These trips are suitable for intermediate riders onwards who want to take part in a real cattle drive, the only one in the UK.
Farms bordering Dartmoor are able to keep a certain number of cattle, sheep and Dartmoor ponies on the moor. The guide is a farmer who moves his 400 Scottish Highland cattle to new grazing areas each month using quarter horses which are perfectly adapted for this task. During the drive, riders work as a team with most flanking at the sides of the herd with just a couple at the rear and one or two at the head. Each rider will have a position and a job to do, depending on their ability. As well as the move for grazing purposes the cattle need to be separated, brought down for breeding/vet visits and various other routine tasks.
This is a real cattle drive which happens to take place on the spectacular Dartmoor landscapes. Riders will be riding through woodland, along valleys, up steep inclines, across rivers and over hill tops with breathtaking views from the top of the moor. Accommodation is provided in a comfortable inn or hotel in a traditional Dartmoor village. Dates are limited as drives are only offered when there is work to be done. They do book up quickly so we advise booking as early as possible.
Photo credit: Snelgrove Photography
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 PS of Killingworth on 13/09/2023
**If joining for the three night option you will arrive pm/evening on Day 1 and depart after riding on Day 4 (around 5.00pm) **
Arrive in Dartmoor in the afternoon or evening and check in to the accommodation. The hosts will meet riders at the accommodation at around 8pm for a briefing on the coming week.
Riders are collected from the accommodation after breakfast (around 10am) and transferred to the stables to be paired with one of the horses. Today is a trail ride of approx. 4 hours, to ensure everyone is matched correctly to their horse. A saddlebag picnic lunch will be eaten on the trail. Riders are returned to the accommodation in time for dinner.
For the following days, riders be collected each morning at 10am and ride for between 4-5 hours each day. The cattle work varies depending on the time of year, and may involve taking cattle from the farm to their summer grazing, or bringing them in for weaning, calving, running with the bull etc. After riding, the group are able to refuel with tea and cakes and have a chat about the days' adventures. Riders are returned to the accommodation at round 5pm. Evening meal is not included, but the accommodation has a restaurant.
Departure day. Enjoy a last breakfast at the accommodation before saying goodbye to the hosts.
The Cattle Driving Year:
May: ‘Spring cattle turn-out’
The cows and autumn-born calves are moved from their winter quarters up on to the moor for the summer, a distance of about 8km.
June: ‘Bulling cow muster’
Some spring calving cows need to be brought down to the farm to run with the bull for the summer.
July: ‘Calf weaning muster’
The cows and calves need to be brought back to the farm for weaning
August: ‘Late summer turn-out’
The cows that have been running with the bull for the summer are driven back to Dartmoor
September: ‘Cow & calf muster’
The freshly calved cows need to come down to better grazing near the farm as winter approaches.
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 is a selection of fantastic Quarter Horses and Paints at this ranch. Known for their calm attitude and appetite for work, all are western trained, very surefooted, a pleasure to ride, and cross the terrain with ease. Heights range from 14.3hh to 16.2hh. The hosts for this ride often start and back their own horses to suit the type of work as they all must be sensible with good manners. In total there are 15 horses, all are fit, forward-going and sure-footed on the Dartmoor terrain. Riders do need to be reasonably fit as there is between 4-5 hours in the saddle each riding day. Hard hats are compulsory at this destination and the ranch has some available to borrow but we recommend bringing your own if possible.
The tack is all Western. For those who haven't ridden Western before, it is fairly easy for intemediate riders to pick up and some find it a lot more comfortable than a traditional English saddle!
Driving Cattle - 'The fastest way to move cattle is slowly!’
Cattle respond well to being moved by horses. Horses are quiet and the cattle are used to them and not threatened. The horse walks at much the same speed as the cattle and often anticipate the cattle movements. The riders work as a team with most flanking at the sides of the herd, with just a couple at the rear, and one or two at the head. Each rider will have a position and a job to do, depending on their ability.
There is always a lead cow - she is usually an older matriach cow. Each spring, the young calves go out with their mothers to learn their grazing areas, where the water is and where to return home to. On Dartmoor the herds grazing area is called their ‘lear’ and each owners herd of cattle will have its own ‘lear’.
