Follow in the footsteps of Kildare's polar explorer for €535k
When the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton was seven years old, he got wind of a bit of news that amazed him. The intelligence came from his governess, who told him that Australia was on the polar opposite side of the world - in other words, some distance beneath his feet.
So the earnest young explorer set to work at once, and recruiting whatever labourers he could find, began digging a shaft in the back garden with the aim of establishing a shorter route to the antipodes.
The story is told in Hugh Robert Mill's 1923 biography of Shackleton; and as he describes it, the project was abandoned only when it became clear that wrecking the garden would not go down well with the parental authorities.
Shackleton came from a long line of keen gardeners. Ernest's father Henry was devoted to his garden at Kilkea, Co Kildare, as was his grandfather Ebenezer, who had established a beautiful garden around his house at Moone, eight kilometres away from the juvenile adventurer's family home. Neither would have taken kindly to holes appearing unexpectedly in the sward.
Co Kildare is proud of its intrepid native son, and his name appears on streets, monuments and public buildings throughout the county. What is even more fitting, though, is that one of the houses in Shackleton Village, just outside Moone, has a garden to please even the most exacting horticulturist.
'Oldfield' has been in the hands of the same owners since it was built, back in 2001. They made a garden from scratch, and it's evident that they've applied themselves to their plot with imagination, tenderness and no end of hard work.
It's in an enclave of large detached houses less than a kilometre due north of the village, and it's on a third of an acre filled with colour and fragrance and the sounds of bees, birds and water. The owners have added a limestone pond behind the house, teeming with fish. The trees they've planted - broadleafs, including chestnut and willow - are flourishing nicely, taking their place among brightly-coloured shrubs and flowers, including roses and mimosa, as well as herbs and vegetables and an enviably spongy lawn.
They've also put in a Victorian-style greenhouse in brick and aluminium where you can work on your cuttings, or indeed pretend to be working on your cuttings while reading a book instead.
To the house itself they've added a sun lounge overlooking the garden, skylit and with windows on three walls. It gives onto a big raised terrace with steps down to the lawn, making it a convenient and comfortable spot in which to sit and survey your handiwork before being tempted back outside for a fresh onslaught against nature.
Inside the front door, a sunny entrance porch opens into a wood-floored hallway with an open-string staircase. You reach the sun lounge through big glass doors in one of the two main reception rooms in the house, which is a formal dining room with an open fireplace. The other reception room, and the principal one, is a living room or lounge with a limestone fireplace fitted with a solid-fuel stove.
The kitchen and breakfast room measure over 300 sq ft and also overlook the back garden, with a window seat. There's a separate utility with a back door so you've got somewhere to leave your gardening boots, and there's also a study on the ground floor, with fitted shelving, so there's the option of an extra bedroom in there if you have a houseful of visitors.
Elsewhere, there are five bedrooms. Two of these have en-suite facilities - one a guest bedroom with an en-suite shower, and the other the master bedroom, which also has a dressing room and a double shower cubicle in the en-suite.
The overall size of the house is 2,475 sq ft and it has oil-fired central heating and a creditable C2 energy rating. The boiler house and oil tank, along with a log shed and coal bunker, are in an enclosed yard to the side of the house, so they can't be seen.
It's an easy walk down to the quiet village of Moone. There's a high cross there - the second-tallest high cross in the country - and you'll also find a primary school, pub and shop.
Since the houses were built, the N9 route has been upgraded. You get onto the M9 motorway in about six minutes' drive from the house, and reach Dublin city centre after about an hour. Athy is 13 kilometres away. However, Australia can still be reached only by the customary arduous means.
The owners of Oldfield are trading down, and they've placed the house on the market with agents REA Murphy in Baltinglass, Co Wicklow (045) 851 652. The asking price is €535,000.
Shackleton Village, Moone, Co Kildare
Asking price: €535,000
Agent: REA Murphy, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow (045) 851 652