If at first you don't succeed ...
She tried to raffle it, to sell it through traditional channels, but now, Gabriela Briner is putting Hillview Farm, Kilkenny, up for auction. June Edwards reports
The owner, Swiss-born Gabriela Briner, had hoped to raise €950,000 for her beloved home and alpaca-breeding business, which she had built up over 10 years but was forced to return, for family reasons, to Switzerland.
"There was a huge response to the raffle, but unfortunately when the e-commerce business who were looking after the transfer of online funds pulled out, I had to cancel the raffle," explains Gabriela.
Now the beautifully restored four-bed farmhouse and stud on 11-acres is due to be auctioned on Friday next, October 8, and auctioneer John Buggy has set an AMV of €590,000.
'I am heartbroken over having to leave Hillview. It was and always will be the place that represents home to me," says Gabriela.
"For the next few years my life has to be here in Switzerland. My dream would have been to keep the house until I return again, but I can't afford to keep two homes going, and that's just the way life is," adds Gabriela cheerfully.
A woman who definitely believes in taking the road less travelled, Gabriela's background was marketing and business. But her real passion was for animals and craft work, an unusual combination, but one she managed to marry successfully at her business, Hillview Alpacas.
"I'm not from a rural or farming background, but always loved horses and horse-riding and felt a connection to Ireland because of the Irish horses we rode. I was always over and back to attend the Goresbridge Horse Sales."
"I first visited Ireland in 1984 and came back every year. I even managed to come here to work for one year in 1993. Then in 1998 I moved here to work on a stud farm in Co Kildare."
It wasn't long before Gabriela spotted a property for sale in Gorteen near Castlecomer that stole her heart.
"I fell in love with a derelict farmhouse," she laughs. "It was such a beautiful place and I could see the potential it had. It was very hard work. I had to start from the beginning with the renovations. But when you are shaping your own home, it's very rewarding even if the work is hard," she explains.
So how did this Swiss woman, newly moved to Kilkenny, find herself one of a handful of people in Ireland breeding South American Alpacas?
"Horses are very expensive to breed and produce, and if you are farming on your own you depend on others and that doesn't pay. Also I was getting older and Alpacas are easier to manage and gentle on the land," says Gabriela.
But it wasn't just for their cuddly appearance and gentle nature that Gabriela had a fondness for Alpaca.
"Spending a lot of time with my grandmother when I was a child, I learned all sorts of crafts as she was a seamstress and she told me all the secrets of the trade. I was always knitting, making clothes for me and my dolls."
Combining her passions, Gabriela contacted Cameron Holt at the International School of Fibres in Australia, an expert in Alpaca fibre. Having completed the advanced alpaca fibre processing and breeding course, she was ready to start breeding her own herd of alpaca and processing their fibres at Hillview.
Alpacas are native to South America and are considered docile creatures, usually farmed for their valuable and thick fleeces, which are then used to make products such as jumpers, hats, and scarves.
Investing in a mini-mill Gabriela managed to process the alpaca fibre into yarn, which she used to make items of clothing from, and sell from her home.
Fortunately this is an aspect of the business she is able to continue from her home in Switzerland.
"The best females have travelled with me to Switzerland and Hillview Alpacas will hopefully go from strength to strength. Of course we do keep the name as our heart will always be in Ireland. We have to start off fresh here, but hopefully we will be able to continue. And Hillview will hopefully make a wonderful happy home for some other family," she adds.
An extended and restored 19th Century farmhouse, just 20 minutes' drive from Kilkenny city, Hillview is a two-storey home comprising bright and well-laid out interiors. Both the sitting room and dining rooms have solid maple flooring and Italian sandstone fireplaces, with double doors opening out to a sunny patio. The kitchen is fully fitted with cherry wood units, and includes a utility room just off this area. Upstairs there are four bedrooms, one en suite, and all with maple flooring.
Completely renovated, Hillview has all-new wiring, plumbing, heating, roofing and teak windows.
A working stud, Hillview includes a stable block, hay barn, sand arena, lunging ring, tackroom, lab and office. Additional accommodation includes a self-contained apartment, laundry room and Jacuzzi to the rear of the main house.
Beautifully laid out, the three-quarter acre gardens are well landscaped and planted with a great selection of shrubs and hedging. In addition there is a charming orchard which is fenced in and stocked with a large variety of fruit trees, and bordered by roses and herbs.
Also included are large kennels fitted with lights and securely fenced. The land is laid in five fields, all re-seeded in the last three years, and there is road frontage on two sides with potential for further development subject to planning permission.
Hillview House & Stud, Gorteen, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny AMV: €590,000 (Auction October 8) John Buggy Auctioneers 056 7796161