Period farmhouse in Wicklow woodlands with garden room, tennis court and nature all around, for €1.175m

Quails Wood House, a 19th-century four-bedroom house on 1.5 acres, has lots of space for a family to grow

Address: Quails Wood House, Coolattin, Shillelagh, Co Wicklow
Price: €1,175,000
Agent: Hunters Estate Agent
View this property on MyHome.ie

On a tourist-information board in the west Wicklow village of Shillelagh is an old photograph of the “Home Farm complex” that was developed from the 1840s to serve Coolattin House, the seat of the earls of Fitzwilliam, whose landholding encompassed about a fifth of the county. This mansion, now within a golf course, was designed in the 1790s for the fourth earl Fitzwilliam by the architect John Carr, of Yorkshire, and completed in the early 1800s. It was in the Fitzwilliam family until the 1970s, when Lady Juliet Tadgell, whose father, Peter Wentworth Fitzwilliam, was the eighth earl, and whose son-in-law is the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, sold it.

At the eastern extent of the farm complex in that photograph, the former estate manager and workers’ houses are named in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as Coolattin Lodge. The outermost property, now known as Quails Wood House, is appraised in the inventory as “an interesting and valuable collection of buildings” dating from the late 19th century. The current owners measure its value in their respect for the generations who lived there before; they have an emotional connection, says Sally, with “every inch steeped in history” and surrounded by nature, to a practical family home with lots of living, entertaining and outdoor space.

With 265sq m (2,852sq ft), the three-bay, two-storey house, which is Ber-exempt, is on a square plan with a bay and a single-storey side wing, and there is 205sq m (2,207sq ft) of additional living space in the “garden room”, which a previous owner converted from outbuildings. A huge chimney at one end signals its original use as the gas works for the estate, and it’s still possible to ring the roof-mounted farm bell.

From the front, the house has an attractive rendered exterior, with twin chimneys above the centre bay and a single-storey porch with tall side lights and a flat-headed fanlight that matches the eight-over-eight timber sash windows.

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Inside, the original parquet floor extends from the wide hall into the dual-aspect drawing room, which has a gracious Adam-style fireplace and a south-facing bay with French doors to the garden. Upstairs at the front are two double bedrooms; the family bathroom is beside a single room at the back. The main bedroom, with en suite, is also at the back, with extensive views of woodland and farmland from the deep bay window.

Across the hall is a large L-shaped kitchen whose wooden units are updated with blue paint and steel appliances.

At the other end is a navy Aga; during renovation works Sally and her husband removed a modern stud wall to connect this side with the bright dining area. Off this, the deep-blue family room has a small utility, a shower room and spiral stairs up to a mezzanine. They added breathable wood-pulp insulation and lime render to this stone structure, whose cast-iron windows, Sally believes, may have been left over from Coolattin House. “Everything here has something interesting and unique,” she says. “It feels special to be the caretakers of this historic place.”

Doors open from here to the secret garden, originally a yard, in which something comes into blossom every three or four weeks: “It is spring embodied,” says Sally, describing plants that a former owner cultivated from cuttings she got from the late Corona North of Altamont Gardens in Ballon, Co Carlow. It is sheltered by the wall of the garden room, a long space with a shower room and two cellars that is suited to many uses; with her artist’s eye for light, Sally suggests it would make a good studio.

There are huge picture windows overlooking the main garden, and a large stone-topped kitchen unit by Andrew Ryan with fridges, a dishwasher and a Quooker tap, enabling easy entertaining. Nearby, beside the main lawn with its central pond, a former swimming pool is now a seating area with built-in benches and a four-burner barbecue.

The 1.5-acre, roughly triangular site, was one of the main attractions for the family when they bought the property in 2020 for €800,000; at the end of the formal gardens there is a hard tennis court on which the children also play basketball and go skateboarding.

Within the paddock along the side, bounded by a quiet farm lane, Sally has built vegetable beds from railway sleepers, and a polytunnel with an irrigation system that means it can be left for a week; the garden yields a vast edible bounty of fruit, vegetables and herbs.

It’s hard to choose a favourite view, says Sally, describing early-morning sightings of a fox ambling across the paddock, the lamb-filled hills and the sense of a quiet haven near the regenerated oak forests of Tomnafinnoge. It’s 90km from Dublin and a few minutes from Shillelagh’s shop, school, post office and pubs, with more amenities a little farther away in Carnew.

“It’s the nicest place I’ve ever lived,” she concludes, “but sadly we are leaving due to family commitments.”

Quails Wood House is for sale through Hunters Estate Agent with an asking price of €1.175 million.

Joyce Hickey

Joyce Hickey

Joyce Hickey, an Irish Times journalist, writes about homes and property