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There’s a reason travelers are fascinated with birds of prey: Falcons are widely considered to be the fastest creature on the planet. These birds, reaching speeds that exceed even the likes of a cheetah, can get up to 240 miles per hour when diving. Luxury hotels, particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland, are now working to facilitate falcon experiences for their guests. The trend has even caught on in the U.S.—with five-star properties from New York State to California offering their clients a chance to see these majestic birds in action. Here, eight properties orchestrating falconry experiences for the luxury traveler:
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
A 27-acre English countryside estate, American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts partner Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, teams up with local falconer Wheatley Birds of Prey. Each Sunday, the Wheatley Birds of Prey falcons come to the property to watch over the hotel’s 11 gardens to ensure no rodents or smaller birds are disrupting the garden’s growth. It’s especially practical to have the falcons monitor the two-acre kitchen garden, which produces more than 90 herbs and vegetables used in the hotel’s restaurant, a Chef Raymond Blanc venture with two Michelin stars. Guests of Le Manoir can also get up close to the hawks and owls and even hold the animals—with professional supervision, of course. Those looking to stay at this lavish Belmond property should book one of the four Garden Suites: L’Orangerie, Provence, Opium, or Blanc de Blanc—each feature a private garden terrace.
Troutbeck, Hudson Valley, New York
You don’t have to fly across the pond for an epic birds of prey experience. Troutbeck, a 250-acre Hudson Valley estate, has partnered with TC Bird Management to offer exclusive Falconry Excursions. The excursions take place on Troutbeck’s marked trails and fields, and the property can work with TC Bird Management to tailor the experience to offer handling lessons with gloves, hunting with Harris Hawks, or just general education on the collection of eagles, owls, falcons, hawks, and vultures. Ask the concierge at Troutbeck about arranging this private experience. Beyond interacting with the falcons, guests of the historic central New York property can lounge by the pool, enjoy farm-to-table cuisine, take yoga and pilates classes, and of course, reserve the Sycamore Suite or the Grand Room for truly memorable accommodations.
Dromoland Castle, County Clare, Ireland
American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts partner Dromoland Castle offers a falconry experience that tours guests around the castle grounds to visit with the falcons, hawks, and owls. Guests of the Irish storybook castle in County Clare will even be able to hold these birds of prey and learn from the relationship each bird has with its respective falconer. After the falconry experience, have a tarot card cocktail in the octagonal cocktail bar or experience the upscale tasting menu at the on-site Earl of Thomond restaurant. Those staying at the castle should book the Brian Boru suite—named after Ireland’s only High King whose ancestors built Dromoland Castle—featuring a four-poster bed, chandeliers, a separate sitting room, and a freestanding slipper bathtub.
The Oberoi, Marrakech, Morocco
The Oberoi, Marrakech, situated on 28 acres of idyllic gardens and a Legend Awards honoree, encourages guests to explore the area’s outdoor offerings during their Moroccan vacation. They facilitate helicopter rides over the Sahara Desert, private tours of the Agafay Desert, and falconry experiences with the local Kwassem Tribe. The Kwassem Tribe celebrates the tradition of Moroccan falconry, teaching guests how they use wild falcons for hunting, and helping guests carry the falcons on their wrists with the appropriate gloves. After a day spent with these Moroccan birds of prey, guests of The Oberoi, Marrakech can retreat to their deluxe villa with a private pool.
Bouchaine Vineyards, Napa, California
In Napa Valley, Bouchaine Vineyards offers a Falconry Vineyard Tour, where guests learn to call the birds to land on their arm. The tour of Bouchaine, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa’s Carneros District, teaches guests about the Northern California terroir and Bouchaine’s sustainable farming practices, and concludes with wine tasting and lunch in the garden. The falconry experience is done in partnership with West Coast Falconry, who help facilitate interaction between the stunning birds and Bouchaine’s guests.
Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland
Award-winning Irish getaway Adare Manor, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts partner in County Limerick, offers a must-try falconry experience on the estate. The hour-long experience introduces guests to owls, falcons, and perhaps even a Harris Hawk or American Bald Eagle, some of which will fly right on to guests’ gloved hands. In addition to their coveted falconry experience, guests of the 840-acre manor can dine on-property at the Michelin-starred restaurant, play golf on the manor’s pristine course, and indulge in a purifying facial at the La Mer Spa.
Chewton Glen, Hampshire, United Kingdom
Touted as one of Europe's top family-friendly luxury hotels, Chewton Glen, an American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts partner along the New Forest, has no shortage of outdoor activities. They offer family falconry, a 90-minute, private, hands-on experience for up to six guests. For those escaping to Chewton Glen as a romantic getaway rather than a family vacation, book one of their idyllic treehouses. The treehouse hideaway suite is 35 feet above the ground with an outdoor hot tub on the terrace.
Belmond Royal Scotsman, Scotland
Scotland’s only luxury sleeper train, Belmond Royal Scotsman, takes guests to Dunrobin Castle for a memorable falconry demonstration as they travel through the scenic Northern Scottish Highlands. Belmond Royal Scotsman also lets guests tailor their itineraries to visit Huntly Falconry Center, outside of Keith, for a half-day spent with owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles, or a full-day at Rothiemurchus Estate, located in Cairngorms National Park, which offers falconry, archery, and fly fishing. Each experience comes with a private car transfer and lunch. The Belmond Royal Scotsman hosts only 40 guests onboard to ensure excellence in service and a luxurious sense of privacy. Guests can book two, three, or four-night itineraries on this “Country House on Wheels.”
Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, California
Southern California may not be the first place you think of for a birds of prey experience. But debuting in August 2020, Rancho Bernardo Inn will offer a private falconry experience, where guests can get up close to the falcons and owls under the guidance of expert handlers. Guests of the 265-acre Rancho Bernardo Inn in North County can also spend their days on the 18-hole golf course, at the tennis courts, biking or hiking the scenic trails around the resort, or luxuriating in the full-service spa. With 287 rooms and suites to choose from, we recommend guests opt for one of the glamorous Estate Suites, which comes with an indoor fireplace, a separate living area, a king bedroom, and a private balcony.