holidays in ireland

Holidays in Ireland

6 Fun Things To Do In Monaghan

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Take a stroll around Lake Muckno, cycle around secret Drumlin trails and have afternoon tea in Castle Leslie! Here are six fun things to do in Monaghan!

I have visited many counties in Ireland but until recently, Monaghan had escaped me. It wasn’t a place that was on my bucket list, in fact it wasn’t really on my radar at all. However after spending a few days there with my family, my eyes were opened. It’s not the Wild Atlantic Way, or the Causeway Coast but the cliché ‘hidden gem’ sprang to mind on numerous occasions during my visit. The towns of Monaghan and Castleblaney are full of life and have a wide variety of dining options. In fact, Monaghan finished in the top 10 of Irish foodie destinations, run by the Restaurants Association of Ireland. Known as the land of drumlins, Monaghan’s rolling hills enhance the dramatic landscape and it’s proximity to the border with Northern Ireland ensures locals have some great stories to tell. We found lots of fun things to do in Monaghan during our quick visit, check them out below.

Spend a day at Lough Muckno.

I would drive to Monaghan again just to visit Lough Muckno. It should be top of your list if visiting Monaghan. Located in Castleblaney, this lake is undoubtedly Monaghan’s finest, with spectacular scenery from all sides. Take the time to do the Black Island walk. This is a leisurely 2km walk that is suitable for all the family. My kids loved the forest trails with fairy doors and being able to walk along the waters edge was an added bonus. Wilbert’s adventure playground is located here too which is packed with ziplines and large slides.

Visit Castle Leslie and Glaslough Village

We were fortunate to stay at Castle Leslie’s Village Cottages which are situated in the picturesque village of Glaslough. Take time to pay a visit to Castle Leslie and you will see why Paul Mc Cartney and so many other celebrities chose to get married here. You can dine at the Lodge or have Afternoon Tea in the Castle but if you fancy eating in the town, Ambledown Cottages is a unique find. Read my blog on my stay at Castle Leslie for more details.

fun things to do in Monaghan

Have lunch in Dinkins

After spending the morning playing pitch and putt we worked up a healthy appetite for lunch!  We visited the family run restaurant, Dinkins, which is located in the heart of Monaghan town. Traditionally a bakery, it is also home to a full delicatessen and a restaurant. The passion and pride in which our host April described the menu was incredible. “There isnt a cake downstairs that I wouldn’t eat myself” – April’s enthusiasm was a pleasure to watch and I knew immediately we were in for a treat. We enjoyed a marvellous selection of sandwiches, paninis and salads and there were clean plates all round. Of course we simply had to try some of their delicious cakes too. Check out my son’s happy face below, that says it all!

Visit Monaghan Museum

Although I wouldn’t necessarily class this as a fun thing to do in Monaghan, the Monaghan County Museum is definitely worth a visit, and you may have some fun along the way too! Located in the centre of Monaghan Town this award winning museum has been open for 40 years. Although not particularly a children’s paradise, there are plenty of interesting artefacts from the Stone and Ice age that kept them amused. Local man, Irish rugby international and all around nice guy Tommy Bowe, has kindly donated his various rugby jerseys to the Museum and they were a big hit with my son too. There are numerous exhibitions on throughout the year and we were fortunate to see ‘The Watchman’, which tells the story of 200 years of policing, crime and punishment in Ireland. The kids enjoyed trying on the jail scrubs and pretending to get arrested! The latest exhibition ‘The Monaghan Spitfire’ centres around the remains of a WWII Spitfire that was excavated last Summer as well as an original set of nazi invasion plans for Ireland. The exhibition will run until the end of June 2019. Open Mon-Fri, 11am-5pm and Saturdays 12pm-5pm with free entry.

