Friday 18 January 2019

In pictures: Former CEO of Irish Rail is selling his 'slice of heaven' Irish home

This quaint 1800s Irish farmhouse lies at the foot of Mount Leinster

The country-style kitchen/dining room
The country-style kitchen/dining room
Nine Stones was built in the 1800s
The country-style kitchen/dining room;
Owners Richard and Janet Fearn at the Nine Stones landmark
One of the two bedrooms
The decked terrace
Windowsill detail
Views of Mount Leinster with the house at the bottom

Róisín Carabine

'The larger the pile of rubble you leave behind, the larger your place in the historical record," wrote author James C Scott, political scientist and anthropologist in his book The Art of Not Being Governed.

In Carlow there are many piles of rubble. It's said that you can't walk the countryside without tripping over some sort of ancient stone structure. The county is rife with field monuments - 807 of them to be precise - from cairns to stone forts, standing stones and dolmens, marking centuries of Irish history dating back to megalithic times.

Some, like Brownshill Dolmen - a megalithic portal tomb and the largest in Europe with a granite capstone weighing a hefty 150 tonnes - are huge stone structures, others like the two standing stones of Ardristan are smaller at nine feet, but just as visually intriguing and historically significant.

Nine Stones, a landmark viewing point on the road to Bunclody at the foothills of Mount Leinster from which you can drink in breathtaking views of eight Irish counties and see right across the sea to Wales on a clear day, has its own rubble - an alignment of nine standing stones nestled into the side of the road. They're not much to look at - the biggest stone is just 70cm tall; the smallest 35cm - but their historical record is the stuff of tall tales, myth and legend. The stones are believed to mark a burial site, though their exact age and occupants are unknown with retellings of local folklore ranging from it being the graves of 1798 heroes killed by Yeomen returning from battle to those of nine shepherds lost on the mountains in a winter storm and even the final resting place of nine great Irish chieftains.

The country-style kitchen/dining room;
The country-style kitchen/dining room;

Downhill from the site on the same mountain slope lies another Nine Stones, its history less ambiguous, though no less colourful. Similarities however with its archaeological neighbours begin and end with the name. No piles of rubble here, just stone, lovingly shaped into a quaint, typically rural Irish farmhouse on 0.5 acres with painted whitewashed walls, pretty sash windows and a traditional half door. It's the kind of home that tugs at the heartstrings and as picture-postcard as it gets.

Built in the 1800s it has changed hands just three times in its 200-year history with each owner leaving their mark.

Its current owners, Englishman Richard Fearn, former chief executive of Irish Rail and wife Janet bought the 1,020 sq ft property in 2004 as a weekend bolthole from a Mrs Gittins and her builder son. "It was then called Cloud Nine and we certainly felt like we'd found a little slice of heaven when saw it," recalls Richard.

"The Gittins' had bought it from the original James family owners who worked it as a family farm right up until the 1980s. Originally it would have been a single storey structure and possibly thatched. At some stage an upper floor was added and two bedrooms," says Richard. "The 1911 Census records 10 members of the James family living under the roof; Mr and Mrs James and their eight children."

The Gittins' time at the property is marked by a period of thoughtful renovation and loving restoration with great care taken to maintain the farmhouse's original character and quirky features, of which there are lots. Like an inglenook fireplace and peep hole through which, Irish tradition says granny would keep an eye on all who entered the house.

"They did all the structural work and also rejigged the layout of the upstairs, added a bathroom and moved the stairs. Outside they transformed the former farm yard into gardens," says Richard, who has reclaimed some of the garden for raised borders and growing vegetables.

One of the two bedrooms
One of the two bedrooms

Evidence of his and Janet's 14-year stay is revealed in the interior design. The couple have done much to transform it into a glossy magazine-worthy retreat boasting all the latest mod cons, carefully concealed and integrated so as not to spoil its charming country look.

Their efforts and flair for design are most evident in the large modern country-style kitchen/dining room with flag stone flooring underfoot and painted cream wooden units replete with stone worktops and Belfast sink and a red Stanley tucked into an old fireplace.

Upstairs the two bedrooms are just as pretty, with timber ceilings and limewashed stone walls adorned with traditional landscape prints. Chunky, honest wooden furniture and upholstered chairs add to the country charm.

The place is in such pristine decorative order all new owners need do is unpack and move in, although Richard says there's still plenty of scope for anyone looking to stamp their personality on it.

"There's three outbuildings adjacent to the house that we use currently use as storage sheds but they could be restored back into sheds for animals or imaginative Airbnb accommodation. Those looking an interiors project could also reinstate the original front full door," says Richard.

Outside the property has a gated driveway with parking for several cars and a decked terrace. It even has its own well.

The country-style kitchen/dining room
The country-style kitchen/dining room

Richard and Janet are returning to England to be nearer their daughter and grandchild. "I'm really sorry to be leaving it," he says. "It has given us great pleasure over the years and we've spent many happy times here."

Nine Stones is 8.8km from Borris and 15km from Bunclody with its string of pastel-painted shops, with Dublin less than an hour-and-a-half away by car and even quicker by train to Bagenalstown.

Nine Stones Cottage

Raheenkyle, Borris, Co Carlow

Asking price: €275,000

Agent: Savills Dublin, (01) 663 4350

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