See France from the saddle – and in a whole new light
Whether you’re a nervous beginner whose riding experience is limited to seaside donkeys, or perhaps you could ride before you could even walk – there’s a riding holiday in France for every rider. Our riding holiday round-up could see you galloping along seemingly never-ending sandy beaches in Normandy, trekking through sky-high mountain passes in the Alps and splashing through the marshes of the Camargue.
1) THE ALPS
We think of Mont Blanc and its peers as the preserve of skiers and hikers, but the Alps can be exciting horse-riding territory for riders of all levels. Think lush mountain meadows to canter through, icy streams to cross and rocky trails to navigate. Your mounts will need to be sure-footed and strong to master of this dramatic terrain.
Ride it – Explore the mountains and verdant valleys – plus the odd river – on Far and Ride’s French Alps holiday, beginning and ending in Samoëns. The circular trail takes you through Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, Morzine and Gets, and you’ll be staying in guesthouses and gîtes. The comfortable cross-bred horses are safe and sensible, suitable for strong novices and above, and families with children over eight are welcome.
2) BORDEAUX WINE COUNTRY
Combine fine riding territory with even finer wines in glorious Gironde, where you get the best of both the countryside and the coast. Touring the vineyards on horseback offers a unique perspective on this famous part of l’Hexagone.
Ride it – Tour the vineyards of the great white, red and rosé wines in this Bordeaux Wine Trail ride from Unicorn Trails. You’ll enjoy rolling hills, vineyards, farmland and woodland paths, with plenty of opportunities to canter and gallop. The horses are a mixture of pure and cross-bred Paints, Arabians and warmbloods, and most of them were born at a local farm.
3) THE CAMARGUE
The glorious marshes of the Rhône delta, south of Arles, are home to a true French icon: the Camargue pony. These pretty greys have lived in these parts for centuries and are a popular choice for local farmers. The riding here is stunning and a feast for the senses for nature lovers; see how many colourful flamingos you spot on your adventures.
Ride it – In The Saddle’s relaxed Provence Trails holiday combines the charm of the Camargue with all the Provençal staples of lavender fields, quaint villages and vineyards. Your mounts are very friendly and willing; they’re mainly cross-breeds who live together as a herd throughout the year.
4) THE NORTH-WEST COAST
Brittany and Normandy are blessed with beautiful beaches and dramatic coastlines, as well as the biggest ‘sand castle’ you’ll ever see – Mont-Saint-Michel! Being within easy reach of Paris and, of course, the ferry terminals, it’s an ideal spot for a short riding break from Britain.
Ride it – Canter past Mont-Saint-Michel on cute, well-behaved Irish cobs in this riding holiday from Equus Journeys, beginning at Cancale. You’ll get to stay in lovely B&Bs and gîtes on your adventure, as well as getting the chance to sample hearty Breton cuisine along the way.
5) THE LOIRE VALLEY
Châteaux and chevaux – what better combination? Discover the treasures of the Loire on the same mode of transport that French aristocracy would have used all those centuries ago.
Ride it – Touraine Cheval is a great English-speaking riding stables near Tours which offers a popular ‘Royal Week’ holiday, where riding is interspersed with visits to castles, wine cellars and troglodytic houses. If you’re travelling in a couple, you can also organise a special proposal or wedding photo opportunity with the beautiful horses in a scenic Loire setting!
6) THE DORDOGNE
This rural part of south-west France, with its historic valleys and famous cuisine, is perfect riding territory. Cultural highlights include the famous Lascaux caves, and foodies will love truffle treasures of Sarlat and the wines of Bergerac.
Ride it – Near beautiful Bergerac, Riding in the Dordogne offers riding adventures for experienced riders with friendly Saumur-trained leader Antoine. Based at the charming Bourdil Blanc château, you’ll be riding forward and well-trained horses through beautiful countryside including forests and grasslands, fuelled by picnic lunches and home-cooked dinners.
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