A river runs through it
BALLYGLUNIN PARK, ATHENRY ROAD, TUAM, CO GALWAY €850,000
Agent Ganly Walters (01) 662 3255 Viewing Strictly by appointment
WAS the first Irish takeaway delivered to the owner of Ballyglunin Park, in Co Galway? Around the turn of the 20th century, Robert Blake — scion of one of Galway city’s 12 merchant tribes — would regularly have his preferred dinner cooked at The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, and despatched down to him by train to the property’s own station at Ballyglunin. No doubt it travelled first class.
History doesn’t relate what dish Blake craved — perhaps it was roast guinea fowl or lobster cutlets — but it might have been cheaper and easier to poach the chef than transport his meals to the other side of the country.
The Victorian train station was, according to the vendor, once part of the Ballyglunin Park estate, and serviced the Athenry to Claremorris line until it was decommissioned in 1976. But it has another claim to fame, having played a starring role in The Quiet Man, in which it figures as the location for a returning emigrant in the opening scenes. A later scene shows the married Mary Kate being dragged from the carriage by Sean, played by John Wayne, to collect her “fortune” from the brother.
Ballyglunin Park itself dates back to the 1680s when Martin Blake, high sheriff of Galway, was granted the lands by Charles II. Some remnants of that earliest building remain in today’s structure, says the vendor, but most of the property dates from later Georgian and Victorian times.
The Blakes were by all accounts important figures in Galway society with a large estate of 10,500 acres that in 1833 was valued in The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland at almost £4,000. This must have been a golden age for the family’s fortunes, and it was the period during which parts of the property were upgraded to a style befitting the long-serving MP for Galway, Martin Joseph Blake.
Some of the touches include the fine carved Victorian stairs and the wonderful stained-glass window which celebrates the alliance in 1640 between the two Galway tribes, the Blakes and the Martins, with their intertwined initials.
By 1916, however, the Blake fortunes seemed to have been on the wane — they accepted a final offer from the Congested Districts Board of £60,000 for almost 9,800 acres of their land. Over time the estate shrank to its current 32.47 acres.
Nonetheless, for the hobby farmer or for those in search of peace and privacy, 32 acres is a sizeable cut of land these days. The grounds also comprise picturesque woodlands and a park through which the pretty Abbert River meanders. The current owner has invested considerable time and money into clearing the river, dredging it and cutting back the vegetation on its banks to ensure it now flows freely again.
Stand on the bridge over the weir in late October, November or December and in the space of 10 minutes, says the vendor, you might see between 40 and 50 salmon leaping back upstream to spawn. “I’m not a fisherman but I do like watching them jump,” he says. “Of course, it could be the same dumb fish going the whole time.”
The present owner came across Ballyglunin Park in 2014 and “fell in love”. At the time, it was owned by Opus Dei, which bought it in 1964 for use as a retreat and conference centre, breaking the long line of ownership that stretched for nearly 300 years.
The vendor found a house that was structurally sound with much of the beautifully ornate ceiling plasterwork intact, original parquet floors, as well as fine marble fireplaces in some of the main reception rooms, which include a drawing room, oval study, sitting room and dining room. The heating system had also been replaced.
However, there was restoration work to be done. The existing kitchen was in the basement and decidedly industrial, says the vendor, who relocated it to ground-floor level, amalgamating two reception areas to give a spacious kitchen/dining area.
“The kitchen is our piece de resistance,” he says. Counter tops are made of teak, the units are bespoke and there are oak floors, while three large windows and high ceilings mean it is a light-filled space with views out on to the gardens.
Upstairs, there are seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, as well as a laundry and office. The large bedrooms had been partitioned to facilitate the building’s use as a retreat centre. The vendor knocked four rooms into one to create the master bedroom, a large walk-in wardrobe and a marbled en suite. The master bedroom looks out over the restored balcony above the porch, giving fine views out over the river, the weir and the surrounding fields.
The estate also comprises a large walled garden and a two-storey Georgian courtyard with a tower that offers huge potential.
The vendor bought the property with the intention of living there long term. Originally from Canada and working in finance, he had Irish grandparents and had fond memories of spending childhood summers visiting them in Galway. But, he says: “I got myself back in to work again. I’m travelling all around the world again.” So, with reluctance, he has decided to sell.
Ballyglunin Park is competitively priced at €850,000. The vendor says: “I put more into it than I’m going to get out of it. This was not a flip.”
The estate is 3km from the village of Corofin on the edge of the Burren, Co Clare. Galway city is 24km away and Dublin Airport 200km.
Ballyglunin Park, which dates to the 1680s, has 32.47 acres of grounds through which the Abbert River meanders. The current owner has had a bespoke kitchen/dining room (left) installed, and the house has a grand sitting room (below left)