A real cattle drive in Europe, join the adventure! Get ready for some intense days filled with nature, team work and interacting with our horses, dogs and of course, cows. We move a herd of cattle from the coast high into the Pyrenean summer pastures on a one way trail. Here they can enjoy an ideal environment and good weather conditions.
This journey is filled with challenges typical of any cattle drive. Therefore everyone has to be prepared to collaborate and to work as a team. This is not just a simple tourist trek through the mountains. We have a goal: to get the herd to their destination totally intact and this will require problem-solving and everybody’s best effort. Some of the difficulties may be crossing roads with traffic, dense woodlands, small rivers and unpredictable weather. We will encounter valleys, high mountains and paths so small that you may think you cannot go along them with a herd. You will enjoy places to rest, take in the view and have a breath of fresh air, all while attending to animals - a brand new experience every day! This special trek only takes place once a year. Accommodation is a mix of hotels (where available) and a few nights camping.
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 JN of Banbury on 13/06/2017
Day 1 - Welcome to Can Grau
Can Sort serves as a gateway to the delightful region of l'Empordà and will welcome us to the start of our cattle drive experience.
Before dinner you will be told about the special characteristics of our Arabian crossed and Paint trail horses. You will be given an introduction to the week’s programme with an opportunity for a one-to-one conversation designed to find every rider their perfect horse. Then you can enjoy a fantastic dinner!
Note you must bring a sleeping bag and a mat for the nights we camp out, which will be on Wednesday and Thursday. Try to bring only the bare necessities you need with you, apart from proper riding gear including clothes for wet conditions. Above all, come prepared for a great time and in good shape to withstand 6 hours of daily riding.
Day 2 - The Trail Begins
After breakfast and tacking up, we leave Can Grau following a ridge with spectacular views of forests full of rosemary and thyme. Up to the Fluviá, out onto the rolling hills and plains, we canter and gallop through olive groves and fields of wheat, past country farmhouses and churches and into the foothills of the Empordà. Today we’ll not ride with the cattle, but prepare our team strategy to work tomorrow in perfect co-ordination.
Our destination is to the charming Hotel Mas Pau or Mas Jonquer where you will enjoy a dinner with the cattle herder who will explain the organisation and precautions to ride with the cattle tomorrow.
Day 3 - Meet the Cattle
After having breakfast, we will pick up our horses and prepare to begin our journey. Today, the cattle have already started at 5:45am with the herder, our cattle expert, from the farm owned by the “Moixa”.
The route we will take to reach our first stop in Sant Lorenç de la Muga, where we will meet the cattle and the herder, we ride through typical Mediterranean brush wood forest, thick with bushes and calcareous soil. This is a rocky area with old buildings of traditional rural architecture like shelters for herders and small stone walls. When we reach the St. Quirze d’Olmells shrine, the vegetation will change completely, and become a Mediterranean forest which will continue until we reach the plains of Palau Surroca and the castle of La Roca. From here onto Terrades we will take a short rest beside the Saint Sebastià shrine. We will climb the Serallonga mountain chain. From this altitude we will be able to see the Boadella marshland and follow it down until it becomes the Muga river, which will then take us to St. Llorens de la Muga for lunch.
After a two-hour break, we will resume our journey with the cattle, which will take us down to Albanyà. Once we arrive we will go to the Bassegoda Camp Site, where we will have dinner and spend the night, leaving our horses with the cattle in a nearby field. Here we will stay in small wooden bungalows. This is an ideal place for wildlife lovers in the middle of nature. It is a door to the wild, for during the following 48 hours the only traces of civilization we will find are some chapels from the eleventh and twelfth centuries and a few houses in ruins. There is no phone signal during this time.
Day 4 - Crossing the Massif of Bassegoda
Yes folks, wake up time is 7am and after breakfast we will go to the field where our horses are and prepare everything for the two next days which will include breathtaking views and fresh air. At lunch time, we will join the cattle that have started off earlier in the morning. From now on we will stop seeing roads and cars and we will enter the Massif of Bassegoda (895m/2936.351ft) that dominates the entire valley. We will follow the paths parallel to the "torrent of Píncaro", a tributary of the Muga River. This will take us towards the Coll de Bassegoda and the Coll del Principi (1172m/3845.114ft).
Here, on this vast open plain of red pine woodlands, we will once again join the cattle. We ride together to the “comella” house for our picnic and leave the cattle here. We will then ride to the “Morato” where we will set up camp with tents, campfires and spend a lovely evening, leaving the horses to graze freely around us.
The cultural value of this valley is of great importance. There are about 15 sanctuaries, shrines and monasteries, all dating between the years 980ad and 1200ad. The most important are Sant Pere de Albanyà, Sant Bartomeu del Pincaró, Sant Miquel de Bassegoda and Sant Julià de Ribelles.
