I am balanced on top of Luke clopping through the picturesque Brecon Beacons, trying to summon my inner Vladimir Putin.
But my shirt remains on and my horse refuses to take commands.
I wouldn’t say I’m an animal lover . . . but neither can I bring myself to kick the horse to “show it who’s boss”, as I’m instructed to.
I gingerly tap him with my heels. Luke continues to ignore me.
He trots when he wants to, frequently stops to eat and seems to enjoy going under low-hanging branches and through prickly holly. And I would rather do that than boot the beast.
Horse riding is timeless fun. Trotting along an ancient Roman path to a bright green summit, the sun shining. I can’t believe I am just three hours from London. It feels like a world away.
The instructor at Cantref is ace, turning me from a horse-fearing novice to a happy trotter in just a couple of hours. Luke almost seemed sad to see me go.
I am here trying four fun ways to explore the stunning valleys and peaks of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. From hoof to foot, next up is a hike up a snow-capped peak. Our guide Clive steers us away from the hordes climbing Pen y Fan, the highest peak, towards a quieter summit.
That is the real joy of hiking — picking and choosing your own route. It is like playing Far Cry or other open-world video games.
And while horse riding, for me at least, is mostly about survival, on foot I am free to enjoy the larks singing, the ravens nesting and the wild horses roaming the peaks.
As we climb, thick cloud surrounds us. We make it past traces of late-winter snow to the summit.
That is the perfect excuse to fish out my compass and tuck into my emergency supply of sugar-crumbed Welsh cakes.
GO: BRECON BEACONS
STAYING THERE: The River Tawe holiday apartment in a converted school in Ystradgynlais is a modern bolthole with bedroom and open-plan living, dining and kitchen. Prices from £75 a night. See rivertaweholidayapartment.co.uk.
OUT & ABOUT:
- Cantref – cantref.com
- Walking guide – walkabout-wales.com
- Trike – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cycle hire – drovercycles.co.uk
MORE INFO: See breconbeacons.org.
Triking, a much newer concept, is by far the least tiring of our four adventures.
It you break a sweat it will be through fear, as you adjust to sitting slightly side-saddle, careering through the mountain roads behind a burly expert biker.
The black and chrome three-wheeler, with its Harley-style handlebars, catches the eye of trekkers, photographers and sheep alike.
Our trip took in the novel Penderyn Distillery to sample plenty of the excellent whiskies made with spring water and the unique, copper Faraday stills.
Thankfully, our rider stayed sober and got us safely home on the trike.
With old-school charm and high-tech wizardry, the River Tawe Holiday Apartment is a luxurious, 5-star base. The renovated schoolhouse features Alexa-controlled mood lighting, remote-operated blinds and a bathroom almost the size of Wales.
Also on the banks of the Tawe in the pretty town of Ystradgynlais is the unmissable Chameleon cafe bar. It is kooky and offbeat, serving local ales and home-cooked food such as traditional lamb cawl.
Local musicians often play here too, adding their folk stylings to the homespun fun.
If the size of your steak is key, try the Ynyscedwyn Arms for traditional pub grub with Beacon-size portions.
We ended our trip by cycling deeper in the Brecons.
With the bikes and route laid on by Drover Cycles, all we had to do was peddle and gawp at the scenery — then hoover up Sunday lunch in the pretty garden of The Oak, a pub in Pencelli beside a canal.
This is beautiful cycling, over Roman aqueducts, past canal locks and through pretty daffodil-lined towns with red phone boxes converted to free libraries.
There is a reason motoring journalists test-drive cars in the Brecon Beacons. The countryside is stunning.
And whether you are kicking horses or car tyres, there is an abundance of adventure to be had.
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