The long sweeping drive, the Georgian house protected by massive old hardwoods, tucked under the snowcapped mountain, the pillared entrance flanked by two marble lions… so far, so Anglo-Irish. The hall, lit by two-storey windows and with a Mediterranean-toned frieze, suggests a warmer clime. Giles and Alexandra are no strangers to the wider world; she is half-Italian, he capped a diplomatic career as British ambassador to Venezuela. They toured Italy and India before starting the restoration work on their intriguing, 1770s, somewhat ramshackle house which has Ireland’s only ‘flying staircase’ – it quivers as you climb. Lions from Florence and painted furniture from Rajasthan came home with them; bedrooms are big, family-friendly, unposh; some have balconies for long parkland views. Giles, well-travelled and well-read, has strong convictions, a wry humour and is a leading Irish Green, having hosted the annual Irish Green Gathering at Woodbrook; there are literary weekends here too. Alexandra and their four children lend youth and vitality to this memorable family home.