Cong, Ireland–Falconry, Castles and the Hungry Monk

Ireland is a magical place full of stunning scenery, historic ruins and amazing people. Dublin is a great city, but if you’re the adventurous type, I encourage you to get out into the scenic countryside and explore some of the quaint villages. I promise you, it’s worth it.

Ashford Castle, Cong Ireland
A view of Ashford Castle from Lough Corrib

My husband and I traveled to the Village of Cong, County of Mayo, located in Northwest Ireland. It’s peak season in July, and while prices are at their highest, this time of year has its advantages, as the sun rises around 5:00 am and doesn’t set until 10:00 pm, allowing you to really maximize the day. We stayed at the historic Ashford Castle, former home and estate of the Guiness family—a definite splurge but worth paying for. The 350 acre estate is also home to  Ireland’s School of Falconry, an experience so unique, we left wanting to get our own back home.

Ashford Castle Hawk Walk, Ireland's School of Falconry, Things to do in Cong Ireland
The best experience ever!

We started our “Hawk Walk” in the morning and were the first people of the day. Edward, our instructor, gave us a tour of the grounds along with an introduction to falconry.  He explained how unlike other birds of prey, the Harris’s Hawk is not loyal to one person; therefore, it is the best to use for multiple handlers.

The experience was unlike anything we’ve ever done—a true bucket list type moment. The walk lasted an hour with us starting out in a park like setting before heading out into the thick of the woods, making it more challenging for the hawks. From the looks of them, you’d think it would be hard to hold up your arm and carry them around, but in reality, they truly are, “light as a feather.” Watching them maneuver through the trees without so much as grazing a branch or a leaf, is mind blowing.  When you call them in, and they come flying towards you at top speed, you can’t help but brace yourself at first, thinking they’ll latch onto the glove, but they simply land gracefully and quietly. Once the hawks were full, we headed back to return our hawks and head into the village for the day. (The walk is is how they feed them. A hawks life expectancy in the wild is about four years, but in captivity it’s approximately twelve.)

The Village of Cong, is very quaint with amazing historic ruins to walk through. There is no cost to tour the ruins; you simply wander at your leisure. It’s also the film location for an Oscar-winning, old movie classic, “A Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. There is actually a statue of them in town and you can also tour the Quiet Man’s Museum which has an exact replica of the White O’Morn Cottage featured in the film.

The best place to eat hands down is the Hungry Monk. My lunch was simple–smoked salmon with salad and a piece of Irish brown bread. And, if you are into dessert, this is definitely the place to calorie splurge; it’s worth every single bite!

Restaurants in Cong Ireland, the Hungry Monk
My simple and delicious meal at the Hungry Monk!

Getting there: Cong is located approximately an hour and thirty minutes north of the Shannon Airport via the M-18.

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