Horseback riding in England

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Equestrian tours in England

England - United Kingdom
    Source: World Travel Guide

Despite its relatively small size, the United Kingdom is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth, peopled by four main ‘native’ nationalities, plus later arrivals from all over the world. The United Kingdom consists of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), plus the six counties of Northern Ireland. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (principally Jersey and Guernsey) are also parts of the British Isles, but somewhat confusingly not officially part of the UK.

Topographically, the British mainland is broadly divisible into two main regions: the relatively low-lying south and the highland regions of the north and west. Scotland, Wales, and the northern areas of England occupy the latter, which are in general much more sparsely populated than the more prosperous southeast of England.

London is perennially the principal British attraction for overseas visitors, with its historic landmarks such as the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament), Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. They also flock to the many West End theatres and the shopping areas of Knightsbridge, Oxford Street and Regent Street.

Within easy day-trip distance of London are the university cities of Oxford and Cambridge, the picturesque Cotswolds with their many pretty villages, Stratford-upon-Avon (home of William Shakespeare), the cathedral at Canterbury and the seaside attractions of Brighton.

Further afield lie delights like Cornwall (to the southwest), Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria (a large part of which constitutes the Lake District).

Wales adjoins England to the west, and offers, in addition to its populous southern cities, a diverse range of historic castles, spectacular coastline and impressive mountain landscapes.

The majority of Scotland’s population lives in the busy central belt, a lowland region in which the main centres of Glasgow, Stirling, and the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, lie. But equally as popular as the cities is the dramatic scenery of the Highlands to the north and west, location of Britain’s highest mountains and a bewildering array of offshore islands, notably Skye, Orkney and Shetland.

Halfway to Ireland in the Irish Sea sits the Isle of Man, a scenic island with Norse traditions. And west again is Northern Ireland, whose vibrant capital Belfast is a lively option for the visitor. North of the city are the spectacular Antrim Glens, while to the west is the lush ‘lakeland’ of Fermanagh.

The Channel Islands are closer to France than England, situated a short distance off the Normandy coastline.


Thames Tower, Blacks Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9EL, UK
Tel: (020) 8846 9000.
Website: or (trade).

Britain and London Visitor Centre

1 Regent Street, London SW1Y 4XT, UK
Personal callers only.
For more information, see the regional sections.

UK Visas

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH, UK
Tel: (020) 7008 8438.
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 0930-1330

British Embassy in the USA

3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tel: (202) 588 7800.

British Consulate in the USA

845 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA
Tel: (212) 745 0200.

Visit Britain in the USA

551 Fifth Avenue, Suite 701, New York, NY 10176, USA
Tel: (800) 462 2748 (general information line, toll-free in the USA) or (212) 986 2266 (executive offices).

General Information


Northwest Europe.


GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).


242,514 sq km (93,788 sq miles).


59.8 million (official estimate 2004).

Population Density

244.2 per sq km.


London. Population: 7.43 million (official estimate 2004).


The British landscape can be divided roughly into two kinds of terrain – highland and lowland. The highland area comprises the mountainous regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and North Wales. The English Lake District in the northwest contains lakes and fells. The lowland area is broken up by sandstone and limestone hills, long valleys and basins such as the Wash on the east coast. In the southeast, the North and South Downs culminate in the White Cliffs of Dover. The coastline includes fjord-like inlets in the northwest of Scotland, spectacular cliffs and wild sandy beaches on the east coast and, further south, beaches of rock, shale and sand sometimes backed by dunes, and large areas of fenland in East Anglia.


Constitutional Monarchy. The United Kingdom is a hereditary Monarchy, with real power being held by the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the largest Parliamentary party and the head of the Cabinet. The two main political parties are the Conservatives (Tories) and Labour, although a centre party (the Liberal-SDP Alliance, later merged as the Liberal Democrats) threatened to disturb this old balance in the mid-1980s. The absence of proportional representation in Parliamentary elections does not encourage the prosperity of smaller parties in Britain. Elections must be held every five years, though the timing is at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The legislature is bicameral; the House of Commons is elected, while the House of Lords is a peculiar mixture of appointed members, judges, bishops and hereditary peers. Britain is almost unique in the world in having no written constitution, and the political and administrative machine is powered by a mixture of common and statute law, judicial decisions and archaic convention; the royal assent to an Act of Parliament, for instance, is still proclaimed in Norman French.

