THE State would be missing an opportunity to reinvigorate north Cork tourism and letting a bargain slip through its fingers if it does not buy the Castlehyde mansion and estate from dance star Michael Flatley.
That’s the view of Fianna Fáil TD Kevin O’Keeffe, who believes the resplendent manor house could become a focal point in the area.
Castleyde is set in 150 acres 5km outside Fermoy on the banks of the river Blackwater and has been listed by Sotheby’s International Realty with an asking price of €12.5m.
“There is a vacuum in north Cork, of tourist attractions, and we would like the same chance of recognition as other parts of the country,” Mr O’Keeffe told the Evening Echo. “We need more tourism into the Blackwater Valley in particular. There is a lot of focus on the west, the Wild Atlantic Way and the east but our area could reap the benefit of Castle Hyde.” There has been a major price reduction on the three-storey country house since when it was listed for €20m.
Mr O’Keeffe said this is all the more reason to snap it up.
“It is a knockdown price, the house is fully refurbished,” he said. “I have met people in the area who say it is a golden opportunity, I think vast majority would be in favour of it.” The price tag does not reflect the the vast sums Mr Flatlley spent restoring and refurbishing the property The building is the ancestral home of Ireland’s first president, Douglas Hyde, but was close to a ruin when Mr Flatley bought it. It is believed he spent between €30m and €50m restoring it over a four-year period, to retain as many of the original features as possible.
The house extends includes seven principal reception rooms, 12 bedroom suites and a pool complex. Castle Hyde is surrounded by lawns and gardens, which include a practice golf putting green, croquet court, a garden gazebo, a riverside fishing deck and boat slipway and a tennis court.
There is a private golf driving range and a garage block which can hold eight cars. The grounds also contain grazing paddocks and a small farm and an estate lodge is also included in the sale.
Mr O’Keeffe says all these amenities could be put to community use.
“The House comes with valuable land and approximately 15 hectares of which fronts onto the River Blackwater and could also feature as an amenity area for the public,” he said.
“The house itself could facilitate many uses internally – perhaps exhibitions devoted Hyde Family, Anglo-Irish heritage, the Irish language, local folklore, the Irish Presidency, the War of Independence, Georgian Architecture and as a venue to support local authors and literature.”
Mr O’Keeffe pointed out that other historic buildings in the area, including Mallow Castle and Doneraile House, are in a state of disrepair.
“Many towns throughout the county and indeed throughout the country have benefitted from historical buildings in public ownership,” he said. “The Government have no problem buying stately homes in other places so why not do it here?
“It would be a tourism boost, which then in turn generates revenue for other businesses, and hopefully lead to more employment.
He used the example of Bantry House as one area where a stately home forms a tourism lynchpin for the area. Mr Flatley has previously said the decision to sell was a very difficult one for him. He got married there in 2006 and his late father had particularly loved the place. His family were shocked by a robbery at the property in 2014, while they were at home.