Gillick's World: Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way Re-published August 2015 - Page 11

Ignoring the pouring rain, we walked into the woods of the estate and pretty soon I was given my own thick leather glove and shown the proper way to stand when a Hawk is about to land on my arm. Using a tiny morsel of meat as a lure, Alice flew from a branch and grabbed my glove in her talons with an inelegant thump. The next 90 minutes were a fascinating introduction to the world of Hawks and Falcons, their care, characteristics, eating habits and even some of their history. A ‘Falconet’, for instance, was the name chosen for a cannon used in the 15th century. The musket (gun) was named after the male sparrow hawk and the Toyota Tercel (automobile) takes its name from the male peregrine falcon. Throughout our conversation and walk, Alice would fly off into the trees and anxiously await the next piece of meat so she could swoop in for a bite. The Hawk Walk ended at a shelter housing a number of raptors. I was introduced to the goshawk, various falcons and several owls, before heading back to the castle to dry off and warm up. What an amazing way to spend an afternoon! For the record, Dromoland Castle also offers golf, fishing, cycling, clay shooting, archery, croquet, tennis, horseback riding, and has a fully appointed spa. I stayed at some very fine hotels while in Ireland, but somehow the castle experience stood out as something special. In a way, I guess it appeals to our dreams of what it would be like to live in a castle with attentive service and delicious foods—and then to actually experience it. Perhaps for some of my generation, it appeals to the Disney stories we grew up with; a realization of the Prince and the Pauper and all the rags-to-riches imagineering to which we are all exposed from time to time. In the context of tourism, the theme of togetherness in building castles (or flying of hawks) unleashes dreams that many travellers embrace; a perfect complement to the very idea of travel and the ability to turn dreams and wishes into reality.