Christmas at Castle Hyde; Seven Festive Trees, Life-Size Santas and a Pile of Gifts - but in His Last Interview as He Retreats from the Limelight, Michael Flatley Says It's Just an Ordinary Irish Yuletide

Daily Mail (London), December 24, 2011 | Go to article overview

Christmas at Castle Hyde; Seven Festive Trees, Life-Size Santas and a Pile of Gifts - but in His Last Interview as He Retreats from the Limelight, Michael Flatley Says It's Just an Ordinary Irish Yuletide


Byline: by Eoin Murphy

PULLING up outside the wrought-iron gates of Castlehyde, it's hard not to smile. For a start there is the first of seven tall Christmas trees fully decked out with red and blue flashing lights and draped with silver tinsel. Then there are the two holly wreaths complete with silk ribbons fastened either side of the freshly-painted electric gates.

The mile-long driveway from the gate lodge is lined by tall pine trees. When they thin out, the view opens into a breathtaking valley with the Blackwater on the right, and to the left, the majestic home -- all 12 bedrooms of it in its classic Georgian style.

Visitors are left in no doubt that, though clearly well-heeled, the owner is rather old school when it comes to taste. A vintage silver Rolls Royce Phantom is parked in the driveway. And on the oak double doors another holly wreath hangs on the latch.

It is the kind of house that looks like it may have come straight out of Downton Abbey. Once inside, however, the master -- one Michael Flatley, late of Riverdance and current of Lord Of The Dance -- isn't much for formalities.

The 53-year-old boxer opens the door with a beaming smile and a knucklecrunching handshake. Looking every inch the lord of the manor he is decked out in a blue and green check shirt, brown fitted corduroy jacket, a pair of navy denim jeans and brown deck shoes.

Michael's lobby is a blaze of colour and brilliant white Christmas lights. The sculpted cornices have been given a festive makeover with bright red bows and gold bunting.

He immediately ushers me into the hallway, in which stands his 10-foot Christmas tree -- the biggest of his seven.

It's laden with tinsel, bows and gold and ruby-coloured baubles. And while stunning, it is clearly very much a family tree -- underneath there are wrapped a multitude of gifts and knick-knacks.

Meanwhile to the left, resting beside an 18th century fireplace there is a lifesize lit-up Santa Claus and opposite, a life-size Frosty The Snowman.

The last time I was in Castlehyde was in 2009, when Michael and Niamh hosted a Christmas party for friends and family.

The who's who of celebrities in attendance included boxer Barry McGuigan, comedian Pat Shortt, legendary Irish group The Chieftains, Lord Of The Dance composer Ronan Hardiman and, well, yours truly.

Hospitality is Michael's middle name and he spent most of that night behind his custom-built bar, pulling pints and dishing out crystal tumblers of 12-year-old whiskey.

To say that Castlehyde is breathtaking is an understatement. The entire first floor alone comprises a suite complete with matching 'his' and 'hers' bathrooms, dressing rooms with 18thcentury baths raised on a special dais, a 20-metre swimming pool, and a Roman spa which includes a massage room with heated floor, a relaxation room, a steam room, sauna, a salt-water flotation tank, showers, a mechanical massage room, a hair salon and a state-of-the-art gym.

The great house also boasts a 20-seat private cinema and a sound-proof music room overlooking the river.

Despite being one of the world's wealthiest men, Michael is very grounded. His Irish mobile number hasn't changed in years and he is big on loyalty.

'Great to see you Murph,' he beams as we stroll down the corridor to his fully restored library, which is like a scene from the Irish RM, green leather couches in front of another majestic fireplace. Michael has prepared silver pots of tea and coffee, with plates of gingerbread men and tree-shaped chocolate cookies with white icing. He sips his tea from a china cup with gold trim and crunches one of the biscuits.

In the corner of the library sits another Christmas tree, also perfectly decorated by Michael's wife Niamh, who he admits overhauled the whole house. The threestorey library, with its painted ceiling mural and American walnut shelves, houses more than 3,000 volumes and many literary masterpiece first editions, including signed copies of works of Irish literature by James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Years and Sean O'Casey. …

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