Live like a king in a Meath Gothic castle for €2.25m
Manor features a chapel and Gothic castle in megalithic country
Of the three megalithic passage tombs at Brú na Bóinne, Dowth is the only one that's not on the official tour. That's partly because it's regarded as less impressive than Newgrange and Knowth, and partly because, in 1849, a group of enthusiasts from the Royal Irish Academy had the bright idea of excavating it… with dynamite.
They blew the ceiling off in the process and left a crater in the top of the mound.
Among the many people scandalised by this despoliation were the trustees of the Netterville bequest. Viscount Netterville, who lived at nearby Dowth Hall, had bequeathed funds for the excavation and must have turned in his grave at the wreckage that came about from it.
He had more success with another part of his bequest. He left 60 acres, right next to Dowth, for the building of an alms house for widows and orphans in 1877, to a design by architect George Coppinger Ashlin. The Netterville Institution, as it is described on the early OS maps, still stands and is known today as Netterville Manor - a classic example of Victorian Gothic architecture.
The little chapel in the grounds of the manor was converted to a school for the local children and, later, for the young inmates of the institution. John Boyle O'Reilly, the poet and patriot, was the son of the school master there. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, for which conspiracy he was sentenced to 20 years' penal servitude and transported to Australia.
He escaped to America and became editor of The Pilot in Boston, known today as American's oldest Catholic newspaper.
His poetry is a little sickly for modern tastes, but was quoted by John F Kennedy when he addressed the Dáil on his visit to Ireland in June 1963. "The world is large when its weary leagues two loving hearts divide, but the world is small when your enemy is loose on the other side," he recited.
Netterville Manor has now become the headquarters of the John Boyle O'Reilly Society of Ireland, and the current owners of the manor have erected several memorials to O'Reilly around the grounds, including a bust sculpted by themselves of the poet in a toga resting on an Imperial First Empire eagle. They also spent about a decade restoring every last inch of the five-acre estate, which includes the manor house, the chapel, and the 12th century Dowth Castle. Netterville was formerly occupied by the Buddhist Foundation of Ireland, but the castle and chapel had fallen into disrepair.
Nowadays it's in use as a venue for weddings and conferences and the like. But if you can't abide the thought of people team-building on your lawn, you can just keep it as a family home.
The manor house itself is a substantial 6,049 sq ft in size on two floors, with four bedrooms (easily enough to accommodate the eight widows, seven orphans and a matron who were inhabiting it on the night of the 1901 Census) as well as four reception rooms, including a swanky two-storey library.
The main reception room is a dual-aspect drawing room at the west end of the house, with a marble fireplace. The shelf-lined library mirrors the drawing room at the opposite end of the house, and continues up to the first floor by means of an imposing spiral staircase. Its panelling is in mahogany with oak carvings.
Also on the ground floor there's a dining room with another marble fireplace, a sitting room, and a study with a shower room off it. And at the back of the house on this level there's the kitchen, with a utility room off it, from which rises another spiral staircase.
The first floor has three bedrooms, including the master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. Also on this floor there's a self-contained staff apartment consisting of a bathroom, bedroom and kitchenette, from which the housekeeper can take the spiral staircase to the utility room below and start work unseen - as she would.
The castle on the grounds still has its original vaulted ceiling from the 1400s, with oak beams sourced by the owners in France. There's underfloor heating here with a separate boiler, and the castle room can hold 100 people.
The chapel, meanwhile, has a capacity of 60 people. Also on the grounds there's a games room, a car port and a gazebo.
The courtyard in which the house, chapel and castle stand is surrounded by a Victorian stone wall, and the landscaped gardens include rambling lawns and a pond with a fountain. The Dowth passage tomb is "practically in the front garden", as the owners point out, and from the castle you can look out over the Boyne Valley.
The property is equidistant between Drogheda and Slane, both about 8 or 9km away, and it's about 55km from Dublin City Centre.
Netterville Manor is for sale with Knight Frank (01) 634 2466 with an asking price of €2.25m.
Dowth, Co Meath
Asking price: €2.25m
Agent: Knight Frank (01) 6342466