Shane’s Castle Game Fair set to be a stunner

Northern Ireland’s annual celebration of the countryside, The Irish Game Fair & Flavour Fine Food Festival at Shanes Castle, is set to be the largest event of its kind ever seen in the Province.

Fieldsports, foods and festival atmosphere, combined with a passion for the past, will deliver more than 100 acres of spectacular entertainment and display in one of the country’s most stunningly beautiful locations.

Three huge entertainment arenas will be at the heart of the festival, providing round-the-clock spectacle, surrounded by marquee malls, displays, exhibits, eateries, specialist sports and country-style retailing, the Flavour Fine Food experience, have-a-go zones … plus an all-new Angling Show and even a Funfair for the kids!

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Show-goers can expect a televisual touch of Downton Abbey-meets-Game of Thrones with history and myth brought dramatically to life by skilled re-enactors. The fantastic medieval jousting team, ‘the Knights of the Damned’, will clash on horseback in the main arena before strutting their courtly stuff amongst the crowds, looking for fair maidens to rescue or dragons to confront.

The Vikings will bring terror to watching hearts as they sail into the lough bay at Shanes in a superb longships

to show off their battle skills in an awe-inspiring arena display, with a re-enactment of the race to the shore to be King of Ulster: the tale which gave rise to the legend of the Red Hand of the O’Neills and the ‘Red Hand of Ulster. Viking villagers will set up a full scale camp in the shadow of the old ruined castle, inviting visitors to step back in time as they demonstrate the crafts, cooking and often tumultuous lifestyles of some of our early invader-settlers.

Slightly more genteel, but no less spectacular, The Victorian Poacher will be sharing some of his secrets with a demonstration of his surreptitious skills, best exercised by moonlight. Falconry displays, harking back to the traditions of a chivalric past, will delight and amaze audiences and the expert handler will provide opportunities for families to get up close and personal with magnificent birds which most of us can only dream of spotting in the wild.

From muzzle-loading, Norman weapon-making and horse and carriage skills to crafts revived and revisited in artisan shopping marquees, the past in its many facets will add colour and fun to the day, but show organiser Albert Titterington, is delighted that so many countryside traditions are not only alive and well in Northern Ireland, but are actually growing in popularity.

He says, “We built our reputation on fieldsports and visitors can rest assured that hunting, shooting, gundogs and fishing will once again be centre stage at Shanes, with the impressive Country Sports in Action arena featuring everything from long netting to ferret racing … .and just about everything in between! Today the Irish Game Fair at Shanes Castle continues to offer prize pots unrivalled in Ireland and we attract many of Europe’s leading competitors as well as the big names from across the UK and Ireland where fieldsports are enjoying a massive revival in popularity. We offer unique opportunities not only to see, but actually to meet and chat with those experts and to enjoy the camaraderie which is at the heart of all country sports.

“The fair also taps into our great love of animals, especially dogs and, whether you come to see the cream of Europe’s working dogs in international competition, see Gundog Demos by Nick Gregory, one of the top Cocker handlers in the UK; admire the Horse & Hound displays or cheer on the ever-popular Terrier & Lurcher events, there is plenty to entertain. You may even get a little useful advice from dog guru Keith Matthews or pick up some tips from watching dog agility as displayed by members of the Glandore Dog Training Club with their dogs.

“For 2014 we have a range of new national and international competitions with a specially warm welcome extended to the Scottish and English gundog teams and the Lurcher and Terrier enthusiasts from GB who are trying their hand at taking away one of the titles and some of the fantastic prizes.

Tickets are £10 for adults £25 for family ( two adults and up to four children under 15). Car parking and programme FREE.