Posted on Saturday, May 31, 2014 by Heather Dodd
Kathy Carter (pictured above) shares her experiences of a recent riding trip to Ireland
Based in 1000 acres of rolling countryside in County Monaghan, the prestigious Castle Leslie Estate is a short flight from the UK. If, like me, you want some intensive tuition at a world-class training establishment, and fancy something different, the three night break I enjoyed could definitely be for you.
The venue, one of the last great Irish castle estates, is idyllic. The 17th century castle, complete with much-loved, 97-year-old, resident eccentric aristocrat, Sir John Leslie, is unique. Think ancient woodland, glittering lakes and pints of Guinness at the end of a long riding day – bliss!
An exciting benefit of riding at Castle Leslie is the 300 inviting cross country jumps – which is why the estate is incredibly popular for eventing enthusiasts and thrill seekers. The Leslie family even has its own motto – Grip Fast – seen on plaques and heraldry around the castle. The story goes that a young Bartholomew Leslie rescued the Queen from a river by asking her to ‘grip fast the buckle on his belt’, and the motto stuck.
With lessons on the mechanical horse – an incredibly useful piece of diagnostic equipment for any horse rider – as well as flatwork, jumping and of course cross country riding available, there’s truly something for everyone, no matter what your level of experience. A fairly new addition is ‘taster’ side saddle lessons; in my case on the ever-reliable Wellington. Riding in a real hunting habit and getting used to the feel of a traditional, hand crafted side saddle certainly made me feel like a lady of the manor!
Most of the horses used for guests at Castle Leslie are lightweight or middleweight Irish Sport Horses, a cross of any type between the Irish Draught and the Thoroughbred. The horses here are typically ‘Irish’ – big, bold, bombproof and beautiful – and are very well schooled and lovely to ride and handle.
For partners who are not so equestrian minded, there’s kayaking on the lake, hiking, clay pigeon shooting or even relaxing in the Victorian Treatment Rooms, which overlook the stables, making this the ideal couples’ retreat. Plus there’s plenty of sightseeing to be done around the estate, tiptoeing around the castle and its dedicated church, St. Salvator’s Church of Ireland.
Why not book a summer retreat now – you will be in horsey heaven!
Castle Leslie Estate offers many riding packages, from the ‘Learn to ride in 5 days’ programme and the bring-your-own-horse ‘Hotel for Horses’ package, to the three and five day ‘Horse Sport’ packages, for experienced riders wanting to expand on their skills or try a new discipline. Horse Sport packages cost from £591 with lessons, dinner and breakfast. Flights excluded – they cost around £40 to either Dublin or Belfast airport.
Visit www.castleleslie.com for a full list of programmes; don’t forget the special offers section!