Michael Flatley’s beloved Irish mansion Castlehyde for sale at €20m
Castlehyde in north Cork became a symbol of Michael Flatley’s success, a testimony in bricks and mortar to how far he had come from his childhood on the south side of Chicago. Now the dancer is placing the house and estate on the market – a move he describes as one of the toughest he has ever made.
“I’ve had almost 20 years at Castlehyde and it has been a wonderful experience – some of the best times of my life have been spent there,” says Flatley. “That is what made this such a tough decision. There are so many happy memories.”
The dancer bought the 18th Century house in 2001 for €3m and has spent some €27m carrying out a restoration of great integrity. A further €20m was spent on interiors, art and books.
The restoration project was long and painstaking and not without its difficulties. “I saw cash disappear into a financial abyss,” he says. “Into the so-called invisible expense of planning applications and appeals. I saw my good humour tested when everything I was trying to do for the best was simply shoved back at me.”
Despite the setbacks and expense, the man behind the Lord of the Dance stage show says that the finished house “was worth every bit of it”.
The house was the venue for his marriage to fellow dancer Niamh O’Brien in 2006, and it was a favourite with Flatley’s father, Michael James. Cliff Richard, Maureen O’Hara, George Hamilton and The Chieftains have also been guests at Castlehyde.
Friends say that the death of Michael James Flatley, aged 88, last March was a factor in his decision to sell, as was a robbery at the house in January 2014 which took place while Flatley, his wife and son, Michael St James, were in the house.
“He [Michael James] loved to visit Castlehyde. Some of the happiest memories of my life were sitting shoulder to shoulder with Pat [Flatley’s brother] and dad at the bar. It was such a wonderful time. I think Castlehyde will never be the same to me now,” he said in a eulogy to his father.
The new owners of Castlehyde who will have paid around €20m will be getting an impressive property. The house, dating from 1760, is in the Palladian style with two bow-ended pavilions linked to the main residence.
The property sits at the foot of a limestone cliff and looks out on the River Blackwater. There are 100 acres of grounds and the property comes with fishing rights along the river. It sits so well in its location that Michael Jackson, on seeing it from the air during a helicopter tour of the area, is reported to have offered to buy it from Flatley and told him to name his price.
Inside, the quality of the restoration work is evident in every room. When Flatley bought the property the basement had flooded and the walls were tilting dangerously, putting pressure on the roof. One renovation expert told him it would have been easier and much cheaper to simply gut the house and rebuild it, retaining the outer shell.
The flood-proofing of the basement alone cost €500,000. All of the original slates and bricks were numbered, removed and then replaced as part of the restoration. Craftsmen who had worked on Buckingham Palace were flown in to restore the gold leaf decorations and the windows. New heating, plumbing, electrical and insulation systems were installed.
The house has eight themed bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a cinema, a whiskey room, wine cellars, a bar, a music room, a formal dining room, a hunting room and a three-
storey library panelled in American walnut. The entrance hall, which extends the length of the house, doubles as a banquet hall and can accommodate 300 guests.
There is also a gym, a dance rehearsal room and a pool. Outside, a garage sits at the base of the cliff, its roof reinforced to withstand any possible rock slides. Flatley’s collection of vintage cars is housed here.
The estate gets its name from the Hyde family, of which Douglas Hyde, first president of Ireland, was a member. Previous owners also entertained well-known guests: Winston Churchill and Fred Astaire have stayed there.
Flatley’s expanding London-based business empire has meant he has not been able to spend as much time as he would like at Castlehyde in recent years. He is expected to move into a new home in London and has recently purchased a €28m mansion in Belgravia. Previously, he owned a house in Knightsbridge and he also owns a home in Barbados.
“We took the decision to sell Castlehyde but that doesn’t mean that I will be leaving Ireland,” says Flatley. “I love Ireland with all my heart and I always will.”
Selling agent: Goffs Country, 045 981 048
Castlehyde, Fermoy, Co Cork