Sunday 20 January 2019

Put down roots at Quails Wood

Period home a country idyll that sits in the company of 10,000 oaks

Quails Wood House dates from 1860
Quails Wood House dates from 1860
The entrance hall
The acre-and-a-half site includes a heated pool
One of the reception rooms
The kitchen Aga range
One of the four bedrooms
Billiard room
Wildlife on the property
The acre-and-a-half site includes a number of walled gardens
A bell on the converted stable block
The stable block could be used for additional living accommodation
A stable door leads into the converted stable block
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

At one stage, the Coolattin Estate covered one fifth of Co Wickow, and reached across into the neighbouring counties, with more than 85,000 acres and housing 20,000 tenants.

Coolattin House, designed by John Carr, was the seat of the Fitzwilliam family, who came into the land through marriage in the late 18th Century.

Built between 1801 and 1804, it passed out of the family in the 1970s following the death of the then Lady Fitzwilliam, whose daughter, Lady Juliet Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (later de Chair, and the mother of Helena de Chair who is married to Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg) decided to sell.

Coolattin was known for the free-seeded oak forests that populated much of the estate. At one time, vast areas of Ireland were covered in similar forests, but most were felled in the 17th and 18th centuries to provide the British Navy with wood for ship-building.

The entrance hall
The entrance hall

The free-growing oak allows blackthorn to grow straight enough to be cut and cured for the famous fighting sticks that take the name of the town, Shillelagh.

Jack Ryan of Shillelagh has been making the sticks by hand in the town his whole life, and he sells them all over the world for the Irish martial art of batiocht - no longer practised in Ireland but still popular in Canada, the US and Australia. The stick-fighting martial art emerged from the days when native Irish were banned from carrying swords. The knob-ended long stick (as opposed to the short, hammer-shaped version that you'll see in tourist shops) often had its head drilled out and filled with lead to pack more of a wallop.

Sadly, when Coolattin passed out of the ownership of the Fitzwilliam family, the new owners felled huge swathes of the great oaks and these were exported to Europe as high quality veneer wood.

By the late 1980s the great oaks of Mill Wood, Quails Wood, Shuttles Wood, Drimingal Wood, Ballykelly Wood and Brow Wood were all completely cleared and partly replaced with spruce and oak mixtures. Only Tomnafinnoge Woods remained, thanks to the intervention of then Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey, and a celebrity-fronted campaign. It is now preserved and managed by Wicklow County Council.

In 2016 the estate, now operated as a golf course, changed hands again and its new owners set about a comprehensive programme of woodland restoration that has seen the planting of more than 10,000 oak trees in Coolattin, replacing the spruce, and in which birdlife such as pheasant (inset) thrives.

The estate has also invested heavily in the removal of invasive exotics such as laurel and rhododendron, to allow the broadleaf forest to re-establish and thrive as it did in the past. Coolattin House itself is now available for private hire for events.

One of the reception rooms
One of the reception rooms

Quails Wood House, a fine period property dating from 1860 and located opposite the golf course and Coolattin House, once formed part of the original Coolattin Estate, for which it provided staff accommodation.

Last sold in 2005 for €800,000, it sits on a private site of an acre-and-a-half with magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. Located 90km from Dublin, it's a house that's just about within commuting distance of the capital, but offers far more in the way of amenities than a similarly-priced suburban home ever could. For the price of a decent trader-upper in a reasonably good location in the capital, one could have a country pleasure palace instead.

Quails Wood House has been thoroughly renovated by the present owners in recent years. On the ground floor there are two main reception rooms, one with a bay window, marble fireplace and French doors leading to the back garden, and the other with double sliding doors leading to the kitchen/dining room.

Also on this floor is a country kitchen with that essential of rural living, an oil-fired Aga, plus an adjacent utility room. There's a large billiard room too, and a converted stable block to the rear that could be used either as studio space or additional living accommodation.

Upstairs in the house, there are four double bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Quails Wood also has two large cellars, ideal for wine storage.

One of the four bedrooms
One of the four bedrooms

Outside, there are beautiful cut-stone boundary and internal walls, with a number of private walled gardens.

The grounds are immaculate, and also feature a large heated outdoor swimming pool and tennis court, as well as a small paddock. On a sunny day, it's the stuff of summer dreams and one can imagine Quails Wood providing a dreamy backdrop to an idyllic country childhood.

Shillelagh town lies equidistant between Carlow and Gorey and is a 25-minute drive from both. As well as golf at Coolattin, there are other local courses at Mount Wolseley and Woodenbridge. The Shillelagh Hunt meets nearby, and there is excellent fishing on the Rivers Slaney and Barrow.

Quails Wood House

Coolattin, Shillelagh, Co Wicklow

Asking price: €785,000

joint Agents: Lisney (01) 6382700 / REA Dawson (Tullow) 059 915 1142

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