It’s no secret that we love a good Castle and our recent visit to Castle Leslie was such a treat. The two hour drive from Kildare to Monaghan on a sunny Sunday morning saw us arriving in the picturesque village of Glaslough with plenty of time to enjoy the glorious grounds.
We were greeted at the stately entrance to the neo gothic Castle Leslie Estate by a delightful gentleman that efficiently checked our temperatures in line with all of the Covid procedures in place to keep guests and staff as safe as possible.
Once through the gates the majestic trees cocoon you from the outside world and ensure nothing disturbs your peace. We were instantly transported to a calm and serene state of mind. On the short walk from the car through the leafy grounds to check-in at reception we couldn’t help but think we had chosen the perfect time of year to visit. The ruby red ivy clad lodge looking magnificent in the autumn sunshine.
Since the 1660s the distinguished Leslie family have lived on the Estate. Significant investment and a major restoration programme that stretched over the last two decades have ensured guests enjoy a wonderfully enchanting experience.
A warm and friendly check-in at reception saw us armed with a map of the grounds and all the information we needed to get the very best from our time here.
The Lodge, with its 50 bedrooms has been mindfully restored and decorated in a style that retains its period features and original character. Our bedroom was just a short stroll from reception. A super comfortable, spacious room with a gorgeous balcony overlooking the stable yard. The roll top bath with a selection of The Handmade Soap Company toiletres a particular highlight.
Meandering the grounds from the Lodge to the Castle, there are lots of photo opportunites and between showers we managed to get some great drone footage too. A day of indulging in five star castle life and having the time to indulge your hobby – a Sunday well spent indeed!
The castle itself is filled with an air of pure aristocratic elegance. Higher than high ceilings, large open fireplaces, deep buttoned Chesterfield sofas and more paintings that you could shake the proverbial stick at.
Each room exudes charm and old style glamour. You are free to ramble through the various sitting and dining areas, stopping for afternoon tea or to enjoy a drink by one of the many open fires. The pace of life here just slows you right down and really envelopes you in a sense of ease and relaxation.
After spending our afternoon exploring the grounds and the castle it was time for dinner in Snaffles Restaurant. Olivia found the name particularly amusing, apparently there was a legendary nightclub in Kildare town by this very name and back in the day it was the go to spot for all the cool kids…well so she says!!!
Awarded Two AA Rosettes and headed up by Executive Chef Aaron Duffy we were looking forward to an evening of fine dining. The restaurant was buzzing when we arrived for our 7.15pm booking, more and more people seem to be opting to eat earlier than usual, ourselves included.
The atmospheric dining room, dimly lit and with tables very well spaced out to comply with social distancing was a hive of activity.
A quick perusal of the menu and we settled on Pan Seared King Scallops Prawn Boudin, Caramelised Cauliflower Puree, Sea Urchin powder, Sea Herbs, Prawn and Rosemary Confit Pork Belly Glazed Pork Cheek, Burnt Apple, Baby Toffee Apple, Summer Peas, Pickled Shallot & Calvados Jus.
Sweet, buttery scallops had been seared to perfection with the caramelised cauliflower puree making this an absolute dream starter.
Our second starter was definitely the heavier of the two starters and though it may look tiny, it was pretty fierce. Juicy confit pork belly with the sweetest, both visually and taste wise baby toffee apple, a burnt apple jelly complimenting the pork and then pickled shallot lifting the overall flavour profile of the dish. Fantastic cooking.
A serving of sweet carrot soup with coriander foam very elegantly bridged the space between our starters and mains.
Another beautifully plated dish, the Pan Fried Halibut with a delicious Comte Crust Crumble flaked at the mere flick of the fork. Sitting on a bed of Shrimp in Brown Butter, Samphire & Capers, Roast Bone Sauce. So many wonderful flavours complimenting each other.
Artfully plated Silverhill Duck Breast served with a tasty little Duck Leg Nougatine. Crunchy Wild Asparagus, Pickled Beetroot, sweet Blackberries. All of the Autumn/Winter flavours were at play on this fantastic plate, each element intensifying the gamey goodness of every mouthful.
For casual dining , Conor’s Bar & Lounge at The Lodge was fantastic. Lots of classic, hearty dishes, we had lunch here on both days of our stay and throughly enjoyed it. The standout starter was the incredible Monkfish with Chorizo and Garlic Mixed Bean Cassoulet and the main that left the biggest impression on us was the duo of Irish Lamb, an exceptional dish with the mini Shepards Pie stealing the show.
Breakfast each morning was absolutely fantastic. We opted for room service because, well, why not! On the first morning we both delved into a full Irish, with sides of fruit, yoghurt and pastries, all the wonderful little extras that make hotel breakfasts so special.
On the second morning we indulged in pancakes and French toast – both heavenly!
Castle Leslie is one of those hotels that genuinely does have something to suit all tastes. For the more active there is the option to book activities such as horse-riding, fishing and even walking tours. For those looking to relax, the warm open spaces and casual food offerings available allow you to just sit back and soak up the serenity that is in abundance in this wonderful hotel.
We found this to be an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable experience and would highly recommend a stay in Castle Leslie.
WRITTEN BY KEITH MAHON & OLIVIA BYRNE