On the home straight
House at heart of renowned pony breeding enterprise comes with a gate lodge and historic neighbour
When John and Maeve Riordan were living in Donabate in the 1980s, John would de-stress from his job in the financial services industry by taking his springer spaniels for a walk to the Malahide Estuary. Along the way, he would pass the wrought-iron gates to Seafield House, a Palladian villa overlooking the water.
John had long cultivated an interest in farming and would spend mornings cutting the organic vegetables he grew on a six acre plot he rented outside Swords. He dreamed of turning this passion into a career, and saw his opportunity when Seafield House and its 190 acres went on the market. Sir Robert and Lady Goff, then big players in the Dublin property and art worlds, bought the 18th century mansion and about 70 acres of the estate, so John and Maeve acquired the remaining land, including Seafield House's gate lodge and its original front gates.
John began to grow potatoes and corn on the land. When the couple's children started asking for a pony, they got in touch with the Connemara Breeders Society, which, in turn, reintroduced John to a childhood friend called Eithne O'Connell. Her father, Tom, was the farm manager on Lambay Island, where Lord Revelstoke had become the first major exporter of Connemara ponies in the 1950s and 1960s. Tom and his daughter shared their expertise on the native Irish ponies and global contacts with the Riordans.
"We went to buy one Connemara pony and ended up buying seven. It was a hobby that turned into a business," says John of the resulting family firm, Lismar Connemara Ponies. "So rather than tillage farming, I put my efforts into Connemara ponies and they were very good to us over the years."
The couple decided to move closer to their breeding business and spent about four years working with an architect to design Seafield Manor, finally building the 4,000-sq ft property in 1993, right in the centre of their land, and borrowing period-style elements from the original villa nearby, such as columns to the front porch. They also added four stables, a tack room and dog kennels to the home.
Now that their children have grown up, the couple have put Seafield Manor, its equestrian facilities, gate lodge and 27 acres of its land on the market. They plan to downsize while their son, Shane, a solicitor, continues to operate the family business on the remaining land.
Some of the fields have also been set aside as feeding grounds for the swans and geese that overwinter on the estuary.
The original Seafield House gates to the entrance to Seafield Manor have been modified to be operated electronically. Behind them, mature trees and hedging line the avenue leading up to Seafield Manor, which commands views of the estuary and the surrounding countryside.
On entering the front door, which is flanked by glass panelling, is a tiled reception hall where the Riordans have a piano. The hallway also features a solid ash wood staircase with wrought iron balustrades. Designed by Maeve herself, it connects the two downstairs reception rooms with the first floor.
To the right of the hallway is a dual-aspect drawing room with views of the front gardens and the estuary. A marble fireplace and recessed ceiling lights add a touch of cosiness to what would otherwise be a very formal space.
This room leads to the family lounge, where a bespoke hand-crafted granite fireplace with a solid fuel stove acts as a centrepiece. French doors from the lounge open onto a south-facing garden.
Glass-panelled ash doors, also designed by Maeve, link the lounge to the kitchen/diner. The Riordans set out to create a timeless kitchen with the help of features such as an Aga range, a Belfast sink, timber ceiling beams that were sourced from an old grain store in Kilkenny, granite worktops to the units and the kitchen island, and natural French flagstone floors. There's a pantry, utility room and lavatory off the kitchen, which also has its own enclosed vegetable garden.
The walls surrounding the dining area are finished in the same red brick used in the facade of the house, while the kitchen. Completing the downstairs accommodation is a home office to the left of the entrance hall, overlooking the front garden, though this space could also be used as a playroom.
On the first floor, off a central landing, are five large bedrooms, two of which are en suite. The master bedroom has wooden flooring, ceiling beams, an en suite, and a separate walk-in dressing room. The main family bathroom has a tiled floor, a shower, and steps leading up to the bath.
The gate lodge, which was used until recently as staff quarters, has 614 sq ft of accommodation that consists of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. The space, which is larger than many a Dublin city centre apartment, also has its own garden and parking.
Seafield Manor is 10km north of Dublin Airport, between Donabate and Malahide. Dublin city centre is 18km away, while the M50 motorway interchange is 10km away. Viewings are by appointment.
Seafield Manor, Donabate, Co Dublin, is on sale through Sherry FitzGerald, (01) 237 6300, or Sherry FitzGerald Blanc, (01) 845 4500, with an asking price of €2.5m.
Donabate, Co Dublin
Asking price: €2.5m
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald (01) 237 6300 or Sherry FitzGerald Blanc (01) 845 4500