Where the streets literally have no names: How Bono tried to buy isolated Luggala
So it turns out the rumours were true … Bono did try to buy Luggala, the famed estate in the Wicklow Mountains of Guinness heir Garech Browne who dies last year.
The U2 frontman was interviewed for the documentary earlier this week on RTÉ, Last Days at Luggala, which looked at the history of the isolated 5,000-acre upland estate and its 18th century gothic lodge beside Lough Tay.
The singer said he had become concerned that the estate might be “Disney-fied” by any new owner and he tried to create a consortium – “a load of people who were interested and cared about it” – to purchase buy it from Browne, who wanted to live living there until his death even under new owners.
“At one point, we were panicking and trying to put together some people to see if we could keep it, but I failed in that endeavour,” he said.
Asked how far the endeavour got, the singer replied “Not far enough!”
The sale of the property attracted a host of wealthy international buyers, amid calls for the State to buy it to add to Wicklow National Park.
However, according to documents filed with the companies registration office in July, Italian Count Luca Rinaldo Contardo Padulli di Vighignolo is believed to be the new owner.
“We were all scared that someone would take it away and ruin it but apparently the new owner is great,” Bono said in the documentary.
The U2 singer first came across Luggala in the 1980s when the band were looking for a new recording studios and immediately fell in love with the stunning location.
“We went down to look at it and that’s when I certainly fell under its spell,” he said. “It’s like Middle Earth. It really is hard to describe – the feelings in that estate. I was 24. And then you meet this creature [Garech Browne] and you realise that he’s just performing this really vital task for Irish music . . .
“Those trees! The trees look thousands of years old, though they can’t be. I’ve never seen trees like that. And then the moss garden. [Garech] was quite the horticulturist. He was interested in mosses. The lough is as deep as that rock face is high. . . It’s a very striking, extraordinary property.”
The estate was put on the market by a Guinness family trust in February 2017, immediately prompting calls for the State to acquire part or all of its 5,000 acres for public recreational use.
This land is adjacent to Wicklow National Park and has significant scientific and biodiversity value, as well as tourism potential.
Browne, who founded Claddagh Records and helped form the Chieftains, turned Luggala into a haven for artists and musicians – a place where Mick Jagger and U2 partied alongside poets, painters, actors and models.
His brother Tara was ldied in a car crash in London in the 1960s and is said the subject of The Beatles song, A Day In The Life.
Champagne was served all day when Browne was in residence and guests who found their way down into the valley were often invited to stay for as long as they pleased.
The writer Edna O’Brien, President Michael D Higgins and singer Sinead O’Connor were regular visitors.
Browne died in London in March 2018 while en route to Luggala from India, where he lived for part of the year with his wife Princess Harshad Purna Devi.
His ashes was poured into Lough Tay on the estate in a private ceremony for 200 friends which took place last August.
Luggala Lodge dates from around 1787 when it was built for the La Touches, a Dublin family of Huguenot origins and founders of the Bank of Ireland. The Gothic touches were added later to chime with the highly romantic surroundings, which include vast expanses of ancient woodland and rocky wilderness.
In 1937 Ernest Guinness bought Luggala and gave it as a wedding present to his daughter, Oonagh., on her marriage to Lord Oranmore and Browne.