A Castle 'triplex' on the market of €1.6m in Louth
Three homes of different eras interlinked as one
Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30
Youcould accommodate the equivalent of a whole street of family-sized city homes inside Cyril O'Brien's castle and its ancillary buildings in Ardee, Co Louth.
The pocket estate's 20,000 sq ft equates roughly to the floor space of 20 average three-bed semis.
That's 40 family reception rooms, 60 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms and 20 kitchens.
Knockabbey Castle dates from the 14th century and is one of the nation's truly 'big' homes in a country where 'mansions' rarely exceed 10,000 sq ft.
O'Brien turned down an offer of €4.5m for the property a decade ago, seven years after first acquiring it in 1998. "I should have taken it," he groans.
But in 2011, when he did bring Knockabbey to the market for €2.5m, the crash was well set in and there were no buyers.
So this weekend, Knockabbey Castle is back on to sell with the initial asking price now slashed by a whopping €900,000 to €1.6m - giving potential buyers a castle and 30ac of fine gardens within an hour of Dublin for the price of a period terrace home in D6.
As a developer of property and cutting edge zeitgeist pubs, O'Brien is known for thinking big. Before the Celtic Tiger took off, he helped transform Dublin's social scene by founding keynote 'super pubs' like The George, Zanzibar and The Mercantile.
The recession trimmed back O'Brien's business empire but only after he had pumped €3m into the complete restoration of Knockabbey, the historic seat of the Bellew family and later the O'Reilly clan.
He bought the property in poor condition in 1998 for just over €550,000 after seeing it on the cover of the Sunday Tribune property section.
The €3m was evenly spent between the house and the historic gardens, and included a grant of about €750,000 raised through the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Fund.
It means that unlike many of the mansions lingering on the market these last few years, Knockabbey is a job already done - and because of O'Brien's exacting standards, comprehensively stylishly done.
He had ideas of turning it into a weekend-long wedding venue but later decided against it.
He says: "It's been an absolutely fabulous house for parties and I've entertained up to 150 people here at a time."
Knockabbey is highly unusual in that it has three (or perhaps arguably four) homes of different eras interlinked as one.
Built by the Bellew family in 1399 as a "£10 castle," and grant-aided by that amount, it was extended in the 1650s with a Queen Anne style wing - itself a self-contained house - and added to again in 1754 with a Georgian style home. The latter was burned by the IRA in 1922 and the ruin was later reworked in 1925 by the O'Reillys to provide the extravagant faux Gothic castle section.
The tower house, the Queen Anne House and the revival Gothic are all interlinked - although each has its own components. There are three stairwells for example, a narrow stone spiral on the keep and one ornate carved timber staircase each from the following two eras.
The house is entered via the original tower into a main hall (one of three) with a vaulted ceiling, stone-flagged floor, and a galleried staircase.
There's a dining room, a bar, a family room, billiard room, eight bathrooms, a library, an interpretive room, a self-contained staff apartment, a living room, drawing room, second kitchen, a museum room and eight bedrooms.
The courtyard has a two-bed house, outbuildings and a function room. The grounds have a gate lodge and a tea house.
"People are surprised at just how comfortable and practical a home it is," says O'Brien without whom, this unique historic house would itself have been consigned to history.
Ardee, Co Louth
Asking price: €1.6m
Agent: Coldwell Banker (01) 4110012