Discover the Emerald Isle's beautiful nature and colourful history on horseback. Cover 140 miles of the west of Ireland, from County Galway, through the rural areas of County Clare, into the unique Burren region and on to the rough Atlantic coast overlooking the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

The word "Burren" comes from an Irish word "Boíreann", meaning a rocky place. The Burren is one of the finest examples of a Glacio-Karst landscape in the world, with rich flora and fauna despite the rugged and bleak terrain. It also has a wonderfully vibrant culture, possibly captured best in the fascinating agricultural traditions that have evolved in the area over thousands of years. The physical evidence of this remarkable story of human interaction with a landscape still lingers in the Burren - a cultural resource of enormous significance.

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 JT of on 21/09/2017

Ride Summary
Wonderful. I can't praise it highly enough. Fabulous horses, trails, people, food, accommodation. Everything was perfect. My only complaint is that it inevitably had to come to an end.
What was your overall impression of the holiday

Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify) Organisation. I was so well taken care of. UT prove the true value of booking through an agent.     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments The hosts and guide were exceptionally knowledgable and made it their mission to make sure that each person had a fantastic holiday.
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments Horses were incredibly well mannered and capable. Absolutely stunning and the degree of care and respect for their welfare shown by hosts and guides alike (which is so exceptionally important) was outstanding.
Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (X) Excellent     (   ) 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     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response The weather was changeable but just as I expected given the destination. The holiday was exactly as advertised just better.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response I felt very well informed. No surprises.
What could we do to improve this ride? Make it twice as long! There's really nothing that could have been done better.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced? 6
Please explain why you scored it as you did The horses are very well mannered and they certainly know their job. The terrain is changeable (as is the weather) but that's one of the things that attracted me to this trail.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response I have recommended UT and this trail widely already.
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments You need to take this trail! The memories will last me a lifetime.
Unicorn comments Thank you for your feedback Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1 - Failte to Ireland
Arrival at Shannon Airport. You will be transferred to your booked guesthouse or hotel in the Whitegate/Mountshannon area at the shores of scenic Lough Derg. The transfer from Shannon to Whitegate approximately 1.5 hours. You will be staying here for the first four nights. On the arrival day you can just relax and recover from your journey, or take a stroll on the well mapped nearby East Clare Walking Trail. For the more adventurous among you, there is also the possibility to go on a guided boat tour to the historical Holy Island with its monastic settlement of the 9th century (approximately 10 Euros). In the evening, you will get to know all your fellow riders for this week. You will have dinner in the tastefully restored 300 year old farmhouse by candlelight and open turf fire.

Day 2 - Binor Ride
After breakfast you will be brought to the start of the trail, where your guide will allocate the horses to you according to your experience.  Every rider can then get used to his own horse for the week by brushing and tacking it itself, don't worry there are always lots of helping hands around you! You will then leave for an easy ride into the surrounding peaceful forests of the Slieve Aughty Mountains. For the lunch break you will be back at the riding centre for a rest. In the afternoon the horses will bring you through the rural farming land in County Galway and the huge area of heather and bog land using the old tracks of the historical Sarsfield Ride. You will leave your horses in a field where they stay overnight and you will be driven back to your accommodation for a relaxing evening.

Day 3 - Inis Cealtra Ride
Today's ride will bring you up over the hills of the Slieve Aughty Mountains with fascinating views over the majestic Lough Derg and River Shannon. Along the track you will be pass old farm ruins and miles of stonewalls and your guide will tell you about Ireland's most significant incident in history... About 150 years ago many farms and villages were left because of the Famine. This was the time of the severe potato disease, which destroyed the sole source of food supply for the rural and poor Irish peasant and his stock for a couple of years. In addition to that a Typhus and Cholera epidemic enforced the disaster, leading to a flood of millions of people emigrating to other countries or starving from hunger. Knowing about those times you will greet the tasty lunch waiting for you, before you head across the extensive areas of bog land in the afternoon. There you will pass local farmers cutting and drying the turf in the traditional way. A Neolithic dolmen, with the legendary name, Oisin's and Grainne's Grave, beside the track proves that this area was already mystified about 5000 years ago. Much younger (about 9th century) are the ruins of a monastic settlement on Holy Island, which you can easily spot by the well kept typical round tower.

