Dartmoor riding holidays

/Dartmoor riding holidays

Moor adventures on horseback – by Sydney Morning Herald

By | 2017-06-02T17:26:12+00:00 June 1st, 2017|

"Everyone thought I was madder than a box of frogs," laughs Elaine Prior, describing the reaction to her idea of running horse riding holidays on Dartmoor National Park. Not only did she have to get permission from the park's governing authority but she also needed the thumbs up from the Duchy of Cornwall – the vast estate owned and operated by the Prince of Wales. A formidable task for most people, but not for Prior, whose indomitable spirit and boundless enthusiasm could convince NASA to run pony treks on Mars. Dartmoor is one of England's last true wildernesses, a 954-square-kilometre landscape of sweeping valleys, marshy peat bogs and exposed granite hilltops called tors. In the southwest of the country, it's a mysterious, mythological place, often swathed in mist and prone to capricious bouts of weather   Most visitors tour the area by car or coach. Which is a shame because they miss out on much of its drama because the handful of roads that criss-cross the park are often lined with stone walls and hedges. Prior wants people to "engage with the landscape", to get them out and about in this haunting scenery and what better way than on horseback. There's only one problem. Her rides are designed for experienced riders who are in "full control of a forward going horse at all paces in wide open spaces". The fact that I have little idea what that statement means tells you all you need to know about my horsemanship.   Of course, in Priorworld, this is not a problem. Her company, Liberty Trails, often caters for couples where one party is more experienced than the other and [...]

‘I like to ride with a purpose’ by Heather Parr, one of the Dartmoor Derby guides

By | 2017-06-01T14:55:55+00:00 May 14th, 2017|

Heather Parr, one of the Dartmoor Derby guides, has ridden on these moors almost her whole life. She explains the attraction, and why she’ll be guiding again this September It was hunting really that brought us to Dartmoor. My father’s a hunting nut — hunting came before anything else for him — and we moved to Moretonhampstead on the edge of the moors when I was about 10 so he could indulge his addiction. He was a farmer, then, and Fieldmaster of the Mid-Devon for 10 or 12 years. I had a pony myself when I was eight but before that I would ride sitting in front of my Dad on his saddle when he went out exercising — you’d never consider it safe enough these days. Hunting became a lifelong interest for me too, and really it’s through hunting with different packs on the moors over the years that I’ve got to know my way around so well — it’s a sociable thing, we all enjoy visiting different packs and regions. I’ve never been much of a walker but there aren’t many places I haven’t ridden. It’s always a challenge The riding here changes all year round, but it’s always a challenge because you can get any weather in any season. I don’t have a favourite season — though of course there’s some weather I prefer! But on a clear day, Dartmoor is about as beautiful a place as you can find anywhere on earth. In the summer I enjoy doing fun and charity rides and a gang of us take our horses away on holidays sometimes — it makes us appreciate Dartmoor all over again when we get [...]

Holidaying with your Horse

By | 2017-04-30T13:07:06+00:00 April 28th, 2017|

If going on holiday is the third most traumatic thing you can do after getting divorced and moving house, adding a horse to the equation may sound like madness. That frenzied hunt for camera chargers, the desperate cramming of implausible amounts of luggage into the car, the realisation that the planned time of departure passed 90mins ago — let’s face it, holidays are stressful enough.  Yet for seven years I’ve been hitching up my trailer and taking my mare along with the rest of the family on our annual visits to Dartmoor or the Quantocks, and without doubt it’s doubled the enjoyment. Riders cannot visit the countryside without mentally sketching out their route across it on horseback, and as we all know, it’s the perfect pace and height from which to explore new places.   There are some downsides, admittedly. Even with regular rest and leg-stretch stops, there’s a limit to how far you want to drive your horse in one day. And if you take a lorry, you need to consider what wheels the family will use when you’ve arrived at your destination.  Those of you who feed and muck out daily may prefer a lie in on holiday, and to leave the horses to someone else for a change. And fair enough. But for me, who has always had to keep my horse at livery, it’s a novelty... And though I get up early to ride so I don’t eat into “family time”, an hour and a half of solitude in the saddle sets me up perfectly for a bucket-and-spade day with young children. I suspect I’d go mad without it. Make a booking As a working rider [...]

