This is an exhilarating trail with varying terrain, covering high peaks leading into deep, wild valleys where eagles and vultures soar above you in beautiful blue skies. The final 2 days of the trail are spent riding on the endless beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. If the weather allows you may swim with your horse.

During the first 4 days of the trail you will be far from civilisation, taking advantage of the opportunities to approach herds of wild horses of the Basque country (the Pottok). During this adventure you will discover the history and the culture of the Pays Basque people.

The trail requires riders to be fit, confident and experienced and able to ride in all paces for up to 7 hours a day. You may be required to walk with your horse over more challenging terrain. The accommodation and organisation are not amazing, the locations and riding are top class and is what people come here for. Be prepared to compromise on other things.

When arriving in Saint Jean Pied de Port, a Unesco World Heritage Site, guests will enjoy discovering the area on foot before visiting the little shops and choosing a restaurant for a lovely first evening. 

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 PK of London on 07/06/2019

Ride Summary
Great to be there again and can’t wait to go back next year
What was your overall impression of the holiday

Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify)     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Concern with Environment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Language skills     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments

Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments

Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Other ride staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Weather     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
I knew what to expect in terms of the horses; the mountains were beautiful but the weather was unpredictable
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

What could we do to improve this ride?

How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
The pace was easy but the terrain in the mountains was challenging. You need to be physically able to walk some of the more rocky/downhill bits
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments:

Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1
Transfer from Bordeaux at 14:00 and arrival to Saint Etienne de Baïgorry. Visit this old and famous city and enjoy dinner in a typical Basque restaurant in the middle of the historical part of Saint Jean Pied-de-Port (not included). Overnight in a 3 star B&B.

Day 2
Start from Saint Jean Pied de Port or Saint Etienne de Baïgorry to Banca according to the weather. Breakfast at 08h00 and departure at 10h00. Discovery of the famous village of Saint Etienne de Baïgorry by horse. The goal is to get to the top of the Monhoa summit to see the 360° magnificent view of the surrounding area, onto the Aldudes valley and the sea. Night in mountain Guest House 'Gîte Espila'.

Day 3 
Departure at 10am. Today we'll ride to new summits with views over to Spain, the ridge line between France and Spain called the pass of Lindus. Again there are views as far as the eye can see in every direction, it will take your breathe away! Arrival to Urepel, a picturesque village in the Aldudes Valley and her we will spend the night at the 'Hotel Erreguina'.

Day 4 
Departure at 10:30am, time to discover the traditional life of the Basque people in the valley and enjoy a good lunch testing the local produce. Ascent of the Harguibel mountain on the Spanish side. We'll then cross the Spanish virgin forest – an unforgettable moment! Night in Banca at the Hotel Erreguina. For tonight's dinner we'll get to taste trout fresh the Banca Valley River.

Day 5 
Departure at 10am. We will start the day by riding the paths and ascending to El Elhorrieta. Here we'll discover 'Kromlech' which are prehistoric graves and here we will see a new 360° view of the valley, Spain and the sea. Our descent will take us towards the pass of Ispéguy where we'll have lunch in a typical Spanish restaurant. After lunch there will be a thrilling descent on the path of the smugglers towards Saint Etienne de Baigorry. Crossing the city on horseback, we will finish our mountain trail by tasting some Basque wine before we leave by bus to our next adventure on the Atlantic Coast. Dinner on the way to Mimizan, staying in the Guest House at the riding centre.

Days 6 & 7 
The rhythm and pace is changing..now it's time to look forward to long and fast gallops in the biggest forest in Europe. We have occasional views of the most beautiful beach in France while we ride under the shade of the trees before we also get to experience some exciting gallops on the white sand of the Aquitaine Coast. The ride finishes on Saturday night, at around 8pm, with the sunset on the beach (please note riding on the beach in the evening depends on the tides).

Last dinner in a nice restaurant in Mimizan, tasting seafood or a traditional local meal. Overnight in the Guest house at the riding centre.

Day 8
Departure after breakfast, passing through the city centre if time allows. The transfer will leave Mimizan at around 08:30am, arriving at Bordeaux airport at around 11:30am. Riders should therefore book departure flights to depart after 13:00.

Please note: It may be necessary to start the trail on the Atlantic Coast according to the weather forecast in order to take advantage of the best weather in the mountains.

Transfers

A transfer is arranged from Bordeaux Airport at 14.00 to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port. In order to have enough time to explore Saint Jean Pied-de-Port in the evening, guests must arrive at the airport BEFORE 14.00.

The ride finishes on Saturday night, at around 8pm, with sunset on the beach. Guests are transferred back to Bordeaux the next morning and will arrive at Bordeaux Airport or Railway Station according to their departure but before 13.00. Flights must be booked to depart after 13:00.


Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

The French - Theodore Zeldin
Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan
A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence - Peter Mayle
Travels with a Donkey Louis Stevensons
A Little Town In France - Henry James

 

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.

Horses & Riding

There are 20 horses and 10 ponies available. The horses are mostly Anglo-Arabs and are fit and responsive. Many come from the family stud farm and their well being is very important to the owners. During the trip you are expected to take care of your own horse. Riding is usually 6 or 7 hours per day over 30 - 40 km. The terrain is varied and sometimes challenging so riders may be asked to walk by the horses at some points. The horses are surefooted and well able to manage this. Every opportunity to ride at faster paces is taken.

Rider requirements

Confident, fit riders from intermediate standards onwards. Confident at all paces and able to ride 6 to 7 hours each day over varied and sometimes challenging terrain. Walking on foot may be required over some of the challenging terrain.

