In recent times Castle Leslie ceased operations as an hotel and, following extensive refurbishment, re-opened as a private venue for weddings, conferences etc - however it has now turned the full circle and reopened as a hotel again (see below).
Guests may now stay in the Castle or in the newer Lodge at Castle Leslie Estate, which is a modern 4* hotel just inside the castle gates; built around an atmospheric stable courtyard, it is popular with riding enthusiasts participating at Castle Leslie’s impressive Equestrian Centre, which offers miles of trekking, cross-country rides and jumps on the 1000-acre estate.
The Lodge features all manner of horsey memorabilia with the newer bedrooms designed to appeal especially to horse lovers.
A Victorian Spa specialises in organic treatments while Castle Leslie Cookery School, situated in the Castle’s restored Victorian kitchens, offers a choice of evening, one- and two-day courses.
Non-residents are welcome to dine at the bar or in the hotel’s informal Conors Bar or Snaffles Brasserie, where Andrew Bradley cooks up a storm in a wood-burning stone oven.
The Lodge: Conferences/Banqueting (40/50); secretarial services, free broadband wi/fi. Rooms 29 (all separate bath & shower, 5 family, 11 ground floor, 1 disabled all no smoking); B&B €95 pps, ss €45. Children welcome (under 2s free in parents' room, cots available free of charge, baby sitting arranged). Lift. Restricted opening winter (closed midweek). Equestrian Centre, Victorian Spa & Cookery School.
Snaffles Brasserie in The Ldoge: Seats 80 (private room, 50; outdoors, 20); children welcome (high chair, childrens menu); D daily 5.30-9.30pm; a la carte; house wine from €18. Bar food served daily in Conor's Bar, 12.30-8.30pm. Amex, MasterCard, Visa, Laser.
During the three centuries that this extraordinary place has been in the Leslie family it has changed remarkably little - and its fascinating history intrigues guests as much as the eccentricity of Castle Leslie as they find it today.
Once inside the massive front door (guarded by family dogs who snooze in beds flanking the stone steps) there is no reception desk, just a welcoming oak-panelled hall (and afternoon tea in the drawing room), and there are no phones, television sets or clocks in the rooms, although concessions to the 20th century have been made in the form of generous heating and plentiful hot water.
The bedrooms are all different, furnished and decorated around a particular era, with en-suite bathrooms a feature in their own right with huge baths, wacky showers and outrageous toilets, all done in a tongue-in-cheek style, reflecting the family's eccentric history and the wonders of Victorian plumbing.
In a charming reverse of circumstances, the family lives in the servants' wing, so guests can enjoy the magnificence of the castle to the full it has all the original furniture and family portraits.
The estate has wonderful walks, and pike fishing; boating and picnic lunches on the estate are available by arrangement. Due to the nature of the castle (and the fact that the Leslies see it as a wonderful refuge from the outside world for adults) this is not a suitable place to bring children. However, children are very welcome at the The Lodge (see above).
Castle Leslie: Bedrooms 20 (3 master, 17 heritage); not suitable for children; 12 seater cinema. Dining Room at Castle Leslie: D only, 6.30-9.30pm: 5 course D €65; Tasting Menu €75. House wine €30. Afternoon Tea from 2.30pm, €25.
Castle Leslie have been making their Gifts & Goodies range of jams, preserves and savoury oils, rubs, marinades and dressings since 2001 and picked up many an accolade along the way. All handmade from original Castle Leslie recipes, they can be bought at the Castle and make a lovely gift or memento to take home.
Also available from selected stockists including many recommended here, eg Food For Thought in Carlingford, Co Louth; The Stuffed Olive in Bantry, Co Cork and Swanton's Gourmet Foods in Belfast.
Offers a diverse range of evening demonstrations, one-day and two-day cookery courses for up to twelve people.