Adventures on the Moors of Dartmoor

By | 2017-03-21T21:55:08+00:00 March 3rd, 2017|

Whether you’re a fan of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters or just looking for a beautiful getaway, the English countryside beckons. One of the United Kingdom’s last wilderness regions, Dartmoor includes rolling grasslands, wooded areas and rugged moorland. For a complete experience, Liberty Trails offers the Bovey Castle Horseback Adventure: three nights in a world-class Bovey Castle suite, where you can enjoy amenities like a rejuvenating spa after time riding in your private, customised adventure. Gail Clark of Middleburg, Virginia, went on the Bovey Castle Horseback Adventure as a girls’ trip with her daughter; both are accomplished horsewomen, and Gail shared some of her experience with Sidelines. What was your history with riding before your riding trip? I live on a beautiful horse farm outside of Middleburg, Virginia, and foxhunt with the Piedmont Fox Hounds. I grew up foxhunting in Georgia and spent many years hunting with the Genesee Valley Hunt in Geneseo, New York. I did this trip with my daughter, Laura Clark Katona, who grew up in the horse show world, showing in Palm Beach and Wellington for over 10 years. She now works in New York City. This was a fabulous mother/daughter trip. How did your Bovey Castle Horseback Adventure come about? I actually bought this fabulous riding adventure in New York City at the Countryside Alliance Sporting Auction, which supports the countryside and foxhunting in England. Liberty Trails organized everything including the magnificent stay at Bovey Castle, set in a 275- acre estate in the heart of England’s Dartmoor National Park. Bovey Castle is a Jacobian style mansion overlooking the River Bovey and expansive countryside. How was your stay at Bovey Castle? Bovey Castle was unbelievable; the dinners were like [...]

Welcome to the Wild West – By Sara Cox

By | 2017-07-07T13:51:29+00:00 March 3rd, 2017|

Seven days after completing the first official Dartmoor Derby, I'm still feeling the effects. The ache in my legs from spending umpteen hours in the saddle has now eased, and my creaking back has fallen silent. But one of my symptoms hasn't gone away - a feeling of elation at having spent such a wonderful weekend in the wild. I appreciate that the idea of an endurance horse ride is not everyone's cup of tea, but bear with me - you could be signing up for something similar by the end of it. The Dartmoor Derby is the brainchild of Elaine and Bob Prior, who run Liberty Trails, a riding holiday business. Elaine has boundless energy: imagine a glamorous blonde Tiger in jodhpurs. She was born and bred in this gloriously wild park of Devon and is incredibly proud of the are and the farmers who live here. She wanted to combine her passions - horse riding and the countryside - to create an event that would be an unforgettable experience for the participants, while benefiting the Dartmoor community. The word's toughest horse race was the inspiration. The Mongol Derby is a 10,000km route through the mountains and plains of Mongolia on semi-wild horses. Seeking a UK ride that was just as exciting - but less perilous - Elaine and journalist friend Lucy Higginson (former editor of Horse and House magazine) began to plan a route across the moors. And so the Dartmoor Derby was born. Sara Saddles Up It is late September and I am standing in the reception area of the cosy Arundell Arms Hotel in Lifton, sipping the last of my coffee and meeting my fellow riders. The 45 riders are split [...]

‘Completely Awesome’ Sara Cox praises the Dartmoor Derby to the H&H

By | 2017-03-21T21:55:12+00:00 October 17th, 2016|

BBC TV and Radio presenter Sara Cox was among the 40 riders to complete the first Dartmoor Derby. “It was completely awesome; I loved it,” said Sara, who posted many photos and videos of the ride on her social media accounts” Following a successful pilot last year, the event returned for its first official running on 23-26 September. Riders, including a team from the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, tackled a 50-mile route in guided groups, supported by ground crews over the three days. […]

“The history and romance of Dartmoor is unbeatable” – Barbara Smith’s account of her adventures with us on Dartmoor

