Castle Leslie Estate is a collection of upscale properties set on 1,000 acres of picturesque grounds surrounded by rolling Irish countryside. While not strictly a castle, the main house certainly has plenty of historic character that extends to the often lavish guest rooms. Dining is outstanding, with an especially good breakfast and excellent locally-sourced menus for dinner. While the spa offers a good range of treatments and a hot tub, it lacks a pool, sauna, or gym. Those looking for a genuine Irish castle experience might want to consider Ashford Castle in Ireland's west, but horse-lovers would be hard pressed to find better stables and surrounding estate to explore on horseback.
19th-century country house set on vast ancestral estate
While those arriving at Castle Leslie Estate expecting buttresses and battlements might be a little disappointed, the estate's various buildings and surrounding grounds are easily some of the most attractive and picturesque architectural gems in this part of Ireland. One of the last great Irish estates, it dates back to the 1660s and remains in the hands of its founding clan -- the Leslie family -- who returned it to its former glory from a crumbling ancestral pile in 1992. The main country house was built as recently as 1870 on the site of the original castle and fashioned in the Scottish Baronial style -- a mixture of Medieval castle and Renaissance chateaux styles. Inside, the house exudes genuine Old World charm and grandeur complete with hunting trophies, crackling log fires, and innumerable oil paintings and heirlooms. Together with ancient forests, beautiful lakes, and meandering streams across the 1,000-acre grounds, the vast walled estate also contains stables, village cottages, and an old hunting lodge -- a charming Virginia creeper-clad building positioned near the property's entrance. New additions also include an equestrian center and an events pavilion that caters to conferences and weddings. St. Salvator's church is also on-site, where Paul McCartney and Heather Mills famously married in 2002. Guests here are almost exclusively couples, as the hotel has a classically romantic atmosphere, though families find their way here as well.
County Monaghan countryside in Ireland's north
The Castle Leslie Estate is situated just outside the small country village of Glaslough in County Monaghan, close to Ireland's northern border with the U.K. While it's a short stroll into the charming village, there's very little beyond the picturesque surrounding countryside to discover on foot. Local public transport is also virtually non-existent, so a car is strongly recommended -- it's around an hour's drive from Belfast and 80 minutes from Dublin. The hotel also offers transfers from their respective airports for a fee. The Concra Wood Golf and Country Club is a 30-minute drive from the hotel, and the town of Glaslough is home to a few galleries, cafes, and artisanal shops.
Range of lavish rooms with unique features like throne toilets, plus self-catering cottages
Rooms are spread across four areas of the estate. The main building houses the Castle Rooms, which are decorated in grand traditional styling; most are awash in gorgeous antique and original features, while a few feature more flamboyant flourishes like vibrant aqua walls and handsome woven carpets -- many have lake views. Basement rooms, however, have no views at all. In keeping with the historical feel, most technology is deliberately missing -- meaning no minibars or TVs in this part of the hotel -- though free Wi-Fi is available. Each bathroom in this building has features ranging from the oldest plumbed bath in Ireland, a throne toilet, and even the whole bathroom hidden away in a doll’s house. Toiletries are by the White Company. Traditional hotel rooms are available in the Lodge, though even these have a luxe level of comfort, with thick duvets and handsome textiles, tufted leather headboards, and sharp hardwood furniture with classic silhouettes. These rooms have 28-inch flat-screen TVs and bathrooms have free-standing roll-top baths. Some rooms have private balconies. Old Stable Mews and Village Cottages provide self-catering facilities like full kitchens, and have between two and five bedrooms for families and groups. Pets are allowed only in specific buildings.
dining throughout the day and world-class equestrian center
Breakfast at the hotel is a real treat, offering a genuinely impressive range of dishes, from smoked salmon and artisanal cheeses to a full Irish breakfast including kippers, pancakes, and omelets (there's even a proper vegetarian option). It is served in the hotel's elegant dining room and is included in the rate. Snaffles is the hotel's main restaurant and also offers excellent dining with a menu of locally-sourced produce and an extensive wine list. Reservations are recommended. More casual meals are available at Conor's Lounge and Bar, which is also a fine place to enjoy a pint of Guinness in front of the fire.
There is a spa based in the Lodge, with seven treatment rooms offering a range of therapies as well as a hot tub overlooking the stables -- though no swimming pool or sauna. The hotel's 30-horse equestrian center is a cornerstone of the estate, offering excellent horse-riding opportunities around the grounds as well as lessons and training for all levels. The hotel is a popular venue for weddings and events, and can assist with planning and arrangements. Activities range from clay pigeon shooting to fishing, kayaking, falconry, and hiking. Wi-Fi is free throughout the property.
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