fun things to do in Monaghan

Have dinner in Monaghan Spice

As I mentioned earlier Monaghan is becoming widely known as a foodie destination. There is a wide selection of dining options and Monaghan even has its own Taste of Monaghan, food festival at the end of September. We ate in Monaghan Spice, an Indian restaurant that has recently been named as one of Ireland’s top 50 World Restaurants. Both the service and quality of the food was impeccable. The menu is extensive with plenty of options for adults and children alike, from mild to spicy dishes. Portions are large so if opting to share you should take that into account. The kids loved the sharing platter that we had for starters which came with chicken tikka, tandoori chicken and kebabs. For main course I opted for one of the house specialities, prawn chingri chaloo and it didn’t disappoint. For more details click here.

fun things to do in Monaghan

Rent a bike and ride through the drumlin townlands

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try this myself but it is something to plan for my next trip!  Drumlintrails.com, has trails and bikes to suit all ages and fitness levels. Choose a short 6km trail, or if you are feeling adventurous, try the a 57km Carleton/Kavanagh trail. Visit viking forts, monastic settlements and the pretty town of Glaslough. Prices from €15 per day for a regular bike or €35 per day for an electric bike.

Click here for more details:

 

Although I have only listed 6 fun things to do in Monaghan, trust me there are lots more! Our visit was a quick one, we only stayed for two nights so I would definitely recommend you stay longer. I’m not sure why it took me so long to visit but I have no doubt that it won’t be long before I’m back 🙂

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

 

Holidays in Ireland

Captivated by Castle Leslie

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Ambling from room to room in Castle Leslie, I felt a little like Elizabeth Bennett when she was snooping around Pemberley.

 

The atmosphere, the grounds, even the lake bore a striking resemblance to Mr Darcy’s mansion in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, although on a smaller scale. When I was given a tour of Castle Leslie, it didn’t feel like a hotel, it felt like I was looking around someone’s house when they weren’t there. The Leslie family has lived on the estate since 1665 and the hotel is now run by Sammy Leslie. Castle Leslie is closed over Christmas while the family gather together over the holidays. As I gazed at the long antique table, I pictured the family sitting around enjoying Christmas Dinner together.  Yes, Castle Leslie was not like any other hotel I have visited.

The lengths that Sammy Leslie went to to bring the estate back to it’s former glory are remarkable. Without a penny in the bank and the estate in serious disrepair, Sammy started by refurbishing fourteen bedrooms between 1995 and 1997. She organised tours of the house, started tea rooms in the conservatory and dinners were served by candlelight in the dining room. Slowly but surely over the following twenty years, Sammy managed to restore the rest of the estate, added a cookery school and a state of the art equestrian centre. She also helped regenerate the village of Glaslough. This remarkable woman also pushed limits in her private life. After trying 9 different schools she left school at 15 and rode horses for a living. She walked on hot coals, bungee jumped, drove 40ft trucks and even had a job as a mud wrestler at one point! Her story and that of her eccentric Uncle Jack are part of Castle Leslie’s charm. Not only did I love the hotel, I found myself loving the family too.

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Castle Leslie is smaller than I imagined. Although it is less grand than Ashford or Dromoland Castle, it has a relaxed, cosy atmosphere that is extremely inviting. It feels more personal, almost homely and I could even imagine living in it. There are family portraits scattered throughout the house, a grand piano that I am sure was involved in many family get togethers; and a cosy bar that no doubt had some great sing songs over the years. Furnishings are in typical classic style but fresh and modern at the same time, with no dark dreary rooms.  The lack of a swimming pool means it is only given a four star rating, but for me Castle Leslie is five star in every other way.

Castle Leslie

We spotted a large room being dressed for a wedding and I could only imagine how romantic it would be to get married here. Surrounded by 1,000 acres of woodland, lakes and stunning gardens, I don’t believe you could take a bad photograph in Castle Leslie. If you are fortunate to get married here (like Sir Paul McCartney and many other celebrities) you take over the whole castle – only you and your guests are allowed to stay. Castle Leslie is often referred to as ‘Europe’s most romantic hotel’, I can see why.

