Horseback Riding Vacations at the Horse Holiday Farm

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Get saddled up in Sligo
Nothing in Life is quite so invigorating as racing across a beachy strand on horseback.
Brendan Gallagher takes up the reins...

View from the Breakfast Room
(Horse Holiday Farm)

Riding by the Sea

Horseriding at the Beach

Trailriding Donegal

Bed and Breakfast in Donegal

The Sea at the Donegal Trail

Beside the Horse Holiday Farm

Galopp on the Sligo Beaches

If you are not into wild deserted beaches, crashing surf, rugged outcrops and the smell of peat fires you won't enjoy this at all. If you detest the thought of long days in the saddle, hot toddies by a roaring fire,the smack of a salty wind on your cheek, five star food and probably the best view of any breakfast room anywhere in the world you'd better move.

For some, however, a short riding break at the Grange Horse Holiday Farm, situated on the Sligo-Donegal border, constitutes the perfect holiday. I arrived in trepidation. What had sounded a good idea a couple of months earlier now seemed ridiculously ambitious for a novice rider. I departed achingly healthy from head to toe in the sure knowledge that I had heaver felt happier. I was also cursing inwardly that I hadn't discovered Anhold and Colette Tillman's
slice of paradise 20 years ago, when the body was more able. On the first day I pitched up early, tiptoed through the open frond door and found a note inviting me to raid the fridge, it's that kind of place. We went down to Trawalua beach - four miles long, huge 20 foot waves crashing half a mile out to sea and not a soul in sight. The strand of your dreams. A slight nudge in Cormack´s ribs and we were galloping away. Sheer terror at first, then cautious enjoymtent and finally shrieks of joy. We slowed to a walk. Can we do that again? And again. Absolutely brilliant.

The next two days were entirely different, I was paired with two very experienced Belgian trail riders, Peter and Natalie, to undertake the first two days of the seven-day Donegal trail. Luckily we got on like a house on fire although as you get to know Anhold, universally known as Tilman, you realise luck had nothing to do with it. He is, if anything, a better judge of humans than horses and he's renowned throughout Ireland for the latter.

Initially Peter seemed a little difficult, a perfectionist who worried over small details. But Tilman had immediately spotted that Peter was also a superb and caring horseman who simply loved to share his knowledge and skill - a born teacher. Natalie was a fine rider and the most even-tempered of companions, the perfect foil. Both had fallen in love with Donegal and Tilman quickly sussed that although a novice rider I was determined to stay the course. He also knew I had been visiting the area for 20 years and would happily act as unofficial tour guide. Within half an hour we were mates for life.

The first day started badly in that our planned 1 pm start from a trail just north of the Bamesmore Gap across the Donegal Highlands to the mountain village of Letterhillue was delayed by a nasty traffic accident. We eventually set off on a glorious late autumn evening across the hiIls, four hours hard riding in prospect to find our bed and breakfast where a piping beef stew awaited, though only after we had fed and cleaned the horses. In fact, driven on by Peter, we made cracking time although we still needed his torch as we clip-clopped down the lane in Letterhillue.

The second day was a 20 mile marathon aross equally, beautiful rugged terrain. I was really tired my back was shurting, my butt was sore and I even had to walk the last two miles with my horse but I wouldn't swap that day for anything. The scenery; the isolation, the birdsong, the yarning and the certain knowledge that for today at least nobody in the world was in a more beautiful setting or having a better time.

That's where my trail ended. The next moming Tilman picked me up and I was back at the Grange ploughing through some pressing work on the laptop. Working in their breakfast room, the hub of the entire farm is something only those with a pressing deadline can undertake. The view is utterly gorgeous and unique - they ought to have a webcam simply trained on that view, a cult site for sure.

I loved the mountains but when I go again - I shall before my three score and ten are up - I'm going to spend more time riding on the beaches. Much easier on the back. They say that on certain days and given certain tide conditions you could ride a full 25 miles on the beaches south along the Sligo coast if you or the horse have the energy.

It´s a magical part of the world that moves people to lyricism. Helene Lardav, from Sweden, caught the mood perfectly when she quoted W B Yeates in the comments book 'To see a world in a grain of sand; Or heaven in a wild flower; To hold eternity in your hand; And infinity for an hour."

The ever practical Peter was also moved: "A day on this trail is like a weeks holiday, a week on trail is like a month away. You pack so much in." A veteran of just about every great ride in the world he and Natalie went on to complete seven days of the Donegaltrail and pronounced it as the best ever. Their other highlight, he insisted, was learning how to make and drink hot toddies.
Heaven knows we practiced enough.

Tilman and Colette Anhold
Horse Holiday Farm Ltd.
Grange County Sligo Ireland
Telephone : (071) 9166152
Fax : (071) 9166400
From Europe Telephone : 00 353 71 9166152
Fax : 00 353 71 9166400

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The Horse Holiday Farm is Bord Fáilte (Irish Tourist Board) approved and
a member of A.I.R.E., the Association of Irish Riding Establishments.

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