Historic lodge with Lee on its doorstep

Carrigrohane Lodge dates to the late 18th century, experiencing much changes. It still has plenty to offer, writes Tommy Barker

Pictures: Larry Cummins

Carrigrohane, Cork €1.6 million-plus

Size: 184 sq m (2,000 sq ft) on 1.67 acres
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3
BER: Pending
Best Feature: Setting

The River Lee runs dark and deep, and in eddies and hypnotic swirls, under the watchful gaze of Carrigrohane Lodge. This family home is an ‘original of the species’ set deep within the popular Bridgewater estate on the Cork City side of Ballincollig, rooted to a limestone precipice, with a history going back 200 years prior to Bridgewater’s arrival.

It’s part of an ancient cluster of structures, including a church and Carrigrohane Castle, which mark out this topographical approach down the Lee Valley( as depicted in the 19th century by the likes of Samuel Lewis and John Windele,) to Cork city’s isles, marshs, estuary, and ocean beyond.

It’s a sort of brooding, last hurrah of enclosure, defence, and surveillance, with the Shournagh Valley back towards Blarney in this house’s low and lower views. And, it’s now for sale.

Set in an exceptionally dramatic bluff by a tight bend in the Lee, at a spot know as Hell Hole, or Poul an Ifrinn, Carrigrohane Lodge was first constructed as a hunting lodge for the inhabitants of the nearby Carrigrohane Castle, which is as impressively sited, but which doesn’t have the trump card that this ‘lodge’ has, which is convenient water frontage and access.

This centuries old home is visible, notable, and enviable for its commanding presence, from the riverbank just to the north if visited via the Anglers’ Rest car park at Carrigrohane. It’s where generations of Corkonians have swum, including tight knots of hardy souls and stout hearts all year round, coping with currents which can whip around the bend with impressive speed.

It’s easier in summer, ideal for the more indolent, and the more casual or less committed swimmers of all ages. A women who grew up in this eyerie home, and whose family are now selling, recalls her own experiences of joining groups of youngsters entering the river above Bridgewater, going with the flow, and getting out 200m below and then trotting up the far river bank to do it all again, sort of rafting or tubing, Cork style, only in your togs.

The vendors’ family have been in situ since 1973. Her brother, similarly, has the strongest memories of abundant fishing and catches from here while he was a youngster and says it gave him a lifelong love of fishing. This has taken him to other angling spots such as Waterville’s lakes and rivers (that’s just as well as salmon fishing on the Lee is now a shadow of its former self). His sister also recalls teenage years trying to dive to the bottom of the river, at the end of their garden and grounds, at its deepest spots at low summer flows and of never finding the true depth in the whirling pools.

Those same Hell Hole pools have had a long history of documentation, appreciation and warnings, and of legendary status too.

Writing in his 1846 Guide to the South of Ireland, John Windele describes “at a sudden bend of the river, is a deep pool, bearing the fearful name of Poul an Ifrinn, or Hell Hole. It is overhung by high limestone precipices, and from its neighbourhood, a highly beautiful view of the castle is obtained. One of those fanciful eels of the supernatural class is said to inhabit this part of the river; he is of monstrous dimensions, has a mane of hair like a horse and two short feet. He is the guardian of enchanted abodes beneath, containing vast treasures. Heretofore, he often at night, quitted the waters, and his track might be seen in the morning on the neighbouring grounds, but of late years, his visits have been rare as those of Angels.”

Windele also noted that at the foot of the castle precipice “is a cave, which, the peasantry say, extends several miles underground, and communicates with the great caverns at Ovens, four miles distant. The river below this flows deep and darkly. In its waters is frequently found the Mytilus Margaritiferus or pearl muscle. Indeed at the very source of the river at Gougane Barra, large quantities of the fish may be procured, and it is known that the Mytilus may be made to produce pearls by artificial means”.

Fast-forward 170 years and estate agent Tom Woodward reckons he has a pearl on his hands once more at Carrigrohane Lodge.

He guides it on market entry for its vendors at €1.6m-€1.8m, and says the value is in the privacy, setting, and exceptional nature of the sloping and terraced landscape. There’s about 1.7 acres in all, walled, enclosed, secure, and graced with centuries old evergreen trees, some ornamental planting, a former grass tennis/croquet lawn, football spot, terrace, and courtyard, as well as paths scything down to lower grounds with frontage and fishing prospects.

The main house, family friendly in size terms but now needing lots of upgrades, is five-bay with central portico porch entrance and columns facing south. It’s two storeys over basement, running to about 2,000 sq ft in all, and dates to 1793 or so.

It has had some upgrades, reroofing, and window replacement with a mix of sliding sashes to the south and approach drive, and with PVC ‘Georgian’ frames to the back/north with some large bays for panoramic views of the Lee/Shournagh valley and old flood plains.

Its been well kept, overall, but any buyer who might splash €1.6m-plus on what’s likely to be seen as a bit of a trophy buy will surely bring an architect, and a wodge of extra cash, to make the house a 21st century match for its ancient setting, subject to planning approval (it’s not a protected structure).

You’d surely work with the views and the setting, and perhaps extend westwards into the atmospheric courtyard by its side-by-side old garages, and probably have lots of glass integrated in a contemporary fashion, too, and it would all work magnificently.

Right now, there are four first-floor bedrooms, one en suite, galley kitchen, pantry, guest WC, and two good-sized reception rooms, the best 25’ by 17’, with full-height bay window, fleck stone fireplace, and central dividing arch.

A narrow staircase leads from the north-western end down to a duo of basement rooms, one used as a utility, the other as a playroom. Windows here are old and barred, a souvenir of the times, perhaps, when poachers or other local miscreants might have been detained for the errors of their ways.

Opening out onto an existing lower garden terrace here could create an exceptional garden room: anyone brave enough to go all-out, for a cantilevered structure, a la the 1969 Scott Tallon Walker-designed Enniskerry summer house over the River Dargle in Wicklow?

Yes, indeed, there is such scope with Bridgewater House.

It’s within a walk of Cork City and colleges, Ballincollig and the Regional Park, shops, schools, and major employers like EMC/VMWare, and Apple. The Poulavone roundabout, at the entrance to the Bridgewater estate, acts as a sort of compass and access reference point for directions like the Model Farm Rd and out to the
Ballincollig bypass.

With about 60 detached and semi-detached houses, Bridgewater was built in the mid-1990s by O’Flynn Construction and resales always go well, as they do in the scheme next door Daffodil Fields, with river glimpses from sections of each development.

Also nearby, the water-fronting Anglers’ Rest bar had sale terms agreed at around €700,000 in recent weeks, and there’s much anticipation of new homes supply around Carrigrohane Castle, St Peter’s Church, Nangles nurseries, and the Model Farm Rd area, where O’Flynns are back on site building a broad mix of houses (27 in all) at Steeplewood, due to launch shortly via Sherry FitzGerald, with some prices likely in excess of €750,000/€800,000.

Preparing for sale at the absolute one-off and historic Bridgewater House, the adult siblings who grew up roaming the mature gardens and riverbank here recall the time a wild deer turned up in their gardens, as just one of the many wildlife creature who consider it a sanctuary. They say it may have come from Farran, but it’s more likely it came across the river from out Tower/Blarney way, up the Shournagh valley where a number of deer roam on the city’s fringe. Luckily for the deer, though, this house’s earliest role as the hunting lodge for Carrigrohane Castle is a far, and distant, memory.


VERDICT: Let the hunt begin

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