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Wells House & Garden

The Sport of Kings

There is a rich history of falconry on the Island of Ireland. The skill of falconry was initially a way to catch food for impoverished people and a sport for the rich – the so called ‘Sport of Kings.’

A hawk was an expensive commodity and in 1693 a newspaper named Dublin Intelligence carried an ad for a lost hawk belonging to Lord Capall, offering a handsome reward for its return.

It was common for Lords, officials and noble gentry to keep falcons and hawks and they employed falconers to train them. This would have been one of the highest ranked jobs among the staff hierarchy on an estate.

The earliest reference to Falconry in Irish history is in the text Betha Colman Maic Luachain, (The Life of St. Colman Maic Luachain). Where it references an exchange of land and commodities between Domnall, The High King of Tara and Colman, where two hunting hawks were part of this exchange.

Goshawk remains have been found in Ireland that are believed to have been buried in 3000 BC. What is unclear is whether the skill of falconry was practiced or if these wonderful birds of prey were merely enjoyed by their noble owners. Actual falconry references are nowhere to be found until the 12th century.

It was at this time that the island of Ireland had built up a reputation for having the best caliber of hawks, falcons and sparrow hawks.

A French falconer by the name of William Tardisse wrote on Goshawks ‘But truly there is no goshawk more excellent than that which is bred in Ireland in the north parts, as in Ulster, and in the County of Tyrone.’

They were so highly valued that a trade opened up and these birds were sold or used to pay rent and even for political gain. A 14th Century document from Kilkenny Castle detailing particular hawks that could be used for rent payment. A black market for these birds soon emerged and by 1481 stiff fines were imposed for any trappers, tradesmen or merchants that carried a hawk out of the Island of Ireland. In the late 16th Century, an inventory of Goshawk nests was written for Kerry and Limerick.

The 19th century saw the formation of the first Irish Falconry association. This association was the first of its kind and sought to generate a resurgence of the sport.

Today at Wells House and Gardens you can enjoy the sport of Kings and learn about falconry through our resident falconer and his Harris hawks which will open your eyes to this ancient skill and how people worked together with hawks and falcons to form a formidable hunting team.


Wells House & Gardens are now taking bookings for our exciting  2021 School Tours Packages.

School Tours 2021

We are currently developing beautiful new walks through the Magic Woods of Wells House & Gardens, which children and teachers can enjoy on their visit. Our Adventure Playground is perfect for letting the kids work off some energy before getting back on the bus. All our packages offer free playtime for all.

This International Dawn Chorus Day, we invite you to experience our own magical ‘Dawn Chorus’ with exclusive early morning access to Well House & Gardens and Woodland Walks.

Dawn Chorus Morning

Lose yourself in Spring’s joyful morning song and enjoy the beautiful Sunrise at 05.51am, listening to a backdrop of birdsong whilst watching the day awaken in the enchanting gardens and woodlands.

Relax, unwind and enjoy your retirement with the help of Wells House & Gardens.

Active Retirement

Spend an afternoon in the dining room of the house itself and then take a step back in time with a guided house tour, bringing you back to a time when the magnificent ground floor and bedrooms witnessed the stories of Cromwell, Rebellions and the Famine.

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