horse.
Photos with the courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels UK Ltd.
Liberty TrailsDartmoor has an eerie beauty - it’s cinematic and unforgettable. Founded by Elaine Michelle Prior, Liberty Trails curates, designs and executes equestrian experiences across Devon. Elaine has been riding the moors since before she could walk and her full-service rides include five-star hotel stays, afternoon tea mid-ride, Champagne picnics and post-saddle massages, to name a few of the extras Elaine pulls into the itinerary. In early 2019, she’s launching a “Ride with Olympians” experience with Mary King MBE and Virginia Leng MBE. Both incredibly accomplished women competed for England in the Olympics in eventing. Mary represented Great Britain at six Olympics from 1992 to 2012, winning team silver in 2004 and 2012, and team bronze in 2008. The Mary King package includes two days in the stirrups with Mary, including dining with Mary and her husband each night before tucking in at the charming Bovey Castle. Similarly, you can book to explore Devon with Virginia Leng, ending your two days in the saddle at the pitch-perfect Hotel Endsleigh.
Photos with the courtesy of Liberty Trails