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Guinness family's 5,000-acre Irish estate with Gothic manor and private lake on sale for £25m

Evening Standard Homes & Property logoEvening Standard Homes & Property 14/06/2018 Jess Denham
a flock of sheep grazing on a lush green field © Provided by Independent Print Limited

The Guinness family’s Wicklow estate is for sale again. The sprawling property includes a seven-bedroom Gothic Revival lodge and its own private lake.

Luggala, meaning ‘hollow of the hill’, dates back to the late 18th century and occupies 5,000 acres in Ireland’s mystical Wicklow Mountains.

On the market for nearly £25million, its shores are lapped by Lough Dan and the private lake of Lough Tay, the latter’s white sand giving it the appearance of a freshly-poured pint of our favourite dry stout. 

The main house, known as Luggala Lodge, is just over 9,000sq ft. Turrets and battlements give it a fairytale-castle aesthetic and it was originally modelled on Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham.

Luggala has been on the market since March 2017. Sotheby's estate agents were initially asked to find a buyer who would allow the late owner, eccentric Claddagh Records founder Garech Browne, to remain in residence for part of the year.

Sadly, Browne died three months ago and the property is now for sale on a conventional basis.

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RESTORING ITS GLORY

Luggala was damaged by fire in the Fifties and given a rush refurbishment but it was not until 40 years later that it was completely restored, at a cost of £3.5million.

Windows and fireplaces were replaced, the north wing was completely rebuilt and a new library and indoor swimming pool were added, along with underfloor heating and a high-tech security system.

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THE MAN BEHIND THE PARTIES

The champagne-swilling, ponytailed Browne, or de Brún, as he preferred to be known, was the son of socialite and art collector Oonagh Guinness, who took over Luggala in the Thirties when her father, Ernest Guinness, gave it to her as a wedding present.

Oonagh, who described Luggala as "the most decorative honeypot in Ireland", is buried in the grounds, along with other members of the famous brewing family.

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Browne, who was 78 when he died, was described by his biographer Paul Howard as "the living, breathing quintessence of Swinging London, a dandy with the air of a young prince". He was passionate about Irish culture and preserving his heritage.

Browne was married to Princess Harshad Purna Devi of Morvi, the daughter of the last Maharaja of Morvi, for 36 years, and the time he spent in India is evident in the wonderfully opulent interiors by David Mlinaric, the renowned British interior designer behind the Royal Opera House.

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Beautiful antique furniture heightens the sense of history that pervades every room and original paintings by the likes of Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon hang on the walls.

'EPICENTRE OF IRISH CULTURE'

Luggala has played host to many famous faces over the years, gaining a reputation as a cultural retreat for musicians (Mick Jagger, Bono and The Beatles), writers (Seamus Heaney and Robert Graves) and actors (Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt and Pierce Brosnan). Michael Jackson fled here to escape the media circus surrounding his financial downfall in 2006.

Famous faces who have gushed about Luggala

"It is the most beautiful place in the world. It has everything you need but without any external stimulant" - Marianne Faithfull, singer and actress

"I am not important to Luggala, but Luggala is important to me" - John Hurt, actor

"Luggala has turned out to be our inspiration" - Bono, singer

"House and setting each enhance the other. Luggala's beauty constantly surprises the habitué even as it stirs unexpected emotions in the jaded voyager" - Robert Byrne, writer

"The most romantic place I've ever known" - Francis Wyndham, writer

"I was to go back to Luggala many times but I'll never forget that first impression. I was Ireland's own from that moment" - John Huston, film director

"From certain viewpoints it is expansive and sublime, from others intimate and touched by melancholy" - Patrick Bowe

There is more than enough room to throw a star-studded bash, with a further 20 bedrooms scattered among the eight lodges and cottages within the grounds. Overall, there is nearly 20,000 sq ft of living space.

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Luggala, with its long winding driveway and misty veil, may at times feel remote enough to be on another planet, yet the capital city of Dublin is only a 40-minute drive away.

Look outside and you will often see deer grazing amid the lilac heather. It is little surprise that these idyllic surroundings have drawn the attention of film directors and featured in movies from Braveheart to P.S. I Love You and TV series from Camelot to The Tudors.

"One of the extraordinary things about Luggala," said Browne, "is that it almost looks like a different place every single day."

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