This is a progressive ride for intermediate riders onwards who are comfortable riding with loose cattle. Riders should be confident and in control riding at a walk, trot and canter in open countryside. The terrain involves crossing streams, shallow rivers, undulating ground and up and down steep inclines, and would not be suitable for novice or inexperienced riders. The style of riding at this ranch is very much akin to ‘Natural Horsemanship’. Riders should be relaxed in the saddle and ride with soft hands.
Age range is 18 to 65. The upper age limit is discretionary depending on rider fitness and experience, please speak to your travel advisor for more information. The maximum weight is 15 Stone (95kg). Riders are welcome to help with grooming and saddling their own horses but this is not compulsory.
The weight limit for this ride is 210 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is provided at a local inn or hotel, depending on availability. All the accommodation has twin or double rooms with en-suite bathrooms, a TV and on-site restaurant. Single rooms are available for a supplement, this is not payable if guests are happy to share (and a sharer can be found). Guests normally stay at The Castle Inn (or similar), a beautifully traditional 16th century Devonshire pub with rooms. All rooms include towels and have wifi.
Breakfasts are provided by the accommodation and are usually buffet style offering a choice of a continental breakfast; think pastries, cereal, yogurt, fruit, or a traditional full English; bacon, eggs, beans, toast etc. Lunch is a picnic eaten at a picturesque spot on the trail. The picnic usually includes sandwiches, crisps, fruit and a biscuit. Dinner is not included but can be provided by the accommodation you stay at (usually modern British cuisine such as fish and chips, burgers, pies) or at other local eateries which your host will be happy to recommend.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.
NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures
Passport and Visa 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 should you need a visa.
In the US travel advice is available from: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/UnitedKingdom.html
In Canada travel advice is available from:: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/united-kingdom
Along with the rest of South West England, Dartmoor has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than locations at similar height in the rest of England. January and February are the coldest months with mean minimum temperatures around 1 °C (34 °F). July and August are the warmest months. On the highest ground, in the north of the moor, the growing season is less than 175 days – this contrasts with some 300 days along most of the south coast of the county. The weather is very chaneable though so we recommend being prepared for hot days, sudden heavy rain as well as cold winds and basking sunshine at any time of year. This ride involves travelling from 800 ft up to 2000 ft, where the temperature is cooler so we recommend dressing in layers.
COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.
Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in the UK and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.
In United Kingdom the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.
Electricity is available at your accommodation for charging camera batteries. Free Wifi is usually available at your evening accommodation.
Your hosts farm sits at 800 ft, and you'll ride up to 2,000ft where it can be quite a bit cooler than at the farm so we strongly recommend warm riding wear and good riding waterproofs, a long slicker type is usually the most practical.
Riding hat - these are mandatory. There is a limited supply of hats at the farm so we recommend bringing your own
Boots with heels are also mandatory
Comfortable warm riding wear, jeans, polo shirts, jumpers, fleece shower-proof coat etc.
Chaps - full or half (optional)
Waterproof coat, ‘Drizabone’ slicker type is recommended
Lip balm and sun cream
Casual evening wear
This is a 6 night or 3 night ride available on set dates between April and October.
2023: ALL DATES NOW FULL!
2024 6 nights: 21* May; 9 June; 14 July; 11 Aug; 28* Aug.
(* denotes 6 night stays only with one night camp-out)
2024 3 nights 29 April; 21, 28 July; 24 Sept.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,599|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||159|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||1,439|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||975|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||95|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||1,169|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||119|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,919|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||179|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||1,729|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,849|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||185|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||1,665|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||1,125|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||109|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||1,349|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||139|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||2,245|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||209|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||2,025|
|Riding days||Product item description||US $|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||2,019|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||205|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||1,819|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||1,229|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||119|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||1,419|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||145|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||2,425|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||229|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||2,185|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||21,439|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||2,145|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||19,299|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||13,065|
|2023 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||1,275|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||double pp||15,679|
|2024 - 3 nights||4d/3n||3||single supplement||1,609|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||26,389|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement||2,475|
|2024 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||Glamping option||23,779|
The ‘Games Room’
Here you can relax with its log burning stove, full size snooker table, pool table, dart board & multi-gym.
