Country houses for sale

‘The most beautiful house in Ireland’ is up for sale

A genuinely magnificent country house, Castletown Cox in County Kilkenny is as grand a residence as anyone could ever wish for.

36,000 square feet. 513 acres. 10 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, plus a list of other spaces which sound as if they’ve been lifted from a Cluedo board: the billiard room, the music room, the wine cellar. There’s even a ‘model room’.

The main house on the Castletown Estate – often known as Castletown Cox – near Carrick-on-Suir in County Kilkenny (which is on the market via Knight Frank) is a place that is extraordinary in every sense. And we haven’t even begun talking about the gardens yet. (We’ll get to those later.)

The house was the creation of a renowned Sardinian architect, Davis Ducart, who was commissioned in 1767 by Michael Cox. Cox was the Archbishop of Cashel, and the son of Ireland’s then-Lord Chancellor, Sir Richard Cox.

The younger Cox had actually leased the land from the Duke of Ormonde; since then it has passed through families including the Villiers-Stuarts, the Wyndham-Quins, the Blacques and the de Breffnys, before the present owners took it on in 1991.

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The house they bought was in need of a huge amount of work. In the quarter of a century since they took it on, both house and gardens have undergone a huge amount of work to ensure that the house’s next 250 years will be as grand and beautiful as its first 250.

As the pictures on this page show, the quality of the work done is of the absolute highest order. This is a true stately home, built on a scale and to a specification which is breathtaking.

If you’ve spotted a somewhat familiar and regal look to the house, there’s a good reason. Ducart’s plans were inspired by William Wynde’s Buckingham House in London – the residence which was transformed in 1830 into Buckingham Palace.

The centre of the house is a three-storey central block with wings on either side – one of which houses all the bedrooms, the other the recreation rooms. The whole thing is built from stone blocks, highlighted with sandstone, limestone and unpolished local marble.

Those wings have some fine flourishes: at each end they finish up with pavilions topped by octagonal domes.

The overall effect is breathtaking: this is every inch the archetypal Palladian house, set off beautifully by a setting flanked by the Suir Valley and the Comeragh Mountains.

The royal link extends to the gardens: the 12 acres of formal gardens are the work of the designer who created Highgrove with HRH the Prince of Wales.

That woman was the late Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, aka Mollie Cecil (née Wyndham-Quin) whose father once owned Castletown Cox in Mollie’s youth.

Sometimes dubbed the ‘high priestess’ of garden design, she also helped HRH the Prince of Wales with the creation of the wonderful gardens at Highgrove.

There is also a lake, a 400m-long ha ha, approximately 160 acres of parkland, 25 acres of woodland and a further 100 acres of broadleaf woods.

Inside and out, then, Castletown Cox is a place of truly rare quality, a rare find on the market. It’s for sale via Knight Frank, who proudly declare it the ‘most beautiful house in Ireland’. That is up for debate, but if you were making a list of contenders it’d be hard to leave this one off. You can see more details and pictures (including the mouthwatering floorplan) here.

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