Prop­erty Mar­ket

Will the ‘most dec­o­ra­tive hon­ey­pot in Ire­land’ work its spell on you?

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Penny Churchill

Penny Churchill finds a serene Ir­ish es­tate with its own spe­cial magic

THE launch onto the mar­ket of the haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful Lug­gala es­tate near Round­wood, in the heart of the Wick­low Moun­tains, 28 miles south-west of Dublin, at a guide price of €28 mil­lion through joint sell­ing agents Craw­fords (00 353 87 240 6477) and Ire­land Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty (00 353 87 251 2909), her­alds the end of 80 wild and won­der­ful years of Guin­ness-fam­ily own­er­ship.

The first known ac­count of the lodge at Lug­gala, whose Ir­ish name means ‘hol­low in the ridge’, comes in 1796, when the his­to­rian John Fer­rar wrote about a ‘mod­ern built house at Lug­gala agree­ably sit­u­ated be­tween two moun­tains and ex­tremely ro­man­tic. Fronting the house is a good piece of wa­ter, called Lough Tay… Na­ture has been boun­ti­ful to this spot, which is di­ver­si­fied with rocks cu­ri­ously shaped, wood and wa­ter­falls. The moun­tains abound with grouse, and the lough with fish, which brings many visi­tors to the place’.

One of those was the wealthy Ir­ish banker Peter La Touche, whose pas­sion for field­sports led him to buy the lands ‘re­plete with game’ at Lug­gala in the late 1700s, be­fore go­ing on to build him­self ‘a hand­some lodge in the early English style’, later de­scribed by the late Des­mond Fitzger­ald, Knight of Glin, as ‘that spe­cial brand of eigh­teenth-cen­tury goth­ick that re­joices in lit­tle bat­tle­ments, cro­chets, tre­foil and qua­tre­foil win­dows and ogee man­tel­pieces: in fact the goth­ick of pas­trycooks and Rock­ing­ham china’.

‘Some­how,’ he adds, ‘this white­washed toy pavil­ion fits into its green­grey set­ting of old twisted oak-trees, beeches, mossy rocks and moun­tains in the most un­nat­u­rally nat­u­ral way. Its very un­like­li­hood car­ries it off with a vivid panache.’

Panache came as stan­dard dur­ing the Guin­ness era at Lug­gala, which be­gan in 1912, when the Hon Arthur Ernest Guin­ness, hav­ing taken over the fam­ily’s Dublin brew­ery, rented the lodge and shoot at Lug­gala from Vis­count Pow­er­scourt, its then owner. The se­cond son of Ed­ward Guin­ness, cre­ated 1st Earl of Iveagh in 1919, Ernest, as he was al­ways known, was a keen shot who in­vented his own short-bar­relled shot­gun for grouse, which were downed in their hun­dreds on reg­u­lar shoots at the es­tate. Hav­ing rented Lug­gala for 25 years, Ernest bought the 5,000-acre es­tate in 1937 as a wed­ding present for his youngest daugh­ter, Oon­agh, on her se­cond mar­riage, to Do­minick, 4th Baron Oran­more and Browne. Their mar­riage was dis­solved in 1950.

Ac­cord­ing to film pro­ducer and screen­writer Michael Luke, who penned her obit­u­ary in The In­de­pen­dent in 1995, it was only af­ter the Se­cond World War and Oon­agh’s se­cond di­vorce that Lug­gala came into its own as ‘the most dec­o­ra­tive hon­ey­pot in Ire­land’. She made it the cen­tre of a daz­zling so­cial world, and no­body, it seems, could keep away: ‘Dublin in­tel­li­gentsia, literati, painters, ac­tors, schol­ars, hang­ers-on, toffs, pun­ters, poets, so­cial hang-glid­ers were at­tracted to Lug­gala as to nowhere else in Ire­land… And the still cen­tre of this ex­ul­tant, ex­u­ber­ant chaos was Oon­agh.’

In 1970, Lady Oran­more trans­ferred re­spon­si­bil­ity for the es­tate to her son, Dr The Hon Garech Browne, the founder with oth­ers of Claddagh

‘An es­tate of a size rarely found in Ire­land

‘Na­ture has been boun­ti­ful to this spot’

Records, and the present cus­to­dian of Lug­gala. He not only main­tained, but sur­passed his mother’s tra­di­tion of lav­ish hos­pi­tal­ity, while host­ing and pro­mot­ing Ir­ish com­posers, poets and tra­di­tional mu­si­cians.

