GetOutside Champion: Sian Lewis
Sian is an award-winning travel and outdoors journalist who writes for titles including The Independent, Evening Standard, BBC Countryfile Magazine and Coast.
Exmoor is a hugely popular location for horse riding with over 400 miles of bridleways, coupled with open moorland and coastal paths. It’s ideal for novice and experienced riders.
Exmoor National Park opened in 1954 and it was created by Sir Arthur Lawrence Hobhouse to “conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage” of each designated park. Sir Hobhouse, the architect of the system of national parks in the UK, recognised the importance of keeping bridleways open for people who wanted to ride horses for recreation.
There are many riding facilities on Exmoor - you can choose to come for the day and make use of the facilities for a day’s riding, or holiday in the area and include riding in your activities.
There are many riding schools which offer lessons for children, experienced riders and beginners. You’ll also find that many of the riding stables near Exmoor organise planned rides of various lengths. Some typical excursions will include riding into areas such as the Doone Valley, through the old Exmoor Forest, into Horner Valley, through Periton park and along scenic coastal paths.
Riders who own their own horse can bring them to Exmoor and take advantage of the many bed and breakfast, self-catering and hotels which provide stabling. Finally, disabled riders can spend the day at the Calvert Trust where they have indoor and outdoor stables and offer riding and carriage driving activities.
A popular horse riding and walking route is Coleridge Way. It covers 33 miles from Nether Stowey to Exford and it is divided into three sections. The first section is from Nether Stowey to Monksilver and includes some road sections, but mostly passes through picturesque woodland and over some of the many streams on Exmoor.
The second section is from Monksilver to Luxborough. This bit can be challenging as there is a lot of uphill climbing and a number of gates. However, you’ll pass through some beautiful countryside and farmland and finish up in the village of Luxborough, which comprises of three separate hamlets close to the river Washford.
The third section takes you from Luxborough to Exford. This section passes through farmland with stock. Exford is a popular tourist resort and the village lies close to the River Exe.
There are plenty of other routes available to riders. The OS Explorer Map OL9 will give you all the detail you need to plan a day’s riding.BUY OL 9 FROM OS MAP SHOP >
Tourists and riders also come to Exmoor each year to watch or take part in the Golden Horseshoe Ride, one of the oldest competitive endurance rides in the UK. To compete in the Golden Horseshoe, riders must have competed at an advanced level the previous season and both horse and rider must have the fitness and stamina to ride 180 kilometres over a two-day period. Other rides over the weekend include the Exmoor Stag, also for advanced riders, the Exmoor Hind, for open or advanced riders, and the Fawn Pleasure Ride, which is 25 kilometres and designed for members and non-members with horses over four years old.