Castilla province near Madrid is home to the roots and history of the Spanish and consequently the heart of Castillian culture. Explore the spectacular scenery on magnificent pure Spanish horses, the pride and joy of their owner.
Ride along routes taken by the Spanish hero as El Cid in the times of the Moorish occupation. Overnight accommodation on this ride is in very comfortable hotels with en suite bathrooms. The riding, food and wine is all above average, this riding holiday is highly recommended for good riders wanting to experience true Spanish culture in comfort.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from CG of Saltash on 19/06/2014
Arrival at Madrid Airport and transfer to the first night's hotel in Covarrubias. Here we enjoy a fine dinner and have the chance to learn a little about the history of El Cid, a medival Castillian hero in the fight against the Moorish occupation of 10th century Spain. On this horse riding holiday, we follow in his footsteps and the dramatic events of those times, visiting the monastries and villages he did 1000 years ago.
We start our adventure. Leaving beautiful Covarrubias, one of the first areas to be reconquered from the Moors in the late ninth century and the bithplace of the Castillian language, for a ride to the Urga Valley, a small canyon that crosses the river Mataviejas. This circular ride returns us once again to Covarrubias where we enjoy another wonderful supper in this historic village before retiring for the night.
COVARRUBIAS - SANTO DOMINGO DE SILOS
We continue on along El Cid's banishment route, crossing the Arlanza river near Covarrubias. Then we take the road to Retuerta and later to Contreras, also know as the “town of the one hundred fountains”.
Finally we reach Santo Domingo de Silos, a well known Village due to its romantic Monastery of the XI century, one of the most beautiful in all Spain. Dinner and lodging in Hotel Coronas II or similar.
SANTO DOMINGO DE SILOS - NAVAS DEL PINAR
We leave Santo Domingo de Silos traversing Alto de Peñacoba , Marmolar and Tierra de Pinares (land of pines). Then we get to Navas del Pinar at the entrance of Parque Natural del Cañón del Río Lobos. We walk surrounded by pine groves and cross deserted mountain towns where all the inhabitants have left for the cities. Dinner and lodging in Casa Rural La Fuente or similar.
NAVAS DEL PINAR - CASAREJOS
Today we ride through the spectacular Parque Natural del Cañón de Río Lobos, protected land and a sanctuary for birds. This is a 16 km canyon, made by Río Lobos that runs through the provinces of Burgos and Soria, surrounded by steep cliffs on both sides, lush vegetatation underfoot and ancient trees and poplars. There are also many caves and wells. At the end of this canyon we emerge in Casarejo, in the province of Soria. Dinner and lodging in Hotel La Reserva or similar.
CASAREJOS - QUINTANAR DE LA SIERRA
We leave Cañón del Río lobos, riding through the pinewoods of Pino Valsain and get to Canicosa de la Sierra and Quintanar de la Sierra in the Province of Burgos. Here we will visit Necrópolis de Revenga, where we’ll find dinosaurs tracks. Dinner and lodging in Posada las Mayas or Casa Ramón or similar.
QUINTANAR DE LA SIERRA - LAGUNA NEGRA NEILA
We leave these beautiful mountain towns and begin our last day riding through pine woods in our way to Laguna Negra - a Quaternary Glacial lagoon. After a lunch here we return at last to Covarrubias where the adventure began. Dinner and lodging in Hotel Nuevo Arlanza or Hotel Rural Chindasvinto or similar.
Departure and transfer to Madrid after breakfast when we must bid farewell to Spain.
Please follow this link for a map of this itinerary: Roots Of Castilla
El Cid was a medieval nobleman of enormous historical importance to the people of Spain. The Spaniards called him Campeador or Champion. The Saracens called him "El Cid," or Lord. His real name was Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, but he is usually spoken of as "El Cid."
Spain and the Moors
The Goths, after the death of Alaric, had taken Spain away from the Romans. The Saracens, or, as they were usually called, the Moors, had crossed the sea from Africa and in turn had taken Spain from the Goths. In the time of Charles Martel the Goths had lost all Spain except the small mountain district in the northern part. In the time of El Cid the Goths, now called Spaniards, had driven the Moors down to about the middle of Spain. War went on all the time between the two races, and many men spent their lives in fighting. The Spanish part of the country then comprised the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and others. El Cid was a subject of Fernando of Castile.