Your hosts have their own 2 acre coarse fishing lake, plus there is a reservoir only a 15 minute walk.
The ‘Granite Way’ cycle route runs 300m from the farm, it follows part of the disused railway line that ran between Okehampton and Plymouth. Here you can cycle to Okehampton one way or approximately 10 miles in the other, exploring the small villages on the way.
There are numerous public footpaths on the farm. The nearby ‘bluebell woods’, an ancient oak and hazel wood is absolutely beautiful in May, plus there are the vast open spaces of Dartmoor National Park.
This ancient market town is 5 minutes by car or 15 along the cycle route. It has lots of shops where you can get whatever you need. Okehampton castle is worth a visit.
The Dartmoor Railway train service between Okehampton Station and Meldon Quarry is 500m from the farm.
Dartmoor is the largest and highest upland in southern Britain, exposed to strong winds and high rainfall. The soils are acidic and the area has been relatively undisturbed by intensive agriculture. These factors make the National Park especially interesting in terms of its wildlife.
Because of the climate and diversity of habitats there is a great diversity of species. Dartmoor is also an important reserve for those species that can withstand harsher conditions including some very rare plants and animals. Dartmoor is particularly noted for rare lichens, butterflies and other insects. There are also many birds of moors, heath and farmland to be found here.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country in western Europe. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, the United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to its east, the English Channel to its south and the Celtic Sea to its south-south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world and the 11th-largest in Europe. It is also the 21st-most populous country, with an estimated 65.1 million inhabitants. Together, this makes it the fourth-most densely populated country in the European Union. The capital of the United Kingdom and its largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million, the fourth-largest in Europe and second-largest in the European Union. Other major urban areas in the United Kingdom include the conurbations centred on Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. The United Kingdom consists of four countries—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The last three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers based in their capitals, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance. The monarch is now King Charles III following the passing of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned from 6 February 1952 until 8 September 2023. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain (which lies in the North Atlantic) in its centre and south; and includes over 100 smaller islands such as the Isles of Scilly, and the Isle of Wight. England's terrain mostly comprises low hills and plains, especially in central and southern England. However, there are uplands in the north (for example, the mountainous Lake District, and the Pennines) and in the southwest (for example, Dartmoor and the Cotswolds). England has a temperate maritime climate: it is mild with temperatures not much lower than 0 °C (32 °F) in winter and not much higher than 32 °C (90 °F) in summer. The weather is damp relatively frequently and is changeable. The coldest months are January and February, the latter particularly on the English coast, while July is normally the warmest month. Months with mild to warm weather are May, June, September and October. Rainfall is spread fairly evenly throughout the year. Scotland's only land border is with England, which runs for 60 miles (97 km) in a north-easterly direction from the Solway Firth in the west to the North Sea on the east coast. Scotland accounts for just under a third of the total area of the UK, covering 78,772 square kilometres (30,410 sq mi) and including nearly eight hundred islands, predominantly west and north of the mainland; notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. Scotland is the most mountainous country in the UK. The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous land, including Ben Nevis which at 1,343 metres (4,406 ft) is the highest point in the British Isles. The climate of Scotland is temperate and very changeable, but rarely extreme. Scotland is warmed by the North Atlantic Drift and given the northerly location of the country, experiences much milder conditions than areas on similar latitudes, such as Labrador in Canada - where icebergs are a common feature in winter. Wales accounts for less than a tenth of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres (8,020 sq mi). Wales is mostly mountainous, though South Wales is less mountainous than North and mid Wales. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia and include Snowdon which, at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft), is the highest peak in Wales. Wales has a maritime climate, the predominant winds being south-westerly and westerly, blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. This means that the weather in Wales is in general mild, cloudy, wet and windy. The country's wide geographic variations cause localised differences in amounts of sunshine, rainfall and temperature. Rainfall in Wales varies widely, with the highest average annual totals in Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, and the lowest near the coast and in the east, close to the English border. In July 2007, England is introducing a smoking ban in pubs and other public places, following on from the success of the scheme in Ireland. Be aware that there may be large fines for smoking in banned areas. The UK is on GMT time. Although most weights and measures are now metric (celsius, litres and kg) some imperial measures remain and distances are indicated in miles. The international dialling code is +44.