Tales of Adventure: Falconry at Dromoland Castle

dromoland castle

It had been raining all morning. Irish weather… you never can be sure of it. As we woke to our last morning at Dromoland Castle, it seemed the luck of our “sun bubble” which had been following us the last 10 days had run out. Disappointing on our last day, and even more so seeing as we had booked a special activity for that morning.

Falconry had been offered at a few of the properties we had stayed in during our trip. It always peaked our interest, but we hadn’t had the chance to try it out yet. And if the weather didn’t start cooperating, it looked as though we were just about to miss our last chance.

Luckily, the clouds broke just as our 10:00 a.m. time slot arrived. We were going to get to fly the falcons.

dromoland falconry

There were two groups set to fly Bruce and Alice, the two Harris’s Hawks who would be humoring us today with their natural predatory skills. And since two birds were available, it meant we were able to have one all to ourselves on a private group experience. Bruce would be our bird of prey for the morning, and as explained by his keeper Sarah, he was a seasoned pro.

dromoland castle

dromoland castle

For those of you who have never been falconeering before, it’s a fairly simple process. You let the ties loose from the bird’s feet, and allow it to fly up into the trees. There are signals and a whistle (done by the keeper) to capture the bird’s attention, and a piece of raw beef is placed on your glove to lure it back. Since these birds have an unbelievably acute sense of sight, they can see this little morsel on your glove and fly down to retrieve their treat.

Sounds simple, right? Sure, as long as you have a bird who’s trained, and a keeper who knows what they’re doing, and it’s not raining, and the bird doesn’t suddenly decide to go chase a mouse it spotted a mile away (the blessing and the curse of that amplified eye sight…).

dromoland castle

dromoland castle

We had enormous fun that morning, watching Bruce fly out to the trees, spotting him, and then tempting him back with the raw beef. We only lost him a few times, when the other group crossed paths with ours and the two birds decided to chill in the trees on their own accord. No doubt they were sitting up there commiserating on how easily amused these silly humans are.

Fun fact: as “big” as Bruce looked, and as much as it made your heart pound as he swooped towards you to collect his meat, he only weighs about 1.5 pounds. Light as a feather as he sat on your arm, hardly even noticeable.

dromoland castle

The clouds began to gather again just as our falconry adventure was coming to a close. It was time to let the birds rest before their next rendezvous. Sarah steered us back to home base where they kept a variety of species of falcons, hawks and even owls from around the world.

The birds each have a specific talent, which has been honed for a specific purpose in the world of falconry. It was fascinating to learn more about each species, and see how each individual bird had a personality of its own.

dromoland castle

dromoland castle

It was the perfect ending to a perfect Irish adventure. We had little time before we had to have our bags packed and ready for the airport transfer. We trudged back over the field towards the castle, well satisfied with our morning activities. And thankful that our sun bubble graced us with good weather for at least one more hour.

  • Ahhh I would LOVE to do this!! I’m such a huge animal lover. That’s so awesome that you got to hold one in your arm!! I love that owl in the last photo too!!

    • It was such a cool experience!!! If you ever get the chance, I definitely recommend it. And book early if you know you’re going somewhere where they offer falconry – it’s pretty popular and books up fast! The birds were oh-so tolerant of us tourists snapping photos too. 😉

  • This looks like an unforgettable experience! The pictures are absolutely amazing. I can only imagine how special was to do it with your family. Thanks for sharing!

    • It was totally unforgettable! We were all actually sitting around and talking about it last night, and how cool it is that they are able to train the birds like that. I’m still shocked that Bruce didn’t decide to just fly off and leave us silly humans sitting there trying to chase him down. Could you imagine that sight? lol

  • Wow, what an amazing experience! Love how you got to see the birds’ individual personalities come out.

    • It was so amazing! And it was fascinating to hear how the different keepers get along with the different birds. Apparently one of the guys has worked there for ages, and since the birds come young they have imprinted on him. How cool would that be? I know horses and dogs do that, but it never occurred to me that hawks and falcons would too!

  • How fun! Putting some final touches on our Ireland trip – this would be an awesome add-on! Great pics, too!

    • Thank you Shannon!! It was an incredible experience, one of the surprises of the trip for sure. We didn’t make any reservations for anything in advance, and got lucky that there were still some spots on our last morning. If you want to try it I would recommend booking early! 🙂