As Robert O’byrne re­veals in his supremely en­ter­tain­ing book Lug­gala Days: The Story of a Guin­ness House:

‘Guests were in­vited for drinks or din­ner, only to emerge sev­eral days later blink­ing at the harsh light of the or­di­nary world, aware that dur­ing that lost pe­riod of time they had en­joyed them­selves im­mensely with­out nec­es­sar­ily be­ing clear about the de­tails of how or why, or even with whom.’

Fol­low­ing a fire in 1956, the main block of Lug­gala was ef­fec­tively left a ruin. How­ever, it was swiftly re­stored in a joint ef­fort by the ar­chi­tect Alan Hope, with in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion by John Hill of the May­fair firm of Green & Ab­bott.

In 1996, a year af­ter his mother’s death, Dr Browne em­barked on a ma­jor, four-year-long refurbishment of the en­tire house, at an es­ti­mated cost of €4m–€5m. Dublin ar­chi­tect Sheehan & Barry over­saw the re-cre­ation of the orig­i­nal arched win­dows, the re­in­state­ment of chim­neys and bat­tle­ments to their cor­rect height and scale and the re-cre­ation of a long-lost wing on the north side of the court­yard.

Fur­ther largely in­vis­i­ble work in­cluded the in­stal­la­tion of new elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing sys­tems. In ad­di­tion, a new stair­case—sal­vaged from an 18th-cen­tury house in Dublin—was in­stalled to re­place the un­re­mark­able one fit­ted dur­ing the 1956 restora­tion. Sim­i­larly, the unin­spir­ing draw­ingroom and din­ing-room chim­ney­p­ieces were re­placed with sub­sti­tutes based on the pre-1956 orig­i­nals, specially com­mis­sioned from Dick Reid of York.

In­te­rior de­sign­ers David Mli­naric and Amanda Dou­glas un­der­took the re­dec­o­ra­tion of the in­te­rior, their brief be­ing to make the house look much as it had be­fore: ‘the same, only dif­fer­ent’. They sourced repli­cas of much of the orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als, such as the Gothic Lily wall­pa­per in the draw­ing room, orig­i­nally de­signed by Pu­gin for the House of Lords. Other pa­pers were printed by Ir­ish spe­cial­ist David Skin­ner.

De­spite its rel­a­tively mod­est foot­print, Lug­gala Lodge man­ages to con­tain three sub­stan­tial re­cep­tion rooms, plus a wealth of smaller rooms on both the ground and first floors. There are seven bed­rooms within the main house, four within the guest lodge and a fur­ther 16 bed­rooms within seven cot­tages and lodges scat­tered through­out the es­tate. For David Ash­more of Sotheby’s Realty, ‘Lug­gala is quite sim­ply mag­nif­i­cent—a house that cap­tures per­fectly the pic­turesque in ar­chi­tec­ture, within an es­tate of a size rarely found in Ire­land’.

The land­scape at Lug­gala boasts one of the few re­main­ing 18th-cen­tury land­scaped gar­dens and in­cludes two na­tive Ir­ish oak woods. No trees have been planted to in­ter­fere with the orig­i­nal La Touche land­scape, apart from some conifers by the 7th Lord Pow­er­scourt. Dr Browne learnt every­thing he knew about plants and trees from Al­fred Wil­liams, head gar­dener at the Browne fam­ily home, Cas­tle Mac­gar­rett, who came to Lug­gala with his mother, and from the 19th-cen­tury Ir­ish gar­dener Wil­liam Robin­son’s sem­i­nal work The English Flower Gar­den.

This rus­tic stretch of the Gar­den of Ire­land has long been the first port of call for ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tives and TV lo­ca­tion scouts when a scenic back­drop of rolling green hills and ver­dant val­leys is re­quired. The spec­tac­u­lar demesne has been the set­ting for nu­mer­ous films in­clud­ing John Boor­man’s Zar­doz (1974) and Ex­cal­ibur (1981), The Nephew (1998), King

Arthur (2004), Astérix et Obélix (2012) and the pop­u­lar TV se­ries

Bal­lykissan­gel and Vik­ings. Sum­ming up its im­pact on all those who spent time there over the years, the late ac­tor Sir John Hurt, who starred in John Hus­ton’s Sin­ful Davey (1967), also filmed at the es­tate, said: ‘I’m not im­por­tant to Lug­gala, but Lug­gala’s im­por­tant to me.’

The serene ‘white­washed toy pavil­ion’ at the Lug­gala es­tate ex­hibits ‘vivid panache’, yet is only 28 miles from Dublin. €28m

The 5,000-acre es­tate is in the heart of the Wick­low Moun­tains and was fa­mous for its game. Its un­spoilt beauty has made it at­trac­tive to many film and TV pro­duc­tions over the years

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