Stately country house that's also a warm family home
Boltown Hall, Kilskyre, Co Meath: €2.5m
On a bright spring day with the cattle finally - finally! - out in the fields, the rhododendrons in bloom, and Gerry the robot mowing the front lawn, Co Meath is looking its best and nowhere is it more lush than at Boltown Hall, a fine 19th Century country house with 430 sqm of living space on 102 acres located close to the historic town of Kells.
The current owners, Justin Owens and Jackie Cawley and their young family, are moving to Kildare to be closer to their own parents, but one has the sense that if they could simply transplant what they have at Boltown Hall, they would do so in a heartbeat.
"Sometimes we look at each other and say, 'What is there left to be done? We've done it all!'" says Jackie.
Justin, who is the founder of Commtech, which sold to American firm Arrow last year in a deal reported to be worth in the region of €25m, bought the listed property at auction in 2005 for €2.8m. That figure was a considerable increase on the price paid for it in March 1945 when it sold with 185 acres of land for just £4,000.
The couple have since undertaken a comprehensive refurbishment of the house, including rewiring and replumbing and the installation of a new zoned central heating system.
Unlike many period properties in the country, the house feels first and foremost like a warm and comfortable family home, rather than a museum, and is light and bright throughout, thanks to a number of dual aspect rooms and a large skylight on the first floor.
"We use every bit of it," says Jackie. "There are no 'good' rooms other than perhaps the formal dining room, but even that gets plenty of use when we have friends over, as well as at Christmas and Easter. The whole house is designed for convenience."
The front porch opens on to a high-ceilinged entrance hall. The drawing room to the left has a bay window to the front and a fine fireplace with marble surround, while the dining room to the rear also has a bay window and marble fireplace. To the other side of the entrance hall is a family room.
"This is where we curl up on winter evenings and light the fire," says Jackie.
The country-style kitchen lies to the back of the house and, as well as the obligatory cream Aga, has a solid wood island. It's clear that this room is the focus for family life.
Adjacent to the kitchen is a humdinger of a utility room, which also incorporates a boot room, essential in a country home. There are Wellington boots of all sizes, with spares for visitors. Tucked away above is a study, or what Jackie refers to as Justin's 'man-cave', and in the basement there's another cave - this one for wine. Upstairs, there are six large double bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Boltown Hall dates from around 1860, when it was built by Joseph Hone Dyas. It later passed to his son, Harry Dyas, a colourful character with a propensity for the classic vices of gambling, women and drink, who was once described in court as "a man of lax morality".
Harry Dyas may have been a reprobate, but he was responsible for producing Boltown Hall's most famous resident, the double Grand National winner, Manifesto, which won at Aintree in 1897 and 1899.
Boltown Hall is still very much geared to equestrian activity, with excellent modern loose boxes, a smart tack room and all ancillary features, including a floodlit sand arena, cross-country course and a horse-walker. Justin hunts with the Taras, and Jackie says that they are happy to give permission for the Meath Hunt to come through their land during the hunting season. For younger riders, there is an active local pony club scene, particularly in the summer months.
In the stable courtyard, which, like all the farm and other outbuildings, is in excellent condition, there is a smart, modern one-bedroom apartment that is currently used by a nanny but could work equally well for other staff.
Boltown Hall is well located in the centre of its land, which ensures privacy, with access points all around the circumference and two main entrances - front and back, both with electric gates - one for the house and one for agricultural use.
Currently, Justin and Jackie keep horses and donkeys, and lease out grazing land to a local farmer, but it will be open to the new owners to consider farming themselves; the land is considered suitable for tillage as well as pasture.
An orchard produces apples, plums and pears, which means plenty of opportunities for crumble.
For families with young children, there is a national school close by in Kilskyre. The commute to the centre of Dublin takes just over an hour.
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01) 237 6308
Viewing: By appointment