The grounds at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant are a source of delight for many guests. Perfect for a leisurely stroll and equipped with excellent sporting facilities, including tennis courts, croquet and giant chess, the gardens are also now the base for the hotel’s new hawk flying experience. An ancient field sport, the art of falconry can be experienced first-hand at Dorset’s Summer Lodge with the help of resident expert Paul and his three Harris hawks Bertie, Titch and Bumble.
Popularised in Medieval times, falconry’s origins can, in fact, be traced back much further than that. The first recording of the sport was in the Middle East, several millennia BCE, and it has since grown in popularity in many countries across the world. In England, it was a favourite pastime of monarchs such as King John and George III, as well as Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. The sport has long been associated with the ruling classes – falcons were ideal hunting creatives on account of the fact that their vision is believed to be eight times better than the human eye, meaning they can pinpoint prey from a long distance.
Harris hawks were introduced to the UK in the mid-20th century and are now the most popular bird of prey used in falconry. Quick learners, the breed has a reputation for being easy to train, well-adapted to a variety of environments, co-operative and sociable by nature.
Once you’ve met the hawks at Summer Lodge and have been guided through a short introduction to falconry by Dorset’s expert Paul, it’s time to set off on an extraordinary Hawk Walk through the grounds. Lasting between 60-90 minutes, the experience is a unique chance to learn more about these fascinating birds, as they soar off and return to your gloved hand on command, deftly demonstrating their remarkable agility and speed.
Experience falconry in Dorset courtesy of a Hawk Walk at Red Carnation Hotels’ Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant.
Image credits: all images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.