Head of State

HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1953.

Head of Government

Prime Minister Tony Blair since 1997.


English. Some Welsh is spoken in parts of Wales, Gaelic in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and French and Norman French in the Channel Islands. The many ethnic minorities within the UK also speak their own languages (eg Cantonese, Greek, Hindi, Mandarin, Turkish, Urdu, etc).


Predominantly Protestant (Church of England), but many other Christian denominations also: Roman Catholic, Church of Scotland, Baptist, Methodist and other free churches. There are sizeable Hindu, Jewish and Muslim minorities.


240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are standard and the visitor is unlikely to come across the older round three-pin type.


Passport Required?









Other EU


Visa Required?









Other EU


Return Ticket Required?









Other EU



To enter the United Kingdom, a passport valid for the duration of stay is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above, except (1) EU nationals holding a valid national ID card.

EU nationals are only required to produce evidence of their EU nationality and identity in order to be admitted to any EU member state. This evidence can take the form of a valid national passport or national identity card. Either is acceptable. Possession of a return ticket, any length of validity on their document, or sufficient funds for the length of their proposed visit should not be imposed.

A passport is not required for travel between Great Britain and Ireland (an official form of identification, such as a driver's license, is required), Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.


Not required by nationals of countries referred to in the chart above for stays of up to six months.

Visa Note

(a) Nationals not requiring visas are advised to be in possession of either a return ticket or, if arriving on a one-way ticket, proof of sufficient funds to accommodate and support themselves for the duration of stay. (b) Nationals of countries not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements (see Contact Addresses).



See the individual Money sections within the Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Northern Ireland sections for information on currency specific to these regions.

Notes are in denominations of £50, 20, 10 and 5. Additional bank notes issued by Scottish banks (including £1 notes) are legal tender in all parts of the UK. Coins are in denominations of £2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 pence.

Currency Exchange

Money can be exchanged in banks, exchange bureaux and many hotels. The exchange bureaux are often open outside banking hours but charge higher commission rates. All major currencies can be exchanged.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

American Express, MasterCard and Visa are all widely accepted. Cash can be obtained from a multitude of ATMs available across the country.

Traveller's Cheques

Widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Pounds Sterling.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 0930-1630 (there may be some variations in closing times). Some branches of certain banks are open Saturday morning; some all-day Saturday.

Exchange Rate Indicators


June 1



€1.00= 0.78



Title Special precautions


Hepatitis A










Yellow Fever



Health Care

reduced-cost necessary treatment is available for European travelers - in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Comprehensive insurance is advised for all other nationals.

The National Health Service (NHS) provides free medical treatment (at hospitals and general surgeries) to all who are ordinarily resident in the UK, but requires payment for dental treatment, prescriptions and spectacles. Immediate first aid/emergency treatment is free for all visitors, after which charges are made unless the visitor's country has a reciprocal health agreement with the UK. Full details of individual agreements are available from the Department of Health (

Food and Drink

Food within the UK is generally safe to eat, with health and safety standards monitored by various government agencies. Tap water is considered safe to drink but bottled water is widely available. If you’re camping, always boil, filter or purify water from streams.

Other Risks

The UK is not a risky destination but travellers should still take appropriate precautions. Summer temperatures in England rarely reach above 30°C (86°F), but on hot days there is still risk of sunstroke and it’s advisable to wear sunscreen, as well as appropriate clothing. The same goes for winters, during which weather can be very changeable. Waterproofs (or at least a strong umbrella) are mandatory at any time of year. Those hiking in the mountains should come prepared, with appropriate gear and maps if needed but the biggest danger comes from those who disregard warning signs or poor weather.

If you’re planning to walk in wooded or heath areas such as in the Scottish Highlands, it’s worth taking precautions against tick bites: ensure you wear long-sleeved tops, tuck your socks into your trousers and wear insect repellent. Ticks are known to spread Lyme disease which, although fairly rare in the UK, can affect your skin, joints, heart and nervous system. Symptoms include: a pink or red circular rash which develops around the bite up to 30 days after a person is bitten; flu-like symptoms; headaches; and muscle or joint pain. If left untreated, symptoms can become more serious.

