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Ashford Castle: Falconry, Fun and Food
Treasures of Ireland:
Food, Fun and Falconry
At Ashford Castle
(Dispatch #18)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

Ashford Castle

hen it's not raining on your parade, and that's a real possibility when visiting the Emerald Isle, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy around Ireland's iconic country estate: Ashford Castle.

scenes around Ashford Castle

Guests can tee it up at the parkland golf course; play singles or doubles on two all-weather tennis courts; go fishing; grab a kayak and paddle around the lake; mount a horse and hit the woodland trails, or take a carriage ride with the entire family; hire a bike and cycle the castle's vast estate; take aim with skeet and archery; play billiards; screen The Quiet Man and other box-office hits in the velvet-seated cinema; relax in the spa; or, do what we're about to do: experience the ancient sport of falconry.

Falconry School signage

Ireland's School of Falconry is the oldest established falconry school in the country. Here, castle guests can book a once-in-a-lifetime "hawk walk" and fly their very own Harris's hawk in the nearby woodlands.

falconry instructor Jamie and hawl Lima

Meet Jamie and Lima. Jamie's the smiling redhead from California in the watchman's cap and a bona fide falconry instructor; Lima's the female Peruvian Harris's hawk. Together, they're schooling us in this 4,000 year-old hunting sport.

Lima with a visitor

Following its "handler" from tree to tree, Lima periodically swoops down into a gloved fist, grabs a "snack" and then flies off again. You know she's somewhere nearby from the sound of the tiny bells attached to her talons.

Ashford Castle's private pier

I've been told that a "history" cruise around Lough Corrib, sailing daily from Ashford Castle's private pier, is a terrific way to explore the camera-ready surroundings of some of the lake's 365 isles, one for each day of the year, and take in the panoramic views of the Connemara Mountains in the distance.

Together with my mates – 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Treasures of Ireland itinerary – I board the M.V. Isle of Innisfree, an original tender (lifeboat) from the Cunard Line, and shove off.

Martin playing aboard the M.V. Isle of Innisfree

Captain/historian/owner Patrick steers the boat and narrates the scene both at the same time as we cruise across the lake. Meanwhile, Martin, an 80-year-old musician, entertains us topside on the "squeezebox" with a selection of Irish tunes, like Danny Boy and Rakes of Mallow.

an isle at the Lough Corrib

In between the history lesson and the ditties, a member of the crew ensures that our glasses are kept full with wine or Jameson, or both, to ward off the cold wind hitting us straight on. Brrrr.

the George V Dining Room, Ashford Cstle

In 1906, the Prince of Wales was a guest of the Guinness family, owners of Ashford Castle at the time. The prince went on to become England's King George V. In honor of the king's visit, the Guinness family built a special dining room that still bears his name.

champagne and menu at the King George V Dining Room

Dressed to the nines – coat and tie for the gents and the LBD (little black dress) for the ladies – we're ushered into the graceful setting that is the George V Dining Room, handed a glass of bubbly and prepare to dine like royalty.

From acclaimed Chef Philippe Farineau's kitchen, a bounty of food magazine-worthy dishes is plated before us from Ireland's lands, seas and farms. And, paired with our delectable selections are several stellar wines from Bouchard Finlayson Winery of South Africa.

Ashford Castle guest book

With our 48-hour, fairy tale-like stay coming to an end, members of the intrepid "band of merry media" add their names to the guest book to ensure that they're part of the Ashford lore.

Asheford Castle staff with Co. Mayo travel guide

Red Carnation Hotels has done a masterful job of meticulously restoring this iconic country estate in Co. Mayo to its former glory, breathing new life into her to carry her forward, hopefully, for another 800 years. But, it is the staff, those warm and friendly individuals sporting the emblematic flower in their lapels, who have made our visit so unforgettable.

Insight Vacations brochure

For complete information on Insight's 100+ premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, including a five-star luxury stay at Ashford Castle, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

glasses of Guinness

Join me in just about three hours in downtown Dublin when we'll pass through the "pearly gates" to see how Irish barley, hops, yeast and water ferment in perfect harmony to form the world-renowned "black stuff."

Related Articles:
The Quiet Man; Piped Inside Ashford Castle; Galway Bay; The Burren; The Cliffs of Moher; Remembering the Great Famine

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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