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 KH of Brampton on 12/10/2018
You will be met at the airport and transferred to the farm for the start of your holiday. There will be time to meet the horses and have a chat with the guides before dinner.
The trail begins after breakfast as you leave the farm through fields of sheep and cattle. You will ride through the village of Millac with lovely views across Chardes lake and the River Vienne. The path takes you into the valley of the Vienne, past the castle of Bellevue and through hamlets which have not changed for many years. You will arrive in Charente for the night in accommodation with views of Serre Castle.
In the morning you will visit Serre Castle and have a look around the grounds before riding on through La Monette woods. You will have a picnic lunch by an old Roman bridge in Esse where locals have rebuilt the Gallo-Roman village. The afternoon ride takes you through open fields of cattle to the village of Lesterps, where you will spend the night in the House of Dukes.
After breakfast you will set out on the path of Bussière Boffy. You will ride alongside a large lake that, according to local legend, is the birthplace of the Mandragore monster. You will see a change in the plant and animal life today as the soil becomes more sandy and well drained, with granite rocks poking through in places. The Blond Mountains are notably closer by the time you reach Mortemart, one of the most beautiful villages in France. There will be a chance to have a look around and visit the Duke’s Palace and covered market before spending the night in one of the old convents.
Today the paths follow dry stone walls into woods of pine and wild chestnut trees. You will stop at the village of Montrol Senart to see the houses fitted out as they were in the early 1900's. The night is spent at a local ‘auberge’ in Cieux.
After breakfast you will ride around the Lake of Cieux to La Pierre Branlante, ‘the rattling stone', and on to the Vaulry Chapel. You will follow a path that takes you up and over the Monts de Blond which offers stunning views across the valleys on either side. When you descend you will visit Ma Petite Laine workshop before driving back to the farm for your final night.
Depart after breakfast.
Non-riders are welcome to join the tour and can travel in the support car, joining riders for the picnic lunch. However it is recommended that non-riders have their own car to explore for a fuller enjoyment of the area. Please enquire for non-rider rates.
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.
There are about 20 horses on the farm that are used for the treks including French saddle, Anglo Arabian, Barb-Arabian, Spanish, Quarter horse and different cross breeds. Many of the horses were bred and trained on the farm, so the staff know them really well. Horses are always matched carefully to riders abilities and temperaments - there are forward going horses for confident riders as well as gentle mounts for those who are less confident. High quality English saddles, with cloths and saddlebags are used on the trails.
The riding is mostly out in the countryside following tracks and trails. This trail involves crossing streams and rivers on horseback so riders should be prepared to get their feet wet. Some riding is done in villages and towns and involves a small amount of road work. Each day usually consists of 2-3 hours of riding in the morning and a similar amount in the afternoon. Riding hats are compulsory for this ride, a variety of helmets are available to borrow from the farm. A safety briefing will be given to all riders at the start of the trek.
Riders need to be confident at walk, trot and canter. Experience of riding in the open is preferable. Riders should be able to mount and dismount unaided. The horses are extremely well schooled and this ride is perfectly suited to riders getting back into riding or who are a little nervous while still giving good riders an excellent ride.
A good level of general fitness is needed for this ride and guests should be comfortable in the saddle for up to 6 hours. The minimum age for this ride is 14 years, although younger children with good riding skills may be accepted as part of a family booking.
Riders with less experience can be given extra help and guidance to start with, please contact us to discuss this ride if you are unsure. Riders are expected to groom and saddle their horses but the guides are always about to help if needed.
The weight limit for this ride is 16 st/220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The accommodation on this ride is in a variety of guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and local historical sites including an old convent. Most places have comfortable twin rooms with shared bathrooms. There is usually a common area at each location for guests to relax in. Electricity will be available each night for charging devices, however access to WiFi is limited. A support vehicle will carry your luggage between each nights' accommodation. Soft baggage is recommended.
Food is freshly prepared each day using local produce wherever possible including from the farms you will be staying at. Lunch will be a picnic freshly prepared each day and brought by the support vehicle. Meals will include local specialties such as farci poitevin (stuffed herb pate) and Pousse d’epine ('thorny wine', and aperitif made from blackthorn). Local apple juice, wine from the Poitou and beer from the farm's own brewery are also served.
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 Paris is at 35 rue de Faubourg St Honore, 75383 Paris Cedex 08. Tel + (33) 1 44 51 31 00. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The French Embassy in the U.K can be found at 58 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7JT. Telephone: (020) 7073 1000. Email: email@example.com.
The climate here is warm and temperate with rain common in all seasons. The least amount of rainfall occurs in July while the wettest month is November. The temperatures are highest on average in July (25 Celsius) and lowest in January (7 Celsius).
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.
There are no specific health risks in this area.
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.
There is electricity at each overnight stop for guests to charge cameras and phones. Some accommodations have limited access to WiFi and phone signal but not all.
We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. You will have a saddlebag for small items during the ride, the rest of your luggage will be transferred by car to each new location. Soft luggage bags are recommended.
• Riding Helmet - these are mandatory and we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384.
• 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
• Fleece - Although the weather is generally very warm, the evenings can be a bit cooler
• 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 wise idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take inset 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
This is an 7 day/6 night programme with riding on 5 days available on set dates throughout the year. Other dates are available on request for groups of 3 or more.
2019: 7 May; 2, 7, 27 Jun; 8, 29 Sept; 13 Oct. Other dates available on request.
Due to the nature of the accommodation, single rooms are not usually available, however it is sometimes possible to arrange. Supplements will apply - please enquire.
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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).
Deer, fox and many types of bird.
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.