Michael Flatley’s decision to sell his north Cork home will not mark an end to the internationally renowned dancer’s connection with Ireland.
Speaking to The Irish Times at his Castlehyde home Flatley said he and his wife Niamh have “another project in the pipeline” but he declined to reveal its location. The couple own two other properties in Ireland but in latter years the couple have only managed to spend about two weeks of the year at their Georgian Palladian mansion while the rest of their time is divided between (similarly luxurious) homes in London, the Cote d’Azur, Chicago and Barbados.
Castlehyde is widely renowned as one of the finest structural restorations of a historic Irish home. The house, which dates from 1760, overlooks the Blackwater River near Fermoy and was bought by Flatley in 1999 for around €4 million after he spotted it from a helicopter en route to search for a property in west Cork. It was the beginning of a love affair for the dancer turned artist, who has since spent tens of millions of euro on the meticulous restoration and refurbishment of what was the ancestral home of Ireland's first president, Douglas Hyde.
Flatley told The Irish Times that deciding to sell Castlehyde – which is on the market for €20 million through Knight Frank and Goffs – was one of the most difficult decisions of his life. It is where he was married, and also the place where his late father Michael James – an expat Chicago builder originally from Sligo who died earlier this year – most loved to visit.
Flatley, an accomplished boxer, step dancer, choreographer, musician and, more recently, acclaimed artist, clearly brings the same intensity to home improvement that he applies to all his interests. The restoration project took over four years as the house was on the verge of ruin when first purchased. Rather than raze it and rebuild it within the shell of the four walls, the 12-bedroom house was revived from the flooded foundations up, at an estimated cost of about €30 million. Every window was reconditioned and original stones were removed, numbered, cleaned and restored.
There are six main reception rooms, including two stunning round rooms and the entrance hall with two original fireplaces, gilded Corinthian columns and ceiling mouldings decorated in 24-carat gold. Original mahogany doors were restored and solid bronze doorknobs attached, while teams of artists worked for months painting murals on the ceilings and walls. In the “ladies’ powder room” a French print specialist applied a series of rare original prints directly to the walls.
An impeccably restored Portland stone cantilevered staircase rises through three storeys to a domed rooflight above, which Flatley recalls had rain pouring through it when they first visited.
The decor is arresting – from enormous stags’ heads from New Zealand on the walls of the clubbier rooms to gilded furnishings and elaborate crystal chandeliers in more formal receptions, and a corridor the length of an American football pitch that doubles as a museum of awards, trophies, momentos and photographs. The handcrafted woodwork throughout, both in the bar and in the two-storey library, is remarkable. Flatley is proud to say that most of the craftsmanship was sourced in Ireland. The more modern additions to the house include an indoor pool, cinema room, billiard room and wine cellar. Castlehyde has clearly been a passion for Flatley, and one that he finds hard to relinquish.