Quirky is the word for Castle Leslie Estate in Monaghan—near the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—where rooms are arranged at the end of higgledy-piggledy corridors and long flights of stairs. The winding layout and overstuffed armchairs in the lobby make the vine-swathed, 19th-century castle feel like a family residence—and it feels even more homey when you see the castle’s nonagenarian owner, Sir John Leslie, Fourth Baronet (or Sir Jack to guests), chatting with visitors in his pajamas around midday.
There are a thousand acres to explore, three lakes to row around, forests to get lost in, streams to follow, and horse trails to trot along (starting in the equestrian center and livery near the main house). So at the end of the day there’s nothing left to do but sit by the fire and engage Sir Jack in a long chat. Rooms are scattered throughout the estate: in the castle, of course, but also in the former hunting lodge, stable mews, and village cottages.
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Between all the activities and the extensive grounds, there’s little need to leave the property. The castle is an 80-minute drive from Dublin Airport and an hour's drive to Belfast.
Need to Know
Rooms: 49 rooms, 12 suites. From $100. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The formal Snaffles Restaurant, in the Lodge, has wood-beam-supported arched roof and walls of windows, and it serves Irish beef, game, and fish grilled or cooked in a wood-burning stove. Conor’s Bar in the castle is more casual. Spa and gym details: The spa, otherwise known as Victorian Treatment Rooms, uses Irish seaweed-derived Voya products. There’s no gym, but who needs one when there are miles of walking trails on the property?
Who’s it for: Those looking for an immersive country retreat—and a pit stop between Dublin and Belfast. Our favorite rooms: Every room is described in detail on the hotel’s website, so guests can make educated decisions. Those who stay in the castle might need to climb a few dozen steps, but themed castle rooms like the Red Room—home to Ireland’s first bathtub and believed to be frequented by ghosts—are unusual to say the least. Lodge rooms are newer, and some have lovely views of the stables. Plan ahead: The castle is a popular wedding spot, and if it’s rented out, some parts of the grounds might be off-limits. Check before you book.