Solo travel – what to expect from a solo ranch holiday in the USA
Our guest writer Mandy Sugden takes a solo ranch holiday at the Southern Cross Guest Ranch in Georgia. She shares her experience with us for this great solo travel idea.
Solo travel beyond the beach
Where do you go on holiday when you are single?
Sitting on a beach toasting gently didn’t quite appeal to me when it comes to solo travel, as I would only end up with a sun tan on the front of my body as there was no one to put sun screen on my back!
Plus I didn’t fancy eating alone every night for a week, and being ‘adopted’ by people who thought I shouldn’t be on my own. I’m happy on my own and I was looking for something a little different and to experience something new and exciting.
I’ve always been a keen horse rider and I’ve always fancied a ranch holiday in the USA but the thought of a 12-hour flight to Arizona or Wyoming for a week’s holiday has put me off in the past. But then I found the little gem that is the Southern Cross Premier Guest Ranch near Atlanta in Georgia – only a nine-hour flight away. So I packed my cowboy boots and checked shirt, thought about buying a Stetson, said ‘Yee haw!’ and off I went on this solo travel adventure of a lifetime.
I was not disappointed.
Southern Cross Guest Ranch
The ranch is set in beautiful, peaceful surroundings about a 10-minute drive from the small pretty town of Madison (an hour’s coach drive from Atlanta airport, straight along the I20).
With 225 acres of pastures and woodland, there is plenty of space to wander, hike and explore and it has over 150 horses with approximately 40 of these for trail riding.
The ranch house itself is gorgeous and full of character, offering a dozen different decks and lounges to enjoy plus quiet rooms for reading, playing games or gazing out over the pastures to contemplate life while enjoying a Budweiser or vino blanco. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool to relax around.
Each guest room is Western-themed and has comfortable beds and en-suites. Suites are also available for families, which are excellent value, so the ranch isn't just for solo travel.
A hearty hot and cold buffet is served three times a day, and the food is always fresh, made on site from local ingredients and the chef will cater for specific dietary requirements/allergies if required. The only issue you will have is fitting into your jeans at the end of the holiday as it really is delicious and plentiful.
Soft drinks and hot drinks are also available free 24/7. The ranch’s motto is very much, ‘Mi casa es su casa’ and nothing it too much trouble, the staff are so friendly and helpful.
Although there is no alcohol sold at Southern Cross Guest Ranch, you are welcome to bring alcohol with you. There is nothing better than enjoying a beer or glass of wine, watching the sun setting over the pasture with horses grazing quietly.
And if you’re lucky enough to be at the ranch around April to May time, you may well see a foal being born in the barn, as there are often 15-20 mares in foal each year. This truly was an amazing once in a lifetime experience for me and the little ones are super cute!
Guests are welcomed and encouraged to wander the property and pet and feed the horses, as the pastures and barn area are always open.
Now to the important bit – the riding
The ranch has approximately 40 horses available for trail riding, and whether you are a complete greenhorn or a die-hard cowboy they will match you with the right mount for your ability. It’s a very much hands-on approach, with every rider having the chance to learn how to safely groom and saddle their horse prior to each ride. You may also choose to ride a different horse each day if you wish.
And for the smaller children, Southern Cross Guest Ranch has a few larger horses where you can double up with a parent and enjoy a ride together on the same horse (age and size restrictions apply).
There are two rides per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon lasting 2 to 2.5 hours each, and both of which explore the extensive trails and woods of the property.
If you are a competent rider then you are allowed to explore in your own group (providing there are two or more of you for safety reasons), or there are a number of guides who take out small groups, give advice and information about the ranch. I opted for this option as it was a great way to meet new people, have a laugh and be shown the trials and the best places for trotting and cantering. It’s always great to meet new people from different walks of like and have interesting and different conversations.
Southern Cross Guest Ranch also arranged a day ride for a small group of us at Hard Labour Creek State Park, which was brilliant and so much fun. The horses (and people) were taken there in a trailer, we were provided with a picnic – and off we went on an all day ride. I would thoroughly recommend this to people who can ride, although by 3pm I was certainly looking forward to a long soak in the bath that evening.
Other ranch holiday activities
Mountain bikes are available at Southern Cross Guest Ranch, as is a games room with foosball, billiards, table tennis and a selection of books and games. There is a fire pit and a fishing lake, basketball court and acres and acres of open spaces for lovely walks, bike rides or nature trails.
Madison is a pretty little local town and offers shopping, dining, galleries and museums. Fishing and golf can be found nearby too – with the famous Augusta Gold Course only 90 minutes away. And let’s not forget Atlanta – host of the 1996 Olympics – a fantastic compact city well worth an explore for a couple of days.
Many of the ranch guests return year after year and many travel the length and breadth of America to get there, as Southern Cross Guest Ranch offers an all-inclusive vacation with southern hospitality at its best and ample relaxation time in the midst of seclusion.
There are three boarding options:
(BB) - Lodging, Breakfast, unlimited soft drinks and snacks, & mountain bikes
(AINR) - All of above plus Lunch and Supper
(AI) - All of above plus horseback riding 2x daily
Click on the link below to price up your stay