I went on a short break to Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, Ireland.
The size of the Castle Leslie Estate is overawing, a 1,000 acres of rolling fields with ancient woodlands and glittering lakes. The magnificent castle sits perfectly in the grand landscape and it feels like time has stood still in this corner of Monaghan. The estate has been in the Leslie family since 1660 and it got international attention when Sir. Paul Mc Cartney married Heather Mills there in 2002. The party was hosted by Sir John Leslie, who was known for his eccentric ways and love of rave music. He died earlier this year at the age of 99. The estate feels surprising informal. Perhaps Sir. John’s unconventional ways have helped cultivate the relaxed and homely atmosphere that guests enjoy.
If you want to feel like Lord or Lady of the manor, take a room in one of the castle’s 20 individually decorated rooms. The Red Room is a popular master suite and a perfect romantic getaway with its four poster bed and stunning views of Glaslough lake. The poet W.B. Yeats was one of many distinguished guests in the room.
The Lodge is the social hub of the estate and has 30-bedroom in ‘country house boutique’ style. The stables are in the ground floor of the building so some bedrooms come with the sound of horses’ neighs so you might want to pack some ear plugs.
There are two self-catering options at Castle Leslie; the Village Cottages which are in Glaslough Village or the Old Stable Mews. I stayed in the latter which is a fifteen minute walk though the estate and set in a quiet corner. The houses are cosy and classy and ideal for family or a group of friends. We got a deal that included a welcome hamper and a well-stocked fridge, meaning the basics and the treats were all looked after. The sitting room had an open fire and DVDs for a quiet night in.
Food & Drink
Set on a mezzanine floor of The Lodge is the Two AA Rosettte-award winning Snaffles Restaurant. I had the five course set menu (€65) and their locally sourced dishes included Terrine of Rabbit with Wild Mushroom for starters and Roast Breast of Local Chicken with Braised Thigh ‘Coq Au Vin’. The food was tasty and well presented and the service excellent. They catered for the mix of vegans, vegetarians and a celiac in my party. People with dietary requirements are often made do with a single dish and little choice. But in Snaffles each got a full menu of options and my vegan friend was beyond exited. The gin menu was also impressive with 88 gins from 11 countries. For more casual dining Conor’s Bar is on the ground floor of The Lodge serving up food with a country home cooking feel to it.
The Victorian Treatment Rooms are based in The Lodge and you can pamper yourself with a range of organic treatment using ‘Voya’ and ‘Eminence Organics’ products. There is no pool but the outdoor hot tub overlooks the stables and is the perfect spot to soak weary muscles. The signature ‘Grip Fast’ massage will set you back €90 for one hour.
Out and About
Glaslough is a pretty village just outside the grounds. It’s well worth going for a pint in the two locals; the Olde Bar and the Coach House. Both have live music at the weekends and a friendly atmosphere. Ambledown Cottage does a good pizza and the Castleview Antiques is great for a rummage. The Rally School of Ireland and the 18-hole Concra Wood Golf Club are a short drive away. There is also a host of walking trails in the area.
Who Goes There?
As Castle Leslie is the perfect location for a romantic getaway many of the guests are couples and wedding parties. The Equestrian Centre attracts horse enthusiast and the self-catering houses lend themselves very well to families and groups of friends.
“Grip fast” is the Leslie family motto and I did just that cantering though woodlands on horseback. The equestrian centre is internationally renowned and people come from all over to experience its woodland trails, 33km of bridle ways and 200 cross-country jumps. A one hour hack for an adult is €40 and child is €30. At one point I was riding through the Glaslough Lake, paddling beside me was four new born signets and their mother and overhead a heron glided through the sky. It was a perfect moment.
When there is a wedding on in the Castle regular punters don’t have access inside which can be a disappointing.
For more information visit www.castleleslie.com
This was first published on www.rte.ie