Driving home to Juliet
Fancy living in the famous grounds of Mount Juliet? Well, now might be your chance
With the honourable exception of Hoke Colburn, who was responsible for driving Miss Daisy around Georgia in the dramatised version of a real-life story, chauffeurs tend not to go down in history.
Usually they pass their lives discreetly ferrying rich people around, and then discreetly waiting for hours until the same rich people have finished enjoying themselves and are ready to be ferried home again. It's not a role to be coveted despite Morgan Freeman's deft stab at it.
If reports are to be believed, though, one of the chauffeurs at the Mount Juliet estate in Co Kilkenny felt the ennui weighing a little heavy one day and let slip his inner eccentric.
The story is told on the website of the writer and historian Turtle Bunbury. It's now a little third-hand, having been told to Bunbury by a former butler, but never let scruples get in the way of a good gossip.
The mistress of Mount Juliet at this time was Lady Helen McCalmont, wife of Major Dermot McCalmont and a keen horsewoman, fond of hunting and racing.
One day she was driven by the (mercifully unnamed) chauffeur to the races at Gowran, and returned to her car to find him sound asleep, with a bottle of whiskey beside him, while wearing Lady Helen's own fur coat.
The temptation of the whiskey might seem understandable, considering the boredom of waiting all day for Mrs McC to finish losing her shirt on the geegees.
The nap might be a foreseeable consequence of the whiskey. The fur coat, though, was an inspired touch. If there were to be a film version of the Mount Juliet chauffeur's day at the races, he would have to be played not by Morgan Freeman but by Groucho Marx.
The chauffeur's former home at Mount Juliet is a much more decorous residence than that previous occupant might lead you to expect. It's all but hidden among the trees, and from the outside is the very picture of tasteful propriety.
Once inside, you might dress up in furs and drink Jim Beam by the neck, and no one standing at the front gate would ever suspect you of it.
In recent years, the Chauffeur's Lodge, as it's called, has been extensively refurbished and latterly has been used to accommodate guests at Mount Juliet. Now it's looking for a permanent owner.
The buyer will become resident of a 1,500-acre estate in gloriously pastoral and wooded countryside on the banks of the River Nore. The Mount Juliet estate consists of the original manor house and pleasure grounds, a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course that famously hosted Tiger Woods, a stud farm and equestrian centre, the Hunter's Yard Hotel & Restaurant, and the Michelin-starred restaurant at the manor house named The Lady Helen (after the woman who found her chauffeur in flagrante delicto).
The estate has two-and-a-half miles of private fishing on the Nore, by way of salmon and trout, and there are various freshwater lakes for coarse fishing. You can practise falconry and archery there, and there's a leisure centre with a 17-metre pool as well as a gym, sauna and steam room. There's also a spa and weekly yoga classes.
The house itself is reasonably small, at just under 1,000 sq ft, but it's detached and self-contained, and it's one room deep, which gives you the advantage of a double aspect, with the front facing due southwest.
On the ground floor, there's an entrance porch opening directly into the fitted kitchen, where there's a wooden floor, a painted wooden ceiling, an island unit and a tidy dining area. Left of the porch is a dual- aspect living room, again with a wooden floor and a wood-burning stove in the fireplace. There's also a utility room and guest toilet on this level.
The first floor, reached from a stairs in the living room, has the two bedrooms, both with ensuites and fitted wardrobes. One of the ensuites has a shower and the other has both a shower and an inviting-looking, free-standing rolltop bath.
The house has a neat, flowery front garden with a lawn and parking, while behind and next to the house is a densely wooded area, beyond which is the tennis and croquet ground.
You must pay a management fee of €3,200 a year to live here, but you get a nice few benefits for that money. For one thing, it includes membership (for two people) of the golf club. You also get membership of the leisure centre and a discount on food and drink in both restaurants and the bar, and you get 24-hour security as well.
A sign on the grounds of the estate still points to the Chauffeur's Lodge, so you'd want to be careful: people might be forever dropping in looking for lifts, or urging you to get drunk and slip into something sable.
The sale is being handled by joint agents Hooke & MacDonald (01) 631 8402 and Goffs Property (045) 981 048 and the asking price is €500,000.
Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny
Asking price: €500,000
AgentS: Hooke & MacDonald (01) 631 8402 and Goffs Property (045) 981 048