My voyage of discovery on horseback
When classical singer and actress Shân Cothi saddled up for a charity ride across Wales in 2008 it was a ride into the unknown. Now new trails have opened up the scenery and freedom she discovered for all to experience.
A trip to remember
Ogmore Castle, near Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan
A year after my husband Justin passed away from pancreatic cancer, a crowd of us at the Ogmore farm where I stable Caio came up with the idea of a charity ride across Wales. We just made up the route with help from the British Horse Society and guides, that was the most incredible thing.
We started at Talacre beach near Prestatyn and went south through Dyffryn Clwyd, Vale of Clwyd, then west across the Elan Valley through bog and waterfalls to Pontrhydfendigaid, 15 miles south-east of Aberystwyth. I did a concert there and rode into the spotlight on Caio in front of a thousand people. Then we went south to Llandovery, across the Brecon Beacons, to Swansea and ended on the beach at Ogmore with an escort of a hundred riders.
Wales is so beautiful
Elan Valley Lake, Powys, Mid Wales
Gosh, there was so much beautiful scenery. Dyffryn Clwyd was amazing; it was so green and lush and hilly – incredible riding country – and crossing from east to west was a real tempestuous journey that started with sun and ended like Clint Eastwood riding into horizontal rain. Even that was great because it made it more of a challenge. The ride over the mountains to Llandovery in Carmarthenshire was spectacular and arriving back home to Ogmore beach was so special.
We were riding on the anniversary of Justin’s death and I suddenly realised I didn’t wish to be anywhere else in the world than on my horse, riding in Wales on this voyage of discovery.
Since then I’ve done a drag-hunt on Anglesey when filming and that was amazing – quite flat but lovely. I’ve also taken Caio into the Brecon Beacons National Park and that was beautiful – I went for a leisurely ride, he went like the clappers.
Wales is so incredible for riding
There’s such a lot of scenery here and such a variety of riding; if you want to gallop on the beach you can, if you want to wander through woodland or by mountains, it’s all here. And on horseback there’s this feeling of living for the moment, that going from A to B is all that matters.
Off-road riding in Wales
Riders galloping through the countryside Glamorgan Coast by Wonderful Wales
So, there’s a real freedom about riding in Wales. Apart from a roundabout in Neath we were off-road all the way on fantastic bridleways and cross-country. I can’t imagine doing that in many places – you’d have to cross motorways or get access from farmers. Here there are so many official riding trails now you can enjoy pure riding. And there are lots of horsey people in Wales who really welcome you and have the facilities to put up you and your horse. The horses on my journey were on cloud nine in some lovely stables.
Is my sort of adventure open to everyone? I’d never tackled anything like that before – we were horsey people but had never done any long-distance riding – and now the trails are more organised – they’ve just completed the Great Dragon Ride, trans-Wales bridleway opened in 2012 – so, yes it is. Why not?
Search for horse riding operators in Wales