Sunday 16 June 2019

Ruin to improve: A castle, 100 acres and 800 trees for €1million

Torched in 1922, Castle Fogarty has always been lived in and has never been sold

Castle Fogarty's vast Gothic shell
Castle Fogarty's vast Gothic shell
The dramatic internal walkway to the 'new' main entrance
A side on view of the architectural detail from the occupied tower
A view from the other side
The courtyard
The formal dining room in the living quarters
A cosy reception room
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Castle Fogarty is Ireland's most habitable ruin as well as being one of its most distinguished - indeed someone has lived here all through its 100 years as a dramatic shell. The castle has never been sold, nor has it been abandoned as a family home. Since time began, the huge Tipperary property has been handed down through successive generations of just three families linked through marriage

Its current manifestation as a home within a ruined castle, came into being after the IRA torched the Ryan-Lanigan seat in 1922 and the current owner's family then cleverly recycled its remains to create a snug home sheltered within huge windowless and castellated walls.

Now Castle Fogarty at Ballycahill is being placed on the market by Michael Ryan who is seeking a new owner with vision to turn it into a fabulous country mansion retreat or a combined home and accommodation/hospitality business with a difference.

From the earliest mists of Irish history, clan Fogarty had a fortress at Ballycahill in Thurles which later evolved into a medieval stone castle. Later still, as the Catholic Fogarty family somehow managed to hold on to its lands (there was a temporary departure during Cromwell's rampages), its seat was converted into a Georgian country house. Having been inherited through marriage by the Lanigan family and later the Ryans of Inch, it was transformed yet again into a fairytale neo-Gothic Victorian fantasy castle in the middle of the 19th century with five turreted towers and 20 bedrooms.

The courtyard
The courtyard

During the War of Independence, the house had been requisitioned by members of the Northamptonshires for use as a base against the IRA near Thurles. When they left, just as the war was nearing its end, the IRA moved in quickly to burn the house, to ensure that it would not be used again by the British. Reportedly the soldiers had already trashed it.

It's then owner Captain Vivian Ryan-Lanigan, along with many big house owners who had seen their homes burned in this troubled period, put in for reconstruction compensation to both the British and the newly created Irish Authorities. The British authorities paid not a bean to the family while the Irish Government took 10 more years deliberating before finally coughing up the paltry sum of £1,000.

The current owner Michael Ryan takes up the story: "I suppose the Irish authorities were aware of the fact that Vivian was an officer in the British Army and so this wasn't his main residence. Vivian died during the family's campaign for compensation and the battle was taken up by his brother Valentine. When the money was paid, Valentine handed it over to his first cousin on the grounds that he spend it restoring one of the towers and then running the resulting home, then with 500 acres, as a commercial farm."

During his own decades at the helm of Castle Fogarty Michael also did his bit: "At this point the parts that were deemed too unstable have been torn down while the rest has been properly stabilised. So the remaining walls are very solid indeed."

Septuagenarian Michael cites his reason for the sale as "old age and lack of energy" adding: "It's time for someone else to take over and bring it on again."

The house and 102 acres of farmland and hardwood plantation (800 trees) are today being placed on the market through Savills with an asking price of €1m.

A cosy reception room
A cosy reception room

Nevertheless, he has imagined the possibilities for taking it on again. "You could glaze over a lot of the ruin and create an incredible indoor space which would be wonderful for receptions."

The entrance to the residential tower is via a dramatic path running between the two to four-storey high walls. This leads into the occupied tower's hall which then leads internally into the cottages and adjoining courtyard buildings. A portion of this part of the residence actually dates from the 1500s. There's a kitchen, a drawing room, a dining room and a sitting room. There's an additional reception, seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, a boot room, shower room, a wine cellar and a games room. There's also a utility and a main store. Most of the accommodation is in need of some decoration and modernisation to bring it up to date.

The property also includes a traditional courtyard with stables, coach houses, a barn and stores. There's also a classic Victorian walled garden.

The current form is just the latest in an ever evolving home, says Michael who believes that when the Georgian house was revamped in the 1790s to the neo-Gothic form, the owners simply built "out" all around the existing mansion. "So it means that the Georgian house was wrapped up inside the current version."

The castle has been home to a number of famous occupants. Cornelius O'Fogarty, a Jacobite officer, fought in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne and later at the Siege of Limerick. He owned and played the O'Fogarty Harp which has remained in the ownership of the family ever since and is on display in the County Library. In more recent times, Vivian Ryan was High Sheriff of Tipperary in 1887 and Valentine Ryan and Mervyn Ryan were mountaineers of note.

Castle Fogarty is located close to the towns of Thurles (9km) and Cashel (21km). In Thurles the Hayes Hotel was the birthplace of the GAA, and the town provides a range of amenities, services and education, and Semple Stadium is located here.

Fishing, boating and sailing are offered on Lough Derg, one of Ireland's largest lakes (32,000 acres), which is navigable over its total length. Lough Derg Yacht Club is 47 km away at Dromineer.

The castle will either be retained in its current mixed form or will be subject of an imaginative conversion of the shell portion using contemporary materials. The 'fully monty' solution of fully restoring what was originally a home of perhaps 12,000 sq ft, would cost tens of millions.

Castle Fogarty

Ballycahill, Thurles,

Co Tipperary

Asking price: €1m

Agent: Savills Country, (01) 6634350

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