Revealed: Peek inside Ireland's most expensive country homes
Property Editor Mark Keenan explores some of the most expensive country homes on the market in Ireland.
Where: Fermoy, Co Cork
Agent: Knight Frank and Goffs
Dance superstar Michael Flatley was tootling along in his helicopter one day in 1999 - on his way to West Cork for a spot of house hunting - when Castlehyde, the ancestral home of Ireland's first president came into view below. The Lord Of The Dance star decided on the spot (mid air) that he was going to buy it. So the story goes anyways.
An aerial shot of Castlehyde
Castlehyde, on the banks of the River Blackwater in Fermoy, was acquired by the Riverdance supremo 17 years ago and has since become subject to one of the most extensive, sympathetic and locally generative restorations ever applied to an Irish country mansion.
The swimming pool in Castlehyde
Flatley paid IR£2.5m (€3.17m) for the house and 240ac estate and reports since have suggested he invested €40m in restoring the property over a four-year period. For Castlehyde, a house of a massive size and at the time, crumbling towards dilapidation, Flatley truly was its lucky star. It is unlikely anyone else would have had the sense of romance and ambition to buy the big old pile and, afterwards, the sense of duty to not only save it, but transform it into the sumptuous fairytale palace it is today.
In October last year, following a burglary in which his €250,000 rhino horn collection was stolen while the family were present, Flatley announced his plans to sell up. Currently for sale internationally at €20m, Castlehyde is the most expensive Irish country home currently on the open market. It is one of Ireland's few truly exceptional country mansions.
One of the reception rooms of Castlehyde
It comes with a dozen lavish bedroom ensuites, a Roman Spa, a sauna, three storey library, huge indoor heated swimming pool, its own gym, a 20 seater cinema, its own bar and a slew of sumptuous reception rooms which lean towards outright baroque for glitz and gilt.
Michael Flatley on the front steps of his Castlehyde home
The house was likely constructed in the 1770s for the Hyde family - ancestors of Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League and the first Irish President - and in 1801 was remodeled and extended into its present form by architect Abraham Hargrave. Knight Frank and Goffs placed it for sale in October last year with 240ac and the property also has a staff apartment, a series of cottages and a butler's room.
Where: Westport, Co Mayo
Agent: Ganly Walters
It has been claimed that Westport House - the nation's second most expensive country home for sale at €10m - is also Ireland's most beautiful.
Westport House exterior
Whether or not this is the case, the ancestral home of the Marquesses of Sligo with 455ac certainly leaves you breathless at the richness and quality of each and every main room inside, and is therefore one of the few abodes to truly qualify for that much bandied term: 'stunning'
The hallway of Westport House
The entrance hall is somewhat famous as the only surviving Richard Cassels-designed interior of a Doric Frieze and coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling. Its inner end opens to an imperial staircase of Sicilian marble which was designed by George Wilkinson and has balustrade details by Francis Skidmore, the supremo of 19th century metal work.
Almost every top craftsman in these islands through the late 18th and 19th century has had some hand here. Each room is a show-stopper, among them the Chinese bedroom, which features a full wall-to-ceiling hand painted depiction of the famous willow pattern, telling the tale of a tragic love story between a young oriental couple.
The original house was built in the 1650s by Colonel John Browne on the foundation of Grace O'Malley's Castle. He married O'Malley's great great granddaughter, Maude Burke. The current house dates largely from the 18th century and stands as a two storey block with nine bay front and two bay wings on either side.
At 38,210 sq ft, it would accommodate the floor space upstairs and downstairs of almost 40 standard city homes. The 10 bedroom property is being sold by Nama through Ganly Walters.
Where: Skibbereen, Co Cork
Agent: McCarthy, Sherry FitzGerald
Liss Ard aerial shot
Liss Ard in Skibbereen, a Victorian mansion priced at €7.5m with 163ac, a 40ac lake, a beach, tennis court, lake lodge and garden mews being sold together in a single lot through joint agents Sherry FitzGerald and Charles McCarthy. Between the various buildings, there there are 25 bedroom suites.
Interior of Liss Ard
Where: Glin, Co Limerick
Agent: Colliers, Sherry FitzGerald
There's nothing quite so romantic as a chivalric castle with plush interiors and a deep and rich vein of family history coursing through its walls. If you're castle shopping in Ireland right now, the best offering by far is Glin Castle at Glin, Co Limerick, which is being sold for the first time in 700 years.
Glin Castle in Limerick overlooks the Shannon Estuary.
Home to the FitzGerald clan, who arrived with Strongbow from Normandy, Glin is on offer at €6.5m through joint agents Sherry FitzGerald and Colliers following the passing in 2011 of Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin.
