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Medieval Stronghold Mirrors Ireland’s Weakness at Bargain Price

Medieval Stronghold Mirrors Ireland’s Weakness
Kilkea Castle, south of Dublin, is on the market for 6 million euros ($8.4 million), said CB Richard Ellis Group, which is handling the sale. Source: CB Richard Ellis Group via Bloomberg

Kilkea Castle, built in the 12th century, became a stronghold in the heart of medieval Ireland. More than 800 years later, it’s turned into a symbol of weakness after the country’s economic collapse.

The castle, south of Dublin, is on the market for 6 million euros ($8.4 million), said CB Richard Ellis Group, which is handling the sale. A year ago, the price tag was 16 million euros. Kilkea had operated as a hotel and golf resort before Anglo Irish Bank Corp. seized control of the property last year.

“There are buyers out there, but they are looking for tremendous value,” said Paul Collins, a broker at CB Richard Ellis in Dublin. “They are sitting on their cash.”

Ireland is sifting through the debris of its shattered property market, whose demise all but bankrupted what was western Europe’s fastest-growing country in the decade until the financial crisis took hold in 2007.

The first multi-lot auction of distressed real-estate assets will take place in Dublin next month after house prices sank by more than 30 percent since 2007 and commercial property dropped about 70 percent. Wilsons Auctions will invite offers for building equipment on March 26. Fifteen cranes go under the hammer, along with forklifts, excavators, and cement tanks.

“Some people might say the cranes were symbols of the greedy years, when people lost the run of themselves,” said Ricky Wilson, who runs the Dublin business. “It will probably be a while before we see the tower cranes littering the Dublin sky again.”

Recovering Loans

An hour’s drive from the capital, Kilkea was converted into a hotel in the 1970s and the sale includes 36 bedrooms, 27 golf lodges, 140 acres (57 hectares) of land and a disused nightclub.

In October, Anglo Irish, nationalized by the state, had a receiver appointed to the business and is looking to sell the property to recover loans.

Prices of castles and large country houses in Scotland have also fallen since 2009 as buyers refused to meet the expectations of sellers, according to Jamie Macnab, head of country sales in Scotland for Savills Plc. The company has reduced asking prices by 15 percent, said Macnab, who described the Scottish market as “fairly turgid.”

Of 900 registered hotels in Ireland, about 60 are in receivership, said Collins, who is also handling the sale of the Blarney Golf Resort in Cork with a golf course designed by John Daly. The asking price is about 10 million euros.

Assets for Sale

London-based Allsop LLP and Irish property consultants Space will sell assets in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on April 15, according to a statement on Allsop’s website.

The sale will include more than 80 properties, it said. A three-bedroom apartment in the center of Dublin, formerly on the market for 900,000 euros, is going for 220,000 euros. A studio in Temple Bar, the city’s popular night spot, is going for 80,000 euros, while a three-bedroom semi-detached house located in the Irish midlands is on sale for 22,500 euros.

In January, Wilsons Auctions held a sale, which included four tower cranes overlooking the abandoned shell of Anglo Irish’s new headquarters, Ricky Wilson said. Of 15 cranes sold, at least a dozen went overseas, he said. The Anglo Irish cranes sold for between 45,000 euros and 60,000 euros, he said.

As for Kilkea, Collins said he’s confident this time round the castle will shift.

“We’ve had some strong early interest,” he said. “It’s one of the last inhabitable castles in Ireland and we’re throwing in the ghost for free.”

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