Ireland, Day 12: A Tale of Irish Coffees, Falconry Schools, and Tidy Towns

1062 - Ashford Castle

For more on Ireland, see my posts from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, and Day 11.

Our trip to Ireland was so wonderful that sometimes I fear I’m slipping into hyperbole here; everything becomes the most gorgeous scenery, the most delicious food, the most memorable experience. And the truth is that while so much of what we did was actually that wonderful, there are some days on the trip that stand out from the rest as truly special – and today was one of them.

As our day began, our guide told us he had not one, but two, surprises in store for us. We drove toward the town of Cong, passing by Ashford Castle along the way. Our guide told us that Ashford Castle has been transformed into one of the most luxurious hotels in Ireland; in fact, Pierce Brosnan even got married there. Sadly, the Castle was not on our itinerary, and we passed it by as we headed into Cong.

Upon our arrival into Cong, our driver made a loop around the town while our guide pointed out landmarks. But then…rather than stopping the bus and letting us explore Cong, the driver completed the loop and left the town behind. Surprise! We were actually going to Ashford Castle after all…

1048 - Ashford Castle

Needless to say, we were all pretty excited about this. We arrived at the Castle and went inside, where we explored some of the hotel’s beautiful rooms.

995 - Ashford Castle

997 - Ashford Castle

998 - Ashford Castle

1018 - Ashford Castle

We then were taken into a dining room for part one of our surprise – Irish coffees for everyone (and tea for those who weren’t wild about the idea of whiskey so early in the morning). As I drank my Irish coffee and my mom had her tea, we had the biggest smiles on our faces. We’re in Ireland! In a castle! And it’s all so fancy and elegant! Life is good.

1008 - Ashford Castle

1009 - Ashford Castle

1010 - Ashford Castle

1011 - Ashford Castle

After thoroughly enjoying our beverages, we headed outside for part two of our surprise – a visit to the Castle’s School of Falconry.

1026 - School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

As we toured the school itself, our guide told us more about the falcons and other birds kept there. We learned about how the birds must maintain super precise flying weights (as little as a quarter ounce can make a difference). It was all quite fascinating.

1030 - School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

1031 - School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

1033 - School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

1034 - School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

Next, our group got to go out with one of the hawks, Inca, on a hunt. Each person in our group would get to don the big black glove, have Inca land on their arm, and then cast the hawk out to hunt again. This is the part of the story where I make a small confession: birds scare me. Like a lot.

So, that said, I opted not to put on the big black glove and have the bird land on me. Instead, I played photographer for my mom and others as they each took their turns. The whole experience was awesome to watch, and my bird-phobic self has no regrets about the situation – seeing it was quite enough, thank you.

1044 - School of Falconry at Ashford Castle

After finishing up our hawking, we headed to the back of the Castle and took a stroll through the impeccably manicured gardens. Everything was just lovely; I can completely understand why anyone – James Bond or otherwise – would want to get married here.

1056 - Ashford Castle

1055 - Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle

From the Castle, we walked back into the town of Cong itself. The walk was relatively quick – about 15 minutes – but there was lots of beautiful nature to take in along the way. We also stopped for a short visit at the ruins of Cong Abbey.

1070 - Walk from Ashford Castle to Cong

1074 - Walk from Ashford Castle to Con

1078 - Walk from Ashford Castle to Con

1086 - Cong Abbey, Cong

1085 - Cong Abbey, Cong

Once in Cong itself, we had lunch at The Hungry Monk (great name for a cafe, don’t you think?). There, I had a yummy bacon, brie, and cranberry panini. After lunch, we walked around Cong, and though there weren’t a ton of things to see there, the town was still a cute and charming place to relax.

1092 - Around Cong

1094 - Lunch at The Hungry Monk

1097 - Lunch at The Hungry Monk

1100 - Around Cong

1103 - Around Cong

1104 - Around Cong

1107 - Around Cong

We then climbed back on our bus, driving through the spectacular Connemara countryside. While I tend to take pictures of everything (obviously), I rarely snapped photographs while on the bus during this trip. Even though the scenery out my window was beautiful, I knew my shaky bus pictures would never come close to capturing it, so I preferred to watch and soak it all in. But in Connemara, I made an exception: the views were too beautiful not to try for a few pictures.

1116 - Bus views in Connemara

1117 - Bus views in Connemara

1119 - Bus views in Connemara

We ended our day in Westport, a frequent winner of Ireland’s Tidy Town competition. Walking around town before dinner, we could see why; there were flowers everywhere and all the buildings were beautifully kept.

1123 - Around Westport

1121 - Around Westport

1127 - Around Westport

1128 - Around Westport

1131 - Around Westport

1129 - Around Westport

That evening, we finished our day with a dinner at Madden’s Bistro. I started with my usual goat cheese salad (it never disappointed), ordered a rather unremarkable chicken with mushroom sauce for my main, and ended on a very delicious note with profiteroles – a sweet dessert to end one of our sweetest travel days.

1134 - Dinner at Clew Bay Hotel

1135 - Dinner at Clew Bay Hotel

1136 - Dinner at Clew Bay Hotel

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3 thoughts on “Ireland, Day 12: A Tale of Irish Coffees, Falconry Schools, and Tidy Towns

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