Penny Churchill takes a look at the Irish rural property market, and sees plenty of encouraging signs as she picks out half a dozen beautiful spots.
Lake Park House, Lough Dan, Co Wicklow
For breathtaking beauty and tranquillity, few Irish country properties can hold a candle to the grand country estates of Co Wicklow, few of which ever appear on the open market. However, even Robert Ganly of long-established Ganly Walters (00 353 1 662 3255) – a man rarely lost for words – is hard put to convey the magic of the 110-acre Lake Park House estate on the shores of Lough Dan, near Roundwood, on the edge of the spectacular Wicklow Mountains National Park, yet less than an hour’s drive from Dublin airport, via the M50 motorway.
Having sold the estate to its UK-based Irish owner eight years ago, Mr Ganly is now handling its resale at a guide price of €4 million. It follows a root-and-branch refurbishment of the charming, 6,000sq ft main house, set in ancient woodland against the backdrop of glacial mountains sweeping down to the shores of Lough Dan and surrounded by gardens lovingly restored by the owner with input from designer Daphne Levinge Shackleton.
Originally part of the Shelton Abbey estate, ancestral seat of the Earls of Wicklow until 1951, Lake Park House was built as the main lodge of a newly created shooting estate in 1835 and is one of a trio of important lakeside houses in this part of Wicklow, alongside Luggala at Lough Tay and Lough Bray House at Lough Bray. The area has long been a haunt of Ireland’s literary elite and previous owners of Lake Park House include the novelist Edna O’Brien and the poet Richard Murphy.
Against the general run of play in the Irish country market, the agents report ‘good Irish and international interest’ in Lake Park, which undoubtedly merits its description as ‘a wonderful family home, a special rural retreat to unspoiled nature, a stunning place to entertain, to fish, to hunt, to swim, to ride or to simply get away from it all’.
Set discreetly at the end of a tree-lined drive is the elegant, part single, part two-storey house, whose dramatic south-west-facing entrance overlooks the valley on all sides. Inside, the picturesque 19th-century elements of the formal drawing room and dining room have been retained and restored and blend with light-filled contemporary living areas designed to maximise every possible view.
The modern main family wing includes a TV room, a stylish master suite and two further en-suite bedrooms. A splendid guest wing provides three more bedrooms and a bathroom. A luxurious studio and games room overlooking the forest is another inspired addition.
With its private access and extensive frontage to Lough Dan, Lake Park’s extensive sporting facilities represent the icing on the cake for residents and guests alike. They include trout and salmon fishing, sailing, swimming and wind-surfing, as well as shooting, walking and riding over one of Ireland’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.
SOLD: Bective Demesne, Navan, Co Meath
Despite a further stumble on the road to recovery caused by the UK’s Brexit vote, there are signs of a turnaround in the Irish rural property market, says Roseanne de Vere Hunt of Sherry FitzGerald’s Dublin-based country homes, farms and estates department.
She cites as proof the sale, in September 2016, of the 180-acre Bective Demesne on the banks of the Boyne between Trim and Navan in Co Meath at an asking price of €3.5m – said to be last year’s ‘largest country sale outside of Dublin’, despite the need for total restoration of its 13,000sq ft Victorian mansion and gate lodges.
Landenstown, Sallins, Co Kildare
Still within the Pale, Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (00 353 1 237 6402) quote a guide price of €6.5m for another prime candidate for restoration, the 338-acre Landenstown estate near Sallins in Co Kildare.
With the estate’s once-grand, mid-18th-century, Palladian estate house, gate lodges and farm buildings all in need of complete renovation and work also needed to restore the parkland to its former glory, Landenstown’s enviable location 22 miles from Dublin city centre and 27 miles from the airport will be the key to its eventual sale.
The 5,726sq ft, two-storey main house, which sits at the end of a long meandering drive, retains some impressive original features with classic Georgian well-proportioned rooms and wonderful views over the surrounding estate, especially from the first-floor bedrooms. To the east of the main house, the courtyard could be converted to further accommodation, subject to planning consent.
