When I was a kid my dad sent me off to horseback riding camp for the summer. I fell in love with every part of horseback riding (except cleaning the stalls!) and will never forget the euphoric feeling I got while riding through the woods in Georgia. Surprisingly, until a few weeks ago I hadn’t been back on the saddle since then. The hubby doesn’t like heights so riding with him was never an option and until recently I never really had an opportunity to go riding without paying a TON of money.
When I found HilltopTreks and learned that not only would I be able to horseback ride through one of the most beautiful regions of Ireland, but also be able to tour around the Dublin mountains for a day I was hooked. I don’t typically enjoy “day-trips”, but HilltopTreks take a max 16 people and are in a cozy little van making the experience much better than the huge tour buses running all over Ireland. Read on to learn more about why I loved my day tour horseback riding through the mountains and exploring the beautiful Dublin mountains in County Wickow (nicknamed the “Garden of Ireland”).
The tour I took was of Wicklow and Glendalough, but you can also do a number of other day tours or a longer walking tour of Ireland with HilltopTreks.
- Timing: For the tour of Wicklow and Glendalough we were picked up in the city center at 9:30 in the morning and were back in Dublin by 5:30.
- Options: We had the options for our “activity” of horseback riding (€85), cycling (€85), or guided walk (€38). You could also choose to opt out of the activity and spend your time at Powerscourt Gardens (€7).
- What to wear: Regardless of your activity or what the forecast says I would highly suggest bringing rain gear and warmer clothes (it tends to be colder in the mountains than the city).
- What to bring: The area is GORGEOUS so I would suggest a camera and a light snack. For some reason I was starving after riding the horses and had a quick snack before we headed to lunch. You do have time to eat lunch at a local cafe so that’s good.
- Horseback riding specifics: For the horseback riding they provide boots and helmets, but if you have a boot with a heel I would wear it simply to save on comfort. For my friend we struggled to find her boots that properly fit and she just had to deal with larger than ideal boots. You don’t need to be experienced to ride the horses (they teach you everything).
You would think that horseback riding was enough for one day, but not with HilltopTreks! We not only rode horses through the mountains, but also toured around the mountains to see the infamous P.S. I Love You bridge, Guinness Lake, and finally over to Glendalough to spend some time admiring the monastic site and surrounding lake and valley.
Horseback riding time!
While I was excited to see the other places on the tour, I was most excited about the horseback riding. Once we arrived they helped us find the right boots and gave us a helmet and we were off to meet our horse. Now, I haven’t been on a horse since I was about 10 or 11 and I’m no spring chicken, so I listed myself as a “beginner”. They teach you everything in a really safe environment so this was no problem at all. Once we were brought over to our horses in the training area you get to meet your horse! This was the moment I realized how much I missed these beautiful animals.
After shaking off all the emotional feelings (am I 10 again?!?) they helped me climb onto my horse and began teaching us how to steer the horse, make them walk (and trot!), and stop. The lesson lasted for about 30 minutes and all of the horses we were riding were extremely easy to ride. My horse was one of the more “temperamental” of the bunch (she didn’t like to be followed so had to be the caboose) and she was still pretty easy to ride and control.
After the lesson we were off to ride around the surrounding woods. The surroundings were breathtaking and we were only on true road for a few minutes before we were riding through a trail through the countryside. Now please excuse the poor quality pictures. Remember how I said my horse was temperamental? What I really meant is she really liked grass. So anytime we stopped to take pictures, she just wanted to eat grass and would shake me every few seconds while she chomped down. Getting my camera out was utterly impossible so the next best thing was my very shaky phone camera.
After about 30-45 minutes of riding around it was time to head back and head to lunch. I was so sad to leave my horse, but my bottom was quite happy to be off the saddle. My inner thighs paid for my fun the next day, but it was so worth it.
Excuse the slightly blurry picture, but I couldn’t help but share my amazing time with @hilltoptreks a few weeks ago. Stay tuned for more on the blog soon but needless to say that riding horses through the hills of Ireland was an amazing experience. What’s your favorite adventurous thing to do when traveling? . . . . . . . . . #discoverireland #wanderlistoutdoors #ig_travel #irelanddaily #ig_ireland #irelanddaily #topirelandphoto #loveireland #tourismireland #hilltoptreks #wanderireland #instaireland #pocket_ireland #youririshadventure #living_europe #guardiantravelsnaps #travelawesome #travelstoke #passionpassport #worldcaptures #exploringtheglobe #wanderlust #welivetoexplore #besteuropepics #unlimitedeurope #europe_vacations #europe_gallery #topeurophoto #awesupply #bbctravel
A post shared by @bootsnotroots on May 22, 2017 at 11:18pm PDT
The next item on the agenda was lunch at a little cafe in Roundwood (near the horse riding center). It’s a pretty meaty menu, so if you are a vegetarian be warned (you are in small-town Ireland so it’s to be expected), but it was pretty decent food at a fair price. The hot tea and hot chicken with cornflakes and celery (yea I know it sounds odd..) after riding around in the cold was very much appreciated.
