Greek opulence in the Slieve Bloom mountains for €5.5m
This early Georgian mansion has been decorated in the most lavish style, all its period features lovingly retained, and sits on a magnificent 100-acre estate
As Ukrainians discovered recently, the most astonishing houses can be found down country roads in the most unlikely locations.
When ousted president Viktor Yanukovich fled to Russia, a newly-emboldened populace discovered his secret rural retreat – the Mezhyhirya estate, a one-hour drive from Kiev. The people, wide-eyed with disbelief, swarmed in to inspect the palace with its garage full of valuable vintage cars, an artificial lake with a ship converted into a guest restaurant and landscaped gardens filled with strutting ostriches and statuary.
The somnolent Quaker village of Rosenallis, in the Slieve Bloom Mountains of north Co Laois, is a little more accessible than central Ukraine. At a lonely crossroads, the gated entrance to Capard House offers little clue to the secrets inside.
A long avenue through parkland dotted with manmade lakes and ponds leads to a remarkable Georgian sandstone mansion built in the neo-classical Greek Revival. The early Georgian house, on an elevated site with wonderful panoramic views, is at the heart of a 100-acre estate for sale by private treaty through Savills for €5.5 million.
Capard House was bought by its Dublin businessman owner in 1990 when he saw it advertised in the window of a city estate agent and immediately fell for “the magical house and views”. He paid (punts) £167,500. Almost 25 years later, and having restored the estate to its former glory, he and his partner have decided to downsize.
The eight-bedroom main house and an adjacent five-bedroom east wing (not interconnected) provide a total living space of 1,540sqm (16,576sq ft). The accommodation is decorated in an opulent style and furnished with an astounding collection of art and antiques (not included in the sale).
Construction of Capard House began in 1798 and completed in 1810 for the wealthy Pigott family. A portico entrance leads to a double-hallway and a grand, stone and mahogany cantilevered staircase lit by a cupola with stained glass windows.
Original features have been retained throughout, such as the sumptuous marble fireplaces, ornate plasterwork ceilings and window shutters. Flooring is a mix of sandstone flags, marble tiles and oak and Greek mahogany parquet.
The drawingroom is pure Clarence House; there are two formal diningrooms, one a grand, Downton -esque affair, the other more suited to “intimate lunches”. The kitchen features a four-oven Aga and a long trestle table beneath a ceiling studded with hooks for hanging game and hams. There’s a library, a wine cellar, a glass and china pantry, a boot room and laundry room. Upstairs, all but one of the eight bedrooms in the main house are en suite and, unlike many Irish country houses, have magnificent 21st century bathrooms. The east wing is equally lavish and features high-tech kitchens and bathrooms, a Jacuzzi room and a sprung-floor ballroom/banqueting room which can seat 60 diners.
Capard House is fitted with a sophisticated security system and is in turn-key condition. The ultimate buyer is unlikely to be troubled by the annual local property tax of €5,000. This will be offset by a reprieve from bills from Irish Water as the house has its own supply sourced from mountain streams which run through the estate.
ROLLING PARKLANDS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
Capard House, in the gentle foothills of the Slieve Bloom mountains, is being sold with 100 acres. Currently, 67 acres are leased to a local farmer for grazing but 37 acres surrounding the house have been landscaped to create rolling parkland and pleasure grounds.
An architectural folly, in the form of a Greek temple, was installed by the owner who described it as “a lovely place to sit with a gin and tonic and watch the sun set” over a vast, rectangular pond – not unlike Washington DC’s Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool – just one of numerous natural and man-made water features throughout this midlands Elysian Fields.
Capard employs two part-time gardeners and has benefited from the consultancy services of renowned Irish garden designer Arthur Shackleton (a descendant of the famous Kildare-born Antarctic explorer) who describes the project as “now maturing into one of the finer gardens in the country”.
Behind the house, a fountain worthy of a Tuscan piazza leads to sloping terraces planted with Buff Beauty and Iceberg roses. A variety of walkways features plantings to suit different moods and seasons: cherry, azaleas, laburnum, allium lilies, beech, camellia and rhododendron.
More informal zones include a five-acre private bluebell wood and a Highgrove-style wildflower meadow.
Mountain streams feed the estate’s garden ponds, lakes and water features.
The fully-restored two-acre walled garden has rose-bushes, hornbeam-hedged tunnels and an orchard yielding medlars, pears, redcurrants, figs, plums, apples and gooseberries.
A grassed, “natural helicopter landing pad” is located in a discreet spot away from the house.
A stable yard with attractive stone buildings includes a caretaker’s cottage which has yet to be restored, one of the very few tasks a new owner might wish to undertake.
Capard House is approximately 9km from Mountmellick, 20km from Portlaoise, and 85km from Dublin via the M7.
Despite its relative proximity to the city, the Slieve Blooms area is one of the most unspoilt scenic regions in Ireland with wonderful walking trails and little-known delights including Ireland’s loveliest secret waterfalls close to the source of the River Barrow.