Our new friends - Rua and Blaskett
I am jumping to the end of our eleven day trip to Ireland because this was the highlight of our vacation. A co-worker of D's recommended that we do the "Hawk Walk" at Ireland's School of Falconry at Ashford Castle.
It was an experience of a lifetime. I was a little apprehensive when I was first given my bird Blaskett, a ten year old male. Okay, maybe apprehensive is too soft a word.....I was really scared!
I listened carefully as the trainer promised me he would not bite my face off. D of course was laughing his butt off, watching and photographing my fear.
Okay, I am now comfortable with my new buddy Blaskett.
D admiring his bird, Rua, an eight year old female. She is one of their best hunters. I think they may have bonded.
We were very fortunate to have the owner, Deborah, as our guide. The walks are private and last for 60 minutes. We ended up having 90 minutes because this was a new pairing of birds and she wanted to give them a little more time together. Her knowledge of this magnificent bird is impressive. She and her husband started the school twenty years ago. What a cool job!
Once Deborah gave us a quick lesson on how to hold our birds, we walked about 10 minutes into the woods before letting them fly. As soon as she unties the strap on their legs they take off into the trees. She then puts a piece of meat in our gloved hand and they FLY back to us for their reward.
It is absolutely AMAZING to watch the birds come straight down from the tree at a pretty fast pace, full wing spread, directly at us. As we walked along the path they followed us, flying from tree to tree. She did not give them any signals or calls. I think they watch when she lifts her bag as this means she is pulling out their treat.
After devouring the treat, they would sit for a few minutes on our finger which gave us the opportunity to really get a good look at them. I felt like Blaskett was looking directly in to my soul. Deborah told us they are not affectionate and do not become close to anyone, even her. She said they really do not look at you either - it just appears as if they do.
We highly recommend taking a hawk walk if you ever have the opportunity. The Harris Hawk is a fascinating bird of prey.
We were very lucky on our walk; we actually had a sunny day. Let me just say it now......the weather sucked! We had rain EVERY single day and we missed several sights (Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, most of the Burren) because of the rain and fog.
I read a quote, "if you don't like the weather in Ireland, wait five minutes". How true this was. As we stepped out of the rental car agency we had to make a run for our car as it was hailing. Welcome to Ireland. With all the rain, we did see some spectacular rainbows. They are very hard to photograph. We even saw a full rainbow - which was a first for us both. No photo as we were in the car.
Donald did a great job driving. Remember.....in Ireland, the driver is on the right hand side of the car and you drive on the right side of the road. A guy on the plane said just remember the driver is always in the middle and passenger on the outside. Here is a typical road in Ireland. You tell me where the middle is. And yes this is a two-way road!
Our trip consisted mainly of ruins, castles, pubs, peanut butter and jelly, and sheep. Of course we will show you all the sunny photos and you will think I am lying about the rain.
Above is the Minard Castle in Dingle.
I really like this one too; I think it looks like a watercolor painting.
We were the only people there, which gave them a very eerie feel.
This was probably our favorite ruin. It was on a golf course, Adare Manor. We had to walk quite a distance on the course to get to it. Good thing D is a golfer as he knew when and more importantly when not to cross the fairways.
A few more shots of the golf course ruins.
We visited Kylemore Abbey. It was built between 1867 and 1871. In 1920, the Benedictine nuns from Belgium who fled during the war purchased the castle and in 1923 turned it into an international boarding school for girls. I would have liked to have gone to school here!
The Swiss Cottage is a delightful little thatched roof cottage built in the early 1800's and was used for the wealthy to entertain guests. It was usually on the same property as their castles. It was sort of like a play house.
The shapes that are made by the erosion are called karren.
The shapes that are made by the erosion are called karren.
As you know, we are big foodies. Ireland is not a place for foodies. When you are out driving around, there are very few restaurants. So we ate many pb&j's. In the car. There are also very few public toilets. You can do the math on this one : )
Time for our obligatory ice cream shot. On the ice cream ratings scale, good not great. D had brown bread ice cream and I had Bailey's Irish cream, both local favorites. It was very expensive. Actually everything in Ireland was very expensive.
We were able to catch a few scenic cliff-side photos in between the raindrops.
This photo captured what I was expecting Ireland to look like; beautiful, idyllic, peaceful.
With all that rain, you can image how green everything was.
There was a lot of stone which was used around the houses and on the farms. Even with all this stone, there were very few stone houses or farms. It was only used for fences.
The fog created a very beautiful scene.
This is the Gallarus Oratory believed to be a very early christian church built between the 6th and 9th century. It was built without mortar.
We had fun photographing all the goats, sheep, and baby lambs.
Being spring, there were hundreds of baby lambs. Even in the roads.
This is "tea-party goat". She is all dressed up with her fancy nylons and her pink hair.
The day we were in Galway the Volvo Around the World Ocean Yacht Race was coming through. Unfortunately they would not be getting into port until 3 am. We still enjoyed the festivities. The Irish Yacht came in 3rd.
And last but not least - the Irish pubs!
We visited many. There are no fast food restaurants to be found, if you want a quick bite, you pop into a pub.
All you beer drinkers should know the beer of Ireland is Guinness.
Doesn't that creamy foam make your mouth water?
I am not a beer drinker, but discovered that I really enjoyed the cider. And it has as much alcohol as the Guinness.
In Dingle, we went to listen to traditional Irish music live. There were four musicians slated to play, but four more joined in so they had a jam. We enjoyed listening to them. Both of the female singers had beautiful voices with that Irish lilt. The music, coupled with the cider...had me doing the jig.
Of course we have many more photos for your viewing pleasure....just click on the photo of the castle ruins on the upper right hand side of our main page.
Next trip - Croatia and Bosnia! See you then.