Day 4 - Lough Graney Ride
Leaving the sheltered pasture you will head this morning for the top of the hills again overlooking endless woods and grazing land to the north, west and south. Long before you get there you will be able to spot way below you the sandy shores of Lough Graney where you are heading for. The beach invites you to a canter along the water and on the trails going right across the refreshing lake! The ride in the later afternoon will take you through the typical farmland of rural Ireland with its juicy green fields and the endless old stonewalls surrounding the peacefully grazing sheep and cattle.

Day 5 - Glandaria Ride
Today's lovely wood tracks will take you further westwards overlooking Glandaria (the valley of the Kings) the wide fertile valley of the River Shannon, where hundreds of years ago Ireland's kings used to settle. After the lunch break near a typical mountain river you will cross the boggy uplands. County Clare will unfold all around you and in the distance you will be able to see the rising hills of the famous Burren National Park. On a clear day you will even get the first glimpse of Galway Bay. This afternoon your horse will be transferred by lorry across the busy valley to tomorrow's start at the Mullaghmore Mountain in the Burren. You will be staying tonight in the charming village of Corofin with its countless pubs.

Day 6 - Mullaghmore Ride
Those on the 6 day/5 night option will depart for the airport after breakfast. For those on the longer trail, the totally different and unique scenery of the world renowned Burren will accompany you for the next two days. The moon like landscape of this limestone area bears not only an immensely colourful flora and fauna with a large number of very rare species, but also reveals a stunning variety of prehistoric settlements. Dolmens and Wedge Tombs line up next to Norman stone fort ruins and Celtic ring forts. Close to a fulacht fiadh, an ancient cooking site, you will enjoy your lunch. It is amazing how many eye-catching sites this vast landscape can offer. The next two nights you will be staying in the Lisdoonvarna area, which is famous for the traditional music in the pubs.

Day 7 - Atlantic Coast Ride
Today you will head westwards through the Burren, learning about the impressive Poulnabrone Dolmen, and the huge and dangerous cave systems in this special area. You will rest for lunch overlooking the story telling rocky landscape. After the break you will lead your horse up the last hill for the breathtaking view over the Atlantic Sea, the famous Aran Islands and the rugged Connemara Mountains. The extremely rough shore of County Clare will stretch out under you for your last gallop. In the glittering afternoon sunlight the impressive silhouette of the Cliffs of Moher will rise in front of you. Near the ruins of the spooky looking Ballinalaken Castle your ride ends.

Day 8 - Slan Abhaile
After breakfast you will be transferred back to the airport for your onwards journey.

Please follow this link for a map of this itinerary: Clare-Burren Trail


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.

Round Ireland With A Fridge - Tony Hawks
Culture Shock! Ireland - Patricia Levy
Bushmills Irish Pub Guide - Sybil Taylor
The Dubliners - J.Joyce
Mother Ireland - Edna O’ Brien
Barrytown Trilogy - R. Doyle
Woodbrook - David Thomson

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 is a wide variety of Irish bred horses and something to suit everyone, from schoolmasters to very forward going mounts. All are ridden in English tack. You are welcome to bring your own saddle although there is no guarantee that you can use it, it depends of course on the adaptability of the saddle and the fit on the horse you will be riding.

Rider requirements

You must be comfortable at all paces. The minimum age for this ride is 8 years.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/200 lb/91 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The overnight stops are either at the comfortable farmhouse at the start/end of the trail or in small hotels/B&Bs along the route. Breakfasts can be either the 'full Irish' or continental; picnic lunches are prepared each day ready for the rider to take with them. Evening meals will either be back at the farmhouse or in the villages where you stay overnight.

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

Climate Summary

Mild, but changeable, due to the modifying effect of the North Atlantic Drift ocean current; rainfall is plentiful, although highest in the west.The weather is very similar to the UK's in that it could be wet and warm or cold and bright any day in the season. It's best to bring clothes that can be layered and a good waterproof jacket.

Climate Chart
Health (ride specific)

None specific

Packing List

Light summer clothing is needed on summer departure dates, also waterproofs!

Riding helmets are required. The hosts do have some helmets available for guest use.

Two pairs of riding trousers, half chaps are recommended
Riding gloves
Jersey, warm jacket (Spring and Autumn)
Shorts
Long sleeve shirts, T-shirts
Waterproofs (no rain capes, please, as they can flap and spook the horses!)
Sun block
Camera on a shoulder strap with a pouch which can be secured to your belt
Binoculars
Lightweight riding boots.

