Inside this 19th century stone cottage on the market in Wicklow for €995k
This 19th-century cottage is just across the river from the Vale of Clara
There's been a forest in the Vale of Clara since the Ice Age. That means the woods there survived more or less without meddling influences for more than 11,000 years - until the 1940s, that is, when someone decided planting conifers in an ancient oak wood would be a good idea.
Happily, better wisdom has since prevailed. The forest is now a nature reserve and a Special Area of Conservation. Much of the coniferous growth has been removed, the habitat is returning to its natural state, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service expects it to become one of the most extensive oak woods in the country in time.
The forest covers more than 500 acres of this scenic Co Wicklow valley, and through it rushes the Avonmore River.
This is a properly layered forest, with giant oaks and pines at the top, an under-storey of rowan, hazel and holly, and a ground cover of bilberries, honeysuckles and violets. The whole area is so pleasant, fragrant and sweetly verdant that all it's missing is a community of talking animals, as in The Wind in the Willows. There are several walking trails through the woods and all the walkers are secretly hoping for a glimpse of Toad of Toad Hall speeding past in his motorcar.
Granite Lodge is just across the Avonmore River - about 100 metres to the south of it - and easily in shouting distance of Toad, Ratty, Mole et al. What's more, it has its own acre of gloriously leafy gardens that would make perfect riverside real estate for animals, talking or otherwise.
The house itself began as a modest 19th-century granite-built workman's cottage, and like the forest within its sights, it too has been preserved for posterity. It's also been greatly enhanced and expanded, and decorated inside in a palette of colours to rival the most exuberant of nature's displays. You won't find a hint of greige in this house or anywhere in its environment.
With the extension it's now a fairly sprawling 3,488 sq ft, and there are living rooms both on the ground floor and upstairs, to make the most of those fertile green views, with a wraparound verandah on both levels.
The entrance hall on the ground floor is just under 20ft square and runs from the front of the house towards a sunroom area at the back, where there are floor-to-ceiling windows. The hall has a double-height ceiling with a modern, cantilevered maple staircase with open treads, so you lose no light, and there's a flagstone floor.
Left of the entrance hall is the big, dual-aspect kitchen measuring roughly 20ft square. It's fitted with handmade wooden cabinets and granite countertops, and it too has floor-to-ceiling windows and two sets of French doors to the verandah. The kitchen has a flagstone floor and a Rayburn in a brick chimneypiece.
To the right of the entrance hall there's a second, inner hallway leading to the three ground-floor reception rooms. First is a games room, big enough for a pool table at roughly 13ft square, and with a wooden floor.
An archway here leads into a dual-aspect family room, part of the original cottage, which has a solid-fuel stove. Then at the front of the house there's a living room with a wood-burning stove and a second, smaller staircase to the first floor.
However, the showpiece reception room is upstairs on the first floor. It's a dual-aspect sitting room with a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams. It has a raised fireplace, a wooden floor and French doors to the upper balcony.
The master bedroom is also on this level and has a walk-in wardrobe, an en-suite shower and French doors to the balcony.
Two other bedrooms are on this upper floor, across a gallery landing over the entrance hall as well as being accessible from the stairs in the ground-floor living room. Both have wooden floors and fitted wardrobes.
The attic floor is given over to a fourth bedroom, accessed from a spiral staircase, and there's an optional fifth bedroom back on the ground floor, if you don't want to use that room as a study.
Outside, the garden is fully landscaped and has smooth and sloping lawns, some dainty ornamental trees as well as statuesque hardwoods and evergreens, and a pond with a little cascade, where tiny woodland creatures can enjoy messing about in boats.
Granite Lodge is in the townland of Ballyhad Lower, about a kilometre down the road (and downriver) from the cute Clara Vale Church and the 17th-century Clara Bridge over the Avonmore. It's three kilometres due north of Rathdrum, and you can catch a commuter train from there to Dublin. Otherwise it's a trip down the M11, and the journey to the capital will take about an hour that way.
The agent is Sherry FitzGerald Catherine O'Reilly (0404) 66466 and the asking price is €995,000.
Vale of Clara, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow
Asking price: €995,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Catherine O'Reilly, (0404) 66466