Midges are a hiker’s and camper’s nemesis, especially in the northwest Highlands during the summer. While they’ll do no worse than cause a multitude of unbearably itchy bites, it’s definitely worth covering up and dousing yourself in insect repellent to ward off these persistent beasties.

The weather in Scotland can change in an instant. If you’re walking, skiing or climbing in the hills, it’s vital to be prepared for all weathers. It’s not at all uncommon to go for a walk on a beautifully sunny day, only to find yourself surrounded by mist and drizzle with little warning. Make sure you’re equipped with a map, compass, extra food, layers and waterproofs, and always tell someone where you’re heading before you set out. Scots and visitors alike also find themselves unexpectedly caught out by the sun – you might not need it often, but pack some sunscreen.

Top Things To See & Do

Tourist Information

Thames Tower, Blacks Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9EL, UK
Tel: (020) 8846 9000.
Website: or (trade).

VisitBritain in the USA
551 Fifth Avenue, Suite 701, New York, NY 10176, USA
Tel: (800) 462 2748 (general information line, toll-free in the USA) or (212) 986 2266 (executive offices).

Getting There

Getting There by Air

The principal national airline is British Airways (BA) (tel: 0870 850 9850; website:

Flight Times

From New York to London is 7 hours 45 minutes.

For other approximate flight times from London, see the Getting There section of the destination country.

Main Airports

See Getting There in the country sub-sections.

Departure Tax


Getting There by Water

Main ports: Dover, Harwich, Holyhead and Portsmouth.

There are many ports offering ferry connections between the UK and mainland Europe, Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Wight, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man.

UK ferry operators include: Brittany Ferries (tel: 0870 366 5333; website:; Caledonian MacBrayne (tel: 0870 650 000; website:; Condor Ferries (tel: 0845 243 5140; website:; DFDS Seaways (tel: 0870 252 0524; website:; Fjord Line (tel: 0870 143 9669; website:; Irish Ferries (tel: 0870 517 1717; website:; P&O Ferries (tel: 0870 598 0333; website:; Red Funnel (tel: (0870) 444 8898; website:; Superfast (tel: 0870 234 0870; website:; and Stena Line (tel: 0870 570 7070; website:

A map of ferry routes is available on VisitBritain's website:

Getting There by Rail

Trains meet connecting ferries at Dover, Newhaven, Portsmouth and Weymouth, sailing for Belgium, France, Germany and Spain; and at Harwich, sailing for Germany, The Netherlands and Scandinavia.

Eurotunnel (tel: 0870 535 3535; website: runs shuttle trains for vehicles between Folkestone in the UK, and Calais in France. All road vehicles are carried through the tunnel in shuttle trains running between the two terminals. Terminals and shuttles are well-equipped for disabled passengers. Passenger Terminal buildings contain a variety of shops, restaurants, bureaux de change and other amenities. The journey takes about 35 minutes from platform to platform. Services run every day of the year. Fares are charged according to length of stay and time of year and whether or not you have a reservation. The price applies to the car, regardless of the number of passengers or size of the car.

Eurostar (tel: 0870 518 6186, within the UK, or (01233) 617 575, outside the UK; website:; or Rail Europe (tel: 0870 584 8848; website: a service provided by the railways of Belgium, the UK and France, operating direct high-speed trains from London to Paris and to Brussels. It takes 2 hours 40 minutes from London to Paris (via Lille) and two hours 20 minutes to Brussels. Work on the UK section of the high-speed rail line is being done in two stages. Stage 1 (from the Channel Tunnel through Kent to the outskirts of London) has been completed. Stage 2, to be completed in January 2007, will take the route to a new terminal at St Pancras. When it is completed, the transit times between London St Pancras and Brussels will be just two hours and between London St Pancras and Paris just two hours 15 minutes.