A smile and a good sense of humour is required! The minimum age for this ride is 18 years.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation is a variety of 2 and 3 star hotels and the on-site guest house at the riding centre. Lunches are picnics and are relaxed and leisurely, often followed by a short siesta. Lunch and dinner are made from typical food from Pays Basque and are prepared by the owners of the accommodation. Please note that during busy periods rooms may host up to 5 people. Local hotels may be arranged for a supplement if you wish to have a private room - please enquire.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

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.

General information:

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 Paris is at 35 rue de Faubourg St Honore, 75383 Paris Cedex 08. Tel + (33) 1 44 51 31 00. Email: webmaster.paris@fco.gov.uk.

The French Embassy in the U.K can be found at 58 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7JT. Telephone: (020) 7073 1000. Email: presse.londres-amba@diplomatie.fr.


Climate Summary

This area has a more continental climate, which bears some resemblance to that found in west Germany and Switzerland. The high mountain areas have their own distinctive climates with heavier precipitation, much of it snow in winter. Only along the Mediterranean coast and in the adjacent mountain regions is summer generally settles, sunny and warm. Everywhere else in France the weather can be changeable at all times of the year.

Climate Chart

Health

No special health precautions are required for visits to France, 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.

Health (ride specific)

There are no particular health issues associated with this type of ride.

Electricity

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.

Film and Camera Equipment

There is electricity to charge batteries in the hotels and gites, however we recommend that all necessary equipment is bought with you or purchased upon arrival in France. You should check with your network provider for mobile phone coverage while in France

Packing List

We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. This should be used as a guideline as requirements may very according to your programme and preferences.

• Riding Helmet - we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384. Helmets are available at the stables if you do not have your own
• Jodhpurs - jodhpurs, breeches or other comfortable trousers (jeans may rub and can also be quite hot)
• Riding Boots - it is important to have correct shoes or boots for horse riding. Jodhpur or ankle boots with a rubber sole are recommended but sturdy shoes with a definite heel are acceptable (such as walking boots)
• Half Chaps - these are great when worn with ankle boots and help prevent the stirrup leathers rubbing against your legs
• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
• Sunhat
• Swimwear
• Sunglasses
• Fleece - for cooler weather
• Warm layers - at times the evening temperature drops significantly
• Casual Clothes - for when out of the saddle
• Water Bottle - it's very important to drink a lot of water when it's hot, especially when doing physical activities
• Raincoat - it is always a good idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take insect repellent and plenty of sun cream
• Camera and Spare Batteries/Charger - an absolute must! It is also a good idea to take a camera case you can strap around your waist or onto a belt for whilst you are riding
• A copy of your passport

Programmes

This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates.

Departure Dates

2020: May 3, 17, 31; Jun 14, 28*; Sept 6, 20; Oct 4.
(* indicates High Season)

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.

Depending on availability, rooms may be shared by up to 5 guests. If you would like to guarantee a single or double/twin room, supplements apply. Supplements also apply to individual bookings where no other rider is available to share the room.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2019 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,285
2019 Low season8d/7n6single supplement135
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3175
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room62
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,355
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement159
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3175
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room93
2020 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,299
2020 Low season8d/7n6single supplement149
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3175
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room62
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2019 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,459
2019 Low season8d/7n6single supplement149
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3199
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room70
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,539
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement179
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3199
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room105
2020 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,479
2020 Low season8d/7n6single supplement169
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3199
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room70
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2019 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,729
2019 Low season8d/7n6single supplement179
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3239
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room83
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,819
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement215
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3239
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room125
2020 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,749
2020 Low season8d/7n6single supplement205
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3239
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room83
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2019 Low season8d/7n6double pp16,045
2019 Low season8d/7n6single supplement1,649
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 32,199
2019 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room769
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp16,925
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement1,979
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 32,199
2019 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room1,155
2020 Low season8d/7n6double pp16,265
2020 Low season8d/7n6single supplement1,869
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 32,199
2020 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room769
Recommended Reading

Theodore Zeldin ‘The French’,
Francoise Sagan ‘Bonjour Tristesse’,
Peter Mayle ‘A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence’,
Louis Stevensons ‘Travels with a Donkey’ and
Henry James ‘A Little Town In France’.
For an excellent selection of equestrian travel and adventure books visit www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild).

Other Country Information

The French wrote the book on la vie en rose and gave the world champagne and camembert, de Beauvoir and Debussy, the Tour de France and the Eiffel Tower. It is a country steeped in history. Staggering monasteries and castles dotted all over the country are a reminder of a turbulent and often violent past, especially in the Carcasonne region where the Gnostic Christian organisation the Cathars held fast against a crusade launched in the 11th century by an angry and vengeful Catholic church for over twenty years. Despite their vow of non-violence they had a strong support base, including the Knights Templar, and their name often pops up in the legend of the Holy Grail.

The French character has undoubtedly been influenced by their past, today they are a proud and patriotic people famed for enjoying the finer things in life and displaying a great generosity character in their willingness to share their country with the millions of visitors they receive each year.

Food is very important in French culture, almost puritanical. Families eat dinner together late in the evening and their diet is usually very healthy, packed with home grown fruit and vegetables. You will hardly ever see anyone eating on the street; if you do chances are they're not French!

France 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 France is +33.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Bordeaux Airport at 14:00 Or you can go to Morcenx train station
Transfer:
2020: €90 per person return, payable on-site. The transfer departs Bordeaux airport at 14:00 on the arrival day and arrives back at the airport at around 11:30 on the final day. Riders should make sure their flights arrive with time to clear security before 14:00 and book their flights to depart after 13:00 on the departure day.
Flight Guide:
London to Bordeaux return from around £80
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