There is a choice of dining options in the Lodge, Conor’s bar, which offers traditional pub grub, and Snaffles, a fine dining restaurant, which also has a children’s menu. We decided however to treat ourselves to ‘Uncle Jacks Great Afternoon Tea’ in the Castle instead. We were placed in the conservatory. I was travelling with my two children, 6 and 9 so I’m not sure if we were put there because we had children or whether they thought it was the best place to admire the garden views…. Whatever the reason, it suited us fine! The price, €25 per person, was reasonable I thought and there was ample food for all. We enjoyed miniature sandwiches of cucumber and chive crème fraiche, ham and wholegrain mustard and smoked salmon and cream cheese. The middle tier consisted of scones, crumpets and custard tartlets while the pièce de résistance was the top lair, with baked cheese cake, macaroons, opera gateau, to name but a few! The staff were very accommodating with the children and provided some extra ham sandwiches (€11). Over all I thought €61 was good value for five of us. Of course we couldn’t have afternoon tea without bubbles….

There are so many outdoor activities available on the Castle Leslie estate. Castle Leslie is home to one of Europe’s finest equestrian centres, has one of Ireland’s best preserved lakes for fishing and you can even trying kayaking, clay pigeon shooting or a hot air balloon ride! Unfortunately time was against us, we were only staying for two nights and with the hotel booked for a wedding on our second day, sadly we were unable to experience them. 

After our brief tour and walk around the grounds it was time to go back to our village cottage. The title ‘cottage’ is a tad misleading, Castle Leslie’s four and five bedroom Village Cottages, are huge!  They are built around a village square and each cottage is styled differently, both inside and out. All have open fires, nine foot ceilings and are lavishly furnished. They cater for 8 to 10 people and are equipped with all mod cons including free WiFi. Located only a few minutes walk from the village of Glaslough and the Lodge at Castle Leslie, and about ten minutes from the Castle, they are a great option for families or a group of friends who are looking for self catering accommodation, beside the hotel. 

Village Cottage

Posted by The Travel Expert on Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

Glaslough is a pretty little village with lots of character and is the perfect size for a leisurely stroll. We took the 2km self guided heritage trail walk, which is a great way to learn about the connection between the Leslie family and Glaslough village over the last 350 years. The trail takes you to the old train station, St Salvator’s church and into the Castle Leslie estate. Simply download the app and you can have an audio trail for your entire walk, with maps to tell you where to go. This tidy town winner is part of Ireland’s Ancient East which is linked to a network of Irish stories over the past 5000 years.

Castle Leslie

Walking through the village we came across one of the prettiest cottages I have ever seen, Ambletown Cottage, which is only a few minutes walk from Castle Leslie. I started taking pictures of the stone walls and flowers when out pops Jeremy from behind the half-door. He talked to us about the ‘sleepy wee village’ of Glaslough and how he and his family turned this house into a restaurant business. He even offered to let me stay while he went to the local shop, telling me to “just close the door behind you when you are done”! I knew we had to eat there so we made a reservation (you need to) and came back later that evening. Ambledown Cottage is a tea rooms during the day and a pizzeria by night and boy were the pizzas good! It’s not only the food that is good but the setting is totally bizarre, but in a good way! There are several different rooms you can eat in, each with different tables, chairs and strange objects hanging out of the ceiling (a pram being one of them). The dining area is like the front of the cottage, covered in flowers and its quirky, unique style is what attracts people from all over Monaghan to dine there.

Glaslough is also home to one of the best bars in Monaghan the Coach House and Olde Bar, and no visit would be complete without a visit to Glaslough Chocolates shop. Open four years, local lady Trish Murphy-Thom moved back to her home town to set up her own business, making delicious chocolates from her kitchen. We were shown how she mixes the best Belgian chocolate with fresh local ingredients including pure butter and Monaghan cream. They are divine! Apparently if you are staying in Castle Leslie you will be treated to a little favour box on your pillow each night. We decided to buy some to bring home instead!

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If you visit Castle Leslie you will be fortunate to experience one of Ireland’s most luxurious hotels in a unique village setting. The combination of the countless facilities at the hotel with various dining and accommodation offerings make it ideal for a family break, or a romantic weekend. As I mentioned earlier, Castle Leslie is not like a typical hotel, it is full of history, character and characters. If the walls had ears, what stories would they tell… I challenge you not to fall in love with the place 💛

For more details visit CastleLeslie.com

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here:

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

 

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