Rail Passes

InterRail: offers unlimited first- or second-class travel in up to 30 European countries for European residents of over six months with two pass options. The Global Pass allows travel for 22 days, one month, five days in 10 days or 10 days in 22 days across all countries. The One-Country Pass offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month in any of the countries except Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. Travellers under 26 years receive a reduction. Children's tickets are reduced by about 50%. Supplements are required for some high-speed services, seat reservations and couchettes. Discounts are offered on Eurostar and some ferry routes. Available from Rail Europe (website:

Getting There by Road

Eurolines (tel: 0870 514 3219; website: and National Express (tel: 0870 580 8080; website: run regular coach services from the UK to numerous European cities. Travellers can either choose Mini-Pass breaks or book a 15-, 30- or 60-day pass. The six Mini-Passes give travellers the freedom to visit three cities. Travellers can stay as long as they like in each city.

Few formalities are encountered when driving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Getting Around

Getting Around by Air

British Airways operates a shuttle service from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle amongst other cities. Other internal operators include bmi (BD) (website:, flybe (BE) (website:, easyJet (EZY) (website:, and Ryanair (FR) (website:
From London to Aberdeen is one hour 30 minutes; to Belfast is one hour 15 minutes; to Edinburgh is one hour 20 minutes; to Glasgow is one hour 20 minutes; to Jersey is one hour; to Manchester is 55 minutes; and to Newcastle is one hour and 10 minutes.

Getting Around by Water

Information on travel to the Channel Islands, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Scottish islands are given in the relevant Travel sections for those countries.

Getting Around by Rail

The UK is served by an excellent network of railways. Intercity lines provide fast services between London and major cities, and there are services to the southeast and to major cities in the Midlands, the north and south Wales and between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Some rural areas are less well served (eg the north coast of the west country, parts of East Anglia, Northern Ireland, Northumberland and North Yorkshire, parts of inland Wales, and southern and northern Scotland), although local rail services are generally fairly comprehensive.

Rail Passes

There are many discretionary fares, and visitors using trains may like to consider one of the all-line BritRail range of passes giving unlimited travel. This is available to visitors from overseas and is not available in the UK; tickets must be purchased in the visitor's home country, although tickets can be collected in the UK. Further details can be obtained from BritRail (website:

InterRail's One-Country Pass offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month within the UK. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. Travellers under 26 years receive a reduction. Children's tickets are reduced by about 50%. Supplements are required for some high-speed services, seat reservations and couchettes. Discounts are offered on Eurostar and some ferry routes. Available from Rail Europe (website:

For information about UK train services and fares, contact National Rail Enquiries (tel: (08457) 484 950; website: It can be much cheaper to purchase rail tickets in advance. Disabled travellers are also entitled to discounted train fares; see the Disabled Traveller appendix.

Getting Around by Road

There are trunk roads (‘A’ roads) linking all major towns and cities in the UK. Roads in rural areas (‘B’ roads) can be slow and winding, and in upland areas may become impassable in winter. Motorways radiate from London and there is also a good east–west and north–south network in the north and the Midlands. The M25 motorway circles London and connects at various junctions with the M1, M3, M4, M10, M11 and M40. The only motorway that leaves England is the M4 from London to South Wales. Access to Scotland is by the A1/A1(M) or the A68 to Edinburgh, or the M6 to Carlisle followed by the A74 to Glasgow. Within Scotland, motorways link Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. In Northern Ireland, motorways run from Belfast to Dungannon and from Belfast to Antrim. For further information on roads within each country, see the respective Travel sections. Coach: Every major city has a coach terminus: in London, it is Victoria Coach station, about 1km (0.7 miles) from the train station. There are coach services to all parts of the country. Many coaches have onboard toilets and refreshments. Private coaches may be hired by groups wishing to tour the UK; these can be booked in advance and will visit most major tourist attractions. Many of these destinations now have coach parks nearby. The main carrier is National Express (website: Traffic regulations: Traffic drives on the left. Speed limits are 30mph (48kph) in urban areas, 70mph (113kph) on motorways and dual carriageways, elsewhere 50mph (80kph) or 60mph (97kph) as marked. Unleaded petrol and diesel are sold at all petrol stations. LPG (liquified petroleum gas) is increasingly available. Seatbelts must be worn by the driver and front seat passenger. Where rear seat belts have been fitted, they must also be worn. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. The minimum driving age is 17. Documentation: National driving licences are valid for one year. Drivers must have Third Party insurance and vehicle registration documents. Automobile associations: The AA (website: and RAC (website: are able to provide a full range of services to UK members touring the UK. These organisations can also assist people who are travelling from abroad with maps, tourist information and specially marked routes to major events or places of interest.

