Ireland's wedding castle for keeps at €16m

Thu, Mar 18, 2010, 00:00

A Co Kildare castle on 145 acres built over 800 years ago – now a four-star hotel and country club – has been the romantic backdrop to many a wedding

AN 830-YEAR-OLD Co Kildare castle which trades as a four-star hotel and an adjoining 18-hole golf course with 33 newly-built lodges are to be offered for sale on the international market by its Irish-American owner.

Ross Shorten of Lisney is quoting €16 million for Kilkea Castle and its 145-acre estate which have been run as a hotel and golf business for the better part of 20 years.

The estate is close to the M9 and M7 motorways, three miles from Castledermot and within an hour’s drive of Dublin. It is owned by 75-year-old Dave Conway, a businessman who shares his time between the US, Hong Kong and Ireland. He plans to retire when he finds a purchaser for the castle.

Two years ago Kilkea Castle and estate was leased to brothers Shane and Morgan Cassidy’s company Leoville Ltd. The company went into examinership towards the end of last year and was later put into liquidation.

At Christmas, the liquidator handed back the ownership of the estate to Mr Conway who now plans to sell it on a freehold basis or through a holding company which is registered in Hong Kong.

Lisney is to advertise the sale of the castle and country club in Hong Kong and China but even before they do so, a Hong Kong-based consortium is to visit Kilkea next month to check out its potential.

Kilkea Castle has become one of the main wedding venues in the midlands. Last year it handled over 120 weddings, an average of three a week during the busy summer period.

Most weddings generate revenue of at least €20,000 to €25,000 for the hotel including overnight accommodation, according to general manager John Kissane.

Shorten says that a new owner should have no difficulty in developing the wedding business further because of the broad appeal of the castle’s setting, the attractive reception facilities and Kilkea’s reputation for providing a high quality of service.

The four-storey castle dating from 1180 is in astonishingly good condition and has been updated with care and attention. Many Irish castles can be cold and forbidding but Kilkea is nothing of the sort.

Mr Conway turned it into an entertainment venue that is welcoming, gracious and family friendly while retaining its sense of history as the seat of the FitzGeralds, earls of Kildare.

There are two comfortable bars with big open fires off the reception hall and two diningrooms on the first floor which can seat 110 guests.

One of these, the Kildare Room, is occasionally used for marriage ceremonies.

The main banqueting hall is in the courtyard alongside a dozen three-storey terraced houses with 24 bedrooms in all.

There are a further 12 en suite bedrooms on the two upper floors of the castle. Kilkea’s country club has a leisure centre incorporating a swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and gym. The golf club is a good money spinner, especially in the summer months when it is in demand from golfing societies, most of them based in Dublin.

Separately there are 300 other playing members who pay annual subs of €799. The clubhouse is particularly busy during the summer when five chefs are on hand to cater for visitors in the spacious restaurant.

Dave Conway built 33 three-bedroom lodges beside the clubhouse, fitting out and furnishing 15 of them: these have been heavily booked by wedding guests and weekend golfers.

The remaining 18 still have to be fitted out and whoever completes the work will be able to claim Section 23 tax relief. All 99 double bedrooms are en suite and can be rented separately.