Video: Ireland’s finest private castle for €6.5m
Outside Galway, on 265 acres, is Tulira Castle. Meticulously restored by its Dutch owners, it comprises a 16th-century tower and a Victorian main house, built by Edward Martyn, cofounder of the Abbey Theatre
Eighteen years ago Ruud and Femmy Bolmeijer, the Dutch owners of Tulira Castle, were looking for a retirement project at the end of Ruud’s career as a senior executive with the Mars corporation in the US. When they found the Victorian castle, outside Ardrahan in Galway, they felt they had come home.
At the time, they paid about £2 million for the property on 265 acres – mostly leased, with 95 acres of woodland – and they set about a meticulous restoration project that has transformed it into Ireland’s finest private castle. The seven-bedroom home with its original 16th-century tower and Georgian courtyard buildings comes to the market this week through Ganly Walters for €6.5 million.
From the beginning the Bolmeijers have treated the project as a labour of love, considering themselves custodians of this historic home. The east wing dates from 1843 and an enormous oak door in the Great Hall leads to the adjoining medieval tower.
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The Victorian Gothic main house was commissioned in the 1880s by the then owners, Edward Martyn and his mother. Martyn was a contemporary and friend of WB Yeats and Lady Gregory and he was one of the key founders, and funders, of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. A lover of liturgical music, he also founded the Palestrina Choir at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral. In 2004 the Bolmeijers hosted an event to mark the choir’s centenary when the choirboys performed a recital on the stairs and gallery of Tulira.
The renowned architect George Ashlin designed the main extension to the castle, and his ecclesiastical influences are everywhere, particularly in the Great Hall, which has a 40ft high vaulted timber ceiling, a chimneypiece by Augustus Pugin and elaborate Irish marble columns with carved stone capitals. The house is something of a paean to the Martyn family name, and their motto, Sic Idor Ad Astra (Reach for the stars), is repeated on the patterned marble floor in the hall, while the family crest and Edward Martyn’s likeness are immortalised in stained glass around the house.
The dramatic polished granite staircase with its marble-topped banister has a recurring religious motif carved from thick stone sweeping up to an open gallery where the five main bedrooms are located. Two further luxurious bedrooms, one with a dressing room, are in the refurbished east wing.
The Bolmeijers replaced the huge staircase window with a specially commissioned stained glass one to replicate a Pugin design from original archive plans that they discovered in London. Where possible, local suppliers and craftspeople were employed to carry out improvements on the house. Galway-based stained glass expert Richard Kimball did all the restoration and replica work on the stained glass in the upper panes in the “withdrawing room”.
Warm pitch-pine floors imported from the US in the 1880s run through the main reception rooms and wood-framed ceiling quadrants are individually designed. An elaborate gold-framed mirror crowns an imposing Irish marble mantelpiece in the withdrawing room. The dining room features original wallpaper, while the library and morning room have oversized mantelpieces taken from elsewhere when the castle was built.