When we woke up the next morning the storm was still going strong outside our room. The winds were so bad the hotel had the heavy draperies in the common rooms closed against the onslaught. Breakfast was an even larger spread than we'd had at some of the other hotels and I was so full that I didn't even eat any of the amazing Irish bacon. Just scones and coffee for me. Breakfast another instance where I felt somewhat uncomfortable about the high level of service at Ashford; I don't need anyone to pour my coffee for me if you have left a small pot sitting at the table with me. In fact, as an adult I should be able to do this by myself. And yet all around me people were having this lady go from table to table to pour the coffee that was sitting right next to their right hands. They could have done it themselves, but instead they made this lady do it for them. It just reeked of servitude and class division and quite truthfully, a complete and utter lack of respect to me. But, apparently, that's how they run the show at Ashford.
Prior to leaving for Ireland I had told Alan about the School of Falconry onsite at Ashford and asked him if he wanted to do it. It wasn't cheap by any means, but it's something we would probably never have another chance to do so that morning we walked about a mile on the grounds of the hotel to get to the aviary where we met Skellig, Millie and Dingle.
We had a hawk expert with us the entire time who showed us how to hold the birds and encourage them to fly and return to us. After learning the basics we walked out onto the property where we did a couple of flight runs - the key is to have yummy dead animal parts for them to want to return to you. These animals are both very complex and very simple at the same time - at the end of the day if you give them meat, they will realize that being with you is easier than hunting.
We walked back to the castle to dry off and get some food - fancy schmancy tea service for Alan and seafood chowder and Guinness for me. Gotta make sure you're getting your daily dose of stout! At one point Alan went to use the business center and I walked around for a bit, or should I say I got lost trying to find him. I don't know if I can adequately explain to you how big Ashford is, but it's kind of like in Harry Potter where the staircases change and you find yourself somewhere you didn't mean to be. Apparently I walked past the business center twice while Alan was in there and didn't even know it. For all the pseudo complaining I've done about the place, it has more to do with me and not the property itself. The castle itself is amazingly gorgeous and is definitely the most opulent and fantastic hotel we've ever stayed in.
We also walked from the castle into Cong, the village it's part of. Cong is very small and was pretty much shut down for the season (and the weather?) when we walked in. It is home to a b&b or two, a pub/restaurant or two, some houses, a church and an historic abbey.
After watching RTE, Dancing with the Stars and something else in our room, we had dinner again at Cullen's at the Dungeon, the restaurant in the basement of the hotel before heading back to our room to pack and sleep for the following day's extremely long drive to Belfast. The fish & chips I had for dinner was the best fish & chips we ate the entire trip - I fancy myself somewhat of a fish & chips connoisseur, having tried them at nearly every place they're available in SF and Oakland and then throughout Ireland. LOVE me some fish & chips.