Day 5 - A Silence and Natural World
After breakfast we will round up our horses and get everything ready to start the day’s route. We have to pick up the cattle at la “Comella” house, where we left them the previous day.
We will set off with a soft zigzag descent, following and crossing the river. We ride past La Comella house which gives its name to the river we have been following. We will also ride past St. Julià de Ribelles, leaving the path to the Muga hostel to our right, then following the route towards the plains of Morató that get their water supply from the Muga river. Here we leave the cattle here to spend the night and we will have our daily picnic.
After having something to eat we will rest and, if the weather’s good (and you’re brave enough!), we will be able to have a swim in the clear waters of the river.
Day 6 - Back to Civilisation
A 6am start this morning and after an authentic cowboy breakfast we will tack our horses up. Once we have all helped to gather together the cows, we make our way along a very narrow path which is surrounded by dense woods. We will encounter an extremely thick forest where we have to protect ourselves from branches and, at the same time, make sure not to let any of the cows out of our sight. To our left we will see the Pic de les Bruixes, which literally means the “Witches’ Peak”. A precipice will force us to go towards the Coll de les Falgueres, magically appearing as a clearing in the middle of this mysterious forest. By now we will have crossed the border into France where the paths will be wider and easier. From here on we will ride down to the river that crosses the village of La Manère and then up the other side towards the Coll del Malrem, crossing the border once again, this time back into Spain.
Once we have crossed a dense beech and oak tree forest and passed the Coll de Malrem, we will begin a gentle decent down to a road called Can França. Once we reach this location we will stop for our daily picnic. From here we will continue driving the cattle until we reach a small village called Rocabruna where we will spend the night at a rural tourist hostel located within a typical forest of the Garrotxa.
Day 7 - Searching for the Eternal Spring
Today we are allowing you to sleep till 8am and after having a typical Catalan breakfast we will tack our horses up for the last time. We will then fetch the cattle and lead the herd towards the Rocabruna road, continuing from there to a village called Font-Rubí. We will begin our last descent down through the Coll Pregon until we reach the village of Camprodon, which we will cross as the cattle path still passes directly through the middle of the village. Regional and tourist people are waiting for us... our arrival is spectacular!
Then we will take the road to Setcases and make our last stop at the Moixa farm of Llanars where we will leave the cattle and the horses, marking the end of our cattle herding trek. Once we have had some lunch we will dedicate the afternoon to a nice rewarding rest at the Hotel Camprodon.
Day 8 - Adios Amigos!
Breakfast and transfer from the hotel to the airport at time agreed, we hope to see each other again soon!
Please note the hotels named in this itinerary are subject to change without notice for another hotel of similar standard
It is not possible for non-riders to join this trail.
Transfers: 2019: payable locally - €90 pp return from Barcelona (18:00 pick-up, 11:30 drop-off, 2hrs) or €60 pp from Girona (19:30 pick-up, 10:30 drop-off, 45min).
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 horses used for rides are well schooled pure or crossbred Andalusians and Paint. They have all been carefully chosen and most are between 14.2hh (150cm) and 16hh (165cm) and are of a medium build. They are sure-footed, fit, forward going, responsive to ride and well adapted to the requirements of the sometimes rough terrain. The horses are all trained using natural horsemanship techniques which helps to create an enthusiastic, good natured horse that is keen to collaborate with its rider and really enjoys its work.
The tack is English and trekking style and most horses are ridden in snaffles. English saddles and trekking saddles are utilised. Saddle bags are provided to carry items required during the day and for picnic lunches. You will be paired with a suitable horse based on your experience and preferences, but if for any reason after the first day you feel that you are not well matched then just let your guide know and you will be given another horse.
To participate in this trip you must be a reasonably competent rider (English style). You should be well balanced, comfortable and secure in the saddle and able to control a well-schooled horse outside at all paces. Riders are expected to be able to cope with a variety of different going and different types of terrain. All the rides are aimed at reasonably capable riders, who are also fairly fit and riding regularly.
The pace of the trail is varied with around 60% of the trail at a walk (when with the cattle), 30% trot and 10% canter.
Participants are expected to ride regularly in the months before they go to ensure they can cope with the hours in the saddle. There are also places on the rides where you will need to dismount and lead your horse - if the ground gets rough or steep, and for a short time to warm the horses up and cool them down each day. Riders are expected to groom and tack up their own horse each day in preparation for rides.
Your guide will go over the week's programme when you first arrive (usually at dinner on the first night), explaining the special characteristics of the Andalusian trail horse and of the tack used, then discussing each rider's ability, experience and their preference as to the kind of horse they would like to ride. A small selection of hard hats are available although we recommend you bring your own for fit and comfort. The minimum age for this ride is 14 years.
