Ireland is famous for its castles and they have a lot of them, with over 500 listed by Wikipedia. As luck would have it, Ireland is also famous for its equestrian pursuits. Taking a horse riding holiday to explore some of these amazing castles is the perfect match!
One of the finest castles in all of Ireland, Ashford Castle is a stunning 800-year-old castle was once owned by the Guinness family, and is now a 5-star resort. The castle is located in the Connemara mountains and surrounded by Lough Corrib. Ashford boasts a 9-hole golf course designed by Eddie Hackett, the oldest falconry school in Ireland and a beautiful estate garden.
But you want to know about the riding. Ashford offers guided trail rides to equestrians of all levels. You will wander through some of the prettiest country side in Ireland, from Lough Corrib to Lough Mask and of course through the castle grounds. If you choose to ride for 2 or more hours, you will get the opportunity to ride through the ruins of another castle in the area.
Stay in the lap of luxury in the Castle and spend your days exploring the lakes and mountains on horseback.
Castle Leslie is an ideal equestrian destination. The Castle is located in County Monaghan just 60 minutes from Belfast and 80 minutes from Dublin. This 1000-acre estate is dubbed one of the finest equestrian playgrounds in all of Europe.
The Castle itself dates to the 15th century and was built by Bishop John Leslie. Throughout the years the castle has been improved and modernized, but you still get the feel of what it would be like to live in a royal castle.
Castle Leslie caters to the equestrian enthusiast offering 3 and 5 day packages that include lodging and meals. The Happy Hackers package is designed for riders of all levels who would enjoy trail riding this vast estate. The Horse Sport package is designed for the advanced rider and includes show jumping, eventing and dressage lessons as well as the opportunity to gallop the property.
If you are new to riding they also offer a Learn to Ride program that teaches you to ride and culminates in a 2 hour trail ride around the property.
Castle Leslie is a wonderful choice for an equestrian holiday. Close to transport, meals and lodging included, and 1000 acres to play on, what more could a rider want?
A Haunted Castle
Cooper’s Hill Equine is located in Galway, and offers some unique experiences to its guests. Besides the opportunity to ride through the city center, Cooper’s Hill can arrange accommodations in the Western Hotel, and a fox hunting boot camp to get you prepared to ride to the hounds.
It also offers the haunted castle ride. This ride is not for the faint of heart, nor for the inexperienced rider. You will ride through bog and marsh land to the Cloonacauneen Castle.
Once at the castle you will stop for refreshments at the BBQ restaurant located in the castle. While you are there look out for the ghost of Lady Marie who is said to wander the halls carrying a long train.
It’s possible that all of the castles are haunted, but this one has pictures to prove it!
Located in County Clare, in the west of Ireland, about 30 minutes from the Shannon airport, lies the idyllic farm known as CastleFergus. Castlefergus is a working sheep and horse farm situated just next to Ballyhannon castle.
Castlefergus offers rides to all experience levels on wonderful Irish bred horses and ponies. Ride through fields of sheep, explore the ring forts (fairy forts) and find all of the shades of green you never knew existed.
In addition to Ballyhannon, there are 4 other castles nearby that you can investigate on your own. If you are looking for accommodations in the area, Ballyhannon is available for hire. That’s right, you can rent your very own CASTLE!!
Get some friends together, rent a castle, and ride out into the Irish countryside.
Kinnitty Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland that offers accommodations to visitors. Built in the 12th century, this castle is a gorgeous example of craftsmanship built to last. Kinnitty Castle is located in the heart of Ireland in County Offaly, about 90 minutes west of Dublin. The area is rich in farm and woodlands, making this place an exceptional choice for a riding vacation.
The Birr Equestrian Centre operates a trekking facility out of the castle that lets you ride through the beautiful Slieve Bloom Mountains in the 60,000 acre Kinnitty wilderness. Treks are available from one hour to all day treks.
Ride through the wilderness and return to the castle for food, spirits and some local entertainment.
All of these medieval castles are amazing in their own unique ways. From huge towers, to wonderful gardens, these castles were built to be both beautiful and strong enough to withstand serious attack. If you are an equestrian who enjoys a bit of history, any of these rides will be right up your alley.
Article by Michele Cook, a former hunter/jumper trainer and author of the book “Finding Your Equine Soul Mate: A Guide to Buying Your First Horse.” She enjoys camping and trail riding with her three horses in the Alleghany Mountains of Virginia.