Rathaldron fairytale retreat on the market for a cool €1.25m
Built to defend against the native Irish this place beyond the pale might be the ideal family home.
THE Oxford English Dictionary definition of "Beyond the Pale" is listed as: "outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour" and Rathaldron Castle in Navan, Co Meath was built to stand up for proper behaviour – that and keeping the native Irish out.
The Pale was the East coast enclave beyond which Ireland's English conquerors could not extend their reach – from their arrival in the 12th century until full conquest in the 17th.
At its largest, the Pale ran from Dundalk to Dun Laoghaire and from Ringsend to Ardee.
And the "unacceptable behaviour" that "Beyond the Pale" describes was officially defined and listed under the big list of "don't dos" issued to the Pale's settlers under the 14th century Statutes of Kilkenny – laws brought in to prevent them from singing Irish songs, speaking the Gaelic language, playing hurling, indulging in various native Irish customs, acting in accordance with the local Brehon Laws and even marrying Irish women.
As it happened, the inhabitants largely ignored it.
But right at the forefront of defending Ireland's Hadrian's Wall was big Hugh De Lacy and his following dynasty which turned Navan into a fortress town and posted Geoffrey De Cusack at the shallowest point on the river with instructions to build a robust castle there. Rathaldron Castle is bordered by both the Boyne and the Blackwater and the property is now being offered for sale for €1.25m along with 26 acres of ground.
The De Cusacks built it to last – the castle, which was constructed in the 12th century has walls that are, in parts, in excess of 12ft thick, unusual even for Irish castles of the day.
The castle likely needed it given that the High King of Ireland was based less than 10 miles away at the Hill of Tara.
Beneath it are two permanent wells dug in that period to provide an endless and incorruptible source of fresh liquid sustenance if the native Irish came spilling across the Boyne and laid siege.
Today, rather than being a businesslike fortress, Rathaldron is a proper "fairytale" castle retreat, having been a holiday home for many years owned by the largely foreign-based Kruger family. The outpost fortress was also upgraded significantly for comfort by its Victorian owners in the 1840s and this involved the demolition of most of the castle fortress complex and the reuse of much of the rubble for more borders and boundaries. The works gave us the grand country home that stands here today.
It ticks all the "fairytale" boxes including gothic arched doorways, cruciform windows, a grand entrance hall, stained glass and fine craftsmanship throughout and not least a big turreted entrance and a one kilometre-long tree-lined driveway to the castle – which means the owners always return home in grand style.
The entrance leads into a vaulted hall with stone chequered tiles and tall stained glass windows.
The drawing room comes with an Adams fireplace, wooden floors and an interconnecting door to the dining room which also comes with an Adams fireplace.
A swinging door leads into a fully modern and extra large kitchen and from here you pass into the oldest part of the castle through a stair hall and into the lounge with an ornate open fireplace.
Downstairs has office space, a boot room, a larder, a laundry room and the basement (which we can assume once housed captured Irish chieftains) which today comes with three-bedroom accommodation and storage.
The first floor includes a family room, a study and bedroom suite, the second floor contains another suite in the tower and the top floor (with the best views) contains yet another bedroom suite, bringing the overall bedroom count to six.
The castle has been advertised worldwide for many years as an exclusive holiday home – a passage from the British Daily Mail in the 1990s reads: "Rathaldron Castle in County Meath, Ireland, is a 12th century Norman stronghold which has been restored to provide spacious accommodation, plus staff quarters and stabling for 40 horses. Set in 240 acres, the rent is around stg£70,000 a year."
Also included in the sale is a farmhouse with a kitchen, three bedrooms, a living room and a bathroom.
There are three main stable blocks with two offering 16 loose boxes each and the last offering eight.
There are eight rooms in need of restoration over the main farm building.
These days the woodland holding around it have been much reduced to 26 acres for the sale package. And finally the neighbours are far more welcoming than they were when this property was first built.
The sales agents are Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01-2376300) and Sherry FitzGerald Ed Reilly (046-9060450).