Country Pursuits in Ireland Over Christmas

Struggling for gift ideas for the person in your life who has everything? Or perhaps you want to spend the unusually long Christmas break doing more than rekindling your knowledge of Eastenders and walking the dog? Tis also the season for great country pursuits, from deer stalking to shooting and falconry.

Diary of Dionysus have done a run down with some of the best places for beginners to cut loose from society and ingratiate themselves with the rugged outdoors. Dig out those Hunters you bought for Electric Picnic a few years ago, wrap up in some tweed and tartan and take in the great outdoors this Christmas!

Delphi Lodge

Delphi organise six woodcock shoots each winter, three in December and three in January. These are semi-driven shoots for 8-10 guns, with teams of beaters and dogs. They are run over three days each, in association with a house party in Delphi Lodge. During the months of December and January, Delphi Lodge can be booked exclusively by groups who wish to spend a few days in the West of Ireland woodcock shooting.

Ballyfin Demense

The last word in country glamour, Ballyfin Demense is the ultimate place to splurge on country pursuits. All activites are arranged by  Head Butler Lionel Chadwick and Ballyfin offer archery, clay pigeon shooting and air rifle target shooting on the demesne.

Rates from €915.00 per night Deluxe Room. This includes full-board and service that is more than reminiscent of Downton.

Kate and William shooting in Sandringham

Hilton Park

At Hilton there are so many things to do on Hilton’s 600 acres, from fishing on the lakes, taking a romantic boat trip or a wonderfully exhilarating fresh water swim, highly recommended as a refreshing tonic.

Facilities include:

  • 18-hole golf course on the grounds of Hilton, complimentary to all guests who stay.
  • Two fishing lakes with plenty of pike, trout and perch
  • Boating
  • Croquet/Lawn Games
  • Wild swimming in the freshwater lake overlooking the house
  • Nature walks
  • Biking
  • Clay Pigeon shooting can be organised on the estate for groups of four or more.


From €85-€100 per person sharing per night, including breakfast and afternoon tea each day with complimentary golf and fishing. All bedrooms have bathrooms en suite, with antique stand alone baths and views across the estate

Ballynatray Estate

Available activities:

  • Simulated Game shooting (They supply the guns, cartridges, clays, and birds.)
  • Shooting
  • Deer stalking

Beginners have to learn to shoot before they can join a group of people doing driven shooting so Ballynatray recommends that they do the simulated game shooting.

Ballynatray Estate is located on the Blackwater River and the nearest town is Youghal, Co. Cork – the largest county in Ireland. With 850 acres of parkland, and commanding views along the Blackwater River, the Estate offers a wide range of activities to residents and non residents alike.


During a hunt ball at Ballynatray in 1868, Lady Harriette slipped out her bedroom window and united with Patrick, a gamekeeper, on the avenue. They crossed to Temple Michael and made their way to Cobh and boarded a ship which was to take them to America. But then the cry went out and the elopement was discovered. A contemporary poem ran

Miss Moore-Smyth who ran away,

 With Patrick Fleming from Ballynatray,

 One foot on the gravel,

 And one foot on the grass,

 Is to be the sound that my True Love will pass’.

That had indeed been the cue for Harriette to slide up the window and hop out.

Dromoland Castle

6d12c1b7757d5e1badaac1bfcb6ec32dWorld-renowned Dromoland Castle, located in Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, was built in the sixteenth century. The ancestral home of the O’Briens, Barons of Inchiquin, one of the few native Gaelic families of royal blood and direct descendants of Brian Boroimhe (Boru), High King of Ireland in the eleventh century.

Activities available:

  • Clay Shooting (€65 euros per person, €125 euros for two people, €50 euros per person for three or more)
  • Fly Fishing (€100 euros for half day for two people)
  • Archery (€38 per person, €63.50 for two people, €30 per person for three or more)
  • Horse riding (€45 euros per person for 1 hour or €80 per person for 2 hours)

Other activities are available on request, including falconry , which has been described as “taking wild quarry in its natural state or habitat using trained hawks or falcons.” What better setting could there be to partake of an experience so ancient it is sometimes called “the first sport”?

Particular though they may be, raptors have a timeless appeal for everyone: as an English noble noted in 1801, “the ladies not only accompanied the gentlemen in pursuit of the diversion [of falconry], but often practiced it by themselves; and even excelled the men in knowledge and exercise of the art.”


From January to  March 2015 Dromoland Castle are offering a promotion from €107.50 per person sharing including two nights accommodation with full Irish breakfast and choose to stay a 3rd night free or have a dinner on one night free.


  • Ghillie or gillie is a Scots term that refers to a man or a boy who acts as an attendant on a fishing, fly fishing, hunting, or deer stalking expedition, primarily in the Highlands or on a river such as the River Spey. In origin it referred especially to someone who attended on his employer or guests.
  • A ghillie may also serve as a gamekeeper employed by a landowner to prevent poaching on his lands, control unwelcome natural predators such as fox or otter and monitor the health of the wildlife.
  • Beating Beaters are an unsung yet vital cog in the sport (the pheasant-shooting season began on Wednesday). Without the beaters there would be no shoot. They disturb the game birds and flush them out towards the guns. Some wave sticks with plastic bags attached, making a whip-cracking sound. Others utter a strange chirruping sound. Good beating is an art. The best beaters maintain a steady flow of flying birds rather than allowing a flock to billow up all at the same time.
  • Game or quarry is any animal hunted for sport or food.
  • Traditionally, game meat used to be hung until “high”, i.e. approaching a state of decomposition. The term ‘gamey’/’gamy’ refers to this usually desirable taste (haut goût)