Small-town magic in Kilkenny for €345k
Alison Gill finds a house overlooking an area of big-screen appeal with small-town magic
A bit of peace and quiet with a serving of history and a slice of Hollywood on the side. If this is your thing, then Saddle-Hill View in Kilkieran, Inistioge might be your perfect bolthole.
Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell spent some time in Inistioge for the 1995 movie 'Circle of Friends', but some say they just played support to the charming and romantic village.
Its appeal did not go unnoticed, and last year saw the return of the film crews for Jim Sheridan's 'The Secret Scripture'.
But when the bright lights are turned down, Inistioge once again becomes a place to go and relax by the banks of the Nore with a picnic and admire one of the greatest bridges this country has to offer.
The 18th-century, 10-arch bridge in Inistioge is the only one of its kind in Europe. Designed by George Smith, it is said to have cost the public £900 when it was built circa 1765.
Up close, the Classical-style bridge is a thing of real beauty. All arches are equal - even though it is believed that the 10th arch was added at a later date to accommodate a proposed canal - with the structure forming an imposing landmark in the townscape.
Woodstock Estate is just a mile outside the village. Prominent architect Francis Bindon was employed by Sir William Fownes in 1745 to design the three-storey house. It stayed in the Fownes-Tighe family until the early 1900s.
In 1921, it was occupied by the Black and Tans and then later by troops of the Irish Free State. The day after the troops were forced to withdraw from the house in July 1922, it was burnt to the ground by the IRA. The ruins are still there today for all to see.
The four-bed property, on an elevated site, is a five-minute drive from Inistioge village.
Built in 2004, the house is spacious at 3,400sq ft. It sits on a one-acre site with landscaped gardens to the front and rear.
There is a gated stone wall entrance that leads you to the front door where you step into a tiled entrance hall.
To make the most of the views of the surrounding countryside, the house was designed with the bedrooms downstairs and the living space on the first floor.
This means that on the ground floor you have the master bedroom with en suite shower room and walk-in wardrobe; the second bedroom, also with en suite shower room; the third bedroom; main bathroom and a laundry/storage room.
Upstairs to the first floor, you walk into the open-plan kitchen/dining/living room, a bright room with high ceilings that makes a great family space. It has a mix of solid timber flooring and tiling.
In the kitchen area is a Rangemaster cooker, granite worktops and an island with a Belfast sink.
Also on this floor is a guest bathroom and a main bathroom with a Georgian freestanding bath; a sitting room with a solid fuel stove; and the fourth bedroom that is currently being used as a playroom.
There is solid timber flooring throughout and feature timber beams on the first floor.
Outside there is a mix of trees and wire fenced boundary. There is planning permission in place for a garage and extended patio off the kitchen.
The property also comes with a private well and septic tank.
Inistioge is off the M9, in the direction of Thomastown. It lies between Thomastown and New Ross on the R700.
To reach Saddle-Hill View, you take the road for Graiguenamanagh and turn left over the humpback bridge. The house is about 4kms outside Inistioge.
A trip to Kilkenny City would take about half an hour on the R700. For restaurants and a stroll around the shops, the city is probably the best bet. At the weekly food market, you can meet local farmers and sample their wholesome produce.
When you're fed and watered, you could spend hours meandering through the many craft, design and antique shops.
The town of New Ross on the Wexford/Kilkenny border is a 20-minute drive away and is probably best known for the Dunbrody Famine Ship which you can visit on the quays. It's a reconstruction of the original ship, built in Quebec in 1845 by Thomas Hamilton Oliver, an Irish emigrant from Co Derry. New Ross is handy for bulk food shopping as it has a choice of Supervalu, Tesco and Aldi stores.
Duncannon beach is 40kms south of Inistioge and popular with families. It is well worth a visit for the annual Sand Sculpting Festival in August. Anyone can enter the competition or just enjoy the live music and fireworks.
What to do
The aforementioned Woodstock Estate, with its beautiful gardens and arboretum, is open to the public. The estate covers 1,000 acres and has plenty of walks.
The gardens are being restored to the period 1840-1890 using plants and material typical of the era.
The ruin of Woodstock House is a splendid backdrop.
The kids will love a walk down Monkey Puzzle Avenue, ending with a visit to the newly built playground. The tea rooms are open for the summer season.
If hiking is your thing, the Inistioge to Thomastown trail is a must. It's a two to three hour walk along the Nore Valley. You will pass the ruins of Dysart Castle and 13th century Grennan Castle, and enjoy the flora and fauna of the very pretty Dysart Woods. Locals say it's the kind of walk you'll do again and again.
Mount Juliet is only 14km from Inistioge and boasts one of the country's finest golf courses. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, visitors' green fees start at €59.
You can also make use of the equestrian centre on the grounds of the estate, which is open to riders of all abilities.
Eating and drinking
The Circle of Friends Café in the village of Inistioge is a cheerful spot that serves hot lunches and is well known for its delicious desserts. For lunch with a view, The Old Schoolhouse River Café on the banks of the Nore, is the place to go for their nourishing homemade soup and cakes.
For special occasions, there is a choice of the Kevin Dundon's Dunbrody House, which is about 45 minutes from Inistioge, or the Michelin-star Lady Helen restaurant in Mount Juliet.
The Otter, O'Donnells and Woodstock Arms are the three pubs in the village, and all are friendly and serve a good pint of Guinness.
As there are no big hotels in close proximity to Inistioge, the village doesn't get too overrun with tourists.
A lot of daytrippers come to admire the bridge and Nore Valley, but Inistioge still manages to retain its relaxed, sleepy feel all year round.
What's not to like
Although Saddle-Hill View is outside the village on an elevated site, Inistioge and Thomastown were badly flooded last December when Storm Frank hit.
Local councillor Michael Doyle said at the time that between 15 and 20 homes were more or less destroyed by flood waters.
Kilkieran, Inistioge, Kilkenny
Asking price: €345,000
Agent: DNG Ella Dunphy, Kilkenny City, Co Kilkenny (056) 7786000