Country bolthole in Donegal which includes two cottages on the market for €1.475m
Unique selling point: Mini-manse with two cottages
Published 04/09/2015 | 02:30
Those seeking a country house with a lot of extra earning potential might well be interested in Ballyarr House, a sprawling 18th century mini-manse of 4,000 sq ft which comes with two additional properties ripe for rental, 14 acres and a deep-rooted, contentious history.
Cottages around these parts rent up to €500 per week in peak season.
Helping to draw in tourists is the fact that this house also has plenty of stories to tell. It was for a time owned by one of Donegal's most infamous landlords, the journal keeper and writer Lord George Hill, son of the Marquis of Downshire and a career soldier, who acquired it in the 1840s and invested in building roads and civic buildings to improve the area.
In Hill's own mind, his efforts were divinely inspired to improve the lot of the common man - the thousand-plus locals who lived on his lands. Mostly, though it seems they didn't agree - he snuffed out small businesses and traders rivalling his interests right down to impoverished wives selling bread and also participated in a ruthless land clearance in the years that followed the famine as landlords pursued "progress" and shifted tenants to make way for sheep.
A local Catholic priest facetiously dubbed Hill the "Lord of the Soil" for an evangelical book he published detailing his efforts to improve his agrarian holdings as an example to others.
Hill owned 23,000 acres at Gweedore, and he and a number of other enterprising pirates, the most notorious of which was Adair, began removing these obstacles to progress with the help of the constabultary. The worst three days in 1861 saw 244 men and women made homeless and ejected from Adair lands around Derryveagh, with the help of 200 officers.
A portrait of the one-time owner, ruddy of face and sporting an armoured breastplate (under his shirt) hinting at his military past features in a mural in the main hall. The house is also connected to Jane Austen - Hill married two of her favourite nieces, replacing one with the other when the first passed away.
The current owners of Ballyarr are based in the UK for much of the year. The lady of the house is writer Noreen Taylor (nee McElhone) a Donegal native whose ancestors were actually among those evicted in the clearances. Her daughter, the glamorous screen actress Natascha McElhone (star of The Truman Show and Californication) has been a regular visitor to the house and the area.
Soon after acquiring it the current owners began restoring it in the original Georgian style with some nice eco touches added, including the progressive solar system which provides free hot water for most of the year.
However, they arrived too late to save an entire wing which a previous owner had pulled down because it was too expensive to repair.
The drawing room/library were returned to their previous proportions and cornicings were restored. The front was also stripped of its stucco to reveal the original stonework.
The entrance hall has a pine floor and a series of murals of local scenery. There's also a drawing room/library, dining room and conservatory.
The house has a country style kitchen/breakfast room with white fitted Welsh dressers, a Belfast sink with brass mixer taps, and an oil-fired Aga range with four independent ovens. It's got recessed halogen spotlights in the ceiling and a set of glass double doors lead out to the garden.
There are four bedrooms upstairs and the main bathroom with brass taps and a roll top and claw foot bathtub.
Meantime, down below the house is a comprehensive cellar complex divided into five different rooms. The original floors are still in place here and the ceilings have recently being refurbished.
The current owners use it only for the storage of wine and there's obviously a good amount of potential here for other uses including a TV room, a laundry and a home gym.
The grounds of 14 acres divide into formal planted areas, expansive lawns and substantial wooded sections including three acres containing 5,000 deciduous trees planted under the auspices of the Forestry Commission. The land is bordered on one side by the River Lennon and there's a pond and a formal old walled garden which would once have supplied the household with its vegetables and cut flowers.
The expanse means that there's plenty of space for the owners and their tenants/guests without cramping privacy.
The first property on the grounds is Ballyarr Lodge, estimated to be worth around €140,000 in the current market. It comes with an open-plan kitchen, dining room and living room looking over the pond. Here the kitchen is also rustic traditional in style with Welsh dressers and a Belfast sink lending the tone.
There's a hall with loft access and two bedrooms lit by Velux skylights.
Also on the grounds is Ballyarr Cottage which comes with a living room also overlooking the pond, a dining room with a pine floor and door outside and a kitchen with cream painted wall and base units and a Belfast sink.
There's a bedroom with double wardrobes and a bathroom .
The angular landscape which made life so difficult for Donegal's tenants all that time ago is today a big tourist draw and Ireland is having a record year.
It helps too that Derry Airport is an hour away with Belfast two and half hours drive.
Ramelton, Co Donegal
Asking price: €1.475m
Agent: Franklins (074) 9188000