A horseback riding vacation in County Donegal, along the Wild Atlantic Way, is an experience that will delight the heart of every equestrian. I’ve written about the disappearance of beach riding in California due to high insurance premiums forced on public riding stables and the closures of many equestrian centers. Thank goodness there are plenty of horse trekking opportunities in Ireland. On a recent visit to this horse-friendly island I had the opportunity to go on a riding holiday with Donegal Equestrian Centre. Located in Bundoran, in County Donegal. This privately owned stable offers beach rides, pony rides and horseback riding lessons in a gorgeous setting.
A horse riding holiday in Ireland is nothing short of magical. Irish equestrians are hearty souls and most of them ride rain or shine. Being from California, I call myself a fair weather rider. On this holiday to Donegal, I was fortunate to meet Rachel Leonard of Donegal Equestrian Centre (that would be spelled Donegal Equestrian Center in the United States), but I’m going to use the Irish spelling so that you are able to find this stable when you visit Ireland.
Rachel Leonard requires advance bookings so she is able to coordinate horses with riders. The stable, located between Bundoran and Ballyshannon, is open for horse riding year round. Rachel owns 50 horses, offering horse riding for adults and children. Rides are tailored to riding level and experience from beginner to advanced equestrians. Rides offered include one and two hour beach and dune rides, one day Tullan Strand trail rides and country lane lead line rides for the pony lovers.
Beach ride on Tullan Strand
Our ride took place on the beach in Bundoran, Donegal (pronounced Donny gal) along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. I was paired with Sonny, a 20-something Irish Cob horse, standing 15 hands high. My guide, Susan Duignan, was an expert equestrian and a local girl with a wealth of information about the Tullan Strand, Erne Estuary and surrounding dunes.
“I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be able to meet lovely people from all over the globe and show them this beautiful part of Ireland while riding horseback,” said Susan Duignan.
Prior to my horseback ride, Susan had taken a couple from Florida out of the Strand. They liked Ireland so much that they plan to retire on the island. Experienced equestrians, they thoroughly enjoyed a gallop on the beach with the salty sea breeze wafting in the air. Another group of riders from the United States arrived after my ride, excited to ride along the Wild Atlantic Way and climb up into the dunes, surrounded by sea grass, with nothing but blue sky and sunshine on the horizon.
Need to know:
Donegal Equestrian Centre rides include the use of riding helmets and riding boots. If you are an experienced rider, you may bring your cell phone, otherwise, you guide is happy to take photos for you. Leave backpacks and purses at home. If you enjoy your ride, remember to tip your guide. I brought along a carrot to reward my horse after the ride. All rides are with English tack, including an English saddle. Horses cross the street with rider on foot and then a mounting block is available for getting into the saddle. Donegal Equestrian Center is approved by AIRE (Association of Irish Riding Establishments.)
There are several places to stay while you are on a horse riding holiday in County Donegal. I highly recommend the four star Castle Grove Country House in Letterkenny, County Donegal and if you are looking for an affordable and clean bed and breakfast, Ann Davey and her husband run Killavil House in Bonduran on Finner Road. For additional insider tips follow luxury travel writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter or Instagram @Nancydbrown. Donegal Equestrian Centre is on Instagram and @DonegalEC on Twitter as well as Facebook.
If You Go:
Donegal Equestrian Centre 071 9841977
Finner, Bundoran, County Donegal, Ireland
Donegal Equestrian Centre review, video and all photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. As is typical in the industry, I received a complimentary trail ride for review purposes, however, all opinions are my own.