Getting Around Towns and Cities

All cities and towns have bus services of varying efficiency and cost. Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Newcastle have underground railways. London and Glasgow's date back to the 19th century. The urban areas of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester are also well served by local railway trains. Manchester has an efficient modern tram service. Taxis: Licensed taxi operators are generally metered; small supplements may be charged for weekends, bank holidays, excess baggage and late-night travel. In the larger cities, unlicensed operators offer a cheaper (but less efficient and knowledgeable) unmetered service with fares based loosely on elapsed clock mileage; these taxis are called mini-cabs and can be summoned by telephone.



Country code: 44. There are numerous public call boxes. Some boxes take coins, others phonecards or credit cards.

Mobile Telephone

Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone operators. Coverage is mostly good, but can be patchy in rural areas.


There are Internet cafes and centers in most urban areas. Some multimedia phone booths, often located at main railway stations and airports, offer touch-screen access.


Stamps are available from post offices and many shops and stores. There are stamp machines outside some post offices. Post boxes are red. First-class internal mail normally reaches its destination the day after posting (except in remote areas of Scotland), and most second-class mail the day after that. International postal connections are good. Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1730 and Sat 0900-1230, although some post offices are open much longer hours.


The UK has a strong tradition of public-service broadcasting and an international reputation for creative programme-making. The BBC began daily radio broadcasts in 1922 and quickly came to play a pivotal role in national life. The Empire Service, which became the BBC World Service, established a reputation worldwide. The BBC is funded by a licence fee, which all households with a TV set must pay. There is no advertising on BBC1 and BBC2. Commercial TV began in 1955 with the launch of ITV.


Dominated by about 10 major newspapers, UK circulation figures are amongst the highest in the world. The most influential newspapers are The Daily Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer (on Sunday) and The Times. The more popular ‘tabloid’ newspapers are The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror and The Sun. Most papers have an associated Sunday newspaper, though there are some independents. There are also daily regional newspapers, particularly in Scotland and the north. The London Evening Standard is produced in several editions daily, the first being at midday.


BBC TV operates BBC1, BBC2 and digital services including BBC News 24 and BBC World, a commercially-funded international news channel. ITV is a major commercial network, organised around regional franchises. Channel 4 is a commercially funded but publicly owned national station. Five is a national commercial channel. Independent Television News (ITN) supplies news to ITV and Channel 4. British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) operates digital satellite TV platform, Sky, and provides film, entertainment channels and news channel Sky News. There are many other privately-owned TV channels.


BBC Radio's national services include music station Radio 1, adult music station Radio 2, cultural network Radio 3, flagship speech station Radio 4 and news and sport station Five Live. BBC Radio also has regional broadcasts (see individual Country sections). BBC Asian Network targets Asian communities in the UK. BBC World Service can be heard worldwide via shortwave and increasingly on FM relays; it has programmes in more than 40 languages. Commercial stations include music station Virgin Radio, sports station Talk Sport and classical music station Classic FM. There are hundreds of privately-owned radio stations.


Owing to it being an island, the UK is subject to very changeable weather. Extremes of temperature are rare but snow, hail, heavy rain and heatwaves can occur. For detailed descriptions, see Climate in the respective country sections.

Embassies and tourist offices

UK Visas
Telephone: (020) 7008 8438.
Opening times: Mon-Fri 0930-1330.

British Embassy in the USA
Telephone: (202) 588 7800.
Opening times:
By appointment only. 

VisitBritain in the USA
551 Fifth Avenue, Suite 701, New York City, NY 10176, United States
Tel: (212) 986 2266.

VisitBritain in the UK
Thames Tower, Blacks Road, London, W6 9EL, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 8846 9000.
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