I recently had the pleasure of joining my partner on a complimentary press trip to the pretty and scenic county of Monaghan in Ireland. We enjoyed several activities – one of my favourites being Afternoon Tea at Castle Leslie Estate. I was blown away by the excellent hospitality and their efforts to cater for me as a vegetarian. I’m keen to share my experience with you, but first a little bit about the castle’s history…
The History of Castle Leslie:
Castle Leslie is steeped in history and has been home to the longstanding familial clan, Leslie, for hundreds of years who originally came from Scotland.
The castle tours held here take you through the history of both the family and castle grounds itself. During which you’ll be able to admire the magnificent ornaments, the magical ‘green lake’, authentic interiors and original oil paintings created by the first Leslie to arrive in Ireland, Bishop John Leslie. He bought over the estate, previously known as Glaslough Castle and Demesne, in 1665, and died at the impressive age of 100 in 1671.
Since 1665, the Estate has been known as Castle Leslie. It’s one of the last great Irish Castle Estates to remain in the hands of its founding family and with that comes plenty to chat about when you visit.
A host of famous names have stayed here over the years including WB Yeats, Michael Collins and Mick Jagger, as well as many members of the Churchill family to whom the Leslies are related. The castle is more well known as the place where Paul McCartney and Heather Mills got married during their ill-fated union.
However, do beware if you plan on staying at the castle because it’s allegedly haunted! Though they’re apparently said to be friendly spirits…
How did Castle Leslie Cater for a Vegetarian Afternoon Tea?
A visit to Castle Leslie is not complete without having their luxurious Afternoon tea in The Blue Room (wait ‘til you see how lovely this room was!)
Thanks to the efforts of Castle Leslie’s kitchen (which I’ll tell you more about in a minute), I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to experience it myself. The surroundings and beautiful gardens made it a truly enjoyable time.
After the tour, we were taken to be seated in The Blue Room, which boasts a gorgeous blue-theme interior. Think regal fireplaces, high ceilings, original floorboards, Laura Ashley’s infamous shade of ‘duck egg blue’, cream upholstery and authentic lighting. It was gorgeous!
The Bottom Tier:
I appreciate rural Ireland is not the best place to eat meat-free given its agricultural culture. In light of this, Castle Leslie doesn’t offer a strictly vegetarian Afternoon Tea (or vegan for that matter). Therefore, I was a bit apprehensive about the experience if I’m honest. There are one or two vegetarian sandwiches among meat and fish options on the menu. However, they did offer dairy-free milk which I was grateful for.
Though I was prepared to compromise and only eat the options I could, I kindly asked if I could be given more vegetarian pieces on the bottom tier upon ordering. I was pleasantly surprised by the staff and kitchen’s cooperation with that request as the kitchen replaced half of the bottom tier with gorgeous vegetarian bites which I’ll take you through next.
I was so happy and impressed with their open-mindedness and creative efforts.
The current veggie-friendly options on the bottom tier are Organic Egg, Chive & Watercress & Cucumber Crème Fraiche Sandwiches. In addition to these two, the kitchen prepared me an Olive Tapenade Bread and the most delicious Fresh Salad Wrap. The salad wrap was my favourite and boasted a bundle of stripped veggies in a gorgeous peppery mustard dressing.
I was so pleased with these additional vegetarian options – they were absolutely delightful.
If they can create last-minute options like that, it just goes to show that they are very open to catering for vegetarians. Plus, their ability to develop fantastic strictly vegetarian and vegan Afternoon Teas in the future.
The Middle Tier:
The middle tier was composed of scones, cakes, pastries and preserves which included:
- Warm fruit scones
- Lime & Sicilian Lemon Tartlets, Soft Meringue Topping
- Carrot Cake, Orange Zest & Cointreau Frosting
- Mango Custard & Passion Fruit Jelly Dome Croustade
My favourites of this bunch had to be the carrot cake and passion fruit. The carrot cake was superbly spiced and moist with each bite – definitely one of the best carrot cakes I’ve enjoyed. I love passion fruit, so for me, the passion fruit jelly domes were insane – so rich and fruity!
The Top Tier:
Working our way up to the top tier, we had:
- Assorted Macaroons
- Roast Pear, Salted Caramel & Chocolate Mousse
- Éclair filled with Bailey & Black Bush, Toffee Ganache
- Chocolate & Cappuccino Opera Gateaux
The perfectly baked green macaroon was filled with a purple berry filling. It was a very sweet bite that nicely contrasted the rich, decadent tastes of the chocolate Mousse and Gateaux. The latter were chased well with sips of my smooth dairy-free coffee on the side.
Last but not least, my favourite sweet treat was the Éclair. Perfect for caramel fans like me, this was a gorgeous crisp pastry filled with a soft toffee ganache oozing with flavour. It literally melted in my mouth – it was fab!
My only criticism of the afternoon tea was that the cappuccino and latte we ordered were overly frothy, i.e. we had to nose-dive our way to the coffee.
Other than that, this was an amazing taste experience which I highly recommend if you have a wild ‘sweet tooth’, and are passing through County Monaghan in Ireland.
Lastly, I do believe that demand for vegetarian and vegan options is going to increase and it’s a shame Castle Leslie don’t yet offer strictly vegetarian or vegan Afternoon Tea menus for these diets.
However, based on the afternoon tea made for this occasion, I believe they could do really well. I’d love to see Castle Leslie offer innovative options for both diets going forward, and I’ll be first in line to try them!
For those of you who want a little more adventure, here are a few other activities I enjoyed during my time in County Monaghan
Electric Bike Rides with Drumlin Trails
Lose your electric bike virginity with Drumlin Trails and effortlessly glide through Monaghan’s countryside. Conveniently, it’s only a 5-minute drive from the Castle. These bikes are great fun, and the various cycle routes available are great for families, naturists, cycle fanatics and fitness enthusiasts alike. I loved it!
Prices: €15pp per day or €35pp per day for an electric bike (from 16 years of age). Discounts available for groups of 4 or more, and helmets and hi-vis vests provided. Child seats and trailers available, too.
Address: Knockaphubble, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan, Ireland
Rally Racing with Rally School Ireland
So if you wanna crank up the competition with your partner or family members, I highly recommend rally racing! Within 20 minutes from the castle, you can speed your way around these tracks which are set in the middle Ireland’s beautiful countryside.
Prices: from €225pp (half-day, 3 cars)
Address: Killatten, Scotstown, Co. Monaghan, H18 Y638, Ireland
Wandering the streets of Monaghan Town
Monaghan Town is home to lots of boutique shops and foodie places. It’s great for a little wander, coffee or window shop enroute from A to B.
Eating Vegetarian Pizza at Ambledown Cottage
On one of my previous visits to the castle, we ended our day at Ambledown Cottage which is situated down a small road next to Castle Leslie’s entrance. It’s a quaint little restaurant with a beautiful courtyard at the back filled with flowers – perfect on a sunny day. They’re renowned for their gourmet pizzas, so be sure to try a slice of their Vegetarian Heaven. You can also make your own if you fancy getting creative.
Address: Barrack Hill, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan, Ireland