Galway gem: 180ac Newtown House estate on the market now for €1.25m
It's a long way from Abbeyknockmoy to the icy slopes of the Winter Olympics, but that was the journey travelled by Clifton Wrottesley, who represented Ireland at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City.
Young Wrottesley finished fourth in the skeleton event, which involves lying on a sled and hurtling down the slopes at breakneck speed.
He qualified to represent Ireland because he was born in Dublin and spent his first two years at Newtown House, a north Galway estate bought by his father in 1967.
A swashbuckling old school aristocrat, the elder Lord Wrottesly died in 1970 when his e-type Jaguar crashed into Ballinamore Bridge, about 24 miles from home. The story goes that he had allegedly placed a bet with a friend that he could cover the journey from Dublin to his Galway home in under two hours.
After his death, his young widow and son departed Abbeyknockmoy for a new life in Spain.
Last week, I took a more sedate road less travelled to view the property.
From the shores of Lough Derg, I went directly north through places like Woodford in south Galway and on to Loughrea and, from there, to Monivea.
Before I got to Abbeyknockmoy I turned into a whitewashed unassuming gateway and under a canopy of budding beech trees the 800m avenue led me across a little bridge over the Abbert River and on to Newtown House.
The Georgian house on 180ac of forestry, grass and bogland is for sale by private treaty with Sherry Fitzgerald guiding €1.25m
It is thought the original Newtown House was built by the Browne family in the 1750s.
The O'Kellys purchased the house in 1802 and the main part as it now stands was finished by 1840.
It remained an O'Kelly property until 1930 when it was acquired by a Major Carr of Carr's water biscuits before it was acquired by Lord Wrottesley whose wild parties have entered local mythology.
Since then, its owners have included a German film producer and a Dutch psychiatrist and MEP.
In 1997, the current owners bought Newtown House and have undertaken a series of high quality renovations under the guidance of the Irish Georgian society.
I met the owners in the spacious kitchen. They told me of their love for the place and while they have achieved a lot over the years and feel there is more to be done, they say it's time for fresh eyes and hands to take on the job.
The house has a wealth of spaces. A series of interconnected rooms on the ground floor are accessed from a very elegant hallway leading to the sweeping staircase and the first floor. The ground floor is home to a family drawing room, study, office, games room and a living room.
One of the finest spaces is the lovely dining room. There is also a bar room, a morning room, two guest WCs and the kitchen that is fully fitted and includes an oil-fired Aga, pantry and access to the cellar. From the kitchen, a ground floor hallway gives access to a laundry room, boot room and guest WC.
A substantial guest wing is also accessed from the ground floor hallway.
This area includes a spacious one-bedroom apartment with a living/dining room, kitchen and a double bedroom with ensuite shower room. A second staircase from this hallway leads to the first floor where there are three further double bedrooms and two bathrooms.
In the upstairs of the main part of the house are two bedrooms to the front of the south-facing house, both of which have ensuites created out of space that were originally bedrooms.
The place is redolent with Georgian elegance thanks to the many original features, including large sash windows with shutters, corniced ceilings, panelled doors with architraves, reclaimed pitch-pine floors (imported from the United States), and marble and pine fire surrounds with decorative carvings.
To the rear of the main house is a classic Georgian courtyard flanked by two single-storey houses in habitable condition and a further two-storey house that could do with renovation. There is also some useful workshop space and a large hayloft.
The gardens are mainly in lawns dotted with some magnificent specimen trees and include an orchard with apple and plum trees. Among other buildings and facilities is a stable block with seven stables, an equestrian arena and a garage/workshop.
Newton House stands on 180ac of land that is all in one block. The major part extending to 95ac is in forestry made up mainly of broadleaf that includes ash and oak, while there is also lodge-pole pine.
The forestry commands no premiums, but is home to a wealth of mature timber and some young trees. The land includes about 25ac in unspoiled and unexploited bog land rich in biodiversity.
The remaining 62ac is in a combination of grazing ground and circulation spaces. The land is relatively good but could do with some attention. It is watered and drained by the Abbert River that runs through it, while there are extensive lawns to the east of the main house.
The property has potential as an extensive private residence but its future would surely lie in the tourism market given its location 46km from Galway City.
It has an abundance of space, and the major part of the building has been renovated and the land is made for pleasure grounds. There is obviously some farming potential as well.
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