Touring around Wicklow
Tip: If you get car sick I would highly suggest bringing motion sick medicine. The roads in Wicklow are windy and bumpy and are not friendly to those who get motion sick.
Our first stop was to see the Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland’s tallest waterfall, from afar. The day we were touring happened to be extremely overcast and cold (hello, Ireland!) so it was a bit tougher to see. While we were admiring the view, the guide told us about the surrounding area and environment and we learned about the bog that we were standing on. Bog is a type of grass that contains a lot of water underneath the surface and has a bouncy feel when you step on it. In many cases the bog is too soft to step on without getting your feet super wet and it’s a common ground surface throughout Ireland.
After freezing our tails off looking at the waterfall it was time to head to the next stop — the famous P.S. I Love you Bridge. I don’t really watch movies (shocker!), but apparently, people travel all over the world to see this bridge. I hate to burst your movie bubble, but it’s about as exciting as the above picture. It looks like every other bridge in Ireland and may even be a little sadder than some other ordinary bridges. I got out, took a quick picture for all of you reading the blog, and hopped right back into the van to stay warm while the rest of the tour group ran around the bridge taking pictures. I’d say I made the right choice. 🙂
Next up is one of my favorite locations in Ireland. Can you tell what the lake above is supposed to look like? Yes, yes you’re right… it does look like a pint of the black stuff – Guinness! Hence the nickname — Guinness Lake. The Guinness estate is just to the right of the white sand. In the fall we visited this location and took cheesy couple pictures with our couple friends and despite the freezing wind (I don’t think it ever gets warm here) we had a blast. You might remember this picture from my Instagram since it was featured on Tourism Ireland’s insta account. http://web.archive.org/web/20180523055756if_/http://bootsnotroots.com/web/20180523060015/https://www.instagram.com/p/BM1JQiZDldH/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=7&wp=658&rd=bootsnotroots.com#%7B%22ci%22%3A1%2C%22os%22%3A130681.29999999702%7D
Wish you were here? @bootsnotroots Sometimes you just need a little squeeze and a nice view to make everything better ❤️ 🇮🇪 #wicklow #wicklowmountains #guinnesslake #lakes #lakeside #valleys #autumncolors #autumnday #autumnal #hikes #mountainwalk #wishyouwerehere #couplesgoals #loveireland #irland #irlande #irlanda
A post shared by Ireland (@tourismireland) on Nov 15, 2016 at 4:13am PST
Oh, Glendalough. I’ve been to Glendalough a number of times since moving to Ireland and every time something not so great happens. Once we were stuck in one of the worst downpours I’ve seen in Ireland and were soaked to the bone for the rest of the day on our tour. Another time I drove down here to take my friends hiking and I hit a bus. This time? It was PERFECT. We were dropped off in the parking lot and told that we had about an hour to an hour and a half to explore around before heading back to the van. My friends and I grabbed a cup of tea and started our very pleasant walk around the lake to the monastic city. The gorse was blooming, the temperatures were in the low teens (Celsius, not Fahrenheit) and my friends let me play photographer with them. 🙂
After about 20 minutes of a slow stroll filled with picture taking, we rounded the corner to reach the monastic city. The monastic city was founded in the 6th century and still contains the large round tower which was common among these settlements. Set in the valley of the mountains it’s picture perfect. Every time I’m here I can’t help but get chills admiring the beauty surrounding me. Glendalough never fails to remind me why I love this country so much.
After our time in Glendalough it was time to head back to Dublin. Despite the number of times I’ve been to this region, this was by far the best experience I had not only because of the beauty surrounding me, but also because of the ease and comfort of the entire trip. I never felt like the guide was just telling us stuff to fill the time (which often happens on these types of tours) and the experience felt really authentic. If you are in Ireland you HAVE to see the countryside (you haven’t visited Ireland if you only see Dublin) and this tour by HilltopTreks is the perfect way to get your Irish countryside fix.
Special thanks to HilltopTreks for hosting me on this adventure. As always, the gushing and opinions are all my own. I would never write a review for something I would not recommend myself!