The €2.25m Georgian mansion in Limerick with the ‘rear of the year’ and magnificent staircases

Mark Keenan

If there was a ‘Rear of the Year’ competition for Irish period houses, Island House at Cloon and Commons in Co Limerick would walk away with it.

Irish homes of the 18th and 19th Century tend to be quite generic and, dare we say, boring, in their external appearances: all Georgian rectangular boxy and geometrically perfect. But dead boring all the same.

So it looks like it took a foreigner to shake things up a bit at Cloon on the outskirts of Castleconnell when an angling mad Welsh mine magnate decided to treat himself to a luxurious fishing lodge within casting distance of the Mulcair River and the mighty Shannon.

In 1815 or 1826 (depending which records you opt for) he built the two-storey over basement Island House in the Greek revival style with a dramatic frontage complete with Doric portico.

The front porch is reminiscent of the Parthenon and would have been the height of sophistication at a time when high society in these islands was enveloped in all things Hellenic.

From the 1860s it was home for by Sir Richard Donnellan de Burgo, the 4th and last baronet of Castleconnell. The de Burgos are also connected to the site through their founding of a monastery here in the 11th century and the remains of a medieval church on the grounds date from that period.

When Sir Richard died without issue in 1873, he took that title with him to the grave.

Since then, Island House got its even more impressive rear end, with gracefully sweeping bifurcated staircases rolling down from the first floor to the rear forecourt along with a brace of bulbous two-floor glazed orangeries installed on either side.

Fast forward to the mid 1980s when Tony Ryan was in his stride and decreed that all Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) executives should live within a 45-minute drive of Shannon Airport.

GPA was the world’s largest aircraft leasing operation and worth €55m. So one senior executive duly complied, bought Island House and restored it fully.

The house is architecturally interesting, not only for its dual external personalities but also because, like the famous Casino in Marino, its overblown appendages make it appear much smaller than it actually is. In fact, it spans a hefty 5,500 sq ft, so you’d fit five average abodes in there.

The current owners made their own big impression by moving the key reception rooms upstairs to avail of the river views.

According to JC Gubbins of Murphy Gubbins in Limerick (they’re seeking €2.25m), the house, with nine acres of meticulously landscaped gardens and grounds, is ready to walk into.

It has six bedrooms and three bathrooms downstairs while the kitchen and reception rooms are now all upstairs. A wine cellar was constructed underneath a new utility room.

A study was created between the valleys of the roof and is accessed by a spiral staircase made from French wood.

There’s a drawing room, dining room, living room, games room, kitchen and an enormous tiled family bathroom.

Interest has already come in from the USA and the UK, attracted by this home’s difference, proximity to the airport and of course, it’s reason for being, great fishing on its doorstep.

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