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1 2 / W I L D AT H E A RT 0203 588 2974

20.9.2015 / 13

A real home from home on the range A dude ranch holiday gives you a taste of the Wild West, even if your horse is called Brick, says Fiona Harris


illy Crystal’s comedy, City Slickers, was well received when it opened in 1991. Even hardbitten cynics warmed to its theme of redemption and the rose-tinted depiction of the American West. The film certainly made an impression on London banker Martin Copeland. He fell for those panoramics of the Wild West as well as the close-ups of campfire bonhomie and decided that, one day, he would like to stay at a dude ranch. More than 20 years later, when Martin and his wife, Rosie, were looking for a family holiday, that memory popped back into his head. “We’d been to France for a few summers and were looking for something different,” he explains.“We wanted to go back to America because it’s so good for families. We’d already done Disney, which was great fun for the kids but not really for the adults. This

time we wanted a trip that we’d enjoy as much as the children and I remembered City Slickers.” Which is how several months later, they and their three children, Cordelia, ten, Barnaby, eight, and Cecily, seven, found themselves checking in at Goosewing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is such classic cowboy country that it was chosen as the location for Little House on the Prairie. The ranch itself is more than 100 years old and could have come straight from central casting: walls, floors and ceilings are all built from logs and rooms are decorated with antlers and animal skins. As well as the wranglers’ quarters there are also 11 tastefully kitted-out cabins for city slickers. The complex sits 7,400ft up in the Gros Ventre River Valley where elk and bear roam. The holiday was possibly a foolish choice for Martin, who describes himself as useless on a horse, although it made more sense for the rest of the family. Rosie is a skilled rider and former polo player, while the children’s regular riding lessons meant they were proficient, too. “The ranch is used to dealing with people of varying experience,” Rosie says. “They allocate you a horse that is suitable for your ability and you have the same one throughout your stay.” There’s a stable of about 60 horses, all with names that reflect their riders’ skills. Rosie was on Zinger, an ex-rodeo racer; the children were on Outlaw, Hawk and Dorito, all playful young studs. Martin was on Brick. “I wasn’t nervous,” he says. “The horses are so well trained, it was like driving an automatic.”

Take in the Tests and be bowled over by South Africa’s splendour Combine England’s forthcoming cricket tour with fabulous safari and sightseeing packages, says Tom Connor Rosie adds: “American saddles are very comfortable and have a horn at the front that you can always hang on to.” It meant they could head out as a family, although the children sometimes went out just with a guide and Rosie also had one hack alone so she could cut loose and gallop through the endless rolling meadows and dried-up creeks. Like all guests, the Copelands dictated the pace of their day. Each morning they would visit reception to plan their activities. Hacks and lessons in the riding school were interspersed with fly fishing for cutthroat trout, archery, mountain biking or tubing down the river. There were also lazy options, such as the pool, hot tub and sauna. “Every cabin comes with a four-wheel drive jeep,” Martin says. “The ranch is two hours from the nearest tarmac road. It was wild country. There is no mobile reception so we had no sat nav. Staff said we couldn’t get lost — we just had to follow the river. With thousands of acres, it was a bit more complicated than that but we had a great time exploring.

You can go at your own pace on a dude ranch where, thankfully, the trail guide won’t be Curly from City Slickers

“The kids never missed the internet or games. Ranch life was exciting and they learned a lot about the wildlife. They saw bears and coyotes. My daughter even spotted a bald eagle. In the evening, they loved sitting round the campfire singing.” Rosie adds: “All the wranglers were local, incredibly friendly and knowledgable and dressed like the cowboys in the movies.” Given the ranch’s isolation, the Copelands were impressed by the quality of food and wine and attribute this to the French owners. But it may not suit vegetarians as menus concentrate on steak, ribs and salmon. Once a week dinner is held outdoors, cooking on a dutch oven down by the river. Dining is communal, although families can request a separate table.

Western & Oriental (0203 588 2974, has a week, full board, from £12,623 for a family of four including two adults and two under-12s sharing a cabin, flights, transfers, ranch activities and tips.


t’s Pomicide. The headline summed it up nicely. That incredible Ashes victory has put the England cricket team on a high and turned the upcoming tour of South Africa into an even more enticing prospect. Whoever wins or loses at the crease, the real victors will be the Barmy Army, given the current exchange rate. Six years ago, when England last played the Proteas on home turf, UK holidaymakers were getting 13 rand to the pound; today, they will pocket about 18. It makes the country an attractive destination in search of winter sun, even without the expectation of a mouthwatering sporting Don‘t miss these encounter. sporting packages The first of the four October / November Test matches gets Pakistan v England in the underway on Boxing United Arab Emirates (UAE) Day in Durban, with Seven nights from £2,695 pp the tour concluding April with a T20 US Masters Golf International in Three nights from £4,795pp Johannesburg on May chance of sighting the February 21. Even if Monaco Grand Prix Big Five. The room Alastair Cook’s men fail Three nights from options in Greater Kruger to recreate the magic of £2,495pp National Park include the Trent Bridge, the Rainbow classy suites at Kapama River Nation offers an impressive Lodge. All 64 have private patios with number of distractions to soothe any uninterrupted views on to the plains pain on the pitch. where lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo Within easy reach of the featured and rhino are regularly spotted. grounds are the components of a firstBut let’s not forget the cricket. ITC will class holiday. Durban, which hosts the first Test from December 26 to 30, offers some of the world’s best beaches. Cape Town (January 2 to 6) gets the gourmet vote for its award-winning winelands and restaurants, while you can combine the Tests in Johannesburg (January 14 to 18) and Centurion (January 22 to 26) with top notch golf and wildlife watching. Across all the destinations are reminders of the country’s fascinating history and one of the highlights of the ITC programme focuses on its political past. On January 7, after the second Test in Cape Town, the company has arranged a tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars, followed by lunch at the Governor’s House. Built in 1895 for the island’s commissioner, the Victorian mansion has stunning views and is usually reserved for visiting dignitaries. Another draw for many tourists is the

Spot a leopard on safari after catching the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town, below

hold its popular State of Play evenings after each of the first three Tests. They put the England performances under the spotlight, with a panel of celebrity experts providing tactical insight and analysis, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes. Pundits in South Africa will include Gladstone Small, who played in 17 Tests and 53 one-day internationals for England, and David “Bumble” Lloyd, former England all-rounder turned Sky Sports commentator. In the past, the likes of David Gower and Michael Atherton have also taken part. Of course, there is also a fourth and final Test but if the England team’s summer success is anything to go by, it should all be over by then.

 ITC Sports Travel (01244 355 529, can tailormake trips to all the Tests. Packages include the 17-night Cape Town Test and Safari, which departs on December 27 and costs from £5,995pp. The price includes all flights, transfers, 12 nights in Cape Town, B&B and some other meals, including lunch on Robben Island and a new year’s eve dinner, some excursions, and four nights on safari, full board. Match tickets are not included as prices have yet to be confirmed but will be charged at cost.

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