Inside this Georgian party pad in Carlow on the market for €1.2m
Rathmore Park, Rathmore, Co Carlow €1.25m
'We bought it on a whim," says Jackie Ruddock of Rathmore Park, a fine Georgian house which sits on 50 acres of glorious parkland on the banks of the River Slaney in Co Carlow.
The grounds include 25 acres of hardwood forestry - beech, oak and ash - and a mile of river frontage, to which Rathmore Park has the fishing rights - salmon, trout and pike are all present. On a sunny summer's day, with the dogs of the house having a whale of a time chasing rabbits, it is quite idyllic.
"We were living in Dalkey at the time, and weren't even looking for a house in the country. It belonged to Baron Michael Raben-Levetzau and his wife, Lady Rosanagh Crichton, who was the aunt of a friend of ours, David Wardell. He said that we had to buy it because their two eldest sons were called Matthew and Daniel and so were ours. We came up the drive past all the lovely calves, walked into the hall and were sold immediately."
That was in the early 1990s, and the family spent a few years restoring the house, using it at weekends before making it their permanent home in 1999, by which time a third son, Cameron, had arrived.
Rathmore Park retains many of its original period features, including a pedimented Doric door-case and beautiful interior panelling, yet feels very much a busy family house, all of it in daily use.
Jackie's husband, Alan - they met when they were students in Trinity - was a journalist who wrote for the Sunday Independent on politics, economics and sport, and was the first editor of the Irish edition of The Sunday Times. He died suddenly in 2010.
"Alan had Carlow connections," says Jackie. "Granny Ruddock had a newsagents on Tullow Street in Carlow town and would have been well known for giving boys who read her comics without paying for them a lash of her tongue."
Rathmore Park is "essentially Georgian", says Jackie. "The original house dates from 1735 - although there is one 4ft-thick wall that we think is Norman - and was extended in 1830 and again in 1860. We added on the sun rooms at either end in 1999."
The Ruddocks opened out the warren of small rooms around the old kitchen on the ground floor to make it suitable for their young family. The resulting kitchen/dining room, family sitting room and playroom that lie to one side of that magnificent entrance hall are toasty thanks to a 100-year-old Aga that is still going strong after a thorough overhaul, and there's a wood-burning stove for extra comfort in the winter months.
To the right of the hall and to the front is the drawing room, which interconnects with a grand formal dining room painted a rich dark red.
"These are great party rooms," says Jackie. "They have seen a lot of late nights. Every year a media cricket team from the UK that includes a number of old journalist friends of Alan's comes over to play against his team, Halverstown, based at Brannockstown in Co Kildare, for the Alan Ruddock Memorial Cup. They were here a few weeks ago and we had a big dinner and they all stayed over."
Even though Rathmore Park has 680sqm of living space, with eight bedrooms, four bathrooms and a dedicated linen room, it feels manageable rather than too big.
"I think it is the perfect family house," says Jackie. "There's plenty of room for everyone to do their own thing without getting under each other's feet, and the grounds are wonderful for children. The snooker room comes into its own late at night."
The grounds include a disused swimming pool and tennis court that new owners may wish to restore. A couple of fields are leased out to a neighbouring farmer for his suckler herd, so there are always photogenic calves around. Two walled fields to the back are used for grass - the Ruddocks used to keep a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, Lisa, who lived to the ripe old age of 12. There is ample room to grow fruit and vegetables and keep chickens.
At a short distance from the main house is the original cut-stone coach house and stableyard, converted into a fine three-bedroom, two-bathroom family home with a separate studio apartment. There's an American barn with loose boxes and ancillary tack and feed rooms.
Jackie and her sons are moving back to Dublin to be closer to work and family, leaving Rathmore Park with no small amount of regret. Jackie says she will miss the peace of the countryside, her great neighbours, the convenience of Tullow with its choice of four supermarkets, and her wonderful butcher, Murphy. "He has his own abattoir and I love the fact that when I go in to buy beef I know all the farmers from the area who have supplied it."
Agent: Ganly Walters (01) 662 3255