UK couple's dream project transforms ‘stately ruin’ in Wicklow

Croneybyrne House is a period-style six-bed house with all modern comforts

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Address: Croneybyrne House, Rathdrum, Co Wicklow
Price: €1,750,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald

Mel and Simon Carlyle lived happily in the Cotswolds but wanted an adventure. They were looking for an English-speaking country where Simon could continue to work as a dentist and where Mel could stable a couple of horses. It was 2003, and they thought "why not Ireland?"  – unaware of the Celtic Tiger and the cost of buying Irish property.

Fast-forward to 2017: it's a sunny afternoon in Wicklow and we're enjoying the view from the terrace of the Georgian house they completely rebuilt after buying it as a derelict shell in 2008. Four walls and the original front pillars were all that remained of Croneybyrne House, originally built in 1820,when they bought it for €450,000. It was advertised then as a "stately ruin". Now it's a period-style six-bedroom house with all modern comforts – geothermal underfloor heating, spacious Villeroy & Boch bathrooms, proper insulation, recessed lighting – designed and decorated as far as possible in 19th-century style.

The couple's children were just about to start secondary school when they moved to Ireland in 2003, renting homes until they were ready to buy. Now the children have moved on and Croneybyrne, a 536sq m (5,769sq ft) house on 17 acres close to Laragh, Glendalough and Rathdrum, is for sale by private treaty through Sherry FitzGerald for €1.75 million.

Big project addicts

It takes Simon half an hour to drive from here to his dental practice in Bray, and the couple don’t plan to move too far from where they live now, close to the Clara Vale Nature Reserve and Avonmore river. Mel would like an old farmhouse to restore.

They are unfazed by major projects: after they had bought Croneybyrne, they joined the Irish Georgian Society, researched Croneybyrne’s history and hired Co Wicklow-based architect Kim Dreyer to design the new house. Within 16 months it was built.

Approached off a narrow winding country road, Croneybyrne House’s long driveway circles round a sloping lawn to the imposing-looking exterior; the pillars at the top of the granite front steps frame a view across the lawn of  unspoiled Wicklow countryside.

The front door opens into a large entrance hall with a marble fireplace and cream-tiled floor: the large kitchen/breakfast room is straight ahead; the interconnecting dining room and drawing room on the right runs from the front to the rear of the house. Ceilings are high and most rooms are dual-aspect, with tall double-glazed sash windows with working shutters. Walls are painted in neutral cream or shades of green.

The very large country-style kitchen has a limed oak floor (as in most of the rooms in the house), a large marble-topped island unit, an electric Aga and a large timber sink unit from Victorian Salvage in Dublin. A door at the side of the kitchen opens on to a terrace.

Marble fireplaces in the drawing room and dining room came from Belle Cheminee in Dublin, while the panelled internal doors and the front door were sourced from Wilson’s Yard in Co Down.

Catholic landowners

A large boot room off the hall is in what the Carlyles believe may have been an oratory in the original house. The Byrnes were Catholic landowners who owned a tannery business in Liverpool supplied with bark from beech trees on the demesne in the 19th century. Prominent family members in the 20th century included a dean of Ampleforth College in Yorkshire and the high court judge in the UK who overturned a ban preventing Penguin Books from publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Downstairs there are two large en-suite bedrooms: one has a kitchenette and doors opening on to the back garden, and could be a granny flat or guest quarters; the Carlyles offer B&B accommodation. There’s also a wetroom, sitting room, large utility/laundry room, home office/gym and a door into a four-car garage.

One of the three upstairs bedrooms is currently used as a cosy sitting room. The main bedroom is huge, with a walk-in dressing room and a very large smart tiled en suite with a freestanding Alessi bath and a shower.

Outside are two paddocks, a stable block and plenty of room for the family’s two horses, two pet pigs, chickens and three dogs.

Frances O'Rourke

Frances O'Rourke

Frances O'Rourke, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about homes and property