Introducing Gloster House, County Offaly, Ireland
I love properties and the excitement of property renovations, as those of you who have read my Olive Farm series of books will know, but rarely have I suffered from House Restoration Envy or indeed House Envy, pure and simple, until I was travelling through the midlands of the Emerald Isle where as Fate would have it, I discovered Gloster House…
This is an unusual blog for me because I am going to tell you about a place that has been a very cherished secret getaway for me for more than a decade now. In 2005, I was on one of my very regular trips to Ireland. My late mother was accompanying me and we were cruising across the middle of the country staying in local pubs, revisiting places from her childhood; discovering stories from her past; the little cottage where she was born; the farm where she grew up; the cemetery where her parents and brother are buried. I had decided that it was time for me to acquire a small property of my own there. It was time to reconnect with my roots in more than a passing fashion. As Mummy and I were talking about the possibility of it and where I should install myself, we pulled up in the small, friendly town of Roscrea, close to the magnificent Slieve Bloom Mountains. A market town my mother knew well from her youth. We popped into an estate agent to enquire what was available to rent. The agent directed me to Gloster House, advising me to get in touch with the proprietor, Tom Alexander. On the estate was a cottage that might suit me.
There began a friendship with both Tom and his lovely wife Mary that has blossomed. My mother and I spent some of our happiest, Phyllis-and-Carol times together on the wonderful Georgian estate of Gloster. We stayed in our own cottage but we were regularly invited up to the main house for dinner in the divine dining room. We strolled the grounds for hours on end studying the centuries-old trees, admiring the extraordinary system of gravity-fed fountains. The pace and tranquillity seduced us. We took time to drive to the beautiful nearby Heritage Town of Birr where you can also visit Birr Castle, once a hub of scientific discovery, and see its Great Telescope, built in the 1840s as the largest telescope in the world.
Or we just stayed ‘home’ and hung out at Gloster.
The estate was a ruin when Tom and Mary purchased it and I have been witness over more than a decade to the loving and meticulous restoration of the property and its grounds.
When my mother and I stayed there together for the last time late last year, before she died, the house had been completed. As usual, we were taken on a leisurely tour of the rooms and courtyard to wonder at and admire the changes that had been innovated since our last visit. Over a glass of wine in what Mary calls the ‘summer kitchen’ – she filched the idea from my Olive Farm books. However theirs is a marvellous, comfortable space some ten times larger than our humble ‘summer kitchen’ – I was amazed to hear that Tom and Mary, who are two of the most hospitable people I have had the good fortunate to encounter, are now offering their private home out for weddings and house parties.
‘Curses’, I muttered silently. I had been hoping they might sell Gloster and I could nab it. No such luck.
Go to their website, www.glosterhouse.ie read up on the history of the house set in grounds of approximately 140 acres. If you have a wedding in the planning or a special event coming up or if you fancy chilling out in real style with a group of your friends, I can heartily recommend Gloster House.
By the way, some book news. Here is the paperback jacket of THE FORGOTTEN SUMMER.
It can be pre-ordered here:
Let me know if you get to Gloster, and tell me about the wonderful times you have enjoyed there.
More book news soon. I am writing my next novel.