Despite a burgeoning population in a comparatively small island, England has some superb countryside to offer the horseback explorer and there are plenty of companies offering riding holidays. And, thanks to the work of the Countryside Commission and the British Horse Society, the country boasts a large network of off-road riding tracks. These enable riders to get into the heart of the countryside seeing an England that those who are too attached to their cars will never see. Some of the bridleways date back to Roman Times and were used to carry trade of all sorts via packhorse. One of the famous routes is The Penine way, which would have seen regular trains of 20 or 30 Dales and Fell ponies carrying heavy loads of lead over the Penines to Tyneside. In addition to established trade routes, the country was dotted with drovers roads over which cattle, sheep, pigs and foul were driven.
Most of Britain's riding holiday companies are in the southwest of the country particularly in the counties of Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and Gloucestershire. Some of the best scenery in the country can be found here and some of the better weather too. Dartmoor National Park is the largest in southwest England. With open moorland spotted with granite tors, it offers a dramatic backdrop to your ride. Exmoor is smaller and flatter but no less wild and no less wet. It is the home of the 100-mile Golden Horseshoe Ride, England's most prestigious endurance race. In Gloucestershire an equestrian-rich area known as The Cotswolds is an attractive area of rolling countryside and pretty sandstone villages. It is in the south too, where the native horses can be found - the Dartmoor, Exmoor and New Forest ponies.
The Cotswold equivalent further north is a region called Rutland in Leicestershire. And further north still, the Lake District in Yorkshire is England at its most dramatic with wide deep lakes and high mountains - a rocky wilderness and a mecca for walkers.
When to go:
England is well known for its wet and often bitterly cold winters so while holidays are available year round, summer months are favoured. However, consider spring and autumn too when wild flowers and turning leaves add to the landscape.
England is in the Greenwich Mean Time Zone (GMT) and observes daylight saving in summer.
EU citizens are entitled to free medical treatment. Some other countries have reciprocal health care agreements but health insurance is advisable for all.
Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa do not need a visa for stays in the UK up to 6 months, but they are prohibited from working. Europeans don't need a visa to enter the country for three months while EU citizens can stay indefinitely.
Riding Holidays in England