Inside Ireland's Fittest Family competitors' €1.2m home with a gym, sauna and tennis court
Gorseland, Coynes Cross, Ashford, Co Wicklow €1.275m
If you are a fitness fan, you may already know of the Rice family, vendors of Gorseland, in Co Wicklow. For two years in a row, they huffed and puffed and looked set to blow the competition away in RTE's Ireland's Fittest Family. For two years in a row, they lost out in the semi-finals when injuries knocked them out of the running.
So it is hardly surprising that the house in which the Rice family eats, sleeps and trains has a 1,000 sq ft gym. Or that it also has a tennis court and putting green. Or even acres of space (well, 2.5 at least) to kick a rugby ball around, climb walls and haul a tractor along on a rope.
Philip, the father of the muscle-bound clan, didn't take part in the TV programme. "My wife is fitter and younger than me," he said. "She also got a reputation on the show because she was amazingly competitive."
That said, Philip is no couch potato. "Until recently, I was a rugby coach at Lansdowne Under 21s and I was head coach at Old Wesley," he added.
The family of eight bought Gorseland in 2002 when they were living in the UK. "We bought it with the idea of having it to come back to and extending it," Philip explained. In the end, it was 2005 before they set about renovating it and found it was more cost-effective to demolish the house and rebuild it from scratch.
Philip is something of a Renaissance man. He is managing director of a recruitment company, a qualified accountant, and a sports journalist with UK publication The Irish World. On top of that, when it came to project managing the rebuild, he decided to get involved himself. He has been involved in both residential and commercial projects in the UK and absorbed some know-how from his architect father, so he poured this knowledge into the build.
Nonetheless, it was the height of the Celtic Tiger, a time when builders were scarce and prices were high. "So it wasn't easy to project manage," he recalled. "But it was built to the highest standard with geothermal on both floors that supplies heat for water and heating, so the house is at a constant temperature. There was a lot spent on the infrastructure of the house, it is state of the art."
One benefit of that investment is that running costs for the 7000 sq ft house are unusually low. According to Philip, energy bills come to €600 every two months.
The house is designed in three sections - there's an entertaining area with a kitchen, dining and sitting room. The kitchen is generous and high spec, with glossy red units that have plenty of impact.
"My wife is English and when we were talking about moving here she wasn't convinced," Philip said. "She said, 'Do I want to go to Ireland?' I said, 'I'll buy you a new kitchen of your choice'. She went and bought the best she could find - a Miele."
Then there is the sleeping area with seven bedrooms. Originally there were eight, but, said Philip, "we turned one into a dressing room for our master suite, which is now really large". He added: "It has a large en suite. It's really gracious living with mod cons".
Part of the house has two storeys as the ground falls away at the rear, giving views to the sea. This ground-level area is the leisure zone where the gym, sauna, music room and cinema are located. They open out on to an east-facing patio which, Philip said, catches the sun all day.
Gorseland was designed as a party house, and has been a big draw for friends of their five sons and daughter. "My son's rugby team would come down to play and then watch a movie afterwards," Philip said. "All our kids' friends loved coming round to run about in the garden, kicking a ball and then using the Jacuzzi.
"It's been a happy house," its owner added. "It has an ambience when you come in of that, it was built for that." Now, however, the children have grown up and moved on, so the vendors are downsizing.
Gorseland sits in an enclave of six or seven houses on a private driveway, and is close to the N11. The potential purchaser will be well-served for schools. Wesley is 18 minutes' drive away, outside of rush hour, while good local schools include East Glendalough School in nearby Wicklow, Temple Carrig in Greystones, and Nuns Cross in Ashford.
Gorseland was originally bought for €750,000 in 2002. It was demolished and rebuilt at a cost of €1m. Today, it is on the market at €1.275m, representing something of a bargain for such a large and state-of-the-art house and grounds.
Agent: Colliers (01) 633 3700
Viewing: Strictly by appointment