Castle with a minstrel's gallery on the market for €1.5m
This stately pile may have no ghosts, but it does enjoy a hauntingly impressive ambience
Published 13/11/2015 | 02:30
A castle, if it's to be worthy of the name, ought to have a history of calamity, skulduggery, hubris and betrayal. Its story should be populated by rogues, fools, star-crossed lovers and the like - ideally even a ghost or two.
Carrigrohane Castle, on the outskirts of Cork city, is a little disappointing in this respect. No tales of thwarted romance attend it; no enemies' bones are mouldering still in the dungeons, and there are no reliable reports of ghosts - if "reliable" is the word to use when it comes to reports of the paranormal.
It has had its share of rogues, though. Carrigrohane was the childhood home of Breifne O'Brien, who was jailed last October for seven years for theft and deception, having duped his associates out of €8.5m in a pyramid scheme.
And only a mere 350 years earlier, the castle was reportedly the residence of one Captain Cape, a rapparee or, as modern parlance would have it, a highwayman. Thomas Crofton Croker's 'Researches in the South of Ireland' in 1824 described how Cape, "with a gang of desperate associates, plundered travellers, and laid the neighbouring country under contribution in the most daring manner".
The original castle on the site was already in ruins by the late 16th century, and soon afterwards a fortified house was built next to it, incorporating part of the older structure. The house, too, had fallen into dereliction by the mid-19th century, at which point it was taken over by a local milling family, the McSwineys.
They rebuilt it under the supervision of celebrated architects, Deane and Woodward, but later - either because of the expense of the restoration, or because of the declining fortunes of the milling business - they fell into financial difficulty and the castle became the property of the Hoare family, who owned it until the 1940s.
In 1976, it was bought by the well-respected local businessman and property developer, Leo O'Brien, and his wife Mary, who were tasked with the challenge of restoring the place yet again, and who went on to raise their three children there.
Earlier this year, having lived there for almost 40 years, the O'Briens passed the property to a group of investors. At the time the O'Briens were selling the property, during the summer, the selling price was €2.5m. The selling agents say that a development outfit named Oak3 Initiative is now selling it with reduced acreage, for €1.5m.
In other respects, it's exactly what you might hope for in a castle. It's all limestone magnificence, with battlements, turrets, and bartizans, and it's perched ominously on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the River Lee, just five kilometres from Cork city centre.
Within is 4,000 sq ft of real castle ambience, with beamed ceilings, flagstone floors, coats of arms and huge old fireplaces. In fact, Carrigrohane epitomises 'gloomth' - the term coined by the 18th century antiquarian and Gothic fanatic, Horace Walpole, to describe a subdued and inviting warmth.
A flight of limestone steps leads up to the front door, inside which is an entrance hall with a flagstone floor, stone fireplace, and a beamed ceiling.
There are two reception rooms on this floor, as well as a study.
One is a dining room with a minstrels' gallery above it, and a carved stone fireplace depicting a coat of arms. French doors in the dining room lead out to a paved area, where you can scurry up a flight of steps to the battlements and, from there, survey the river.
A passage from the dining room leads to the kitchen, which has an oil-fired Aga and is fitted with pine cabinets with Italian tile countertops.
The other reception room, at the back of the entrance hall, has a marble fireplace, panelled walls, and a fully fitted bar.
The first floor has two more reception rooms - a library, with a black marble fireplace and panelled walls, and a drawing room. This is a very grand, square room measuring 25ft by 22ft, and has another carved stone fireplace, a beamed ceiling with Tudor rose motif, and gilt-edged panelling on the walls.
The second floor has three bedrooms, including the master bedroom with en-suite shower and a walk-in wardrobe built into one of the two turrets. There's also a family bathroom located in the other turret.
Then, up on the third floor, there are three more bedrooms, a bathroom, a sitting room and a sun lounge, which measures 10ft by 10ft and has a glazed roof.
Back down in the basement there's a games room, also with panelled walls, and a wine cellar.
Naturally enough, Carrigrohane Castle is a listed building, so it doesn't have an energy rating, but there is oil-fired central heating to supplement the abundance of fireplaces.
It's now being sold with five acres of land (having more recently stood on 16). This is mostly mature riverside woodland, secluded and extensive enough to walk an Irish wolfhound in privacy and safety. Around the house itself are gardens with lawns and terraces.
The agent handling the sale is Cohalan Downing, (021) 427 7717, and the price is €1.5m.
Asking price: €1.5m
Agent: Cohalan Downing (021) 427 7717