Situated just outside the village of Cong in County Galway, Ashford Outdoors offers a wide range of activities for everyone of all ages. Since I was visiting during the Pandemic, it was the perfect place to try out some of their outdoor activities.
At Ashford Outdoors, these are the activities you can find:
- Zipline adventure course
- Bike hire and bike tours
- Horse riding and horse riding lessons
- Tree climbing
- Clay shooting
- Standup paddle boarding
Having discovered Ashford Outdoors when I was in the area, I found that quite a few of the activities booked out for the week, but managed to book Archery for one day, then Clay Pigeon shooting for another day since I was quite flexible on my holiday itinerary. From what I’ve heard, August is normally quite a busy month for Irish holidaymakers, but if you do plan on visiting Ashford Outdoors, it would be a good idea to book ahead of time during the peak holiday season.
Having never tried Archery or Clay Pigeon shooting, I was quite excited to give it a go.
Archery was historically used for combat or hunting, but today it is a recreational and competitive sport. In Archery you use the bow to shoot arrows at a stationary target, aiming for the bulls eye.
The first lesson my instructor gave was to help me figure out which is my dominant eye. The reason behind this is to get the best out of your aim by closing your one eye and lining up the bow and arrow. Once I identified my dominant eye, I was shown how to stand with the bow. Next I was shown how to load the arrow into the bow by putting the bow on its side, sliding the arrow into the bow the correct side up (one of the features of the arrow is a unique colour showing you which side of the arrow should be facing up). Once I had the basics down it was time to fire the first arrow.
For my first few arrows, I was surprised when the arrows fell halfway to the target! I didn’t realise how far you need to pull the bow back to get to the distance of the target. Once I figured out I needed to pull the bow much further back, the arrows started to reach the distance of the target. Being a small female, I wouldn’t say it’s physically difficult to do, but after a while my arm muscles did tire a bit holding the bow up and pulling the arrow back before shooting. My instructor gave me a leather finger protector which helped a bit for the finger tips pulling against the bow. Advice my instructor gave was to line the shot up first, then pull back with the arrow and fire, rather than pull back with the arrow then line up the shot which can be more tiring.
Our instructor was great throughout the Archery lesson giving tips along the way, and giving us games to compete with one another for the best shot!
By the end of the Archery lesson, I was definitely more comfortable with how to shoot the arrows closer to the bulls eye.
Clay pigeon shooting
Clay Pigeon Shooting is a sport where you use a shotgun to shoot at a small plate-sized clay target which is shot into the air from a spring device known as a trap. In the late 18th Century the sport originated in England, where live pigeons where released from boxes and shot at for practice for hunting. Over time pigeons being used were replaced with inanimate objects instead but the name pigeon shooting stuck. The clay targets are normally made of pitch and clay, or limestone and are very brittle, breaking if even one pellet hits the target.
When I went for the Clay Shooting, I was rather nervous about having a small build and how bad the recoil from the shotgun would be but the instructor was brilliant. First, like with the Archery he checked for my dominant eye, and showed me how to stand with the gun. I was shown how to handle the gun safely, how to position my hands on the gun and where to place the butt of the gun against the inside of my shoulder which would absorb the recoil. I was also shown how to stand and position my weight slightly forward to lessen the impact of the recoil. I was told to say “Pull!” to release the clay from its trap and have it fly into the air.
Once I was comfortable I had the posture and positioning, after being given some ear protection, I shot at the target after shouting “Pull!” At first the recoil was a bit of a shock even though I anticipated it, after a few shots I got used to it. The gun itself felt a bit heavy but the instructor mentioned that the heavier shotguns have less recoil than the lighter guns. I was also shown how to reload the gun myself with ammunition.
There were a variety of targets to shoot at, some clays flying up and descending, some flying from one end to the other, and some rolling across the ground from one end to the other, imitating birds flying or rabbits running across the field.
I was surprised by thoroughly enjoying the experience of shooting at the clays, and the challenge of hitting the targets. My favourite and most successful clays to shoot at were the ones running along the ground where I hit four in a row.
My activities at Ashford Outdoors was definitely the highlight of my trip and I can’t wait to go back again. I think I’d probably end up staying for longer and giving the Clay Shooting and Archery another go, and trying more of the activities. Ashford Outdoors makes for a truly memorable experience.
If you’d like to take a look at their website and book a few activities you can find them at https://www.ashfordoutdoors.com/