Apparently it takes a lifetime to become a falconer, to be able to walk the talk of falconers and their birds of prey. But you can dive or swoop right in with an hours Hawk Walk at Ashford Castle with the Irish School of Falconry if you want to try your hand, literally at falconry.
They also say you never forget the first time a hawk lands on your arm and believe me this is one for your bucket list if you are planning a trip to Ireland, in fact I would rate it as one of the top ten things to do in Ireland as it is such an unique experience.
While technology is obviously great and necessary, most of us would readily admit to having become a tad bored never mind overwhelmed at the rate at which it seems to have taken over our lives . Digitally overloaded and constantly connected 24/7 there are very few opportunities to connect with a force that is at once wild and powerful, beautiful and primal.
There are 23 hawks at the falconry at Ashford Castle, each with charming names, including the Irish samradh (summer) fomhair (autumn) etc. The bird I was introduced to and would take on a Hawk Walk was two-year-old Inca, a Peruvian Hawk and keen hunter.
Anya the handler explained the history of falconry and the different hunting techniques between hawks which swoop down on their prey and the peregrine falcons who take their prey in the air, before deftly transferring Inca to my glove. I felt slightly fearful but immensely privileged to be up close and personal with this beautiful and powerful bird which had me fixed with her beady yellow rimmed eyes and gripped with her powerful talons.
We then walked up to the long tree lined vista that runs down to Ashford Castle and after a couple of minutes I was launching Inca who would fly off up into one of the trees and then return to land on my arm whenever I turned and raised my glove. It sounds simple and indeed it was, each movement has to slow and deliberate so as to not confuse the bird (or me) which had the effect of being in slow motion and was like stepping back in history to perhaps Maid Marian’s time (I know wishful thinking) but the rest of the world ceased to exist for that hour. It was just me, Inca (and okay the handler at a safe distance) walking and working together in the most beautiful of settings in the grounds of Ashford Castle on a sultry summer afternoon. Life doesn't get much better than that.
For more on Ireland’s Hidden Gems click here.