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Off-road access in Ireland

BHS Ireland is limited in its work to improve and extend safe off-road access for equestrians to Northern Ireland only. This is due to the fact that The British Horse Society as a charity can only lobby for change in British-led governments.

  • Last reviewed: 23rd June 2023
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BHS Ireland does, however, work to promote existing safe off-road riding and carriage driving throughout Ireland, along with any new routes that are discovered. 

Riding out in Northern Ireland

Access to safe off-road routes in Northern Ireland is sadly extremely limited compared to Britain. However, the places that do exist are in some stunning locations and are critically important for equestrians. From the picturesque toll ride around Grey Abbey estate and the hack around Tollymore Forest Park in County Down, to the miles of flat sand on the stunning Causeway Coast, there are places for you to escape the busy roads.  

BHS Ireland works hard to protect Northern Ireland’s access and are your voice at a national level. Alongside the two BHS affiliated Bridleway Groups (Ulster Rural Riders and Glends Bridleway Group), this voice has never been so strong. They avail of any opportunities that arise to increase existing or open new access, and would welcome support from all over Northern Ireland to aid them with their work. 

Download our information regarding the current off-road access provision in Northern Ireland. 

If you are aware of any access that is not included, please let us know by emailing 

Access and safety facts

  • Equestrians have access to less than 1% of public rights of way in Northern Ireland  
  • There are not enough places for horses to be ridden or carriages driven safely off-road 
  • Sadly, 4140 incidents have been reported to the British Horse Society since 2010 
  • In 2020 there were 46 horses killed on rural roads across the UK, and 118 horses and 130 riders injured as a result of a collision with a vehicle 
  • There are an estimated 34,250 horses in Northern Ireland, over 70% of which are kept for recreational purposes 

Protecting what we have

Existing access can come under threat at any time - from proposed changes in policies or rules by local authorities to land developments or poor maintenance, ending in permissive agreements or new legislation. BHS Ireland is here to react quickly, and to protect what we have. 

Extending access

Extending, increasing, or just opening up new access to somewhere for equestrians usually involves negotiation, sharing and funds. BHS Ireland has been very successful in recent years in opening toll rides, including equestrian access and agreeing temporary access to routes for organised rides. 

Promoting safe off-road routes and using them

The BHS works hard to encourage safe, responsible use of our routes, particularly those which are multi-user. Our range of free advisory leaflets may be of interest to you. 
There are two BHS affiliated bridleway groups in Northern Ireland who work to increase awareness of our need for safe routes for riders and carriage drivers and responsible use by all users of public access areas and routes: 

Contact us 

If you have any concerns or queries over Northern Ireland access matters, or if you wish to get more involved in the improvement of access, please contact or

Enabling Equestrian Access in Northern Ireland

The free guide “Enabling Equestrian Access in Northern Ireland” seeks to support the development of off-road equestrian access in Northern Ireland. The guide aims to encourage responsible sharing of public spaces by all who use them and to encourage the inclusion of equestrians in appropriate public spaces, along with technical advice and recommendation sections for planners.