IRELAND’S country house market is picking itself up off the floor with interest back from the key traditional international markets, as well as from the Far East and China.
So says David Ashmore of Sherry FitzGerald as a backdrop to the anticipated sale of Co Tipperary’s Knocklofty House, where he’s joint selling agent with Dominic Daly, based in Cork 60 miles away.
Knocklofty’s a county estate where the main mansion house has in recent decades served as a hotel and which has also been available to let to paying guests on a longer term — at quoted rates of up to €4,000 a month.
But, such is the charm of its setting, and the feel of the house, which is 18th Century at its core, there’s a feeling it may return to private residential usage once more, suggest the joint agents.
Notwithstanding that feeling, there’s already 17 en suite bedrooms in the main house alone (where there’s 22,000 sq ft on offer) and then there are 22 various cottages also in the grounds, which have all been income producing from longer-stay tenants.
In all, there’s 40,000 sq ft of buildings around Knocklofty, which include a leisure centre with indoor heated swimming pool, plus equestrian facilities, including two American stable barns, all in prime sporting land.
There’s also reserved salmon fishing rights along a one-mile length (single bank) of the River Suir here, about five miles from Clonmel town.
Thanks to landed gifts from one Oliver Cromwell, Knocklofty was — for centuries — the seat of the Donoughmore/Hutchinson family, members of which were kidnapped by the IRA in the mid-1970s, and they sold out after 200 years of continuous ownership in the 1980s when it went to hotel use, in several ownerships.
It’s all price guided at around €3m, on 80 acres of land with that river frontage, and the owner, Denis English, who’s been in control here since 1994, has a further 20 acres which can be added to bring the lot to an even 100 acres.
There’s tiered, almost Italianate gardens leading down towards the Suir river bends, and the immediate amenity grounds of c 35 acres are heavy with woodland walks, rhododendron, camellias, magnolias and other flowering beauties. And, as a backdrop, there are Comeragh mountain views in one direction, and the Knockmealdowns in the other.
Knocklofty itself has roots to the end of the 17th century, and was added to significantly and aggrandised with 18th and 19th century Victorian additions, as well as domed corridor added by Tipperary architect William Tinsley. Possibly its finest room is the two-storey galleried library with book-lined walls and a wrought-iron walk-around landing: there are also some superior reception rooms, opening to the terraces beyond.
Framing what the agents describe as a three-sided courtyard, and now largely finished in a pinky harling or dash render, Knocklofty has a seven-bay three-storey central block, plus two-storey gable-ended wings on the side.
A fine house, but reconciling its return to private use with all the estate cottages surrounding it will be a challenge.