Period Kerry hunting lodge transformed and overhauled

BETTER than at any time in its 170 or so years is the Kerry holding Knockaseed House.

A former hunting lodge of the Lords Kenmare, this utterly overhauled period lodge home is on 28 acres of lifestyle grounds — enough land for gardening, veg growing, horse keeping plus a bit of cattle fattening, fishing and general disporting and pleasure taking. Up at Rathmore, and near a rail line and station, it also has nearly half a mile of frontage to the upper reaches of the Blackwater river.

Knocknaseed was bought back in 2002 by Alex and Jill Talnan, who moved to Ireland from Cambridge in search of a land-based outdoor lifestyle. Alex has a background in zoology. botany and geology, and spent 21 years with the Ministry of Agriculture across the water, while Jill has a MBQ in accountancy and set up a home office to work from her new Irish home.

Alex and Jill visited Ireland in 2000, fell for the Killarney area and lakes, and ended up two years later buying Knocknaseed which, he says represented better value at the time than similar offerings in Britain’s West Country.

What they bought isn’t quite what you see here. They bought a derelict house, one that had been empty for 40 years, unroofed and open to the elements.

They paid handsomely enough for it at the time, likely to have been around €450,000, and there’s clear evidence of a further half a million euros or so being spent on the house, grounds, landscaping and more — even the entrance gates are salvage, from the Mount Falcon estate in Co Mayo.

They worked further with the 28 acres so that very wet sections — “a threat to cattle, some quivering, quaking soft areas” — were turned over to create three lakes, one of an acre with an island, another is three-quarters of an acre with three islands, and a third, smaller quarter acre lake too.

Alex is a keen coarse fisherman, favouring carp, perch, roach, pike, rudd, tench and the like, “but they’ve been colonised instead by trout,” he grumbles lightly.

The couple have a selection of dogs, mostly rescue mutts, plus a three-legged, one-eyed cat, and some of the land is let out to neighbours for horse grazing. “That means we get to look out at them, and ride them, without the vet’s bills,” notes Alex, who has probably paid enough to the vet in any case for that woe-begotten moggy.

Then, the land itself has drawn badgers, foxes, hares, herons and cormorants for the free fishing in the trio of lakes, while Sika deer also wander in from the adjoining 90 acres of privately owned forestry. Alex and Jill have planted over 2,000 native species on their own land.

The land is one thing, the house is another, set out for human creature comforts.

It has historical links first to the Kenmare family, and the ruins of the original house are visible, dating to the 1740s and mentioned in the Book of Kerry. It served as a hunting estate, and was later taken on by the Kenmare middlemen the Duggans, and by the Godfreys.

Now the Talnans’ finished residence has 2,800 sq ft of fully renovated space, re-roofed, and with its original 2’ 6” thick stone walls backed up by 50mm of insulated plasterboard, and new double glazing in pvc, has been installed, with heating efficiently provided by half an acre of concertina-ed geothermal piping.

The interior look is sumptuous, with tens of thousands of euros spent on curtains alone: the overall effect is Laura Ashley meets hunting-lodge mounted stag and boar heads — it works.

Estate agent Michael Coghlan of Sherry FitzGerald Coghlan in Killarney bills Knocknaseed as a small estate holding, 15 miles from Killarney and three from Rathmore, “modernised to the highest of standards, while maintaining period features.” Archaeological features remaining on the estate include the gable ruins of the original 1700s house, a mass rock, a cornstook and an old, tree-lined toll road.

Rooms include a drawing room, dining room/hall, lounge, sun room with high solid roof, kitchen/dining room with Fine Design kitchen in walnut and cream, topped with granite and with a Rangemaster cooker among the appliances. Ceiling heights are a good 11’ 6”, and there are three bedrooms, two of them en suite, with pressurised showers. There’s a central vacuum system installed since, well, since good staff are so hard to get since the Kenmares’ days.

The 28 acre mix, with half a mile of river frontage to the River Blackwater and its fishing include 15 acres of good pasture, fenced for horses, five acres of mature, deciduous native woodland, six of bog/heath with the three scooped out lakes and nature reserve, as well as two-acre section with the main house, courtyard, vegetable garden and hen-run.

Offers over €650,000 are sought. A lot on offer for not so much money, all considered.

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