Tony O’Reilly’s Castlemartin estate for €30m

The 750-acre estate and stud farm goes on the market today, writes Kathy Sheridan

 

On a sunlit summer evening about a dozen years ago, several hundred guests drove through Castlemartin’s elaborate old, wrought-iron gates, up a long, winding avenue through rolling park and farmland and lazy herds of Belted Galloway cattle, through ancient stands of giant oaks and chestnut trees and the river Liffey suddenly glinting around a bend, and finally, to the beech hedge forecourt of the historic, old manor house where Sir Anthony and Lady Chryss O’Reilly stood waiting.

As we considered the majestic lime avenue sweeping away into the distance, there came the sound of hooves. Six glistening yearlings came galloping towards us, manes flying in formation, before wheeling around and vanishing into the trees. Anyone determined to be unimpressed by an evening chez O’Reilly was slightly undone. It was undeniably beautiful.

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Through the teal-blue front door and into the tiled outer hall with its marble fireplace and glimpses of the inner hall dominated by the dual Scarlett O’Hara staircase (down which two O’Reilly brides processed in happier times), a Bechstein baby-grand piano on one side and an Irish harp on the other. A turn to the right, past what appeared to be entire walls of Jack B Yeats paintings, through the reception rooms with views over the rushing Liffey, a drawingroom with an Adam fireplace, a diningroom with original plasterwork, walls covered in fabric and floor-to-ceiling shimmering gold silk curtains. Then out a tall window to a garden marquee, where Alison Doody (a Castlemartin bride) and Louis Walsh shared our table, with the Jim Doherty Trio providing the easy listening and Eamon Dunphy crooning

It’s quarter to three, There’s no one in the place

Except you and me...”

Today, as Castlemartin is launched formally on the market, it would be easy to look for further signs of decay and humiliation of a knight of the queen, a philanthropist and one-time world-class businessman who locked horns with a more powerful stag and now looks on dolefully as the estate he bought in a near derelict state from Lord Gowrie more than 40 years ago and called his “spiritual home”, is inspected by prospective buyers from Hong Kong and the Middle East. A life dismantled, as a friend of his put it. An overstatement, perhaps, about a man who looks on from his Deauville chateau or his tax-efficient base in Lyford Cay but there is truth in it. The jobs of 14 people also hang in the balance.

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In other times, tenants such as Donovan and Mick Jagger had given Castlemartin a name for raucous parties and after a costly restoration, it became host to O’Reilly’s network of global figures, ranging from Nelson Mandela (who stayed in the charming French-style Coach House converted into a living area and five bedrooms, overlooking a swimming pool and the river), Seamus Heaney, Bill Clinton, Edward Kennedy and Henry Kissinger to Paul Newman, Gregory Peck and Martha Stewart.

The feature of the boardroom near the Coach House is a table that seats 28 and a lectern behind which many an INM executive had to account for themselves in the presence of the boss. On the wall is a framed Irish Independent page from 1973, announcing that Tony O’Reilly had won control of the group for £1,100,000.

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The sale of contents will come later; in the meantime, the house looks much as it did in O’Reilly’s glory days. Vast at  26,000sq ft with eight large bedrooms – beds made up, fully carpeted en suites complete with bottled water on the washstands – and two more in the attic, but with the ambiance of a warm, tasteful, lived-in family home.

There is an old Aga in the kitchen and more than 100 solid teak windows that don’t rattle in a draught, walls lined with photographs (many equine- and rugby-related) and art, (though no sign, sadly, of the $25 million Monet bought in 2000), sturdy old furniture, lovely practical rugs, and minimal bling apart from the massive Waterford Crystal chandelier in the diningroom and the hot tub in the simple, little log cabin down by the river bank – which, according to one party-goer – was a gift from Lady O’Reilly to her husband.

A poignant legacy of O’Reilly’s tenure will be the exquisitely restored, medieval Church of St Mary about 10 minutes walk from the house.

Brides would have processed through woodland, past a stream, the ice house and 200-year-old tombstones to reach this simple place of worship. Its only adornments are an ancient effigial tomb, a plain wooden altar, a small version of the organ in the National Concert Hall – and underfloor heating.

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O’Reilly’s parents are buried behind the building, commemorated with bronze busts overlooking their graves.

Jim Kelly, a trained horticulturalist – whose work is evident all round the estate – and O’Reilly’s deeply discreet and loyal estate manager for more than 40 years, is shocked to hear such information is widely available.

Asked about the delicate matter of the graves, he says the “understanding” – he stresses the word – is that buyers will accommodate any connections of the O’Reilly family who wish to visit them. For the record, sneaking in is not an option; the security room records footage from around 20 cameras all over the estate.

Beyond the buildings is the glory of Castlemartin’s 750 acres of fine limestone land, including 20 acres of amenity and shelter belts, divided into 53 paddocks fenced with stud rail – a rare unit of land measuring two miles from the bottom gate to the house.

From a high point on a rath, the view opens on to the Curragh plains on one side, a reminder that this is horse country and that Castlemartin is, above all, a working stud farm currently with 104 mares, one that has consistently produced Classic Group and Listed Winners such as Ectot, Chinese White, Lightening Pearl and Silver Frost.

In the end, it will be probably be this jewel of a land holding that will clinch the sale as well as its location within easy reach via the M9 the M7 of the airport and the city, but the package of Castlemartin’s offering is probably unique.

The asking price is €30 million-plus and the joint agents for the sale are Jordan Town and Country Estates and Knight Frank .

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