A country house on 12 acres with a colourful history is for sale for around €1.75 million. Michael Finlan reports
The history of Clifden House - a gracious Georgian home hidden amid magnificent woodlands near Corofin, Co Clare and guiding around €1.75 million with Colliers Jackson-Stops - has some fascinating connections.
In its early days, it was a sanctuary for members of a Protestant sect, the Moravians, fleeing persecution on the Continent and the missionary base for a quixotic tilt at converting Ireland and Britain to that faith.
It was the birthplace of the noted pre-Raphaelite painter Frederick William Burton, whose family built the house. It figures hugely in F D Barker's charming book on fishing and its philosophic undertones An Angler's Paradise - a title that sums up the locality around Clifden House.
Lake Inchiquin, only 30 yards from the house, has gloried in the reputation of being the most productive wild brown trout lake in Europe. When the novelist Kate O'Brien stayed there, a fisherman snipped a locket of her hair and fashioned it into an alluring trout fly that he named "O'Brien's Glory".
An engaging playboy, Tommy Studdert, who once occupied the house, left hundreds of empty champagne bottles and middens of oyster shells around the grounds.
The house was built in 1750 by the Burtons who owned estates all around Ireland and who gave their name to Burtonport, Co Donegal. It is a lovely limestone building with cleanly chiselled Georgian lines, a near perfect combination of grandeur and simplicity.
Now it has been put up for private treaty sale by the present owners Jim and Bernadette Robson. They bought it in a disused state in 1975 and rolled up their sleeves to restore it with painstaking love to its original state. After restoration work over many years, Clifden House today looks almost exactly as it must have more than two centuries ago, sitting splendidly amid 12 acres of untouched countryside.
All that's changed really is the surrounding woodland which has become more luxuriant and abundant, providing hushed shelter from the outside world. Inside the house, the emphasis is on light and space with enormous windows and high ceilings.
The windows look out across lawns and ancient trees, onto Lake Inchiquin and beyond that the mystic mountain of Mullaghmore, the jewel of the Burren.
Clifden House is one of those historic country homes that is a member of the Hidden Ireland guest-house association, and people from many parts of the world have stayed there, returning again and again. The most frequent words written in its guest book are "atmosphere, charm, comfort, space and peace".
Apart from the marvellous fishing on Lake Inchiquin and the River Fergus, Clifden House is a sublime setting for the pleasures and pursuits of country living. It is only a mile from the lively village of Corofin, nine miles from Ennis and a 40-minute drive from Shannon Airport.
All sorts of country activities abound. The Clare Hunt and the Limerick and Galway Blazers are within easy reach. Six golf courses, two of them championship standard, are within 30 miles. The coast of Clare with its sandy beaches and the Cliffs of Moher is 20 minutes away. Mountain walking, rock-climbing, caving, and rough-shooting are all readily accessible.
The approach to the house is over a stone bridge past the commanding ruins of an 18th century mill and through natural woodlands, interspersed with swathes of fern and bluebells, to the entrance. The garden faces onto the lake with an expansive lawn running down to the water's edge and views across to the Burren. The driveway continues past a walled garden with a prolific orchard and modern greenhouse, to the 18th century cobbled farmyard.
Here there is a range of stone farm buildings suitable for restoration and conversion, and beyond that a lakeside pasture sheltered by specimen trees and recent deciduous planting. On the other side of the house lies a garden bordered by the River Fergus.
The house provides up to six bedrooms all with bath/shower en suite. In addition, there are two staff bedrooms and sittingroom. The lofty entrance hall leads to four fine reception rooms with high ceilings and large windows looking out onto the countryside. There are also a number of sundry storerooms, and the adjoining stable wing has been converted to two holiday cottages providing nine en suite bedrooms plus five toilets and two sitting/kitchen rooms.
For a virtual tour of this property, click on nicemove.ie