Horse riding holiday visiting French castles
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Horseback riding in the French countryside
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Horseback vacation in France

This horse riding holiday follows part of the Route of Saint Jaques de Compostella, a section of the Camino de Santiago, along old paths from village to village in this quiet corner of Western France. Discover the French rural life by riding across farmland and staying in locally-run guesthouses. This ride incorporates visits to three different castles tucked away in the countryside, passing lakes and crossing rivers to get from one to the other. When the weather is warm there is even the opportunity to take the horses swimming.

The terrain here is gentle and forgiving, allowing for plenty of long trots and canters through woodland, alongside hedgerows and rivers all teeming with wildlife, and even along an old railway line.

This ride can be done in full, or be done as a shorter 5 day/4 night option starting on either Day 1 (Limouzine) or Day 4 (Valley of Vienne).

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Please find an example itinerary for the full St Jaques de Compostells ride below.
First half: Those taking the shorter option ‘Limouzine’ would depart for home on the morning of Day 5 after breakfast.
Second half: Those taking the shorter option ‘Valley of Vienne’ arrive in the afternoon of Day 4 in time for dinner and would follow the itinerary from Day 5.

Day 1
You will be met at the airport and transferred to the farm where your holiday will begin. There will be a chance to meet the horses before dinner and have a chat with the guides.

Day 2
Today you will be riding in the hilly landscapes around the town of Limouzine. You will see lots of livestock in the fields you ride through including the muscled Limousin cows which originate from here. The paths take you under big old oaks and past hedgerows until you reach a lake with a natural spring. Here you will stop for a picnic lunch. The afternoon ride offers up views across the town as you make your way to your overnight stop. This is at an old farm which has its own impressive view of Serre Castle.

Day 3
After breakfast you will ride along the old tracks through the valley of the Vienne spotting castles from different periods across history. You will stop at one of these, the medieval castle of Saint Germain de Confolens, for lunch. While the horses have a rest you can look around the castle and the church next door. Back on the horses, you will cross a ford through the river Issoire to see the granite farms on the other side. The route to your accommodation takes you through the ancient Monette woods.

Day 4
The trail today continues through the valley of the Vienne as you ride to Fondaube Lake where you will stop for lunch. Here you have the chance to take the horses swimming in the lake which is always great fun. You will be crossing several fords on your way back to the farm in the afternoon.
Riders joining the ‘Valley of Vienne’ trip will arrive at the farm this afternoon in time for dinner and to meet the group.

Day 5
Riders on the ‘Limouzine’ trip will leave today after breakfast. The rest of the group will mount up and set out to follow the route of Saint Jaques de Compostella. Leaving the farm through a ford in the River Blourde, the morning’s ride takes you through fields where you get lovely views of the lakes in the surrounding area. You arrive at Adriers where you can see the old fortified church and visit a local carpenter. Lunch is taken at the side of lake looking across to the church tower. If the weather is nice you can take the horses for a swim in the lake. You will cross a small bridge over the stream to get to Nérignac in the valley of the Bloude. Your accommodation is in a house very close to the river and when the weather is nice you can sit out on granite blocks in the water to enjoy your aperitif before dinner.

Day 6
Today you will ride through the village of Moussac with its mérovingien gravestones from the 5th and 6th centuries. You will also get a good view of the medieval castle, La Messelière. The path takes you along a beautiful stretch of the Vienne to Fougereau Castle, which is said to be haunted. If the castle is open you will stop here for lunch and to have a look around, otherwise lunch will be in nearby Queaux. In the afternoon you cross the bridge of the Rallerie and enjoy a few trots and canters on the other side of the river to your overnight accommodation.

Day 7
On this last day of riding you will continue to follow the trails through the valley of the Vienne to a private lake which you can ride the horses through. Lunch is taken on the banks of the Vienne with a view of the impressive viaduct in L’Isle Jourdain. In the afternoon you can enjoy some canters along the old railway line as you head back to the farm.

Day 8
Depart after breakfast.

Please note that this itinerary may also run in reverse.

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.

Horses & Riding

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.

Rider requirements

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.

Weight Limit

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 rustic farmhouses, most still attached to working farms. The twin rooms are comfortable and traditionally styled. There is also the option to have a third bed in the room. Bathrooms are shared. There is a common area at each of the farms 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.

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

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).

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 specific health risks in this area.

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 at each overnight stop for guests to charge cameras and phones. Some accommodations have limited access to WiFi and phone signal but not all.

Packing List

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
• Sunhat
• Sunglasses
• 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

Programmes

This ride has either an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding, or a 5 day/4 night programme with 3 days riding on set dates. Other dates available on request.

Departure Dates

2019 St Jacques de Compostella 8d/7n: 27 Apr; 8 Jun; 6, 20 Jul; 3, 17 Aug; 26 Oct.
2019 Limouzine 5d/4n) 30 Apr; 11 Jun;9, 23 Jul; 6, 20 Aug; 29 Oct.
2019 Valley of Vienne 5d/4n) 27 Apr; 8 Jun; 6, 20 Jul; 3, 17 Aug; 26 Oct.

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

Due to the nature of the accommodation, single rooms are not usually available, however it is sometimes possible to arrange - please enquire.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2019 St Jacques de Compostella8d/7n6double pp1,115
2019 Valley of Vienne5d/4n3double pp569
2019 Limouzine5d/4n3double pp569
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2019 St Jacques de Compostella8d/7n6double pp1,249
2019 Valley of Vienne5d/4n3double pp639
2019 Limouzine5d/4n3double pp639
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2019 St Jacques de Compostella8d/7n6double pp1,439
2019 Valley of Vienne5d/4n3double pp735
2019 Limouzine5d/4n3double pp735
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2019 St Jacques de Compostella8d/7n6double pp13,109
2019 Valley of Vienne5d/4n3double pp6,679
2019 Limouzine5d/4n3double pp6,679
Wildlife

Deer, fox, and many types of bird.

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):
Poitiers airport
Transfer:
2019: from Poitiers or Limoges airport, €40 per person return. Payable on site.
Flight Guide:
London Stansted to Poitiers PIS from £45
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