A small bag/bumbag for carrying items whilst riding, or you can bring your own saddlebags.

Programmes

This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available every Saturday from April to end September. The programme is also available as a 6 day/5 night trip with 4 days riding from Saturday to Thursday.

Departure Dates

2018: Saturday arrivals from 31 March to 22 September (high season June, July and August).

Pricing
Single supplement must be paid if booking alone.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2017 Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,055
2017 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement105
2017 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider505
2017 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,139
2017 High Season8d/7n6single supplement105
2017 High Season8d/7n6non-rider505
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp1,115
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement115
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider525
2018 6d/5n6d/5n4double pp785
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp1,209
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement115
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider525
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2017 Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,195
2017 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement119
2017 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider569
2017 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,289
2017 High Season8d/7n6single supplement119
2017 High Season8d/7n6non-rider569
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp1,235
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement129
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider579
2018 6d/5n6d/5n4double pp865
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp1,339
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement129
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider579
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2017 Low Season8d/7n6double pp1,415
2017 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement139
2017 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider675
2017 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,529
2017 High Season8d/7n6single supplement139
2017 High Season8d/7n6non-rider675
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp1,465
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement149
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider689
2018 6d/5n6d/5n4double pp1,025
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp1,585
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement149
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider689
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2017 Low Season8d/7n6double pp11,855
2017 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement1,179
2017 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider5,655
2017 High Season8d/7n6double pp12,795
2017 High Season8d/7n6single supplement1,179
2017 High Season8d/7n6non-rider5,655
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp12,249
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement1,249
2018 Low Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider5,755
2018 6d/5n6d/5n4double pp8,579
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6double pp13,295
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6single supplement1,249
2018 High Season 8d/7n8d/7n6non-rider5,755
Wildlife

The world-renowned Burren region is famous for its glacial flora and fauna. An immense variety of flowers, shrubs and trees burst into bloom every year. The influence of the Gulf Stream with its warm, moist and "soft" air stream and the very small winter/summer temperature differential enhances the growth of many commonly known plants, as well as several rare kinds of flora. No wonder the local farmers praise every day as it comes "grand soft day today, thank the Lord!"

The diverse landscape offers great shelter and plenty of food supply for a large variety of animals. The common ones as deer, fox, hare and pheasant can often be spotted from the horse. More difficult to find are the badger and the pine martin. Ireland's large bird population is evident where ever you go. And if you are lucky you could even see some, like the grouse, which are getting dangerously close to extinction.

The showy butterflies with up to 30 species dance through the summer air.

The abundance of lakes and rivers in Ireland attract course and game anglers alike. Often you can spot the pike lying in the shallow waters, taking in the heat of the summer sun. In the clear waters the lively Salmon and Trout challenge every anglers skill.
The peat or bog land is one of Ireland’s great natural assets, not only as an energy source, but as some of its last wild areas. It can be difficult and dangerous to access. But as long as you stay on the old bog roads,you will be alright. In some places you could even spot the Celtic toughers still crossing the bogs.

Other Activities

Walking; cycling; fishing; boat hire (on Lough Derg and the River Shannon); golf.

Other Country Information

Ireland is a land of almost mythical beauty, often wild and windswept it is said there are fifty shades of green in the landscape but none of them are jaded. The Irish seem to have been put on the earth to restore faith in humanity, their charm and delight in spinning a good tale will entertain you for hours.

The pub culture in Ireland is part of the national identity. The folk music traditional has been unhindered here and live, spontaneous music is actively encouraged- you will often stumble across a raucous singalong fired by Guiness and whiskey. The ban on smoking in public places is now in force in Ireland and, with fines of up to €3,000 for ignoring it, a lively sub-culture can now be found on the pavements outside Irelands plentiful watering holes huddled against the often biting wind.

They are famed for their love and skill with horses, in racing Irish trainers and jockeys are among the best in the world, and the wild ponies of the Connemara in Galway crop up in many myths and legends in Irish folklore. In some areas you will often see kids messing around on horses with nothing but a headcollar and a handful of mane.

Ireland is on GMT and they use imperial weights and measures, so inches, feet, pounds and stones. The international dialling code is +353.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Shannon Airport (SNN)
Transfer:
2018: €35 per person each way, €40 after 8pm. Transfer time is approx 1.5 hours. Transfer fee is payable on site.
Flight Guide:
London - Shannon from £50 return. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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