1773 Abbey Leix House in County Laois, Ireland

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Added to OHD on 2/22/20   -   Last OHD Update: 4/12/20   -   36 Comments

Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, R32 E2W4

  • In Excess of €20,000,000
  • 9 Bed
  • 10 Bath
  • 26909 Sq Ft
  • 1120 Ac.
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A splendid and most distinguished Irish 18th-century mansion positioned within a remarkable and ancient woodland demesne of over 1,000 acres.

Abbey Leix is one of the most venerable 18th-century houses in Ireland and, following a spectacular restoration, it is also one of the most congenial. In any list of important Irish country houses Abbey Leix has a prominent place. The late-18th-century mansion, clothed in the Italianate manner in 1859-60, enjoys a remarkable position within a private estate comprising some 1,120 acres and includes some of Ireland’s most notable remaining ancient woodland and extensive frontage to the River Nore. The accommodation is grand and beautifully executed with the mansion comprising some 26,910 square feet or 2,500 square metres. The mansion is augmented by 10 lodges and cottages on the estate.

Abbey Leix was designed in 1773 by the noted architect James Wyatt. The house is an elegant three-storey Classical mansion of seven bays, the three central bays under a triangular pediment. The arrangement of rooms is elegant and simple, with three major rooms on the park front. There is a deep hall, with a screen of columns separating it from the east-west-running staircase hall and corridor. The music room at the south-eastern corner of the house retains the light, decorative plasterwork for which Wyatt was so admired. Plaster roundels framed by swags of husks were decorated with grisaille by the artist De Gree a few years after completion, probably about 1785.

In the middle of the 19th-century the Italianate character was adopted and the great Classical library and a conservatory were added. At the same time the front of the house was enclosed within an Entrance Court with terraces added to the rear. A comprehensive and sympathetic restoration was undertaken in 1995. The whole north-west corner of the accommodation was redesigned to provide a new family room (out of rooms subdivided in the 1966), kitchen, and butler’s pantry. A new state dining room was created out of two-thirds of the original library, the remainder now comprising a smaller library. A considerable programme of conservation of the major rooms followed. The works create a 21st-century family home with an appropriate balance between comfort and informality on the one hand and grandeur for entertaining and the display of art on the other.

Abbey Leix has one of the most important collections of trees in Ireland. Whereas elsewhere in Ireland the primeval forests of oak, birch, alder and willow have been almost entirely depleted, the woods on Park Hill across the river from the house are among the last surviving remnants of Ireland’s ancient woodland. Abbey Leix, like so many places in Ireland, owes its origins to religious settlement, and specifically to the French Cistercian monks who came to Ireland in the mid-12th-century. An ancient stone bridge on the estate, known as Monk’s Bridge, marks where they located their abbey. The present demesne evolved out of the monastery’s granges, woods and fields. One tree, the oldest oak in Ireland still survives from this period. The de Vesci family fashioned a landscape as beautiful as the house they built during their ownership between 1675 and 1995.

A stud farm is positioned within the original farmstead and includes an attractive range of cut-stone outbuildings. A beautiful principal yard, complete with a clock tower, was built of local limestone in 1822. The quadrangular yard contains 24 loose boxes. A separate farmyard has a range of farm sheds. The farmland provides good grazing. The limestone soil is highly fertile and ideal for rearing and keeping bloodstock, being well laid out in gently undulating fields and paddocks. The lands are well sheltered by the surrounding woodland. Positioned centrally within the estate the house is quiet and private, the wooded drive being c. 1 mile long.

“As few places elsewhere, Abbey Leix gives a sense of the longue durée of Irish history. Having been home to French Monks, O’More Princes, Ormonde Earls, de Vesci Viscounts, and a Welsh Knight, the house, its park and woods form a microcosm of our past.” William Laffan, 2017.
Contact Information
Marcus Magnier, Colliers International
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36 Comments on 1773 Abbey Leix House in County Laois, Ireland

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  1. doesnotsuckwavecable-comdoesnotsuckwavecable-com says: 147 comments

    I could suffer through and call that home!

