Tuesday 22 October 2019

Back at the ranch in Louth: Inside this €1.25m home set across 18.5 acres

Rathbrist house Tallanstown, Dundalk, Co Louth

Asking price: €1.25m

Agent: Savills Country (01) 6634350

The drawing room of Rathbrist House in Tallanstown, Dundalk, Co Louth, features ornate cornicing and recessed sash windows
The drawing room of Rathbrist House in Tallanstown, Dundalk, Co Louth, features ornate cornicing and recessed sash windows
Mosaic tiles in the grand hallway
The dining room features a unique centre rose
One of the bathrooms with standalone tub
An aerial shot of the exterior of Rathbrist House with its sweeping driveway
The study

When Ryan and Kimberly Penn made the big move from Texas to Dublin, they felt like they were missing out on something and that something was the freedom of the countryside. Kimberly grew up on a ranch, and always had a hankering for a life lived more outdoors than in, so city life just wasn't really doing it for her.

After a year or so in the capital, the couple, who were pastors at the All Nations Church on Merchant's Quay, decided to set up their own place of worship in Louth.

They put out a few feelers for a new home for themselves and their three young children, and were intrigued when an agent came back with word of a country house in Tallanstown.

"The first time we saw Rathbrist House, we were totally wowed," recalls Ryan. "We got suckered into it by the estate agent, though," he laughs. "They didn't tell us the price until we got here, but their plan worked, and we made an offer."

An aerial shot of the exterior of Rathbrist House with its sweeping driveway
An aerial shot of the exterior of Rathbrist House with its sweeping driveway

The couple paid €1.14m for it in October 2017, but even a blow-in like Ryan is aware of the difference between city and country house prices in Ireland. "Our house in Dublin ended up selling for just about what it took for us to buy this much grander home."

The impressive Italianate gentleman's residence dates back to 1870 and comes with 18.5 acres. It's in mint condition, thanks mostly to its careful owners over the years, and also due to the work the Penns put into it when they moved in.

"We mostly just needed to redecorate," says Ryan. "We painted the rooms in heritage colours and remodelled the bathrooms, but otherwise the house was in great condition."

The home is entered up through a sweeping driveway that's lined with mature trees and opens on to the lawn where you get your first glimpse of the two-storey over-basement property. There's a second driveway that leads to the stable yard and outbuildings.

The pedimented entrance and broad-hipped roof make for a very handsome exterior and gives one a little taste for what lies inside. There aren't too many hallways like this one with beautiful mosaic tiles that have been walked on for nearly 150 years, along with the detail on the panelling and ceiling. On the ground floor is the a drawing room with ornate cornicing and recessed sash windows; the dining room with a very unique centre rose and traditional colour scheme; the kitchen with fully fitted wooden units; the cosy sitting room with shuttered windows and open fireplace; a study; playroom; and the laundry room and WC.

On the first floor, there are five bedrooms, two with ensuite bathrooms and a separate shower room. The basement, which is like a self-contained two-bed apartment, was a big thing for the Penns when they first viewed the property as they knew they would have a constant stream of visitors from the US.

The dining room features a unique centre rose
The dining room features a unique centre rose

"The extra accommodation in the basement has been a godsend," says Ryan. "There's a bathroom, two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and several storerooms down there. We have family over from the States all the time because it's such a beautiful country, everyone wants to come."

Ryan and Kimberly's three young kids, Lane, Jebediah and Lucy, have been in their element in Rathbrist. They particularly love playing out in the woods which has its only path that passes by streams and a trout pond. Years ago, a hunting club used to meet on the land of the house, and the horse trails and jumps that they used that are still there.

The stables at the back have 18 stalls and a tack and feed room. Other stone buildings include a two-storey house that is believed to be the original manager's house, cut-stone coach houses and a large barn.

If horses don't interest new owners, conversion would definitely be an option for these outbuildings, with the whole property being large enough to be a wedding venue or country guesthouse.

Tallanstown is less than a kilometre from the house, while Ardee is 7km and Dundalk is 14km. A drive into the capital would take about an hour on a good day and about the same up to Belfast.

The Penns are planning to downsize and put more time and money into their church in Dundalk, so they'll definitely stay in the area.

The study
The study

"I don't think we'll ever have another place like this one, however, with rooms like the drawing room and dining room," says Ryan. "It's amazing to sit in them and admire the detail on the cornicing and marvel at what life was like here through the years. It's really been a once in a lifetime place for us. Definitely a dream home."

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