Ireland is a horse-loving country, with a plethora of stables and equestrian centers offering trail rides and instruction. The Association of Irish Riding Establishments (www.aire.ie) is the regulatory body that accredits stables, ensuring adequate safety standards and instructor competence. Riding prices range from about €20 to €50 per hour; expect to pay €25 on average. A list of accredited stables throughout the country is available from Tourism Ireland.
Choose your trek or horse ride based on your interests and experience. Pony trekking caters primarily to beginners, and you don't need experience. Long-distance trail riding requires you to trot for extended periods, which can be exhausting (and painful) for a novice. Some horse-riding tours offer meals and lodging as well as riding. Post-to-post trail riding allows a rider to stay at different lodgings each night, riding on trails all day.
Horseback Riding Resources
Tourism Ireland has an informative section on its website about horse riding. Visit www.discoverireland.com, click on "Things to see & do," then "Activities," and then select "Equestrian."
Two good riding establishments on the west coast are Dingle Horse Riding, Ballinaboula, Dingle, County Kerry (tel. 066/915-2199; www.dinglehorseriding.com), and Drummindoo Stud & Equestrian Centre, Knockranny, Westport, County Mayo (tel. 098/25616; www.drummindoo.com).
In Dublin, you can go trail riding through Phoenix Park with Ashtown Riding Stables (tel. 01/838-3807). They're in the village of Ashtown adjoining the park and only 10 minutes by car or bus (no. 37, 38, 39, or 70) from the city center. Among the other riding centers within easy reach of downtown Dublin are Carrickmines Equestrian Centre, Glenamuck Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18 (tel. 01/295-5990; www.carrickminesequestrian.ie), and Brennanstown Riding School, Hollybrook, County Wicklow (tel. 01/286-3778; www.brennanstownrs.ie). You can see the beaches of Connemara from horseback on a trek with the Cleggan Riding Centre, Cleggan, County Galway (tel. 095/44746; www.clegganridingcentre.com). The center offers beach and mountain treks, and the most popular is a 3-hour ride to Omey Island at low tide.
Hidden Trails (tel. 888/9-TRAILS [987-2457]; www.hiddentrails.com) offers 7-day guided riding tours in several regions in Ireland, including the Wicklow Mountains, West Cork, and Connemara. The tours are graded easy, moderate, or challenging, and include lodging and meals (breakfast, picnic lunch, and dinner).
Call Ahead -- Always phone ahead to make sure any particular equestrian center is still offering rides. Many have discontinued this service in the past few years due to skyrocketing insurance costs.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.