Galway Hunting Lodge is bang on

Thu, Oct 26, 2006, 01:00

Oranmore: €3m: This thatched home - built in the 1940s - now has serious development potential, writes Michael Finlan

There's hardly any house in Ireland quite like the Hunting Lodge outside the seaside village of Oranmore, Co Galway. It is crowned with a rich and seasoned topping of old-style thatch that can be glimpsed through the trees on the road from Galway city to Limerick, presenting a striking picture of splendid individuality. It is different from any residence you can think of, although it has borrowed from the immemorial tradition of the ancient Irish cottage and combined this with elements of an Elizabethan country mansion.

It's little wonder that Princess Margaret was quite taken by the Hunting Lodge when she visited in the 1960s. She was the guest of its then owner, the submarine commander Bill King who once sailed solo around the world in a yacht, and his wife the writer Anita Leslie, a cousin of Winston Churchill.

Although built as recently as the late 1940s, the Hunting Lodge has acquired a patina of times long past that gives it a sense of old-fashioned charm.

The house inside has the cosiness of a cottage but with the liberating spaciousness of a meandering mansion that has corridors straying all over the place.

The Elizabethan motif is sustained by exposed mature timber beams on the ceilings of the original house and this sits comfortably with an extension, carried out by the present owners, that includes a tower-shaped entrance hall with a circular bedroom above it.

The Hunting Lodge has now been placed on the market and the sale is being handled by Tony Kavanagh at Sherry FitzGerald Kavanagh, Eyre Square, Galway.

The house is set amid about 14 acres of prime land and the property may be sold in its entirety or in three lots. The price for the complete entity is €3 million.

One can guess that the Hunting Lodge draws a lot of its inimitable individuality from the fact that Commander Bill King himself had a personal hand in designing it. He had come to Ireland from the second World War in which he had commanded a submarine in the Silent Service of the Royal Navy and, after handing the plans to the builders, he went off on a world sailing cruise with his wife Anita. The couple also dwelt in the Norman castle on the edge of Galway Bay that is the dominating feature of Oranmore, almost across the road from the Hunting Lodge. Their new home, with its sprawling demesne of fields and woodlands, was an idyllic place for them to indulge their passion for riding to the hounds and the stables are still part of the estate (they have been turned into a workshop and offices). A tree-lined avenue leads up to the house from the main Galway-Limerick road.

It is an impressive two-storey building to which the thatch adds a touch of rustic regality. The present owners extended the house a few years ago with a sensitivity that enhanced rather than detracted from its essential character. The Hunting Lodge is now made up of four reception rooms, seven bedrooms (six of them with bathrooms), a tower entrance hall, a roof garden, the outside loft and offices and another unusual feature - a stone folly that was used as a viewing tower during the hunts.

From most of the rooms, there are magnificent views of fields and woodlands spreading way off to the horizon.

Galway City is six miles away and its airport is a five-minute drive while it takes an hour to Shannon.