Riding the Quantocks, Stunning Somerset Countryside
PUBLISHED: 17:27 08 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:50 20 February 2013
If you have a passion for horses and riding through Somerset's unspoilt countryside, Somerset Life reveals that the Quantock Hills offer an amazing riding experience that can end in an invigorating gallop along a private beach.
The easily accessible Quantock Hills are perfect for horse riding through stunning countryside.
If you asked a selection of Somerset people where the Quantock Hills are, theres a high chance they wouldnt be quite sure! The Quantock Hills are, for some, an undiscovered gem: a beautiful spine of hills, plains and valleys running for about 15 miles north-west from Taunton to the coast of Quantoxhead on the Bristol Channel. And they offer a fantastic riding environment for all those horsemen and women looking to do something a little different this year.
What marks the Quantock Hills out for riders is not just that they are riding on the first-ever designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England, but that the whole AONB is open-access countryside. This means you and your horse can walk, trot and canter over fabulous heather-covered plains, grassy slopes and up and down ancient forests and bluebell woods, without once worrying about rights of way or meeting a car! Its a fabulous experience made perhaps that bit more special by the wild Quantock ponies you will encounter on your way.
A good Ordnance Survey map and solid map-reading skills will get you and horse to some beautiful spots, but if youre not quite confident at setting out alone, there are guides available. One such guide is Kathryn Davies, who set up a discreet little riding company called Travels on Horseback in 2007. Shes happy to guide you and your party through the miles of beautiful countryside on horseback, taking the strain out of finding your way so youre free to enjoy the riding and the stunning views! Your horse will certainly need to be fit (and well-shod!) to tackle the Quantocks the sharp ascents and descents are enough to take your breath away but hell thank you for it when hes galloping across the plains with the wind in his mane.
If you dont have a horse of your own, Travels on Horseback does offer fit, happy horses for competent riders. Theyll organise trail rides for anything up to a week, with horses carrying your luggage in saddle-bags! Guests experience a true trail-riding adventure, spending the days exploring the Quantocks, and the nights in hand-picked local accommodation. And their trail riding holidays finish with a gallop on a private beach! Tracey Martin-Millward enjoyed a weekend getaway last year and told us: Its so exhilarating riding across such beautiful countryside at high speed! Lovely horses, great accommodation and loads of fun! I cant wait to go back.
If you are bringing your own horse, there are access points and large car parks available in many of the villages which nestle in the foothills of the Quantocks. Most of them even have streams nearby, so you can water your horse before heading home, truly exhilarated by a day in one of the most beautiful parts of Somerset.