El Cid is banished from Spain
Fernando had a dispute with the King of Aragon about a city which each claimed. They agreed to decide the matter by combat. Each was to choose a champion. The champions were to fight, and the king whose champion won was to have the city. Fernando chose El Cid, and though the other champion was called the bravest knight in Spain, the youthful warrior vanquished him. When Alfonzo, a son of Fernando, succeeded to the throne, he became angry with El Cid without just cause and banished him from Christian Spain.
El Cid - the Battle of Alcocer
Three hundred of his knights went into banishment with El Cid. They crossed the mountains and entered the land of the Moors. Soon they reached the town of Alcocer, and after a siege captured it and lived in it. Then the Moorish king of Valencia ordered two chiefs to take three thousand horsemen, recapture the town and bring El Cid alive to him. So El Cid and his men were shut up in Alcocer and besieged. Famine threatened them and they determined to cut their way through the army of the Moors. Suddenly and swiftly they poured from the gate of Alcocer, and a terrible battle was fought. The two Moorish chiefs were taken prisoners and thirteen hundred of their men were killed in the battle. El Cid then became a vassal of the Moorish king of Saragossa.
Alphonso recalls El Cid
After a while Alfonzo recalled El Cid from banishment and gave him seven castles and the lands adjoining them. He needed El Cid's help in the greatest of all his plans against the Moors. He was determined to capture Toledo. He attacked it with a large army in which there were soldiers from many foreign lands. El Cid is said to have been the commander. After a long siege the city fell and the victorious army marched across the great bridge built by the Moors.
El Cid the Prince of Valencia
Valencia was one of the largest and richest cities in Moorish Spain. It was strongly fortified, but El Cid determined to attack it. The plain about the city was irrigated by streams that came down from the neighboring hills. To prevent the Cid's army from coming near the city the Saracens flooded the plain. But the Cid camped on high ground above the plain and from that point besieged the city. Food became very scarce in Valencia. Wheat, barley and cheese were all so dear that none but the rich could buy them. People ate horses, dogs, cats and mice, until in the whole city only three horses and a mule were left alive. Then on the fifteenth of June, 1094, the governor went to the camp of El Cid and delivered to him the keys of the city. El Cid placed his men in all the forts and took the citadel as his own dwelling. His banner floated from the towers. He called himself the Prince of Valencia.
The Death of El Cid
When the king of Morocco heard of this he raised an army of fifty thousand men. They crossed from Africa to Spain and laid siege to Valencia. But El Cid with his men made a sudden sally and routed them and pursued them for miles. It is said that fifteen thousand soldiers were drowned in the river Guadalquivir which they tried to cross. El Cid was now at the height of his power and lived in great magnificence. He was kind and just to the Saracens who had become his subjects. They were allowed to have their mosques and to worship God as they thought right. In time El Cid's health began to fail. He could lead his men forth to battle no more. He sent an army against the Moors, but it was so completely routed that few of his men came back to tell the tale.
The Legend of El Cid
There is a legend that shortly before he died he saw a vision of St. Peter, who told him that he should gain a victory over the Saracens after his death. So El Cid gave orders that his body should be embalmed. It was so well preserved that it seemed alive. It was clothed in a coat of mail, and the sword that had won so many battles was placed in the hand. Then it was mounted upon El Cid's favourite horse and fastened into the saddle, and at midnight was borne out of the gate of Valencia with a guard of a thousand knights. All silently they marched to a spot where the Moorish king, with thirty-six chieftains, lay encamped, and at daylight the knights of El Cid made a sudden attack. The king awoke. It seemed to him that there were coming against him full seventy thousand knights, all dressed in robes as white as snow, and before them rode a knight, taller than all the rest, holding in his left hand a snow-white banner and in the other a sword which seemed of fire. So afraid were the Moorish chief and his men that they fled to the sea, and twenty thousand of them were drowned as they tried to reach their ships. There is a Latin inscription near the tomb of El Cid which may be translated: *Brave and unconquered, famous in triumphs of war, Enclosed in this tomb lies Roderick the Great of Bivar.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The owner breeds and competes Pure Spanish horses (PRE). The horses are Spanish, Arab X and some Andalusian X, and there are 35 excellent riding horses to choose from. They range in height from 15hh-16.2hh with some ponies available. They are all in well rounded condition and beautifully polished on a daily basis with traditional flowing manes, mainly kept stabled, shod all round and very well mannered. They are ridden in traditional deep seated Spanish saddles with soft sheepskin covers and traditional big stirrups. The bridles are mainly curb bits and the horses are ridden loose reined and respond easily to weight shifts and subtle signals. This is a very easy and relaxing style of riding similar to Western, some instruction will be given if wanted. Saddlebags not provided. The horses are all experienced and sure footed trail horses with temperaments that vary from quiet and reliable through responsive to fiery and showy. With 35 horses to choose from you are sure to find your ideal partner for the week. The riding is mainly at a walk due to varying terrain, but there are plenty (4-6) of opportunities for long and fast canters every day. Jose Manuel, your guide, is not too keen on trotting although this is possible if requested! The riding starts late morning, after 2-3 hours a break is made for lunch followed by a siesta and a similar length afternoon session to arrive late afternoon at your destination. All saddling and grooming is done for you although you are welcome to assist with your own horse.