The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The start point of your trail is Can Grau, your hosts' base and where the horses are stabled. The guesthouse is surrounded by fields and forests and on-site is a swimming pool and large garden to relax in.
This trail has a mix of hotels where available (see list below) and a scenic camping location, carefully chosen to add to the experience of the Cattle Drive. They are all well located and offer friendly teams of staff who are ready to help.
For the 2 nights of camping small tents are used for 1, 2 or 3 riders. You will need to supply your own mat (preferably insulated) and sleeping bag - it could still be cold in June. Riders will wash in a nearby river. Please note there are no toilet tents but there are many trees surrounding your campsite (toilet roll is provided). The logistical team prepare hot food such as eggs and bacon for breakfast, tea, coffee, grilled meat and vegetables, soups, beans, home made cakes, fruits and nuts. Riders are expected to help with the erection and dismantling of tents.
At the various hotels the meals are plentiful and contain many typically Catalan dishes as well as regular European dishes. Breakfast is substantial, lunches are either saddle-bag picnics (extensive with quiche/salted cakes/chorizo/Catalan cured meat/fruit/cheese/ham/wine/biscuits/chocolate) or sit-down lunches at a table prepared by the back-up team (hot food/mixed salads/cheese/biscuits/fruit). Dinners are 3-4 course and accompanied by good local wines. A bottle of local cava is never far away and the atmosphere is very welcoming. The team always tries to showcase their regional and Catalan products resulting in beautifully prepared meals for all to enjoy!
Hotel List (please note this is for guidance only and hotels may be changed with no notice):
Can Sort www.canSort.com
Mas Pau www.maspau.cat
Camping Bassegoda Park www.bassegodapark.com
Can Soler www.rourevell.com
Hotel Camprodon www.hotelcamprodon.com
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.
Due to the interaction of Mediterranean and mountain climate in this region, you will find ideal conditions for horse back riding the whole year round. In spring the climate is mild, summer is not too hot, the autumn pleasantly warm and winter with its clear air, not too cold.
May/June can still get cold at night which is why it is recommended to take a good sleeping bag and an insulated camping mat with you on this holiday.
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
Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium). There is electricity available on 5 of the 7 nights to recharge cameras and batteries. There is some mobile phone reception.
We recommend wearing jodhpurs, as these protect your legs from soreness, and you will find a light-weight, cotton pair, more comfortable during the summer months.
Your riding boots should have a sole with tread and be comfortable for walking, as you are certain to lead your horse on some occasions. Jodhpur boots and half-chaps are a more flexible combination for comfort and leg protection than long riding boots.
A long-sleeved shirt is recommended for protection against the sun and against scratches when riding through undergrowth.
Comfortable shoes are a good idea for when not riding and plastic shoes/flip-flops are very useful for wearing in the river and to the toilet when camping.
Lightweight riding gloves are useful, as is a "bum bag" to contain your camera and any other items you may need during your ride.
A good sleeping bag
A camping mat (preferably insulated)
A pillowcase is a good idea as it can be stuffed with clothes to make a pillow
A pocket knife is useful to have but by no means essential.
A small lamp/torch to use while camping
Fresh towels for camping - including a hand towel
Hand wash/soap for camping
Plastic bags for wet/dirty clothes.
We strongly recommend taking a water-bottle, especially on trail rides, which can be refilled en-route; these can be carried in the saddle-bags provided.
A light cotton scarf can help to avoid breathing in too much dust in dry areas.
Bring sunglasses, also to protect your eyes from dust.
Suncream and lip balm are also recommended.
It is essential that you bring good wet weather gear. Although it rains very little, when it does it is normally a heavy downpour, consequently a jacket or cape and waterproof trousers are a good idea.
Please bring a photocopy of your travel insurance certificate with you.
Your quide will carry a First Aid kit but please take along your personal medication.
Last, but not least: do not forget your bathing suit!
This programme is 8 days/7 nights with 6 days riding on a set departure date in spring.
2020: 31 May
2020 early booking offer available until 31 July 2019.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||839|
|2020||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||865|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||929|
|2020||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||955|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||1,099|
|2020||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||1,129|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||10,369|
|2020||8d/7n||6||non-rider half board||10,649|
‘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
The flora and fauna in this region is plentiful and varied. On the plains you'll come across plenty of livestock such as herds of sheep and cattle as well as wild boar, wild horses, deer and many species of birds. As you climb higher into the mountains you may be lucky to see mountain goats and eagles soaring.
The flora is really special. Meadows of sweet smelling and colourful wild flowers such as rosemary, lavender, thyme and sunflowers. Walnut groves, beech and oak forests make for cool riding and provide perfect shade for a relaxing picnic.
Your luggage will be transported by vehicle every day and riders are asked to have a smaller piece of luggage for the 2 nights camping.
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.