Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Historic homes on Northern Ireland's north coast up for sale: Who's moving into these stately piles?

Drenagh Estate
Drenagh Estate
Dundarave House
Mount Panther which has been on the market now since 2008

New owners are expected to be announced soon for two north coast stately homes, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Historic properties Drenagh Estate in Limavady and Dundarave House in Bushmills – located about 20 miles apart – have been owned and occupied by their original families for many years, but will now both pass into new ownership.

Both houses were designed by famed architect Sir Charles Lanyon and built in the mid-nineteenth century.

It's understood a buyer will be announced soon for Drenagh Estate, also used as an upmarket wedding venue, and the home of the McCausland family since 1835.

Administrators were appointed earlier this year to Drenagh Farms Ltd, the company behind the venue and its 1,000-acre estate.

It is also understood that most of the interest in the property has been from private buyers.

A spokesman for FRP Advisory, the restructuring advisors and administrators to Drenagh, said: "FRP Advisory confirms there has been offers for the estate, but due to confidentiality reasons we cannot comment further."

Meanwhile, a number of buyers have come forward for Dundarave House in Bushmills and agents are now going through expressions of interest.

Dundarave House has been lived in by the Macnaghten family since it was built in 1846, but the family has had a presence in the north Antrim area since 1580. Estate agent Neal Morrison from Savills said he believed the 549-acre estate – complete with 100 acres of forest and six estate dwellings including four gate lodges – would fetch above the £5m asking price.

"The opportunity to acquire a huge tract of land is fairly unique in Northern Ireland, where farms are on average 40-50 acres," he said.

"A variety of potential purchasers from north, south and across the water are very interested."

Dundarave is reputed to be the largest house in Northern Ireland still to be in private occupation, and according to the agent, the Macnaghten family would prefer this to remain the case.

"It has been a family home and was inhabited all year round until 2009, and part-time since then," said Mr Morrison.

"Sir Malcolm Macnaghten still uses the premises, and would ideally like it to go to an owner-occupier who would love the land and the house as much as his family."

The sale of properties at the upper end of the market in Northern Ireland has seen a huge growth in the last nine months, according to estate agent Simon Brien.

He said: "From 2011, there was little to no interest in properties at the top end of the market, but since late 2013 we have seen a massive growth.

"Everything on our books priced over £1m in the Cultra, Malone and North Down areas has sold, mostly to private buyers."

In contrast to the north coastal stately homes which seem close to sale, Mount Panther estate in Co. Down has remained unsold since it was put on the market in 2008.

Priced at the height of the boom at £8m, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that the derelict mansion – overlooking the main Belfast to Newcastle road, near Dundrum – is now expected to achieve less than £2m if and when it sells.

Originally 170 acres in size, two pieces of agricultural land have since been sold, leaving the current site at around 80 acres.

The run-down B+ listed mansion, which dates back to the 1700s, was bought in 1931 by the Fitzpatrick family, who still own it today.

Desmond Turley, partner at Ulster Property Sales, said that negotiations with several parties continue, but that despite much interest in Mount Panther, several potential deals have fallen through in the past six years. "I would suggest £2m or £1.5m as a guide price now," he said.

Jim Wells, the South Down DUP MLA and conservationist, said that the property had seen "many, many false dawns" with proposals that gained planning approval including a hotel and golf club, an upmarket private residential home, apartments, and outdoor activity centre.

He said: "All of the potential developers have failed to get funding. The fundamental problem is that to restore the house to a viable state would cost at least £5m.

"It's a complete ruin and has been exposed to the elements for decades now with no roof. You'd have a huge bill before you do anything with it."

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