The estate has large areas of productive farmland, interspersed with beautiful areas of amenity lands bounded on one side by the Grand Canal. This being Kildare, the lands, although neglected in recent years, could easily be returned to productivity, the agents say.
Bilberry, Midleton, Co Cork
For sale for the first time in almost 60 years is one of Co Cork’s larger and better-preserved Georgian holdings: the wonderfully private, 195-acre Bilberry estate near Midleton, 18 miles from Cork city. The fact that it’s been in the same ownership for so long is a testament to the long-term commitment of its German-Canadian owner, who bought it in 1959 as a safe haven for herself and her young sons.
Following her death in her nineties in 2015, the highly productive and well-managed farming and woodland estate is being sold on behalf of her sons, now in their seventies and living in the USA.
Currently for sale through Sherry FitzGerald Country and local agents Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan (00 353 21 462 1166) at a revised guide price of £2.95m, the focal point of the estate is the charming, 6,350sq ft, mid-Georgian Bilberry House, built in about 1770, with the rear section added at a later date.
Inside, the rooms are bright and cheerful and include a morning room, a dining room with panoramic views of the surrounding East Cork countryside, a spacious sitting room and a library leading to a delightful patio and garden area, a kitchen, a heated indoor pool and a sauna. The first and second floors house six bedrooms, including a master suite with a dressing room, a bathroom and – a touching relic of a bygone era – a sewing room.
The gardens and grounds designed by the garden architect Russell Page are a major feature of Bilberry House. Beautifully maintained over the years, they are bounded by lush lawns, and thoughtfully planted to provide colour and blossom throughout the year.
Ballygriggan House, Castletownroche, Co Cork
Colour abounds in the rolling farmland and wooded river valleys around imposing Ballygriggan House near Castletownroche in north Co Cork, currently on the market through Fermoy-based country-house agent Michael Daniels (00 353 25 31023) and Ganly Walters at a guide price of £1.85m.
The property is bounded to the entire eastern and northern perimeter by the enchanting River Awbeg, a tributary of the Blackwater said to have inspired Edmund Spenser (who lived at nearby Kilcolman Castle) to write his Faerie Queen.
Approached along a tree-lined drive, Ballygriggan House sits on high ground in the centre of its lands overlooking the river, with glorious views of the Galtee, Nagle and Ballyhoura Mountains on the horizon. During their 20-year tenure, the present owners have executed an ambitious programme of upgrading and extension, which has seen the floor area doubled to about 8,200sq ft of bright and sunny accommodation, including a reception hall, four reception rooms, seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms.
Set among the fields to the north of the house is the pretty, two-storey North Lodge, which was completely restored from a ruin in 2004. Directly behind the house is a yard of traditional stone outbuildings providing garaging and storage. Nearby is a stable yard with 10 loose boxes, a tack room and an all-weather arena. Away from the house, a farmyard comprises two modern steel buildings linked by an internal road.
Ballymagooly House, Blackwater, Co Cork
Also for sale in Cork is Ballymagooly House on the banks of the Blackwater near Mallow, which, according to Anna-Maria Hajba’s Houses of Cork, was the site of one of the earliest Roche castles, built here in 1344.
The castle was probably in ruins by the early 18th century, when the original Ballymagooly House and its outbuildings were built, possibly by John Norcott, who died there in 1719.
The agent handling the sale is Michael Daniels (00 353 25 31023), who quotes a guide price of £1.7m for the 103-acre estate as a whole or £850,000 for the house, stable yard and 22 acres of land, with 900m (almost 3,000ft) of single-bank fishing.
Currently arranged as two dwellings that could easily be converted back to one, the main house has been comprehensively modernised and upgraded since the owners bought it in the 1990s. Generous accommodation includes a reception hall, four reception rooms and four bedrooms, with the annexe providing two further reception rooms and five bedrooms.