Captivated by Castle Leslie

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 felt like I was looking around someone’s house when they weren’t there…

castle leslie

Castle Leslie is not like a typical hotel. The Leslie family has lived on the estate since 1665 and the hotel is now run by Sammy Leslie. The lengths that Sammy 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.

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.

Castle Leslie is smaller than I imagined and although 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, 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!

castle leslie

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

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Sarah

The Travel Expert