Trish Dromey visits a Georgian home for the modern world in Parteen, Co Clare, on the banks of the Shannon.
Impromptu bird shows are an added attraction at Fairyhill House on the banks of the River Shannon, a graceful Georgian property which has been stylishly adapted for the modern era.
“Looking out on the swans, geese, ducks and water hens on the river in front of the house is like watching a performance.
Friends often ask if we have a remote control for them,’’ says the architect owner who bought the first half of the property in 1985 and the second 20 years later.
Situated at the end a quiet laneway near Parteen village in Co Clare, a little over five kilometers from Limerick city, Fairyhill was an unexpected purchase for the owners.
They had been looking for more than half a property but were smitten with the 18th Century architecture and the tranquil riverside setting.
Unoccupied for many years, it didn’t have modern plumbing or heating and the timber sash windows were in need of repair.
While carrying out this work, the family came to an unusual arrangement with the elderly lady who owned the other half — they re-roofed the entire house and she loaned them two bedrooms.
Research into the house’s origins revealed little other than it had been a billet for the Royal Engineering Corps during the World War I. The family did, however, discover that 19th Century poet Ernest Dowson was once a house guest for an extended period.
Although his poems are not well known, he penned some lines which were made universally famous by the authors who borrowed them. These included ‘days of wine and roses’ and ‘gone with the wind’.
In 2005 when the other owner, Mrs Russell-Barkley passed away, the family acquired her property and embarked on a major renovation project — reuniting the two halves and also adding a contemporary cedar clad extension.
Maintaining the creeper-covered Georgian exterior and its high sash windows, they gave the interior a new contemporary look.
“It was a simple property without elaborate cornicing or detailing — the feeling of the original house has been maintained,” observes the owner.
The highly modern cedar clad extension, sits a little back from the main house so as not to distract attention from it and has a TV room at ground level and bedroom above it.
Renovations involved taking up the floors and putting down timber flooring as well as painstakingly replastering most of the wall with traditional lime plaster while leaving the original stone work exposed in a few rooms.
Making the almost 5,000 sq ft property more energy efficient was a priority for the owners who installed a geothermal heat pump, underfloor heating on the ground floor and solar panels, fitted unobtrusively, in the valley of the roof.
Fairyhill’s C1 BER cert is pretty good for a house built in 1780 — it records the main space heating efficiency as being at 300%.
Overlooking the river at the front is a large kitchen/breakfast room with a Siematic kitchen, contemporary with handless white units, volcanic stone counter tops and a green glass splashback, it also has a restored 1930s Aga.
The breakfast area has a large swing door, especially imported from Switzerland.
Stretching from front to rear of the property is a long dining room/living room with exposed stonework and high sash windows.
The dining area cum library at the front has been fitted with a modern stove, while the fire in the living area is in an original fire opening.
An old conservatory at one side of the property has been turned into a colourful workspace by the architect’s other half who is a textile designer.
The cedar-clad TV room has a stove and large sliding windows with river views. Beyond it is a living room/kitchen area, as well as a shower room.
At first floor level there are six bedrooms — four are at the front facing the river while two are at the rear.
The modern cedar clad bedroom has large sliding patio doors, just for the views, while the master bedroom at the other end of the house has an en suite.
To the rear there’s a bathroom with a restored cast iron bath as well as an ultra modern shower room.
On a site of almost an acre, Fairyhill has lawned gardens running down to the riverbank, and directly in front, a patio area with two ornamental lily pools.
The views are of the river, St Thomas Island and of the birds.
The property is within a few minutes walk from Parteen village. Despite its proximity to the city the owners say Fairyhill is wonderfully secluded and private. “Most people don’t even know it’s here.’’
Sherry FitzGerald Country Estates are seeking offers of €800,000 for Fairyhill which they describe as a character filled historic country house.
Verdict: A Georgian home for the modern world.