|Michael Jackson's retreat in County Westmeath, Ireland: UK Guardian|
Michael Jackson's secret retreat in Ireland's County Westmeath opens its doors to weekend guests. But is it a thriller?
Even in the context of the bizarre, twisted fairy tale of Michael Jackson's life, the time he spent living in a converted cowshed in rural Ireland shortly before he died takes some believing. But in the summer of 2006, after his acquittal in the previous year's court case, having left Neverland and spent some time in Bahrain, the King of Pop secretly arrived in County Westmeath with his children. Relieved he had found a sanctuary away from the paparazzi and enchanted by an area so rich in history, myth and folklore, Jackson ended up staying for the rest of the year.
I've been given some odd assignments by the Observer, but none quite so off the wall as sleeping in what used to be Michael Jackson's bed, after discovering that the Irish country homes he stayed in are now available to rent for weekend breaks.
Grouse Lodge is a secluded Georgian estate located down an unsigned, winding, potholed gravel drive near the village of Rosemount. It was converted into a residential recording studio in 2002 by owners Paddy and Claire Dunning, and has been used by everyone from REM to Doves, Muse to Ms Dynamite, Snow Patrol to Shirley Bassey. Paddy is a modern-day renaissance man in his mid-40s whose life at times seems only slightly less fantastical than Jackson's. He started out as a Dublin dustman and became one of the founding fathers of the resurgence of the Temple Bar district of the capital. Now his Dublin businesses include Temple Lane Studios, the Sound Training Centre, the Button Factory nightclub and The National Wax Museum Plus.
(click here to read the full story on the UK Guardian website)