Country houses for sale

Country house market in Ireland

In timeless Ireland, you can always turn the clock back. So, for laidback Robert Ganly of Knight Frank Ireland, the present ‘hiatus’ in the Irish property market is not so much a recession, more a reversion to the way things were two years ago. ‘Prices in the Dublin residential market, which sets the tone for the rest of the country, shot up by 25% in 2006 and early 2007, and have now fallen back by about the same percentage,’ Mr Ganly explains.

Inevitably, the new reality is reflected in the Irish country-house market, where vendors who’re serious about selling are hastily revising their expectations. A notable example is the €4.5 million guide price quoted by Knight Frank (00 353 1662 3255) for historic Jamestown Court at Mullingar, Co Westmeatha far cry from last summer’s launch price of €7.5m. One of the county’s finest Georg-ian houses, Jamestown was built by Kedagh Geoghegan in about 1720, using stone and timbers taken from nearby Carne Castle; in the 1800s, it was extended and ‘Gothicised’ by Sir Richard Nagle, MP for Westmeath, who inherited the Geoghegans’ vast estates.

Impeccably restored by the current owners, it has five fine reception rooms, seven bedroom suites, a kitchen/breakfast room, a gym, a guest cottage and

a gate lodge the whole set in 62 acres of lovely formal gardens, park and woodlands. Even more dramatic is the setting of the 200-acre Lough-crew estate at Oldcastle in north Co Meath, which came to the market in recent weeks with a guide price of €5.8m through William Montgomery (028 4278 8666) and Savills Hamil-ton Osborne King (00 353 1 663 4350). Set against the backdrop of the rolling Loughcrew Hills, where 32 prehistoric passage graves house the 5,000- year-old ashes of the ancient chieftains of Ireland, Loughcrew House and gardens were once the heart of a 180,000-acre estate owned by the Naper family, the current vendors.

The first Loughcrew House, built by the family in the 1600s, was destroyed by fire and replaced in 1821 by a neo-Classical mansion designed by Charles Cockerel. In 1959, this also burned to the ground, leaving only the giant portico that towers over the present main house created from the former orangery, which has two main reception rooms, two sunrooms, a kitchen, five bedrooms, a basement and a three-bedroom guest wing. Since 1660, successive generations of Napers have enthusiastically developed Loughcrew’s famous gardens today, a spectacular mix of parkland and breathtaking vistas. The main stone court-yard houses a studio and two ballrooms, used for weddings and exhibitions, to the rear of which a farmyard contains the old forge, two large coach houses, a five-bay barn and a livestock-handling area.

If things are quiet around Dublin, then it’s no surprise that you can hear a pin drop in Co Cork, where idyllic Ileclash House, near Fermoy described in Houses of Cork as ‘one of the jewels of the Blackwater valley’ has been launched on the market by Michael H. Daniels (00 353 224 6996) with a guide price of €4.25m. Over the years, the graceful late-Georgian house atop its dramatic limestone outcrop has been home to rectors, socialites and politicians among them Sir Oswald Mosley and his wife, Diana, who bought and restored it, having found it in a state of disrepair after the Second World War.

The present owners have further renovated this enchanting house, which has 7,000sq ft of accommodation, including four reception rooms, six bedrooms and six bathrooms, plus a courtyard with two guest cottages, a studio, a gym, an orangery and outbuildings. Twelve acres of secluded wooded grounds include a walled garden, terraced lawns, a beech drive, romantic woodland and riverside walks, and just under a mile of fishing on Ireland’s premier salmon river.

Despite the current adverse Euro-sterling exchange rate, UK buyers can still find their dream coastal retreat in West Cork for less than €1m, Mr Daniels assures me, citing the example of 18th-century Strand House at Clonakilty, 30 miles from Cork city, which he’s offering at €875,000. The pretty four-bedroom house was originally sited on the waterfront at Inchydoney, before being cut off by the causeway built to the east in Victorian times. It now sits in 1.4 acres of delightful gardens in a peaceful spot, yet is still within minutes of the sea.