Containing around 20,000 sq ft of accommodation on 380ac, Glin is known for its front hall with its screen of Corinthian columns and a great big "flying" staircase.
One of the reception rooms at Glin
In recent years, the main house and guest wing have been fully restored to a very high specification, including rewiring and re-plumbing to commercial standards. This castellated mansion overlooking the Shannon Estuary comes with five richly decorated reception rooms, a kitchen with ancillary stores and 12 ensuite bedrooms.
There's a self-contained but interconnected guest wing with three reception rooms, two offices, its own kitchen with additional ancillary rooms and eight further ensuite bedrooms, lending this property some strong earning credentials.
'The Wire' actor married Catherine - daughter of Desmond FitzGerald, the 29th Knight of Glin - in 2010. The pair met while they were studying at Trinity College in the nineties and already had three children when they wed at Glin Castle, Co. Limerick.
There's also a commercial dairy farm which is run on the estate, woodland and parkland and a number of "gingerbread" lodges arrayed at the estate's entrances. This was where The Wire actor Dominic West wed Catherine FitzGerald - landscape designer and daughter of the Knight - in 2010.
And like any romantic castle worth its salt, Glin has a "secret" escape door - in this case, a mahogany book case in the library conceals a door leading to the back staircase hall. While it has been a marvel that the Glins have remained in possession of their estate for 700 turbulent years in which other Catholic dynasties lost theirs, even they didn't rule out the need for a back-door getaway.
Where: Co Kildare
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald, SF Reilly
With Ireland at the forefront of the world's bloodstock industry, it's not surprising that one of the six most expensive country homes on the market right now is a working stud farm. Dowdstown House in Kildare was originally owned by the Taylor family who built Ardgillan Castle. The former British officer Robert Taylor, who fought at Waterloo with Wellington, had the grounds planted to represent the positions of his troops at the start of the battle.
€4.35m: An exterior shot of Dowdstown House
It later became a base for the Columban fathers. Today, it's a stud farm specialising in Arabian bloodstock. Two miles from Maynooth, Dowdstown comes with 26ac which include courtyard stabling, 14 loose boxes and foaling stables.
The main house is 5,382 sq ft, with four reception rooms and six bedrooms. One of its most striking features is the hall with a white painted wide timber staircase moving to the upper floor in three angled flights. Other attractions include a good sized conservatory looking out across the grounds and a country-style kitchen with double doors to the courtyard.
A reception room at Dowdstown House.
Aside from the main residence, there's also a three bedroom mews on the site as well as a one-bedroom apartment. The property is for sale through Sherry FitzGerald and Sherry FitzGerald Reilly locally with a price of €4.35m attached.
Where: Kilbrittain, Co Cork
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald; SF O'Neill
To round up the six most expensive country houses currently on the market, we find ourselves right back in Cork again with Burren House, Kilbrittain - a Georgian residence which sits on Courtmacsherry Bay. Agents Sherry FitzGerald and Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill seek €4.3m
A bedroom at Burren House
Like many of the most expensive country homes at the top end, it has a view of water - in this case, looking out to the Old Head of Kinsale - and has been exceptionally restored in keeping with its character. The seven-bedroom accommodation totals 3,552 sq ft.
The drawing room and the dining room both look out to sea. There's a home office room and the library leads out through double doors to the gardens, which include a layered fountain water feature as the centre piece. There are 20ac of grounds and a restored courtyard with three-bedroom accommodation in addition to the big four in the main house.
Burren House also has a gate lodge. Buyers in this segment of the market will often want to accommodate staff on site. In this case, Burren Hill Lodge is actually quite a decent size at 2,583 sq ft - just over twice the size of a family city home. It has its own gardens, lawns and privacy. The accommodation includes a kitchen, sitting room, dining room, living room, utility and four bedrooms, all of which are ensuite.
* Castlehyde, Fermoy, Co Cork: €20m; Knight Frank and Goffs
For more pictures: Michael Flatley’s beloved Irish mansion Castlehyde for sale at €20m
* Westport House, Westport, Co Mayo: €10m; Ganly Walters
* Liss Ard, Skibbereen, Co Cork: €7.5m; McCarthy, Sherry FitzGerald
For more pictures: Have your own slice of West Cork in Skibbereen for €7.5m
* Glin Castle, Glin, Co Limerick: €6.5m; Colliers, Sherry FitzGerald
* Dowdstown House, Co Kildare: €4.35m; Sherry FitzGerald, SF Reilly
* Burren House, Kilbrittain. Co Cork: €4.2m; Sherry FitzGerald; SF O'Neill