Historic hunting lodge is a dream abode in Meath - if you have €1.45m to hand
Kingston Lodge, Hayes, Navan, Co Meath €1.45m
You know you're deep in horse country when the vendor of a property tells you their avenue is, "the length of two to three dressage arenas".
But then the property in question is Kingston Lodge, former hunting lodge of the Earl of Mayo, and set in the heart of county Meath, where excavations at Newgrange show that horses have been used and valued here since the early Bronze Age.
And the vendor in question is Anne McFarland, vice chair of Dressage Ireland which sent Judy Reynolds to this year's Olympics in Rio. Judy reached the finals, the first time an Irish dressage rider did so in 50 years.
"Meath land is good," says Anne of the 18 acres or so that come with her property, "in fact, it's too good. I get sheep and cows in every summer to graze the grass. Horses are originally desert animals so the grass can be too rich for them. They get too fat and heavy. My three-year-old dressage horse has grown to 18 hands, which is huge for a horse."
The quality of grassland is important to Anne, who breeds, breaks and rides horses. No doubt it was a factor in deciding to buy Kingston Lodge back in 2002 when she, her husband Anthony and their children were returning home after 12 years in Russia.
"We drew a triangle near Dublin. I was still working in Russia, Denmark and Italy," says Anne who works in finance, "so being close to the airport was crucial, my parents lived near here and there were good schools. While both Belfast and Dublin Airport are only 40 minutes away."
Kingston Lodge fell just outside that triange. Built between 1805 and 1825, it is an impressive two-storey house with twin double-fronted bay ends. Since it was originally intended as a hunting lodge, it has no servants' quarters and very large reception rooms running along the entire front of the house which, surprisingly, is only one room deep.
The double-height hallway has limestone flagstones and an elegant cantilevered staircase running up to the first floor. Painted a bright canary yellow, it showcases a memento of the family's days in Russia - a large oil painting of the 'Storming of the Winter Palace', which is on offer with the house.
Off the hallway runs a long back hall that links all the reception rooms including the drawing room and dining room in both of the four-windowed bays, a study with a wonderful hunting-themed Cedric Aldin frieze and a large comfortable family sitting room. Many of the original period features remain and the dining and drawing rooms both have high ceilings, wooden floors and fine marble fireplaces.
There is also a games room and a large bright kitchen with dining area. Behind this is a generous utility room, a boot room - a necessity where there is a courtyard full of stables and a tack room - and two WCs.
On the first floor, there are five bedrooms, all generously proportioned, and four bathrooms. For such a grand-looking house, it is remarkably compact.
"It is north-facing, but has lots of windows and so is bright. Out of my bedroom window, I can see across three fields and check all my horses and admire my buzzards sitting on the tree opposite, and from my bathroom at the back of the house I can check my dog is ok."
The hill behind the house commands views of Loughcrew, the Wicklow Mountains and the Hill of Tara. This latter is significant to Anne as her father is buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard there. True to family tradition, he was involved in the horse business, raising Irish and English Oaks winner, Blue Wind. His headstone reads 'Gone Racing'.
Across the courtyard from the rear of the house, the former coach house has been renovated by the McFarlands into a two-bedroom apartment, currently vacant, but with a potential rent of €850 per month. There is also the option of purchasing the property with a total of 48 acres for €1.95m.
For the McFarlands, now that their three children are grown, it's time to move on. "We're not rushing anywhere though," says Anne, "we have another house just outside Derry where my daughter is running Dunmore Gardens as a wedding venue." The couple will lend an occasional hand. Naturally, the horses will come too.
For the prospective buyer of a family home, Kingston Lodge is ideal. There are a number of private schools within 45 minutes' drive, including Headfort Prep School, Clongowes Wood College and King's Hospital.
Sports fans can tap into Navan Rugby Club and Seneschalstown GAA, Knockharley Cricket Club or the two tennis clubs nearby. Navan is a bustling market town with good shopping and restaurants and there are some fine old-fashioned pubs including the famous Mrs O's on the Hill of Skryne.
Agent: Ganly Walters (01) 662 3255
Viewing: By appointment only