We had an amazing experience today. We worked with a Harris Hawk named Aztec (with our instructor Alec) and spent an hour walking in the woods of the Ashford Castle estate.
It was actually like a page right out of a Robin Hood story, deep in Sherwood Forest. We got to see Aztec take off to hunt his own prey at one point. What a feeling to look eye-to-eye with a raptor and have him take-off and return to your gloved hand.
Alec was an excellent teacher, and you could tell he had a real love of the birds and what he was doing; we managed to learn quite a bit from him.
The program is run by Ireland’s School of Falconry, the oldest established such school in Ireland. Although based at Ashford Castle, you don’t have to be staying here to schedule a Hawk Walk. www.falconry.ie
In the meantime, I can’t even think of enough adjectives to describe Ashford Castle. Dating from 1228, this property did indeed start out as a castle. In the mid-1800s it was owned by Sir Benjamin Guinness. In 2013, the property was rescued from receivership by the Red Carnation luxury hotel group. They bought it for less than half of its previous sale price and then proceeded to invest somewhere between $50-70 million in renovating the hotel and estate.
What you have is an incredible property, perfect in every way. Accommodations include totally modern electronics (such as US electrical outlets, heated bathroom floors and one touch controls for everything in the room), along with elegant fabric-covered walls, canopy beds and a staff that makes you feel like you are their only guest.
So, from the shores of Lough Corrib, we wish you “dia dhuit” (good evening).