Georgian-style grandeur with modern comforts in Blessington for €4.85m

Built in the 1990s, the main house is on 62 lakeside acres with a coach house, mews, stables and yards

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Address: Oaklands, Baltyboys, Blessington, County Wicklow W91 N277
Price: €4,850,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes

Ahh for Georgian grandeur: the high ceilings, the delicious symmetry, all those sash windows and lovely plasterwork. Who wouldn’t love to live in an 18th-century pile? But unfortunately the Georgians weren’t great ones for plumbing – only the most thrustingly modern would have flirted with the idea of flushing toilets. The majority abided with the rich traditions of the chamber pot. Buy a Georgian mansion these days, and by now someone will almost certainly have done the waterworks for you; but what about the single-glazed windows, the sticking sashes, and the ever-creaking floorboards? What about the wallpaper that peels persistently in a certain spot just beside the chimney breast?

That’s why there’s so much to say for Oaklands. The 518sq m (5,576sq ft) house, set on 62 acres on the shores of Blessington Lake, was razed by fire in the 1920s, and more or less entirely rebuilt in the late 1990s. When the last owners bought it in 1995, there were only three walls standing, but they had fallen for the lands, the location and the still-intact coach house and stable yard, and decided that a modern-looking house here just wouldn’t do.

The results of their labours were a house that inclines to drama in its tiled foyer, complete with ornamental pillars and a mahogany staircase that divides to an upper gallery. But it also includes cosier family spaces, and a very delicious sunroom leading off the country-style kitchen. Unlike the more formal drawing room, these are spots where you don’t feel like you ought to be sitting up straight and holding useful conversations about art.

In fact, the current owners find the whole house entirely relaxing. Attracta Gill and Austin Breslin are psychotherapists. "We were attracted to the area because we both like nature," says Gill. "We're reflective people, and it is very special and quiet here."


“Anyone who comes here will comment on how spiritual it is. I don’t mean to be exaggerating, but it has that feel about it. Just a lovely feeling,” agrees Breslin. Gill also immediately loved that Oaklands is a modern home, while it still beguiles with its Georgian style and all those period features.

Despite the house being in turn-key condition when they bought it in 2013, they worked with Lisa Marconi from Dust to fully redecorate. They also renovated the old sheds and barns in the Wicklow stone courtyard, and set about restoring the Arthur Shackleton-designed gardens. "We don't use any pesticides, it's all organic," says Breslin proudly. What is even more special is that they don't have a problem with slugs. "No, they just don't seem to come." Perhaps the polytunnel, complete with protective netting, helps.

On the market back in 2012 for €2.65 million with Colliers, Oaklands is listed on the Property Price Register as having sold for €1.65 million in January 2013. Now it is back for sale, with Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, seeking €4.85 million, a price that is surely a testament to today’s more confident times, as well as all the work Breslin and Gill have put in.

The location is definitely a draw. Depending on the time of day, you’re 40 minutes from Dublin, but in the heart of Wicklow, with those sublime lake views and all that gentle peace, dropping slow (as they say) around you. In fact, Oaklands is one of those spots that is oozing with potential. Imposing enough for any magnate, its four bedrooms are all en suite, and there are also two additional buildings – a one-bed lodge and a three-bed mews – to play with. It has, according to Breslin, “brilliant wifi”, which is definitely not to be sneezed at in these working-from-home days. This means you could also see it as a retreat, with plenty of accommodation for guests.

Or then again, take the large American barn housed in a further set of upper yards. Here there are two stables, plenty of room for more, and another very large barn and workshop area to conjure with. Given that you have all those acres, you could also have an awful lot of horsey fun here.

"I feel like the house has minded us for eight years," says Gill. They are now moving to downsize – and to be closer to their child's school in Dublin. "That's our focus now." Still, they are also quick to point out what a wonderful place for families the area is, as well as for lovers of the Irish outdoors. "The sailing club is directly opposite the entrance to Oaklands," says Breslin. "And the cycle track is opening, all around the lakes. Russborough House and Tulfaris are just five minutes away, and they're great places for kids." Gill adds: "Wherever you look, you're surrounded by views."

So what are their favourite spots? Impossible to pick: there’s a balcony off the first floor, carpeted with Astroturf, which can extend your sundowners until past 10pm in the summertime. There’s the view from the hill at the back, looking over to Russborough; there’s the morning light over the lake from the main bedroom, and the sunroom, which – warmed by a stove – is cosy even in the winter’s snow.

If you have the wherewithal and are prepared to dig deep, it does seem like Oaklands is a spot that could be very rewarding indeed – in all seasons, and on all fronts.

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton contributes to The Irish Times on art, architecture and other aspects of culture