Politicking with the British Crown didn't always work out so well for the old chieftains of Ireland, who wanted to hold on to their lands in the face of an onslaught from a bigger power. Take the case of Cahir Rua O'Dochartaigh (The O'Doherty), the Lord of Inishowen, who took the side of Queen Elizabeth I in the Nine Years War during which Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell rebelled against creeping English rule in Ireland.
The O'Doherty was so helpful to the English that he became known as 'The Queen's O'Doherty'. And sure enough, when the war had ended he was left with his lands and his fortress on Inch Island in Donegal for a time. However, local English officials then encroached on his territory and he was forced to launch his own solo rebellion. But he and his soldiers were defeated at the Battle of Kilmacrennan in 1608. And his lands were taken anyway.
His temporary loyalty meant that Inch Island was the very last portion of the North to be planted.
Inch House in Donegal was built in the early 1700s, just 100 years later, and has been many things to many people in the intervening years. The 18th century listed building is located on Inch Island, which is a 13km square piece of land that lies off the Donegal coast near Burt, at the beginning of the Inishowen peninsula.
The island was home to Inch Castle, the seat of Cahir Rua O'Dochartaigh. The castle is now in ruins, but on the other side of the island, Inch House still stands proudly today.
It is thought the house began its life as an administration centre for the Alexander family, who had a fishing business on the island at the time. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Lord and Lady Templemore, who were now presiding at Inch Castle, used the property as a hunting lodge, but the Civil War soon put an end to that.
Following the foundation of the free state, the house was used variously as a thread factory, a chicken farm and for commercial flower production. In the 1980s, it was bought for £78,500 by Dr Pat 'Inch' Dougherty, a native of Michigan, USA. The Irish-American traced his roots back to the Inch O'Dohertys and decided to put his passion for genealogy into practice. He opened the house up as a research and ancestry centre, organising reunions every year for Dohertys from around the world. Visitors could research their family history in the databases in the centre, while also enjoying the hospitality on offer in the guesthouse. Many Americans came to visit, most famous amongst them being Newt Gingrich, who was the then Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
The house was also used as the set for the 2007 film Agnes, that was based on the life of a young nurse from nearby Fahan, who trained with Florence Nightingale.
After a life in many guises, Inch House is ready for the next chapter. With 6,364 sq ft in the main house, 3,750 sq ft in the coach house and 578 sq ft in the cottage on the grounds, the grand house could make a wonderful country house hotel or wedding venue if anyone had pockets deep enough to take on necessary renovations.
Many original features in the property are still intact, like the window shutters and the beautiful bolection moulding. In the main house, there are six reception rooms and five bedrooms. Up the steps and into the impressive entrance hall, you get a taste of what lies behind.
There is a light-filled dual aspect drawing room that has views out over Lough Swilly, with a lean-to orangery to the side. This room, the living room and dining room are full of details like stained glass feature windows, sash windows and marble fireplaces. The more relaxed areas like the family room and kitchen feel less grand and more homely, with a slate floor and two-oven Aga in the kitchen and double doors out to the courtyard.
The first floor has two extremely large bedrooms with guest ensuites. A red pine staircase leads up to the other three bedrooms on the top floor. The basement was redecorated and drylined recently and is currently being used as a recording studio with three music rooms, a snooker room and store room. Over the courtyard is the coach house and cottage. During renovations, beer bottles were discovered underneath a basement window that dated back to 1670 that are thought to have come from ships that were visiting the area then.
There are eight bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, separate chef's kitchen, a boardroom, office and sitting room in the building. The cottage has two bedrooms, a bathroom and open-plan living/kitchen area.
A lot of hard work has already been done for new owners. The roof was retiled in 1999 with the original and reclaimed tiles. The whole property was recently rewired and the walls were drylined. It's on an elevated site of 3.28 acres that overlooks Lough Swilly and the surrounding countryside. Inch is just off the R238, with Derry to the south and Buncrana, Ballyliffen, and Malin Head to the north.