“Victorian lodge in the grounds of the Castle Leslie estate, with state-of-the-art equestrian centre, spa and acres of Irish border country”
Named after favourite estate horses (Ryan, Frosty, Sweeny, Pluto), the hotel’s rooms are split between a 2-storey wing, and a restored Victorian Lodge - a handsome Gothic cut-stone building clad in Virginia creeper, just inside the castle gates. The newer rooms are arranged on 2 levels, linked by long corridors, and though these make the place look a wee bit corporate, the rooms come in a variety of shapes, sizes and bold colour schemes (a warm hunting-jacket red, pea green, gold, taupe and black).
The décor is Country Life with attitude - upholstered chairs, fringed and tasselled drapes, the odd antique desk or wardrobe, lots of horse-and-hound prints. Deluxe kingsize beds (usually 2 singles zipped together) are dressed with crisp white linen, plush velvet throws and piles of matching cushions. We particularly liked the buttoned brown leather headboards, which gave an old-saddle look. If you love the gee gees, choose a room with a view of the stables; some have terraces and balconies overlooking the courtyard, clocktower and a weather vane which used to belong to Ascot racecourse.
The original bedrooms are a little larger and generally quieter, with a more traditional Victorian feel - French polished furniture, brass chandeliers, gilt mirrors, damask throws, silk drapes and rich colours (olive, cobalt, aquamarine, mauve).
There are 2 places to eat - Snaffles Restaurant and Conor’s Bar - one above the other in the new wing of the Lodge. They're both under the command of the estate’s talented head chef, Andrew Bradley, and offer inexpensive, unpretentious food in a busy, buzzy atmosphere. You will need to book ahead, because both places are often packed with locals, especially at weekends.
Snaffles (awarded 2 AA Rosettes) is a relaxing yet elegant eatery housed in a cathedral-like mezzanine space, with a striking glass wall and white-clothed tables under soaring oak beams. Food is locally sourced and might include seared breast of Irish wood pigeon, terrine of rabbit with wild mushrooms, braised rare breed pork plate, roast breast of duck and roast loin of estate venison.
The more informal Conor’s Bar is based on a traditional Irish pub, and aside from being an authentic Glaslough local, offers lunches, bar snacks, afternoon tea and early evening meals from a menu which majors on good, solid comfort food (Hunting Lodge paté, steak and Guinness pie with creamy ‘champ’; pork and leek sausages with stout gravy, sticky toffee pudding). Here, you can perch on a bar stool or sink into a leather armchair by an open fire; or there is a terrace for outdoor dining in the summer.
Breakfast, served in Snaffles, offers a buffet of cereals, yoghurts, juices, fresh fruit, pastries and a choice of cooked dishes: hot oats with berry topping, Irish smoked salmon with scrambled egg, pancakes with maple syrup.
Pony-mad children will love it here, and there are heaps of things to do both on the estate and nearby which cater for those less keen on all things equine (there's a playground, tennis and basketball courts onsite for starters). Both the rooms and the restaurants are family friendly, and the riding school offers special packages for young riders and beginners (7 years or over). Works well as a romantic break for new parents too - strap the baby carrier on and take a gentle wander around the estate.
You can add an extra bed to any room for an extra cost. Under 2s, if sleeping in a cot, go free
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The lodge isn't particularly child-proofed and there are wide open staircases, roaring open fires and a lake. Keep an eye on children