Emma Ford has flown birds of prey around the world for more than 45 years. She and her husband, Steve, founded The British School of Falconry, which teaches guests ages 4 and older to handle and fly Harris’s hawks year-round at The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland.
LARGEST BIRD YOU FLY: Fatty, our female golden eagle, with a 7.5-foot wingspan.
WHEN YOU PLAY FAVORITES, IT’S … Smithy, my gyrfalcon-peregrine hybrid, who I fly at red grouse on the Scottish moors. He’s a strong character!
THE FIRST TIME A HAWK GRIPS YOUR ARM, YOU’LL FEEL … As one guest put it, “God must love me very much to allow me to experience this.”
FALCONRY SLANG THAT’S GREAT FOR CASUAL CONVERSATION: “I hit the bowse last night”: Bowsing refers to hawks drinking, hence our modern word “booze.”
LITTLE-KNOWN FACT ABOUT FALCONERS: We’re not all stuffy old men in tweed!
FAVORITE LOCAL DISTILLERY: Edradour, Scotland’s smallest single-malt distillery, 30 minutes from Gleneagles. Writer Iain Banks described it as “a sort of distillery in miniature, which you want to wrap up and put under the Christmas tree.”
SINGLE-MALT DRINKING TIP: Save some of the bottle to drizzle over smoked salmon.
TRUE OR FALSE: NEVER LOCK EYES WITH A HUNGRY HAWK. False. They don’t recognize you as prey – unless you strongly resemble a rabbit!