“ Address: Main Street / Leighlinbridge / County Carlow / Ireland „
The Lord Bagenal Inn is situated in the middle of Leighlinbridge (pronounced Lochlenbridge) a small town in Carlow. About 60 miles South of Dublin.
During the Spring and Summer months Leighlinbridge is decorated florally to within an inch of it's life! It is breathtakingly beautiful! There must be more than 30 flower baskets and troughs just on the bridge! It really has to be seen to be believed.
It is a good location for exploring County Carlow. Set in a very pretty area but close enough to some large towns and cities if you want to shop.
Fishing on the local river is good and peaceful, with plenty of people happy to give you inside information.
I have been visiting The Lord Bagenal on and off, for about eighteen years. Like Topsy, it 'just growed!' It was established in 1979 and has gone from strength to strength. It seems like there is always something new to see. It doesn't stand still.
There is a very large free car park.
As far as I have seen there is full wheelchair access.
It is in the most picturesque of settings, sitting on the River Barrow just next to the bridge. If you walked into the entrance on the road by the bridge you would think you were walking into one of the many thousands of small pubs that freckle the Irish townscape.
Once inside, you will think you have walked into the Tardis! It just goes on and on and on! It is huge now. It doesn't however feel huge, and that is part of it's charm. You are still treated like an old friend when you walk in. It is a very homey place indeed.
James, the owner, will often stop for a quick chat. I have to say that I wonder if I would recognise James if he didn't look a bit anxious. He is very much present and doing his best attending to both the small and large affairs of the place. He keeps it running very smoothly, the effort must be enormous because this place functions on a lot of different levels.
Let me list a few.
1. Local pub for the people of Leighlinbridge.
2. Restaurant seating at least 150, Scattered about the bars and one main dining room in the older building and the elegant 'Waterfront Restaurant' in the newer wing.
3. Art Gallery. Many, many contemporary pieces of art grace the walls. (Sometimes 'Grace' is not quite the right word!) It makes for a very rich visual experience which I love. (I have spent the last ten years trying to work out what one of the pieces of art actually portrays!)
4. Function rooms. New function rooms were built on the back nearer the river and these are in constant demand for weddings and all other celebrations.
5. Centre for the Marina, a new facility for people travelling or holidaying on the River.
6. Gardens with water features. If the weather is good (or you want a smoke) there are tables and chairs in the walled garden to the side of the Lord Bagenal. It's nice on sunny days to sit out here with your breakfast! Or any meal you fancy!
7. Hotel. There are 39 rooms. The ones I have stayed in have been comfortable and spacious. The beds are comfy and the decor is well co-ordinated and well maintained. I love staying here because of the peace and quiet I always find. The Hotel staff are really efficient and nothing is too much trouble for them.
8. Business meeting and conference rooms. Everything you need to meet, train or work with colleagues.
All these levels are well managed and make a very impressive whole. No wonder James can look pre-occupied! I don't know how he does it.
Food and drink.
A lot of knowlege and money has been invested in the wine cellar. There is an extensive and very informative wine list. Disaster struck many years ago when thieves broke into the Lord Bagenal and stole the complete contents of the wine cellar. They must have been well organised criminals with educated palates. James eventually recovered from this catastrophe and rebuilt the wine stock painstakingly. Now it rivals, and in some cases outshines, many city cellars.
The food is varied and always well presented. It's a very popular place for families to gather for their traditional Sunday roast. The huge display of fantastic desserts are enough to tip you into a frenzy of indecisiveness. How can you choose just one?
The portions are large and the food wholesome. Using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
No mention of the food would be complete without mentioning Olive our favourite waitress. 'Waitress' is not a big enough word for Olive. She is a complete character and manages to look after you, feed you, and have you falling about laughing with her wit and chat. She is an institution. I think she has been there from the beginning and I hope she will be there for ever!
A quick example.... One day a colleague and I were there for a meal. The normal chef was away and, extremely unusually, the food was not at it's best. I sent my starter back because it was overcooked. Olive took it back and replaced it immediately, she explained that the chef was new and had a bit of a "celebration head on him!" (hangover!) I called Olive back a second time because my venison was tough. (It is usually absolutely mouth watering and tender.) "Yiz are not doing too well tonight are yiz?" was Olive's comment. The replacement was fast and tasted great.
A short while afterwards I caught Olive's eye, I was going to ask for a fresh pint. "Jaysus Christ and His Holy Family!!" roars Olive, "What are you after hating now?" We all fell about laughing. We were not charged for the meal.
I can honestly say that that was the only poor meal we have ever had there in nearly twenty years and it was worth it for the humour.
The Lord Bagenal is a quirky, homely, elegant, efficient, interesting and most of all, welcoming place to visit or to stay.
One last word, if you wander out to the very beautiful river to feed the ducks and the fishes, (as I often do) they don't seem to like brown bread, only the white. (You've got to keep the locals happy haven't you?)