As we drove through the imposing gates into the expansive estate, passing a glassy lake, I could not help thinking that it was a perfect setting for staging murder mysteries or exploring the paranormal. In the hands of the Leslie family (who can trace their lineage to Attila the Hun) since the 1600s, Castle Leslie in Glaslough village, in Northern Ireland, sprawls over a thousand acres.
When we entered the castle we were handed an antique key to our rooms, and led through the hallways. The decor was quirky and filled with tapestries, paintings and a lot of family history.
We got the grand tour that night from Sir John Leslie, the 93 year old eccentric owner of the castle who has lived here since 1994. Sammy Leslie, Sir John’s niece is the person responsible for turning the castle into a viable proposition.
|Sir John Leslie|
The family has famous connections. Sir John talked casually about the Duke of Wellington who was a first cousin and Sir Winston Churchill who was a close friend of the family. He played a Chopin piece effortlessly on the piano for us.
|Sir Winston Churchill's christening gown|
Each of the rooms was named after a member of the Leslie family and decorated in an eclectic pastiche of styles. My room was called Desmond’s room named after Desmond, Sammy’s father, a dashing pilot, who wrote several books.
|The Blue Room- a living room|
Castle Leslie like many other castles has a plethora of ghost stories. Bells ring on their own, a monk shuffles past guests and shadowy figures disappear around the corner...Norman’s Room was named after Norman, a member of the family who was destined to inherit the castle but was killed prematurely in the war. Apparently his ghost (reputed to be a friendly one like Casper) still inhabits his room and is known to levitate the bed.
|The Royal throne?|
The Red Room was Sir John’s mother’s room- there is an ornate four poster bed, but it’s the bathroom which had us stunned: a unique wood panelled throne toilet with even the coat of arms and the first plumbing bath to be installed in Ireland. That must be why we say ‘sitting on the throne’! We hear that a ghost who shuffles paper is often been sighted here!
|Memorabilia on display|
War medals, a quill pen used by a former Pope, a bullet extracted from the thigh of Tom Leslie who was injured in the Battle of the Light Brigade, Sir Winston Churchill’s christening dress and old letters were on display in the living room.
|The family coat of arms|
In the hallway is the coat of arms bearing the family motto “Gripp fast” indicating the clan’s never-say-die attitude perhaps? The Scottish member of the clan, Bartholomew Leslie was rescuing Queen Margaret of Scotland and fording a river. He was riding the horse sitting behind her and when the horse almost sank in the river he shouted,” Grip fast, my buckle”. She held on to his buckle and was saved. And that became their motto.
|The dining room|
We walked through the haunted gallery where people have seen a lady in a long dress walk even in broad daylight... Come evening, the members of our group were anxious to sleep in their friend’s rooms and imagined footsteps in the corridor.. It was a night which we would remember for a long time! I slept with the lights on, just in case some ghosts decided to make their appearance...