Riders need to be able to walk, trot and canter. These horses are trained in the Spanish style and are used to being ridden with a loose rein when at walk and a light contact at canter.There are some large and strong horses, so there is a higher than usual weight limit of 105kg. Due to the long riders this ride is not suitable for children under 12 and all children should be competent riders. There is no need to saddle or clean your own horse on this ride unless you wish to. Assistance is available for mounting and dismounting and minimal walking next to your horses is required.
The weight limit for this ride is 231 lb/105 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The hotels used en route are all very comfortable with twin or double rooms and en suite shower, toilet, bidet and basin in the bathrooms. They are always located in spots of particular interest and have a local character all of their own. The meals are carefully selected to show you the best variety of local specialities: red wines, sausages, lamb, cheeses, vegetables are all fresh and locally produced. The standard of food on this ride is above average.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
Visa are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas, health and vaccinations, legal issues and emergency issues. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk
The British Consulate in Madrid is at the Calle de Fernando el Santo 16, 28010 Madrid. Tel: +34 91 7008200. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ukinspain.com.
The Spanish Embassy in the U.K can be found at 39 Chesham Place, London SW1X 8SB. Tel: (020) 7235 5555.
The climate in this area is dependent on the altitude. In the valleys it can get very hot in July and August while the Sierras (mountains) are at their best then, spring and autumn are ideal for riding at while the valleys start to be pleasant in March already and are still fine in November.
No special health precautions are required for visits to Spain, for further details please see your local doctor. We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org
Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.
230V 50HZ with a two pronged round pin plug
There is electricity in the hotel rooms and camera equipment can be recharged each night. Most towns and villages will sell some batteries and film.
It is recommended to take a riding helmet or broad rimmed hat which must stay on firmly and sunglasses with string. There is a good range of riding helmets on site if you wish to borrow one. 2 pairs of riding trousers, half chaps are recommended, riding gloves, jersey/fleece, warm jacket (depending on time of year), shorts, long trousers (evenings) long sleeve shirts, T-shirts, sarong or wrap, swimsuit, waterproofs (that work), sun block, camera, binoculars, a pair of short riding/ walking boots and trainers. On a practical level a bottle of water for refilling and the all essential loo paper (for outdoor emergencies only!) are handy.
This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates. Other dates can be arranged for groups of 6 or more in May, June, September or October.
2020: 19 September
2021: 29 May; 5, 19 June; 18 September
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`The New Spaniards’ –John Hooper, ‘Driving over Lemons’- Chris Stewart, ‘The Story of Spain’- Mark Williams, ‘South of Granada’ – Gerald Brenan, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ – Ernest Hemmingway, ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’- Laurie Lee and ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha’ – Miguel de Cervantes. For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback visit www.thelongridersguild.com also a fantastic place to acquire your equestrian travel books is www.horsetravelbooks.com
Non riders are welcome to accompany the ride in the luggage transfer vehicle. Each night is spent in interesting local villages and hotels and there is plenty to do and see. The main cultural items are visited with your guide en route and non riders can join in here.
Spain is a beautiful and diverse country, the second largest in Europe. The official language is Castilian Spanish but Catalan, Galician and Basque are also spoken. Territory includes two island archipelagos – the Balearics and the Canaries – and two enclaves on the North African coast, bordering Morocco – Ceuta and Melilla. The African influence can be found throughout Spain but especially in the south, for example the guitar was invented by the Spanish when they added a sixth string to the Arab lute. Music and art permeates Spanish culture, most obviously displayed in the fire and passion of the Flamenco and the stunning modern architecture found in the cities.
The famous siesta is still enjoyed by the majority of Spaniards, most shops close at lunchtime for two or three hours so everyone can escape the often scorching afternoon sun. Evening meals are served late into the evening with plenty of wine or sangria. Often meals can last two or three hours, especially if your host is serving Tapas, small and varied dishes of meats, bread, vegetables. Paella is also a delight and very popular across the country.
Spain is one hour ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The international dialling code for Spain is +34.