  2. TGrantTGrant says: 804 comments
    OHD Supporter

    New Orleans, LA

    YesyesyesyesYESSSSSS!!! Mind you it has to come furnished and staffed. Afterall, his nibs can’t be expected to bother himself with such trivial matters. I wonder if they accept personal checks?

  3. JonJon says: 94 comments

    Forget Downton Abbey — give me this place!

  4. I will be making a very important trip to Ireland this fall and I’ve added this to my list of places I will go see. It’s just breathtaking. I love the little cottages more than the grand house, but that is just me. Such wonderful architecture and so well preserved, just love it!

  5. SueSue says: 548 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1802 Cape

    1,120 acres with the most important collections of trees in Ireland. Besides everything else this property has to offer. Wow. To be the caregiver to 1,120 with its own ecosystem would be an honor and a dream.

  6. RosewaterRosewater says: 6047 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1875 Italianate cottage
    Noblesville, IN

    It may be a grande house, but it is certainly no palace; and that’s why I love it. The scale of the place is decidedly impressive; but IMO, not in the least little bit pretentious. Where many hundreds of other British stately homes have been demolished or are in ruins, this one will live on and on – because it’s manageable.

    The beauty of this home is palpably striking and transcendent from image to image. I would very much enjoy seeing at least 100 more pix of this fine, fine, FINE home.


  7. RossRoss says: 2456 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
    Emporia, KS

    There’s a lavish book on the restoration:


  8. Anne M.Anne M. says: 785 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1972 not a dream.
    Hopkinton, MA

    My maternal grandmother’s family immigrated first to England and then to America from Abbeyleix, County Laois in the late 1830s. I am quite certain they had no connection to this grand place, however!

  9. Tommy QTommy Q says: 460 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1875 Eastlake
    Ione, CA

    Being as my name is Tommy Quinn and my ancestors were starved out of Rosscommon, I have strong emotions looking at this place. But I love the old house dreams community so I’ll keep them to myself… :- )

    • DaveDave says: 68 comments

      Tommy, mine were starved out of Antrim and Galway… but my heart keeps calling me to return.

    • RosewaterRosewater says: 6047 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1875 Italianate cottage
      Noblesville, IN

      Yes! Rightly noted.

      That’s not even touching on Henry8 and the practical horrors of the English Reformation: the banishment and persecution of the Roman church; and the dissolution of the monasteries and confiscation of ancient monastic lands and properties – ESPECIALLY in Ireland. That’s where my mind went. It’s a palpably troubling aspect of this property for me additionally as an (American), Anglican Episcopalian; who is none the less grateful for the break with Rome; and who also happens to be in awe of this particular simply ethereal estate. I do feel some measure of guilt about this particularly enchanting pleasure.

      I have a feeling that the book I linked to above, (and again below), may have much to say on both subjects. I want to devour both books, (linked in posts above), very much. Hope I get the pleasure.

    • MikeMike says: 353 comments
      1886 Queen Anne Victorian

      It can be difficult at times to separate places and buildings from events or the eras in which they originated. I had a Irish 6th g-grandmother O’Hara from Ballyharry whose family fled their ancestral home to escape the English; once in Virginia, she married the son of an English immigrant, and became the mistress of a large plantation. I can’t understand how a family that had been through what they went through in Ireland could then accept conditions as they were here in America at the time…so when I see grand old antebellum mansions, I admire them very much for their architecture and beauty, but with a little twinge of guilt…

      • jeklstudiojeklstudio says: 1139 comments
        OHD Supporter

        1947 Ranch

        We took our children on a tour of deep south plantations several years ago. I wanted them to be exposed to the history of it (that is often not really taught in school). It is very hard to see it in reality and not be saddened and sorrowful. I’m a southerner myself (not deep/southeast)and have always been emotional about the subject.
        My mother’s family goes back generations in Ireland and England but we haven’t been luck enough to find actual links…

