Be king of your own castle

Parts of this Co Antrim castle date back to the plantation of Ulster
Parts of this Co Antrim castle date back to the plantation of Ulster

Ever dream of swashbuckling around your own castle?

Well, now is your chance as this fairy-tale castle near Cullybackey is currently on the market.

Craigdun Castle was once the home of Unionist MP Ronald McNeill, Lord Cushendun, who famously threw a book during a fraught Home Rule debate and struck Winston Churchill on the head.

The castle is thought to have been designed by famous architect Charles Lanyon, who was responsible for many of Northern Ireland’s best-known Victorian buildings including Belfast Castle.

It was built in the Scottish baronial style during the 1860s by Ronald’s father, ‘Long Eddie’ McNeill.

The original Craig’s Castle had been built on site in the early 17th century under grant from the crown in the reign of James I, but was knocked down by the McNeills who arrived in the 1670s from Scotland and used the masonry for the current castle.

Ronald McNeill sold the castle in 1912 to the Stott linen family and Doreen Stott donated it to the Northern Ireland National Health Service after her son Peter died of multiple sclerosis. It was transformed into an MS treatment centre but was taken over in the 1990s by former fish farmer William Baird, who lived there with his wife Romayne before selling it to the current owners.

They restored it into a comfortable family home with formal gardens and their efforts were rewarded when the castle made it to the final of BBC House of the Year in 2011.

Craigdun Castle is built of basalt with a five-storey tower to the front, but runs deep to the rear with the main accommodation in a lengthy wing. It has many typical baronial features, including crow step gables, conical turrets and mock defensive features such as crenellations and arrow slits.

The centrepiece is a five-storey tower with pepper pot bartizans - jutting wing towers that allowed observers to see what was happening at the front gates.

The tower has two rooms at each level and is in need of some restoration.

The main floor has an outer hall, main hall, staircase hall, sunroom, drawing room, dining room, kitchen, family room, boot rooms, annex and cellar.

The main part is a comfortable home ideal for both grand entertaining and practical family living, with the reception rooms and accommodation laid out in such a way that there is an easy flow throughout.

There are eight main bedrooms.

The interior rooms largely maintain their original features such as the sash windows with shutters, corniced ceilings with ornate decorative plaster features, marble fireplaces and wood panelled walls in many rooms.

The second floor and upper floors of the tower are still in need of refurbishment and will make an interesting project as there are many possible uses. The tower has an exterior door and could be self-contained residence.

There is also an annex which would make an ideal self-contained guest or staff apartment.

The large courtyard to the rear is in good condition and is also ripe for further development.

Outside is a traditional stone courtyard with outbuildings, and 10.14 acres of gardens, mature woodlands, pasture and courtyard buildings.

The current owners’ restoration project went far beyond the main house and they have invested considerable time and effort into completely restoring the walled garden and the other ornamental gardens. Having been brought back to life, the walled garden is a wonderfully peaceful enclosed space that has in recent years hosted marquee weddings and events. A comfortable garden room has been cleverly incorporated into the adjacent outbuilding, a perfect place to enjoy afternoon tea while taking time in the garden.

Address: Craigdun Castle, 32 Dunminning Road, Cullybackey, Ballymena

Price: £795,000

Agent: Rainey & Gregg, tel: 028 25645225