Grand Irish estate is
Takes the reins on a trip to the Emerald Isle and discovers an estate best explored on horseback
FOR a relaxing country retreat with an equestrian edge, the horseloving nation of Ireland is really the only place to visit.
After flying into Dublin and just an 80-minutes drive inland among the emerald green fields and hills, we reached our home for the next few days: Castle Leslie Estate. And what a home it would be.
After driving through the quaint and picturesque village of Glaslough, in County Monaghan, the road comes to an abrupt end and the grand stone entrance to Castle Leslie stands proud, just as it has for the last 400 years.
Yet it is only in recent years that holidaymakers and guests have been welcomed inside the gates to explore the beautiful estate. Following a huge restoration and regeneration project, the castle opened as a holiday destina-tion in 2006 and has won a number of awards and accolades since.
A beautiful ivy-covered Lodge was to be our base for the trip.
We checked in and headed for Conor’s Bar where we enjoyed a tasty lunch of delicious, juicy smoked salmon blini and roast chicken club sandwich, before being shown to our comfortable and spacious room overlooking the stableyard.
A bottle of Rioja welcomed us – as did a glimmer of sunshine – so we seized the opportunity to get out and about on the lush estate.
A winding drive entices guests from the estate entrance and The Lodge, past a picturesque church and up to the castle, perched on the edge of the magical Glaslough Lake.
The stunning scene, with the sun breaking through dark rain clouds and its rays bouncing off the glittering lake, is like something out of a fairytale – and the castle could easily be home to a princess awaiting her Prince Charming.
It is not, however, as the building, which has been in the Leslie family since 1664, is in fact home to 98-year-old Sir Jack – the current head of the Leslie family who is an eccentric aristocrat who enjoys breakfast with the guests and chats to visitors about the estate’s history – along with managing director, Sammy and a number of cosy and luxurious rooms, all traditionally decorated and furnished.
The castle is bursting with period features and interesting artefacts, such as Winston Churchill’s christening gown.
It provides the ultimate rural retreat or can host the perfect event, from romantic weddings to professional business functions.
But, if the charm of the castle is not quite your style, then the estate has accommodation for all desires.
The Lodge has been converted into a high-end boutique-style hotel, with all the mod cons you could need during your visit.
The practicalities of the rooms, however, do not outweigh the opulence. Each is tastefully decorated and guests are regularly reminded of the history of the building and rural location of the estate by paintings of horses, hounds and wildlife, along with equine equipment hanging from the walls.
The Lodge is also the hub of the estate: home to the Victorian Treatment Rooms, Snaffles Restaurant and Conor’s Bar, with direct access to the stableyard via a useful boot room, with wellies and riding equipment available to borrow.
n INDULGE: Guests can relax after a hard day of activities on the estate with a spot of fine dining
n LUXURY: Riding and hunting pictures adorn the walls of the sumptuous hotel bedrooms