I imagine everyone has a hotel bucket list, I certainly do. Among the Irish entries, Ballyfin Demesne is on the wish list with Ashford Castle also featuring. Another dream getaway has always been Castle Leslie which I have yearned to visit for many years. The lodge and the mews are both impressive with stunning views over Glaslough Lake but for me, it was the castle itself that I dreamt of. The walls seem to hold so many secrets and the quirky antiques and bric a brac only add to the faded grandeur that emanates from each room.
So it was with much delight that I peeled back an envelope this year containing a perfectly nice birthday card, along with a perfectly dreamy gift of an Enchanted Castle overnight stay within the ancient walls of Castle Leslie itself. Our overnight getaway included a splendid lunch in the castle dining room along with a seven course tasting menu (also in the castle) and breakfast the next morning. Of course a glass of perfectly chilled champagne was included with each meal, only adding to the special atmosphere.
I had spent quite a while deliberating over which castle bedroom to request as each was special in their own way. After much inner debate, we requested The Green Room with its wide bay windows and spectacular views. Originally, the green room was Sir John Leslie’s bedroom, where, by all accounts he was well looked after by his loyal butler, Wells, until his death in 1944. The original handmade Victorian wallpaper still adorns the walls and the freestanding back with views as far as the eye can see is about as charming as it gets.
After settling in, we descended the stairs for lunch, eager to begin our mini break away from it all. Sitting at a window table overlooking the gardens, we dined on baked camembert with shaved truffle and flatbread for dipping, followed by a platter of the most deliciously fresh Irish salmon (poached, cure and smoked) that has ever crossed my lips and a small but perfectly formed bowl of risotto primavera. For afters, there was a lavish cheeseboard, an extravagance more often kept as an after dinner treat but most welcome nonetheless. We sipped a bottle of chilled Picpoul and contemplated if life could get any better than this. A post lunch stroll around the stunning grounds was the perfect antidote to such a vast meal, and an afternoon siesta even more so.
That evening, we emerged revived and refreshed and began with drinks in the bar where we sampled the Castle Leslie Fighting Bishop house gin followed by the seven course tasting menu with accompanying wines. Duck wontons were the star of the show but the beef tartare was also excellent, as was the potato scaled halibut and the mango and passion fruit tart with pineapple gel. Service was discreet but attentive and sitting by the window taking in the view, lights twinkling in the distance was a most memorable experience indeed. We slept well that night, the bed being just as comfortable as it looked.
Breakfast the next morning was an elegant affair and while breakfast buffets have been relegated to the history books, there was no shortage of delicious morsels to nibble on. Copious cups of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice were followed by our last walk around the grounds and then a full body massage in The Victorian Treatment Rooms, located in the lodge, just inside the castle gates. Floating out the door on our way to the car to begin our journey home, I reflected on how 24 sublime hours could make such a difference to one’s state of mind. The package was called The Enchanting One Night Castle Escape, and curling up in the front seat of the car on our journey home, I certainly felt like a pampered princess.
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