Gillick's World: Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way Re-published August 2015 - Page 9

After a tasty breakfast of grilled kippers and eggs, I had to depart. For those fortunate to stay longer, there are many outdoor activities to take in the country air, including salmon fishing, cycling, horseback riding, woodcock shooting and, not too far off at Roundstone Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, visitors can learn about lobster fishing from one of the Ballynahinch staff –an activity that is listed as one of the ‘secrets’ of the coastal drive known as the Wild Atlantic Way. The two suits of armour in the reception area immediately established the theme for the Castle: regal, luxurious, historical and very friendly. I was taken up a flight of stairs marked “Private” to the Queen Anne Suite where I was humbled by the plush couches, wardrobes, 3 flat-screen televisions--each welcoming me by name, a kingsize bed with views of the golf course and lake, and a washroom equal to the size of my living room in Toronto. For the next five days I visited different towns in the South West before heading north, past Shannon, to Newmarket-on-Fergus. On a cool and rainy day, I entered a gated area where, across a golf course (full of dedicated golfers), on the far side of the lake, sat Dromoland Castle. This area was the ancestral home of the O’Briens who were direct descendants of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland in the 11th Century. The first castle was built in 1014. A second castle/house appeared in the early 18th Century and then the structure was rebuilt in 1963 with a castle/hotel design in mind. With camera in hand, I wandered around the red carpeted, picture and portrait-filled corridors of the Castle. The bar, once the estate library, was warm and cozy, as was the lounge area. For lunch, I sat on a six-inch deep couch, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir and savouring six juicy fat Galway Bay oysters. At 3:00 pm, Jim Hennigar walked into the Castle lobby with Alice, a very curious Harris Hawk, perched on his arm. My Hawk Walk was about to begin. The corridor leading to the dining lounge and the bar, Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus