Striking €1.2m Limerick home has idyllic forests and waterfalls at its fingertips
Along with the many other, mainly prosaic, functions of a limekiln, you could also use one to find out who you were going to marry, according to folklore.
It involved messing around with a ball of wool in the dark, by yourself, at Halloween, so was probably not for the faint-hearted. But then, a faint heart never won fair lady or gentleman.
Lady Jane Wilde, otherwise known as Speranza, the mother of Oscar Wilde, recalled the custom in her 1887 book Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland.
"If a ball of worsted is thrown into a limekiln and wound up till the end is caught by invisible hands, the person who winds calls out, 'Who holds the ball?' and the answer will be the name of the future husband or wife. But the experiment must be made only at midnight, and in silence and alone."
There were once thousands of limekilns in Ireland. Sadly most have now been razed, or fallen down, or been swallowed up by the landscape. There's never been much appetite for conserving them, no doubt partly because they're so numerous.
If there's one inventive way to preserve a limekiln, it's to build a house around it. That's exactly what the owners of Heathfield did 10 years ago when they constructed their dream home around a limekiln at the edge of Ballinruane Woods, near Kilmeedy, County Limerick. They didn't just want a limekiln though, they also wanted a tower of impenetrable stone, and battlements, and a roof terrace, and a wine cellar, and an artificial stream, and waterfalls…
The result, as you can imagine, is a very unusual stone-fronted property that looks both ancient and modern. Its structure, essentially, consists of a cottage and a limekiln merging in a castellated turret.
Because of its higgledy-piggledy construction, you would never know from the exterior that it's a capacious 4,521 sq ft inside. The whole ground level has travertine floors with charcoal under-floor heating. The Gothic-arched internal doors are 9ft tall and all handmade. There are sash windows to the front and Georgian-style wooden windows at the back. And, unusually, the skirting boards are all stainless steel; if you had mice, they could gaze at their reflections all day.
The entrance hall inside the front door has stone arches opening to the limekiln and the tower.
To the left is a stone-walled reception room, overlooking the front garden through an arched window, and with a vaulted ceiling with oak rafters and skylights. The fireplace in this room is the original limekiln fireplace, big enough to stand in, with a solid-fuel stove in it.
On the other side of the hall is the round tower, 27ft high and 16ft 6ins in diameter, with interior walls of natural stone. From the base of the tower, a stainless steel spiral staircase with pebble steps winds up to the gallery landing and bedrooms above.
The main room, on ground level, is a vast open-plan area for cooking, eating and relaxing. It measures 34ft by 34ft, taking up most of the ground floor, and has two sets of French doors to the deck and garden.
The kitchen/dining area is towards the back of the room, with high-gloss cabinets, light granite countertops and a centre island with hob.
The living area at the front has a raised sandstone fireplace and four windows overlooking the garden.
One of the five bedrooms is on the ground floor, off the tower, and has an ensuite with a jacuzzi bath.
Also on the ground floor are a guest toilet and a cloakroom.
Off the gallery landing, up the spiral staircase, are four bedrooms: two at the front and two at the back. Two of them have walk-in wardrobes, and all have ensuites, either with baths or with wet rooms and power showers. There is also a laundry room on this level.
Up on the second floor - at the top of the tower - is a domed study in the landing with five Gothic windows overlooking the countryside from all angles.
A door opens from there onto the roof terrace, where there's a barbecue and a dumb waiter for the sending up of mint juleps. And there's an intercom, in case someone in the kitchen is taking too long with the mint juleps. It's wired for both a hot tub and a waterfall feature.
The house is on an acre of land, including raised decking made from railway sleepers, and landscaped gardens with woodland plants, ferns and beech trees. The artificial stream meandering through the grounds features 12 waterfalls, including one almost 40 ft high, and they can be controlled from inside the house. The stream may also constitute something of a water hazard, as there's a golf driving range in the grounds as well.
If that's not enough by way of amenity, the property is surrounded by Ballinruane Woods, where there are walking trails among 1,000 acres of broadleaf trees. Kilmeedy village is a little over 2km away, and Limerick city is about 45 minutes' drive.
Heathfield is for sale for €1.2m with Helen Cassidy Auctioneers (094) 954 6868.
Heathfield, Kilmeedy, Co Limerick
Asking price: €1.2m Agent: Helen Cassidy Auctioneers (094) 954 6868