There's a story told about Percy French, the songwriter whose work is celebrated every year at a Summer School in Castlecoote in Roscommon. Apparently, his song Are Ye Right There, Michael, was inspired by a train journey he took with the West Clare Railway network. He had set off from Sligo early in the morning to perform a recital in Dublin at 8 o'clock that evening but because of the snail pace of the train and the driver's decision to stop off randomly, by the time he finally arrived, his audience had left.
The song went viral, and the rail company took him to court for libel. French arrived late to the hearing. When the judge asked him why, French reportedly answered: "Your honour, I travelled by the West Clare Railway." The case was thrown out.
Roscommon is Percy French country, and the epicentre is at Castlecoote, or even more precisely, the Percy French Festival and Summer School that takes place at Castlecoote House in the village. Today the house is an immaculately restored Georgian period piece, that also offers garden tours and teas in the summer season. Built in the Palladian style, it was a cavernous ruin when the present owners bought it in the 1990s and restored it from fragments of window and door, and built from scratch ceilings drawn from the style of Robert Adams.
Castlecoote House was built on the ruins of a medieval castle, stronghold, it is thought, of the Chieftains of Fuerty, the MacGeraghty clan. Sir Charles Coote took possession of the castle in 1616, and over the next few decades it was under constant attack and finally destroyed in 1641.
It wasn't until more peaceful times that the Georgian house was built. Though a few traces of its battle-scarred past remain, in the basement of the tower rooms, for example, musket chambers still overlook the entrance steps. In the 18th Century, Castlecoote became the property of the Gunning family, won - or so legend has it - over the poker table. Portraits of the two Gunning sisters, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, still hang in the main hall. They married well, becoming the Duchesses of Hamilton, Argyle and Coventry.
And as befitted the times and their class, the owners built a hunting lodge, Emlaghkeadue, just a mile and a half from the village, which has now come to market with an asking price of €495,000. Emlaghkeadue has been restored too.
The present L-shaped house sits on an acre and a half of land at the end of a country road. As you approach, there are two traditional stone-built outhouses to your left and a sweep of gravelled driveway with parking for three or four cars to the front of the two-storey property.
Behind the house is a walled garden of about half an acre that is in good repair and currently in grass. It would be ideal for a new owner with a yen to be self sufficient who wished to espalier varieties of apple, pear and plum along the south-facing stone walls, divvy the land into vegetable beds and install some hens and geese to keep the grass on the paths down. The owners have also made a feature of an old well on the grounds.
They have also taken full advantage of the generous proportions of the house to scoop out a double-height entertaining space in one leg of the building, with a raised dais for a grand piano, that is linked by a spiral staircase to a mezzanine room above that is in use, at the moment, as a gallery. It's easy to imagine a few Percy French ballads being belted out here to a roomful of fans.
The house has been completely refurbished over the last 10 years, according to the agent Seamus Carthy, drylined and with new floors, and fittings. Leading off the double-height room, there is a large open-plan kitchen and huge dining room with porcelain-tiled floors throughout. The kitchen has high spec kitchen units, with integrated appliances, granite worktops and a central island. The generous space and the configuration of the rooms make this an ideal place to host a party.
A utility room offers plenty of space for storing garden harvests, and there is also a guest WC and shower room, and a cloakroom. A cosy sitting room with stove makes a snug spot for colder evenings. It has double doors on to the gardens.
The first floor comprises four double bedrooms, with a large, bright master bedroom with en suite that features a freestanding bath and shower. There is a further shower room.
This is an immaculately maintained property, suited to family living, or as a holiday home, close enough to the village to walk to Castlecoote Stores for a pint of milk, or Castlecoote Lodge, owned by newly retired Senator Terry Leyden and his wife Mary, for a pint of something stronger.
The village of Castlecoote, population 341, is a regular finalist in the Tidy Towns competition. Last year it was a gold medal winner. Like most of the prettiest places, the village has a river running through it, and the riverside verges are manicured and decked out with picnic benches and flower beds, making a nice spot from which to watch the River Suck flow past.
Roscommon town is 8km away, and is a busy spot with a library, courthouse and the long-established Gleeson's restaurant. The town is well-served by public transport with direct rail connections to Dublin Heuston and Galway, and a regular bus service. By car, the trip to Dublin is about two hours, while the nearest airport is at Knock, an hour's drive.
4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Agent: REA Seamus Carthy, 090 663 0001
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