A four acre haven on Killiney Hill for ¤9m
Montebello is an elegant Victorian house which dates from the 1870s, extends to almost 8,000sq ft and sits on a substantial four acres of secluded, pristine grounds
The unassuming wrought-iron gates denoting the entrance to Montebello, on Killiney Hill Road in south Co Dublin, give very little indication as to wha t lies wi t h i n . It’s a well-worn road of luxurious period and contemporary homes on many sites of varying sizes.
The Italian moniker evokes other grand properties in the area, including Palermo, a fine Victorian currently on the market for ¤4 million, and gleaming Sorrento Terrace nearby, with its cachet as Dublin’s most expensive terrace. But Montebello leaves these, and many other pretenders to the grandest house title, in the shade.
This quiet Victorian dates from the 1870s, extends to almost 8,000sq ft and sits on nearly four acres of secluded, pristine grounds. It is on the market through Savills for ¤9 million. To put this in context, one of the most talked-about properties of recent times, with perhaps the finest coastal setting in Dublin, is Gorse Hill. It came on the market earlier this year seeking ¤8.5 million and sold several months later for ¤9.5 million.
Montebello has no sea views, but there are many compensations including the elegant, rambling original house, a detached 850sq ft gate lodge, stable blocks, a swimming pool, an informal orchard garden and a rare octagonal pavilion that is an architectural curiosity in itself.
When Peter Pearson wrote about mid-Victorian houses in south Dublin in his definitive tome Between the Mountains and the Sea, he held Montebello up as a classic example of the era. It was a house built to reflect the social standing of the family who lived there, with a gate lodge and “a winding avenue which brought the visitor to a broad gravel sweep in front of the hall door”.
Pearson ventures that Montebello was originally built for a family named Kirkwood, landed gentry from Roscommon. Later, in the 1920s, it was the home of solicitor AE Goodbody, and more recently it became the family home of Dick and Ann Wilson. With the Wilsons now deceased and the family dispersed, it’s an executor sale, though the house still seems very lived-in, and is filled with interesting mementos from a well-read and travelled life.
Glasgow-born Wilson was an entrepreneur who initially made his fortune in the family pet food business. In the 1960s he invested a good portion of revenues from that business in complementary medicine, an area his family had become very interested in. Wilson went on to head up Nelson homeopathic remedies and in 1993 combined it with Bach Flower Remedies, producer of the hugely popular Bach Rescue Remedy. Dick and Ann Wilson originally lived in Belfast where Ann was a keen supporter of the arts. Friends included the painter TP Flanagan and the poet Seamus Heaney. An obituary in the Telegraph in 2006 credited Wilson with sustaining Belfast’ s arti s t i c life through the darkest days of the Troubles, and the couple’s passion for contemporary art followed them to their Killiney home.
The same obituary refers to a poem penned by Heaney to commemorate Wilson’s 60th birthday. It began: Dickie, at Montebello, years ago You stood me with my back against a tree The sap was rising, trust was high, and so That sympathetic worked on me magic The Wilsons purchased Montebello in the late 1960s in fairly poor repair and undertook a refurbishment that took several years to complete. What’s interesting is that the very fine joinery evident in the ornate woodwork throughout the property was completely stripped back to its bare wood finish. It makes for an unusual – and refreshing – first impression when so often fine houses are presented in gleaming painted hues.
The protruding semicircular porch opens into a main hall dominated by wooden Grecian-style pillars, barley-sugar columns and bare wood floors. The staircase also features a rare, original wrought iron balustrade. The main drawing and diningroom receptions have lovely, bright dual aspects, with a fine marble fireplace at the heart of the drawingroom, while contrasting gilded cornicing and coving frames the entire ground floor. An elegant, well-appointed sunroom was added off the drawingroom in later years.
There is a nice flow to the property, with the receptions sweeping around to the kitchen and breakfastroom. Though bright and well-appointed, they are also dated and will definitely be subjected to an overhaul by the next owner. There are seven bedrooms arranged over the half landing (a guest suite), the first floor and another small guest suite on the second floor. The main bedroom suite is to the front of the property, where an adjoining bedroom was converted to a very spacious and luxurious ensuite with elevated views to the gardens and mountains. Off this is a dressingroom, which could be converted back to its original bedroom use. The small second-floor guest suite leads up a l final flight of steps to a vast walled-in roof terrace with views of the surrounding sea and mountains.
The lower ground floor is a warren of rooms and appears to be the biggest floor in the house. Currently arranged in two apartments whose boundary is a little unclear, this will all be subject to review by the next owner. It’s a dark, gloomy place at the centre, though it wouldn’t take much to open up the space a bit and integrate it more with the wonderful grounds extending from it.
With a full-time gardener living in the lodge, the rambling gardens, orchard and swimming pool are well maintained. Savills agent Ben Lillington Lester points to the stable block suggesting the property’s eminent suitability for equine enthusiasts. Montebello has many strings to its bow, but progress and urbanisation dictate that even its options for riding out at dawn are somewhat limited at this point. Think of the commuters. A possible option for the stable block could well be conversion to smart guest accommodation.
Montebello’s closest neighbouring comparison might be nearby Strathmore. The former Canadian embassy residence was similar in size at around 8,000sq ft, except it sits on nine acres. It was sold in 2015 to entrepreneur Dr Joe Elias for ¤7.5 million and the property is currently being extensively refurbished. Strathmore’s added advantage is that it enjoys very fine sea views.
With UFC f i g ht e r a nd all-round showman Conor McGregor actively on the hunt for a home in the Killiney/Dalkey area, a property of this calibre is bound to come onto his radar. It’s possible though that the secluded setting and low-key demeanour of Montebello might not be a fit for the larger-than-life personality.