If you're looking for a property that will allow your children to grow up wild and free, then you might want to pay a visit to Lissardagh House. Built in the 1860s and sitting on 14 acres, just 10km from Macroom, Lissardagh, has a woodland planted with daffodils and wildflowers and, above the forest floor, a zipline and swing threaded through the oak and beech.
It has a courtyard with vast loft spaces to turn into a den or for your tween's band to belt out potential hits; it has paddocks for keeping ponies and assembling show-jumping courses; and it has a tennis court and a croquet lawn for those long summer afternoons.
For vendors Helene McSweeney and Brian Mahony, it has been the perfect place for their three children to grow up. "I think of all of them," says Helene, "my daughter Orna, who is 13, has probably got the most out of the house. She has bred dogs, she is at Crufts this weekend and it's the third time she's gone."
But that's not the only pet project Orna has tried. Over the years, she has learnt to ride, saving to buy 'half a pony', says her mum, from a local farmer, breaking it in, then swapping it as she grew older for a bigger horse. "There's the huge stables and a few fields, to keep them in," says Helene. She has bred chickens (they currently have 10), guinea pigs and somewhere along the way even collected a cockatiel.
The couple's two sons have also enjoyed the benefits of the property. "They have the freedom of just being able to go out and roam and when their friends come, they can't get enough of the zipline and tennis court. Lately, they have turned it into a soccer pitch and play frisbee there. They have a freedom they won't appreciate until they grow up."
The two-storey over basement house is approached along a gravelled avenue that ends in a carriage turn. Helene and Brian restored the entrance porch when they bought the property in 2005, replacing the wooden front door and window frames but keeping the original glass. Inside, the front hall has doors leading to the main reception rooms, all of which are double aspect and designed to catch the sun at some time during the day.
The grand drawing room overlooks the garden and has an elegant original fireplace and ornate plasterwork ceiling. The morning room is Helene's favourite, "it looks out over the hills and the croquet lawn and is so calm". The dining room has another period fireplace with marble insets and three large windows that ensure, although north and west-facing, that the room is light-filled during the day. Both the drawing and morning rooms have doors into the music room, next to the study.
The basement, says Helene, "is the functional part of the house", where the family likes to roost in wintertime. It comprises the double-aspect kitchen/breakfast room with French doors leading out to the garden. Bespoke kitchen units have a granite countertop, and there are Villeroy & Boch sink and mixer taps. The stone-flagged floor was uncovered by the vendors when they took up the floor tiles. They put in a damp course, sandblasted the stone flags and replaced them. And there is a large and enviable pantry with terracotta-tiled floor.
The basement also includes a comfortable family room with a wood-burning stove as well as a den, laundry room, store, and a wonderful family bathroom with marble tiled floor and cast-iron bath. A second family bathroom is on the first floor as are the four bedrooms, all of which are, again, double aspect.
Lissardagh has had only a few careful owners since it was built by the Baldwin family. Before the current owners, it belonged to the Sherrards who had downsized from Maryborough House, now a hotel and spa. They were keen gardeners and carried out a huge amount of work in the gardens, planting specimen trees and introducing azaleas, rhododendrons and magnolia, which have been maintained.
With a courtyard of sturdy outhouses, backed by a second working yard of stables, the property is ideal for a horse-mad family, but also has potential, subject to planning, to be converted into guest accommodation for a small-scale tourism enterprise. Lissardagh is 25 minutes' drive from Cork city and 10 minutes from the town of Macroom.
Agent Michael H Daniels (025) 31023