This seven-bed home, built somewhere in the late 1700s, could be ideal for raising a family
Period property that bred a winner could be ideal for raising a family too
In the summer of 1985, Ireland was gripped with the phenomenon of moving statues. More than 100,000 visited the grotto in Ballinspittle in Co Cork after claims a sculpture of the Virgin Mary there had moved, and supposed apparitions followed up and down the country.
Back then, Marian statues, pictures of the Sacred Heart and other artefacts were big business. But as orthodox Catholicism dwindled and convents began to close as vocations fell out of favour, an antiques dealer in the Co Laois village of Mountmellick began buying Marian statues - some as tall as 6ft - and items like the Stations of the Cross, and other religious icons, selling them on to funeral parlours and to the public.
By 1995, that dealer was able to buy Cloneyhurke House, a 4,628-sq ft period home set amid 56.2 acres of gardens, grounds, and land, in Garryhinch, near Co Offaly's border with Co Laois. The owner also breeds horses and farms the land.
He had been renting half of the land at Cloneyhurke House when he heard on the grapevine that the property had been put on the market. But it would take six painstaking years of restoring the property - with the help of specialists in plasterwork for the ceiling roses and cornicing - before he and his family could move in.
"When we bought it, it was in a bad state of repair," he recalls. "There were baths and buckets collecting water from the roof, which had slates missing.
"The doors and windows and some slates were missing in the stables. I didn't have the money at the time to do all of it at once, so I did bits and pieces over six years."
Cloneyhurke House is now back on the market. The property is about 8km outside Portarlington; it has a Co Laois postal address but is located in Co Offaly. The vast pile is beside Garryhinch woods and Portarlington Golf Club, both of which were once part of the vast 6,000-acre Warburton estate that straddled what were known as Queen's County and King's County.
Newspaper archives show that the wife of an H Warburton gave birth to a daughter at Cloneyhurke House in 1856. However, the current vendor doesn't have any documentary evidence showing when the seven-bed house was originally built, though it is believed to date from somewhere between the 1760s and early 1800s.
A long avenue sweeps up to the double-fronted, two-storey-over-basement property, which is surrounded by mature trees.
The main entrance to the grounds is through a set of decorative cast-iron double gates that are flanked by railings set on a limestone plinth wall, but there's also a separate entrance that serves agricultural purposes.
A flight of granite steps leads up to the fanlight-topped yellow front door, which opens into a hallway with wooden floors, high ceilings and a feature staircase.
There are three formal square-shaped reception rooms on the ground floor, all with wooden flooring and marble fireplaces. The dual-aspect space to the left of the hall is the brightly-lit dining room that commands views across the surrounding countryside and is connected to the sitting room at the rear.
On the other side of the ground floor is a parlour and a large bedroom, and there's a family bathroom located at the back of the residence.
On the first-floor return there is a guest bedroom with high ceilings, a fireplace and pastoral views; this is a single bedroom that was likely once used as a servant's quarters, but a family could use it as a study or a games room.
There is another single bedroom and four double bedrooms on the first floor, all of which come with high ceilings, wooden floors, and fireplaces.
The country-style informal kitchen/dining/living space forms the heart of the home on the lower ground floor.
Here, there is a wood-burning stove and tiled floors to the living area, while the kitchen has access to the outside courtyard.
There is also a large boiler room with storage and a utility room to the rear of the kitchen.
The vendor uses the land for cattle and his stud farm. Indeed, among the racehorses bred at Cloneyhurke is Pairofbrowneyes, which won the Leinster National at Gowran Park in March on his first start for the champion trainer Willie Mullins. The horse had been the favourite to the win the Irish Grand National, but fell.
The vendor says: "There's just myself and my wife here and we're both pensioners. It's just too big for two people. But it would be ideal for a family who want to set up a business from home, especially as it's just an hour from Dublin city centre."
Cloneyhurke House is for sale by private treaty, asking €900,000, through Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, Farms and Estates, (01) 237 6308, and Sherry FitzGerald Hyland Keating, (057) 862 0044.
Portarlington, Co Offaly
Asking price: €900,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, Farms and Estates, (01) 237 6308, and Sherry FitzGerald Hyland Keating, (057) 862 0044