An oasis of calm in Co. Monaghan


Glaslough is a picturesque village and townland in the north of County Monaghan, Ireland, on the R185 regional road 3 km (2 miles) south of the border with Northern Ireland and 10 km (6 mi) northeast of Monaghan Town. It has great historic and architectural interest. For the last 300 years the economic and social development of the village has been intimately associated with Castle Leslie Estate, home to the Leslie family. The name translates from Irish as the ‘calm or green lake’ in reference to the beautiful lake now situated within Castle Leslie Estate.

The Leslie family motto ‘Grip Fast’ was bestowed on the family by Queen Margaret of Scotland. The story goes that a young Hungarian Bartholomew Leslie rescued the Queen from a river by asking her to ‘grip fast the buckle on his belt’. This motto has endured ever since.

The first member of the Leslie family to arrive in North Monaghan was John Leslie also known as the ‘Fighting Bishop’. John Leslie purchased the land around Glaslough from Sir Thomas Ridgeway ‘Treasurer of Arms to the English Throne in Ireland’. Prior to this the land belonged to the McKenna and McMahon families and both these family names are still important today. After his arrival he extended the castle and built a new church called St. Salvators to replace the older 5th century Church at Donagh Old Graveyard. John left the Estate to his son who died young after which it passed to his brother Robert and then to his children Robert Henry and ‘Vinegar Jane’. In their day all three were great friends of Jonathan Swift who often wrote about Castle Leslie and its colourful owners.

Within the village of Glaslough there are numerous monuments and buildings that have an interesting history.

The Coach House Pub is owned by the Wright family who are also the local undertakers. This was also the commercial heart of the village incorporating a village shop and petrol station. The interior of the bar still retains much of its original character and is well worth visiting.

The Leslie Monument on the main street was erected by tenants of the Leslie Estate in honour of Charles Powell Leslie MP 1821-1871 a progressive landlord who instigated works and famine relief projects during this period.

Trinity House on Barrack Hill was the location of the old R.I.C. (Royal Irish Constabulary) station. There is an old fashioned water pump complete with a lion’s head nearby, built in 1841 as part of a first village water scheme.

The former laundry building was modelled on a similar facility developed by the Vanderbilts family in America. It was the first of its type in Ireland.

Within Castle Leslie Estate itself, there are the gate lodges. Between 1800 and 1878 Charles Powell Leslie was responsible for the erection of a series of gate lodges to the estate. One of the main entrances is known as the Garden Lodge and Gate Lodge and this was built in 1875. This impressive building was designed by Lanyon and Lynn and comprises a pair of semi detached two storey houses with single bays, side entrance bays and gables. The cast iron entrance gates to each side of the Lodge are flanked by piers with rusticated ball finials.

Also on the estate is St. Salvator’s Church.  This is Church of Ireland was built by John Leslie within the grounds of the estate to replace an earlier parish church at Donagh Old Graveyard dating back to the 5th century. St Salvator’s church is the last resting place for most of the Leslie family and also where Sir Paul McCartney chose to marry Heather Mills in 2002. The guest list for this fairytale wedding was a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of the music world and one of the biggest social events the country has ever seen.

The Water Tower is a prominent feature with in the castle grounds. Built in the early 1800s over a deep well, a double handed pump pushed water to a tank at the top which gravity fed the old castle. It is also believed to be haunted.

The Castle itself was built by Thomas Ridgeway in 1608, later rebuilt by John Leslie then further altered in 1720. It was designed by the Belfast architects Lynn and Lanyon as a three bay, four storey Victorian house in ‘Scots Baronial’ style using pink Dumfries sandstone and local grey limestone and also includes some fine interior detail including mosaic tiles, fireplaces and a stone staircase. Castle Leslie has great historic interest having hosted many well known guests over the years including The Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill.

The Walled garden was built in 1850 and includes formal gardens, a series of glasshouses and wrought iron gates which open onto the lake. In its day the garden would have helped to supply home grown vegetables and flowers for the house. Although derelict, plans are currently under way to restore and open the gardens to the public.

The ‘magical green lake’ is well stocked with roach and reputed to contain pike weighing up to 45lbs. It is this lake which gave the village its name and which attracted the McKenna family and later Sir John Ridgeway to build their castles at this site. Whilst visible from the entrance the lake is not accessible to the public.

The important wetland area is situated on the banks of the Mountain River and within easy walking distance of the castle at Castle Leslie Estate. There is access to a wetland area 7 ponds and over 25 species of flora and fauna. This area works as a treatment area for the village and the estate.

This old graveyard was built when the graveyard at St. Salvators became full and included a Lynch Gate providing cover for those who came to bury their loved ones. Many people thought it was unlucky to have the first family burial in a new graveyard however Lady Constance was keen to open the graveyard before she returned to London. To allow this to a happen she oversaw a bizarre opening ceremony which included the burial of a leg donated by an unfortunate amputee from the nearby hospital!

Some other historical interesting information related to The Partition act of 1921 which lead to the ‘cutting off’ and detachment of a hinterland of three local villages; Caledon, Glaslough, and Tynan – three villages that were also at the connection point of three counties, Caledon in Co. Tyrone, (Northern Ireland); Glaslough in Co. Monaghan (the Republic of Ireland); and Tynan, Co. Armagh (Northern Ireland). .