May 5, 2007
Sunday independent
Emily Hourican
People-who-live-in-Castles-have-the-best-addresses
People who live in Castles have the best addresses
EXECUTIVE LIFESTYLES
There are more Irish clients buying castles now than ever before, and, significantly, many castles are being offered on to the market by the kind of European bohemian or eccentric who once constituted the main market for such properties, and are finding their way back into Irish ownership. Years ago, castle buyers tended to be like the Vienna-born artist, Gottfried Helnwein, who bought Gurteen Castle in Tipperary back in the early 1990s, where he recently hosted celebrations for the marriage between Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese. Now, buyers are just as likely to be construction or software millionaires.
The Wedding at Helnwein's Irish castle
2005
WHAT'S the best address money can buy? For the successful executive who has just about everything, what domestic talisman will signal to the world that he or she has made better than good?
Well, 'castle' has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Not least because it says 'discerning, erudite and cultured' in a way that no 12-bedroomed bungalow, no matter how luxe, ever will.
Just ask journalist Mary Ellen Synon, who recently sold Castle Pook in Cork, foodie businessman Andrew Rudd, who grew up in the castle-like Busherstown House in Co Tipperary, or Galway industrialist Michael Burke, whose daughter Chanelle recently married jockey Tony McCoy at the family's Cloghan Castle.
'Castle' can mean anything from the very rudimentary Martello tower-type structures built during the Napoleonic Wars to the kind of Anglo-Norman keep owned by actor Jeremy Irons, right up to something like the gorgeous Victorian Ayesha Castle in Killiney, bought by Enya some years ago.
They can be had for as little as, say, €100,000 at the bottom end of a price range that ends somewhere in the high millions. Much depends on the acreage that goes with the castle, and of course the condition.
Castles have cachet, and they'd want to because regardless of the price, they don't come cheap, thanks to the considerable upkeep and renovation they so often demand.
And there are other drawbacks too: too damp, too big, on too many floors, and of course too many sitting tenants - rats, bats and things that creep.
Ireland's new elite, however, is filled with those who are up for a bit of rough and tumble in their quest for the ultimate homestead.
So what should these would-be kings of the castle keep in mind when out hunting to ensure they haven't bitten off more than they can chew?
Revival
Callum Bain, director of Ganly Walters - who last year sold businesswoman Renata Coleman's Wicklow Gothic revival castle, Humewood, to Galway developer John Lally for €30m - explains: "In looking at old ruined keeps or fortified houses for renovation, check with the assistance of an architect or similar qualified individual as to whether the ruin has been struck by lightning as the repairs may be more extensive than originally envisaged."
Consultation with a conservation architect is a must, but even so, once the business of modernising and renovating starts, a bottomless pit can open.
There is some help to be had in restoring any building that meets the approval of Duchas, the Government heritage agency; tax breaks under Section 482 are available, as is assistance from the Irish Heritage Trust, but both will mean allowing 'reasonable access' to the gawping public.
And that's not for everyone. Michael O'Leary recently delisted his home, Gigginstown House in Mullingar, foregoing the financial assistance for the pleasure of total privacy.
Once Duchas is involved, there is precious little chance of undertaking additions or renovations that are shoddy, out of keeping or that in any way damage the original structure.
These castles are well protected, carefully watched over by spies both amateur and professional. And yet, they sell.
Mr Bain points out that, although they have no castles on their books at the moment, what they do have is "a number of significant potential purchasers if a castle was to come to the market in good condition".
"Castles are not the fastest horse in the race," says Helen Cassidy of Premier Properties Ireland, "but there is a steady turnover, and such sales are not market-sensitive."
Ms Cassidy, who handled the very high-profile sale of Lissadell House some years ago, has many castle properties currently available.
So who buys these romantic but impractical piles? "People with a dream, and people who have the wherewithal to follow that dream. But they are also very practical, and have done their research."
There are more Irish clients buying castles now than ever before, and, significantly, many castles are being offered on to the market by the kind of European bohemian or eccentric who once constituted the main market for such properties, and are finding their way back into Irish ownership.
Years ago, castle buyers tended to be like the Vienna-born artist, Gottfried Helnwein, who bought Gurteen Castle in Tipperary back in the early 1990s, where he recently hosted celebrations for the short-lived marriage between Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese.
Now, buyers are just as likely to be construction or software millionaires.
However, as an investment, castles are very uncertain. Most represent a labour of love rather than a potentially significant return, so despite the upsurge in interest, they still don't appeal to executives looking to make a quick buck.
Like we said, castle means cachet.
Home and studio
2006
The Wedding
2005




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