Peek inside this €1.5m Wicklow home that looks like it's straight out of a fairytale
The Old Rectory, Ashford, Co Wicklow: €1.5m
It was love at first sight for the current owners of The Old Rectory. "We passed it one day when we were going riding," they say, "and experienced a 'coup de coeur', as the French saying goes. At the time we were living in a lovely house in Monkstown but within a few days we had bought it and were making plans to move."
That was 24 years ago. The four small children who came to live at The Old Rectory, and who spent a blissful childhood riding their ponies at the local pony club events, playing hide and seek in the tunnels formed by the rhododendron bushes in the four acres of lovely gardens, and - to the envy of their friends - hosting pool parties in the pool house, are grown up and gone, leaving their parents of a mind to downsize.
"It is a beautiful, sturdy old house," they say, "but it's too big for us now and it's time for another family to enjoy it as much as we have."
Built in 1878, The Old Rectory was in need of refurbishment and restoration when the current owners purchased it. "We have all the original documents and invoices relating to its construction," they say, "and we'll pass those on to the new owners. It's fascinating to see the prices of the fireplaces and other fittings that are still in the house."
They set about damp-proofing and redecorating, and each year since have taken on another project so that the house feels modern and comfortable, while retaining all the charm of a period house with features including high ceilings, marble fireplaces, sash windows, working shutters and original doors.
The front door still bears its original fittings and leads into a tiled porch and on into the entrance hall, with its feature wooden staircase. The drawing room is to the left of the hall and has views over the south-facing gardens to the front, while the family room is to the right of the hall and used more in winter. The dining room is designed for serious entertaining. A downstairs bathroom features a wall-to-wall bookcase, while the kitchen has a desirable Aga range and a convenient playroom adjacent. There's a handy boot room and pantry, and double French doors leading from the kitchen to the south-facing patio area. Upstairs there are five double bedrooms. The master bedroom has fitted wardrobes and is en suite and there is also a family bathroom.
The house is filled with light thanks to a large window on the staircase, and many of the large, square rooms are double aspect with big windows, which means that things stay bright even on dark winter days.
Outside, the gardens are magnificent, with mature shrubs and specimen trees. Many of these plants came from the gardens at nearby Mount Usher and include Weeping Beech, Catalpa, Myrtle Tree, Magnolia Soulangeana 'Burgundy Glow' and Strawberry Tree 'Caithne'.
A separate coach house provides accommodation for staff or guests, and there is a stable block with four loose boxes complete with tack area and hay/straw room. An adjacent field is suitable for grazing, and there is also a floodlit sand arena.
The current owners say that since the construction of the by-pass, the village of Ashford has come into its own. The village has a big national school, and there is a smaller Church of Ireland national school at Nun's Cross. The new North Wicklow Educate Together school is in Bray, while the current owners' children attended Blackrock College and St Gerard's.
"Ashford has more of a heart now," they say. "Avoca at Mount Usher is wonderful for the gardens, the shops and the restaurant, and Chester Beatty's has re-opened and serves great food. Romany Stone is terrific too, and at the weekends there are always big groups of cyclists down from Dublin sitting outside Café Latte. The village has a real buzz about it again."
The Old Rectory is likely to attract attention from purchasers with an interest in matters equestrian, and there is plenty of horse-related activity in the area. The local pony club scene is vibrant and very sociable for children, say the current owners.
"They take kids as young as two or three and you see grandmothers leading tiny children on little 10-hand Shetland ponies."
For more experienced riders there is show jumping at Boswell's Equestrian Centre "a couple of fields away", and a thriving hunting community, with the East Coast Harriers and Bray Hunt organising regular drag hunts, while the Wicklows 'hunt the fox' in the area south of Jack Whites. Hirelings are available from Bel-Air. For those more interested in urban pursuits, you can be in Dundrum Town Centre in 25 minutes and Grafton Street in 45, traffic permitting.
- Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country (01) 237 6300 / Sherry FitzGerald Catherine O'Reilly (0404) 66466. Viewing: By appointment