The gentle, rhythmic thud of the horses’ hooves on the sand beneath them, the crash of the waves to one side, the spray in your face, and the salt hanging in the air as you gallop on across the seemingly endless beach. Even writing about it here makes it sound as though I've lifted it straight out of a Lloyds TSB advert. Riding a horse on a beach is on the wish list of most horse owners and riders. A dream that only seems achievable for movie stars, it’s something that many horse riders do not see ever existing as a reality.
But taking your horse to the beach in the UK is perfectly achievable.
Horse Riding on Holkham Beach
Following on from an impromptu day trip to Holkham Beach with the horses several years ago, we returned for several years in a row afterwards, adding a day here and a day there until it became an entire horsey-holiday. It gave us a way of combining time out of work with time spent with our families, friends and our horses.
Named at one point as British beach of the week by the Telegraph, it’s easy to see why Holkham Beach is so appealing to horse riders. As one of the few beaches in the country that actively allows horses onto its golden sands, it’s a haven for horse riders looking to fulfill their bucket list dream of horse riding on the beach and swimming on their horse in the sea. It’s so popular that it’s even a firm favourite for the Household Cavalry, who bring their horses for a yearly summer holiday to the Norfolk beach.
Planning a day trip to Holkham Beach with your horse
The great thing about taking your horse to Holkham Beach is that it doesn’t require much planning. Unlike going to a show, you don’t need to prep your horse in advance, and, providing you have your own transport, it's easy to organise a day trip in a matter of hours.
We simply drove into the yard in the morning with a full tank of fuel and loaded up the horses. All we had with us was our riding clothes, the horses' tack, a couple of spare items and a first aid kit, just in case. And we were off.
The drive from Milton Keynes to Holkham Beach was fairly straightforward and just a few hours later, we were pulling up onto Lady Anne’s Drive. Located in Holkham village, just off the A149, opposite The Victoria Inn, it's fairly easy to find (and the endless streams of horseboxes definitely give it away).
Lady Anne's Drive Opening Times
From April to September: 6am to 9pm.
From October to March: 6am to 6pm.
It is worth noting that overnight parking is not allowed.
Parking Charges at Lady Anne's Drive
Up to 1 hour £2.00
Up to 2 hours £3.50
Up to 4 hours £6.00
Over 4 hours and all day £8.00*
Horseboxes and long vehicles:
Organising a weekend beach holiday with the Horses:
Following on from our day trip to Holkham Beach with the horses, we found ourselves desperately wanting to be able to spend more time there. Having caught the bug on that first day trip, we then set about planning a weekend away with the horses and over the coming years, we stayed at Whitehall Farm and at Mill Farm.
A stay at Whitehall Farm
Whitehall Farm consists of 21 paddocks and 11 stables, so is more than adequate for group bookings or individual stays. There is also a B&B, a reasonable amount of space to camp in as well as onsite washing facilities, a fridge, freezer, microwave and washing up facilities. There is a scenic, off-road route that you can take to the beach from the campsite but it’s not a quick ride.
Although the set up was great and it was lovely to have the horses in their own paddocks, we found that the staff weren't overly welcoming and so that lead us to looking elsewhere the following year.
Camping with the horses at Mill Farm
And after just one stay at Mill Farm, it immediately became a firm favourite of ours.
With a large field that is available for campers, and for horses (if you have your own electric fencing) it’s ideal for larger groups. With the added option to place your horse in one of the available paddocks, or even in the stables if you’d prefer, it’s a campsite with plenty of options!
A short distance from the beach, with only a tiny bit of road work involved, friendly staff and enough room to make a good sized campsite without feeling like you're encroaching on your neighbours, it was a firm winner with us! That said, if you're going to stay in the field you'll need to be fairly self sufficient; we took our own generator so that we could have a fridge at our campsite, and the walk from the field to the showering block was fairly hefty but with everything else so good, these were both factors that we let slide quite easily.
Booking in advance!
With so many horse-owners heading to Holkham each year though, there are plenty of campsites to choose from - each with their own set of pros and cons. Wherever you go, however, you'll want to book your place early as they all get booked up well in advance!
Things to consider when taking your horse to the beach:
Whether you’re taking your horse to the beach for a day trip or you’re planning an entire horse holiday, there are a few things that you need to consider before stepping foot on the beach with your horse.
1. Check that you’re permitted to ride on the beach. Riders and horses are welcome to ride on Holkham Beach anywhere on the sand but below the high tide mark. However, some beaches will have time restrictions, while others will only permit horses on the sand at certain times of the year. You can visit the BHS website for a list of beaches that welcome horses.
2. Be sensible. Stick to the designated paths; at Holkham Beach horses are not allowed on the sand dunes, shingle ridges, saltmarsh or within the pines. Remember, these rules are there for the benefit of you, your horse and the other visitors to the beach.
3. A lot of campsites in and around Holkham have routes that can be ridden along to get you to the beach and there is some parking space available for lorries along Lady Anne’s Drive. But, if you’re not going to Holkham Beach then be sure to check that the beach is within riding distance of where you are camping, or that there is a car park that can accommodate horseboxes to allow for safe unloading.
4. Bear in mind that there will be other beach users. If you’re visiting a beach during the summer months then you can almost guarantee that there will be hoards of people visiting at the same time as you. Be mindful that they are trying to enjoy their day, just as you are, and avoid galloping right through their sunbathing spot.
From galloping along the sand to swimming bareback in the sea, spotting a seal swimming along next to us and heading home with smiles on our faces, salt in our hair and sand just about everywhere – taking your horse to the beach is a dream come true for many equestrians. And it was certainly that for me.
It’s an experience like no other. A true scrapbook moment, one to be cherished and repeated time after time. So what are you waiting for?
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