Wander around history-filled Lisnavagh house

 
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Since taking over the estate in 2005, Emily and William Bunbury have turned this family house into a warm and welcoming home, and have secured its preservation for the next generation.

The Bunbury family built the first Lisnavagh house in 1696, on the 600 acre grounds which include woodland, farmland, gardens, as well as several cottages. The house that stands today however, was mainly constructed in the early Victorian era, as you might guess from its neo-Gothic style. Its current owners, Emily and William Bunbury, have undertaken the task of making this historic home work in the 21st century, in particular by finding ways for it to pay for its own upkeep, while still functioning as a family home for them and their three children.

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The house was in poor condition when the couple took it over. So, a complete rewiring and revamp of the interiors was completed with sensitivity to the style of the building, which has seven double rooms all differently themed. Additional cottages and converted stables mean that Lisnavagh can host up to 74 guests, however rather than turning the old house into a hotel, the Bunburys have kept the feeling of a home, instead utilising the space as the setting for various events.

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It’s a beautiful venue for weddings and other celebrations, as well as a series of yoga retreats that run throughout the year. A recent addition for these events is the ‘Brick Barn’, designed to host wedding ceremonies in the winter, when other areas can be too muddy. It was previously an old circular water tank, which was given what William describes as a "tin hat", creating a unique space that can be tailored to each couple's day.

Emily’s experience in the hospitality business means that she knows how to make an event run smoothly, and has also undertaken the catering for the venue. Although she has no formal training, she is accomplished in seasonal dishes, and focuses on organic, locally produced ingredients, some of which come from the two and a half acre walled garden. The family also have chickens, and two pet Kunekune potbellied pigs – Bubble and Squeak.

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In total, the house has 14 acres of borders, pleasure grounds and walled gardens, which were originally designed in the 1840s by architect Daniel Robertson, known for his work on the gardens of Powerscourt Estate. They still follow much of the same plan today, and are maintained by Emily and her team. The mixed hardwood forests are also put to good use, with the Lisnavagh Timber Project using the sustainably grown Irish wood to make bespoke furniture, including the well-known Bunbury Boards. Much of the farmland is rented out to local farmers for grazing, some is used for crops, and a further 137 acres of tillage land is used to grow Christmas trees. 

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With so many hats to wear, it seems no two days are ever the same for William and Emily. Their ability to do so, however, means that this house is constantly full of activity. Rather than being relegated to an impersonal hotel or staid relic of times gone, it continues to live and evolve with this new iteration. 


WORDS Megan Burns   PHOTOGRAPHY Therese Ahern

More photos of Lisnavagh, and an interview with Emily and William Bunbury can be found in our March/April 2018 issue, available here