Grand Ir­ish es­tate is

Takes the reins on a trip to the Emer­ald Isle and dis­cov­ers an es­tate best ex­plored on horse­back

Harefield Gazette - - TRAVEL -

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

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