Last weekend, I flew up to Scotland for a second time this year to visit Blair Castle International Horse Trials after visiting The Royal Highland Show in June. I decided this year to actually go further afield in visiting country shows and horse trials and it was a decision well made. Now I love Badminton, it’s my favourite. But I have been for 14 years in a row now. I love Hickstead which I am lucky to have on my doorstep and enjoy the South of England Show, Edenbridge & Oxted Show and my local Heathfield Show. But it was time to try something new and put my travelling boots on!
The Royal Highland Show
I’m not a lover of travelling on motorways for hours at a time, so a flight was in order. EasyJet flies to Edinburgh from London Gatwick on a daily basis for a very reasonable price. If you want to visit the Royal Highland Show, a huge plus factor is that you can step off your hour’s flight at Edinburgh and walk to the show in about ten minutes. That’s a huge tick on the travelling side of things.
Visiting the show in June, the weather had been tricky but thankfully when we arrived on the Friday the sun shone. Now this show is immense. I was astounded as to how big it was. It is a farming mecca but if you love all things countryside and equestrian then this is a show to visit. It takes some navigating around the showground and it is a two day visit to get to see everything.
What I particularly enjoyed was the new stands which you don’t always see at the shows in the south. It was great to see something different for a change although the usual countryside and equestrian favourites were there too. The food halls were amazing with so much Scottish produce to enjoy. All the stands were filled with friendly and welcoming faces with most willing to chat and promote their wares. It almost has a bit of a festival feel to it when you turned a corner and bands were playing or outdoor activities to entertain you. There were plenty of places to eat and drink which faired easy on the pocket too!
For those with the equestrian love, the showing rings were adorned with well dressed tartan handlers partnered with their beautifully turned out ponies. The Clydesdales were also a special giant treat among miniatures ponies hot on their hooves. The cattle and sheep halls were extremely well laid out and easy to walk around. All in all, I cannot recommend enough a trip to Scotland to visit The Royal Highland Show. Make sure you head into Edinburgh for the night and make it a two day break, which is well worth it!
Blair Castle International Horse Trials
Heading up to Scotland again this late Bank Holiday Weekend, I felt almost a seasoned traveller having been to Edinburgh for the second time in a matter of weeks. Travelling with three horse mad friends, we picked up a rental car with ease and took to the road heading over the Queensferry Crossing and on to the M90 towards the A9 to Pitlochry. I will hold my hands up and the trip was further than I anticipated, telling my travelling buddies it was about forty five minutes from the airport using my guestimate map reading. It is certainly a comfortable hour and a half from the airport with the traffic. However, the longer journey could be forgiven for the stunning Scottish scenery and clear roads to make the travelling a pleasure.
Turning into the 250 acre Blair Estate with its beautiful tree lined stone walls, it felt a very tranquil place especially as you made your way to the car park beside the stunning white Blair Castle. Walking towards the trials, you are met with a breathtaking view of the show in its glory with the Scottish hills in the background. It immediately felt a very calm and laid back show with again different trade stands that even a non horsey lover would enjoy. What I particularly enjoyed was the many arenas of show jumping and showing, all at a more comfortable level to my experience but certainly, the 1*, 2* and 3* competition did not feel out of place. They all worked together in harmony which I loved. With the final leg of the CIC3* Event Rider Masters, these trials were an exciting place to be.
The sun came out especially for Cross Country day and the course was a treat to walk around. It’s not for the faint hearted as steep hills and craggy turns through woodland was not only for the competitors but the spectators too! Having some complimentary lunch with Land Rover on one of the water jumps was the Saturday highlight for me, as you experienced Blair at its best. With many testing jumps on the course, most had views of the stunning hillside or the castle beside them which makes it such a beautiful cross country course to ride.
Sadly the famous Bank Holiday rain made it’s comeback on show jumping Sunday and with an afternoon flight to catch home, we decided to not travel back to the trials in the morning. Instead, we had a leisurely breakfast at our hotel watching RED squirrels dart across the grounds. Pitlochry is also a delightful town to visit with friendly residents wanting to hear where you have travelled from to visit Blair Castle International Horse Trials.
I urge you to think further afield when visiting equestrian and country events next year and look into travelling away from your own county. I thoroughly enjoyed these two shows and would highly recommend a trip to both. Perhaps not in one year but definitely put these shows on your country and equestrian show bucket list!
by Samantha Hobden
Image credits: Haynet