Clip clop through Menorca's history: A horse riding tour is the only way to circumnavigate the Balearic island

  • The Cami de Cavalls path in Menorca had sat unused and unloved until 2010?
  • It has now reopened and tourists can use it to explore the island on horseback?
  • A rare breed of horses are able to take visitors across the winding, narrow trail

While we British were busy arguing the pros and cons of the new HS2 rail link, the citizens of Menorca were discussing their own important transport matter.

Namely, the merits of reopening an ancient route designed to allow horses and their riders to circumnavigate the island.

Built in the 1300s to connect the Spanish island’s defensive watchtowers, the Cami de Cavalls path (‘way of horses’) had sat unused and unloved, and was falling into disrepair until the decision was taken in 2010 to do something about it.

Menorca's capital Mahon. In 2010 the island's authorities decided to reopen the?Cami de Cavalls path

Menorca's capital Mahon. In 2010 the island's authorities decided to reopen the?Cami de Cavalls path

You can walk the path if you insist, but really there’s only one way to explore it properly: on horseback.

The route is 115 miles long, so to ride the whole way would take far longer than the two days we had set aside.

Instead, we set out to explore two very different parts of the island; the volcanic northern half, and the south, with its hidden white beaches and glorious swimming spots.

Our base was Torralbenc, a whitewashed and bougainvillea-clad farmhouse-turned-hotel which sits in the middle of its own vineyard in the south-east of the island.

Our group of six strangers started our expedition just beyond the lighthouse at Binimel-là beach, where we met our steeds for the first time. We also met our guide, ominously sporting a black eye.

‘What happened?’ we asked.

He explained that he had been galloping home one evening and had gone straight into a tree.

Almost all of the horses, including my lovely mare, Zaica, were Menorquin — a rare breed, with fewer than 3,000 still in existence. They are famous for the role they play in Menorcan fiestas, where they perform a move called ‘es Bot’, which involves standing on their hind legs.

Horses and their riders trot across the Cami de Cavalls path - a 115 mile ancient route across the island?

Horses and their riders trot across the Cami de Cavalls path - a 115 mile ancient route across the island?

Luckily, none of our horses decided to show off their two-legged tricks.

We were split into two groups. The first were keen to have a canter, the second happier sticking to walk and trot. I was in the first group but, even so, I was a little concerned. Riding racehorses three mornings a week and with horses of my own, a pony-trekking holiday on dobbins was not what I was after.

I needn’t have worried. Zaica was not a racehorse, but she was far from a dobbin. And even though there were stretches of follow-the-leader along the narrow paths, the rocky terrain meant you couldn’t afford to lose concentration.

Many of the Cami de Cavalls pathways are narrow and winding, with rocky steps both uphill and down. These tracks lead to the hidden beaches that make Menorca so popular with tourists, but are also perfect for a long canter along the shore or a stroll in the sea.

The island’s northern coastline, where we rode on our first day, is rocky and rugged. On our second outing, we followed the more sheltered southern coast.

We met our horses at the car park of Cala Turqueta beach, before proceeding to Cala des Talaier, where one nudist seemed set on giving the six lady riders something of a show.

These coves are some of the island’s most beautiful and Cala Turqueta was perfect for a post-riding dip (without horses, that is). Our guide did warn us that in peak season the beach can be so busy that if you arrive after 8am you won’t find a space to park.

We were there in May and enjoyed two days of glorious sunshine. Our third day was less glorious, but a rainy day in the 18th century capital of Mahon is perfect for nipping between the cafes and shops for which the town is famous. In the evenings, we all ate together in the hotel restaurant or wine cellar.

On the last night, we squashed into one room, ordered room service, and reminisced about our rides. A bit like The Pony Club all over again.

One afternoon we borrowed some bicycles and cycled through the vineyards to the hotel’s winery.

We all made it there safely on the way down, despite the bumpy tracks. But the return journey — after sampling some of the delicious wines — was a different matter. Bikes, we all concluded, are far more dangerous than horses.

TRAVEL FACTS ?

EasyJet (easyjet.com, 0330 365 5000) flies from Gatwick to Menorca from £51 return. Torralbenc (torralbenc.com, 0034 971 377 211) offers riding experiences from £89 and sea-view rooms from £216, B&B.?

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