By | 2017-07-07T13:52:05+00:00 August 2nd, 2016|

The first morning there was heavy mist across the moors and visibility was limited. What I could see looked exactly like I imagined a scene from Hound of the Baskerville's or Jamaica Inn. Ghostly hedges revealed hidden farmyards, complete with thatched roof cottages and low barns. We had come to Dartmoor National Park in Exeter, England to ride across the famous moors for a couple days before continuing onto Devon and Cornwall. Rosie Campbell, MFH of Bull Run Hunt in Culpeper, Virginia, her husband Chris Allen and son-in-law, Spencer Allen and my husband, Michael and I, had driven down to Bovey Castle from London on Tuesday. It had been cool, with some showers and by 4 Pm we met in the lovely sitting room for a traditional Devon cream tea. Delicious and decadent. We only had it once! Buttery biscuits, topped with berry jam and then the cream, which really looks like butter, is so good. Bovey Castle is a luxurious spa in the heart of Dartmoor and caters to hunting and fishing activites of all sorts. They have partnered with Liberty Trails, the equine brainchild of Elaine and Robert Prior, (www.libertytrails.co.uk) which offers riding holidays across these moors made famous by Sherlock Holmes and more recently, Stephen Spielberg's movie "War Horse". I received an invitation from Liberty Trails to ride in their inaugural Dartmoor Derby in September 2015. Loosely based on the idea of the Mongol Derby, which I did in 2014, they were offering a 3 day "race" across the moors with more luxurious "camping" than the aforementioned Mongol Derby. As I believe I used several of my 9 lives completing the Mongol Derby I declined the race opportunity but asked for [...]

Harper’s Bazaar joined us on Dartmoor for the Liberty Trails experience

By | 2017-07-07T13:52:31+00:00 May 24th, 2016|

Dartmoor is a wild country full of mists and stories, ghosts and traces of the far distant past. In the heart of Dartmoor is the grave of Kitty Jay. According to legend, she was a young village girl who killed herself sometime in the late 18th century after becoming pregnant. As a suicide she was buried at a crossroads outside the village of Manaton. There are always fresh flowers laid by the headstone and no one knows who puts them there. A film company once set up secret cameras to catch the mysterious flower giver, but a mist came down during the night; when it had lifted again, there were new blooms on the grave. Dartmoor is like this: a wild country full of mists and stories, ghosts and traces of the far distant past (not to mention The Hound of the Baskervilles). There are neolithic stone circles, Bronze Age monuments, noble old buildings, mysterious standing stones and, of course, spectacular views in almost 1000 square kilometres of national park. But ho to see all of this? There are few roads, so travelling by car you’d miss most of the natural beauty, walking would only show you a tiny portion of the whole, and only a masochist would bike up to the top of those imposing granite tors. The obvious answer is to ride. And the place to go for that is Liberty Trails. Elaine Prior, who runs the company, was born and bred on Dartmoor and has a deep love for the countryside. She also has a passion for horses, as well as quite liking her home comforts, having spent years living on the Côte d'Azur. As a result, her guided trails strike [...]

Horse and Hound announce Sara Cox will be taking part in Dartmoor Derby 2016

By | 2017-07-07T13:52:53+00:00 May 23rd, 2016|

DJ and television presenter Sara Cox is among those who have signed up to take on this year’s 100km Dartmoor Derby. After a successful trial last year, riders from across the world have agreed to take part in the three-day moorland trek, for which riders bring their own horses or hire them through organisers Liberty Trails. Participants can also look forward to “luxury pitstops in top hotels or specially built safari-style camps”. Sara, who also rode in the shorter pilot ride last year, is looking forward to this year’s event, which runs from 23 to 26 September. “I hadn’t predicted how spectacular Dartmoor would be,” she said. “The views and scenery are incredible. And the mid-ride lunches and overnight camps are like something out of Downton Abbey.” H&H hunting editor Polly Portwin also took part in last year’s 50-mile ride, which she described as “sheer heaven”. She added: “There is no doubt about it, the views on Dartmoor are just breathtaking and really must be seen to be believed. “It was a truly remarkable weekend and with options to camp, stay in luxury or mid-range hotels or a combination of the two, the Dartmoor Derby 2016 is definitely worth considering.” A percentage of every ride entrance fee will go to the British Horse Society’s (BHS) Helping Horses programme, an appeal in aid of its welfare work.  BHS chief executive Lynn Petersen said: “The British Horse Society is proud to join Liberty Trails as charity partner for its Dartmoor Derby challenge ride. What a wonderful way to explore magnificent Dartmoor. “We are delighted that all the funds we receive from this partnership will go directly towards helping horses in distress across the United Kingdom.” To read the [...]