Today we went riding with Niall Connolly at Ravensdale Lodge, which is in the Northeastern part of Ireland on the Cooley Peninsula. We’re traveling throughout Ireland, riding horses on various equestrian vacations and filming them for Equitrekking’s TV show. Ravensdale is outside of the medieval town of Carlingford in Louth County. Niall runs a great operation. He has a stunning, new indoor ring and extensive cross country course, as well as hour long and multi-day trail rides into the surrounding mountains.
Niall is the fourth generation to grow up on the farm at Ravensdale. He has some awesome horses, including Jesse, the six-year-old Irish Cob that I rode while there. I seriously would have taken Jesse home with me. I was astounded to hear that Jesse was only six, as he was seasoned and well trained.
Niall and I rode up into the Cooley Mountains. We cantered and galloped a bit through the shade of Ravensdale Forest, en route to a stone age formation. We crossed an old stone bridge in an area that looked like a jungle from the movie Romancing the Stone and then past a ruined cottage left over from Ireland’s potato famine. That’s one of the amazing things about riding in Ireland. There’s so much history and it is so old, that there isn’t much that compares to it in the United States.
As we climbed upwards, we rode along a turf cutters road, where some rural Irishmen still venture to cut turf to warm their cottages. Niall and I played spot the sheep as we winded through the bogs.
The wind began to pick up as we reached a high point with views of the town of Carlingford and Carlingford Lough. Niall pointed out the road that we could have taken to ride our horses right into the town of Carlingford. If I had more time, I could have ridden into town, hit a pub for a meal and spent the night and ridden onward. The views were amazing at the near top and only to get better as we continued our ride.
We were looking out over eight counties of Ireland. The views were spectacular, as was the wind. Happy to have on my waxed jacket and happy that we hadn’t had any rain yet, we began the climb back down. The mountains here are covered in verdant green moss and quite possibly my favorite rugged terrain of the ride.
The wind died down a bit as we rode past small stone fences, sheep and the typical Irish bucolic setting that I had imagined Ireland to be.
What’s so great about Niall’s ride is the varied terrain that you can pass through in a matter of hours. We rode through forests, bogs and mountains to take in stunning vistas. Having a horse like Jesse to ride made the ride even better.
The lodge part of Ravensdale should be complete this winter. For the time being, you can stay in a nearby hotel, which is what we did. Ravensdale is a wonderful place to experience a lesser visited region of Ireland and ride at a wonderful facility on good horses with good company. Thanks Niall!