  10. Cathy F.Cathy F. says: 2240 comments
    OHD Supporter

    1920 Colonial Revival
    Upstate/Central, NY

    Wow. Wow. Wow!! Talk about a spectacular property! And so prettily furnished. Agree with TGrant – needs to come (at least mostly) furnished, & staffed! Never mind keeping the main house itself up, how many gardeners would one need? And then there are the other 10 lodges & cottages to manage… A tad above my budget😅, but hey, this is OH*D*!

  11. MWMW says: 878 comments

    This is a beautiful masterpiece, the house, other buildings and grounds. €20,000,000 is certainly a lot of money. But it doesn’t actually seem like all that much for this, and with 1120 stunning acres.

  12. I can see this beautiful place being turned into a Living History BB. My family & I are headed to Ireland in Sept, I may need to stop & see this place in person.

  13. ErnieErnie says: 326 comments

    So, ummm yeah, let me get my checkbook! What a beauty! Another huge plus is that other than the 9 other cottage/dwellings at least you know nobody will be building next to you!
    With that tree lined driveway I easily see a carriage coming up.

    • RosewaterRosewater says: 6047 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1875 Italianate cottage
      Noblesville, IN

      >tree lined driveway

      I found the simple, mown foot path, instead of grande allee, beyond the petite formal garden especially enchanting. My heart leapt a bit thinking of what a pleasure it must be to make that transition, having a turn about the grounds IRL. Again with the virtual sighs..

      • jeklstudiojeklstudio says: 1139 comments
        OHD Supporter

        1947 Ranch

        I agree Rosewater, that drive is spectacular. In fact the only part of this incredible property that I would have trouble with is the lovely sculpted hedge with the curved bench. It’s so inviting and different; not seen anything like it. But. Here in OR at least, a hedge like that would harbor TONS of spiders. I doubt I could relax on that bench without worrying about spiders spinning their way down to my shoulders, LOL.

  14. ErnieErnie says: 326 comments

    On an old estate like this one, do you think the furnishings & art work go with it? I ask because not only would trying to furnish a place of this size be difficult but to properly (period) furnish it would be nearly impossible & to do the estate’s history justice would be impossible. I guess all of that would be discussed between buyer & seller.

  15. StacyStacy says: 395 comments
    1900 Maybe Craftsmen

    I hope I get this right.. an-iontach- Aisling alainn!! I could only ever dream of owning something so, I don’t even know if I can find the words!! A truly beautiful, magical fairytale land!!

  16. StacyStacy says: 395 comments
    1900 Maybe Craftsmen

    After posting I was so curious about this great place I looked it up, & the owner, Sir David Davies, has put on record he will not be selling his estate to golf or hotel operators.. “I’d like to see it sold to someone who will treat it as I’ve treated it, which is with a family who wants to have a lovely, comfortable life.” I love this so much & thank goodness for people like him! To have the means to live in such homes & lands, & to have a heart ( I know I don’t know him personally..I read an article, but if I were judging based on what I’ve read, he seems a family man & loves an estate he purchased, not inherited, made it a home, made a promise to who I think was the original estate owner & now wants only a new owner who will keep the same promise he made..) whew, & sorry for going on.. I just really appreciate people like this!! I really love Ireland, though I’ve never been but I hope to someday!!

  17. ComptonCompton says: 18 comments

    A gorgeous estate! I would love to see photos of the kitchen. I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and after viewing this breath taking property it confirms my desire to do so. Charming cottages. If walls could talk!

  18. ImbroglioImbroglio says: 65 comments

    You can probably acquire the book from Heywood Hill in Mayfair, London. They have stocked it in the past.


  19. Wow! I would kill for those two magnificent iron big cats!! Simply Stunning!


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