On to a winner with fabulous Thornton Park
Thornton Park & Equestrian Centre, Kilsallaghan, Swords, Co Dublin €1.95m
'Horses run in the blood," says Suzanne Archer Murphy, vendor of Thornton Park and Equestrian Centre which launches this week. She should know - her mother is a former jockey, while her aunt ran the Malahide Riding School for many years. Suzanne herself has been in the business from the unusually early age of 18 years old. "Horses were pretty much breakfast, lunch and dinner for me," she says.
She started out by renting a yard in Cloghran just down the road from Thornton Park. "Then this business just evolved, the horses became a natural stage," she says, making it sound like running a large livery and training centre was the easiest thing in the world.
Suzanne opened Thornton Equestrian Centre in 1990 when it comprised of just the indoor arena and two barns. "Demand pushed me to build and build and build so what started off with two indoor American barns, soon became four."
Over the years she added two more barns, stables for staff horses, as well as a four-bedroom bungalow for the staff themselves, a lunge menage, and a six-bay horse walker. There are 35 walk-out paddocks, and two all-weather outdoor arenas. The indoor arena was extended and a restaurant, reception area and lecture room were added. Today the property is one of the larger equestrian centres in the country.
Of course, the townland of Kilsallaghan has a good pedigree when it comes to the sport of kings. A kilometre down the road is Greenogue, Jim Dreaper's racing yard, which, under his father Tom, produced many a racing star, including most famously Arkle, the three-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Flying Bolt, and Fortria. Jim himself has trained up many a winner since he took over in 1971, including Brown Lad, who won three Irish Grand Nationals.
The house that forms part of the sale at Thornton Park is a later addition, and is accessed via a separate driveway. Suzanne and her husband Vivian Gath, who met when he signed up for riding lessons, built the comfortable four-bedroom property in 1997. It runs to 236sqm of living space and carries a BER rating of C3.
An architect originally drew up designs for the house but the couple oversaw the build themselves, adapting the plans to incorporate Gothic elements such as the arched doors and windows on the exterior, stained glass insets into some of the internal doors.
"The whole house evolved," says Suzanne. "There was never really a plan. It started off with ordinary contemporary design with square windows. We honed it. We oversaw the building so as we went along we changed it to suit our needs. I enjoyed the process hugely but it was a serious effort because everything is bespoke. It's not something that you would be able to buy in Ikea."
Suzanne trawled through auction rooms and antique shops looking for fittings and fixtures. "All the guys on Francis Street knew her by her first name," laughs Viv.
The exterior of the property is in the Gothic style, with a quaint porch leading into the main hallway. Here the banisters on the bespoke wooden staircase were fashioned from salvaged church pew ends.
Off the hallway to the right, double doors lead into the 'good room', a large double-aspect drawing room with solid wood floors and an unusual antique fireplace. "The fireplace was from an auction," says Suzanne. "I had it gilded, and there was a painting in the centre which I got an artist to redo."
Off the other side of the hall is a cosy south-facing sitting room with a bar that was also once a piece of church furniture and has been refashioned by the owners. It has a cast-iron fireplace that is in working order.
The kitchen sits to the rear of the house and is generously sized. It has bespoke wooden units painted in cream, wooden countertops, a Waterford Stanley that can be used to heat the house, if needed, and an island with marble countertop. Off to the left is a wooden-floored family room with a large wood-burning stove that, say the vendors, provides heat and hot water at low cost.
A south-facing conservatory leads off this room with views over the equestrian centre. It allows Suzanne to keep an eye on her horses as well as the impressive private stables that she had built to the rear of the property for her own use.
Also leading off the kitchen are a guest bedroom and WC, utility room and a spacious back hall, where there is ample space for muddy riding boots and coats.
On the first floor, there are three large bedrooms, all with built-in wardrobes and under-eave storage. The master bedroom has a large en suite with Jacuzzi bath and shower.
There is a family bathroom with a cast-iron rolltop bath, as well as shower. A skyscape painted over the bath is just one of a number of murals that Suzanne commissioned throughout the house. An office, also on this floor, could easily be repurposed as a fifth bedroom if required.
The entire property, including the equestrian centre and the residence, comes to market with an asking price of €1.95m, which includes paddocks and lands of 21.87 acres. There is also the option of purchasing the centre on its own at an asking price of €1.1m and that includes lands of approximately. 17.85 acres.
They are selling Thornton Park because, Suzanne says, "I want a change before I hit the grave. I want to do something different. I've ticked all the boxes businesswise and I've done everything with the business - I've expanded everything.
"I have an amazing team in the yard," says Suzanne, who believes that the property might appeal to a buyer as a going - and, she maintains, very profitable - concern.
Thornton Park is close to Dublin Airport and roughly 30 minutes from the city centre. Horse lovers will appreciate the fact that it is located just 14km from Fairyhouse Racecourse which plays host to many National Hunt races. There is also a very active hunting community in the area with a choice of clubs, including the Fingal Harriers, Ward Union, and Meath Farmers.
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01) 237 6300
Viewing: By appointment only