House of the Week: Cuskinny, Great Island

IT’S an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good, and — searching for positives — thanks to last month’s Storm Ophelia, there’s now a view once more of Cork harbour at Carrigrhu House.

Cuskinny, Great Island, Cork Harbour - €1.2 million

  • Size: 353 sq m (3,800 sq ft)
  • Bedrooms: 5
  • Bathrooms: 3
  • BER: F

Its water vista had slowly been disappearing, since the house with historical quirks and multistoried life chapters was built back in 1880.

Its colourful backstory includes its original family owners’ links to the Freemasons and to the first woman ever to be inducted into the secretive organisation.

Back in the 1970s, Carrigrhu was said to be a commune for free-love followers of an Indian guru, and locally is recalled as being Cork’s version of the Screamers cult, with followers dressed in red boiler suits and “generally harmless.”

But, latest events at Carrigrhu first, as it comes up for sale to an international market, for its Swiss vendors who’ve been lucky to own it for about 25 years.

Hardwood trees aged 100 years old or more were casually flicked over, across the 5.5 acres of grounds with this Victorian home on November 16, when Ophelia hit Ireland. 155km an hour winds upended oaks and beeches at Carrigrhu but thankfully many others survived and today it still appears blessed with mature and specimen trees amid rose and hydrangea walks.

The clean-up is now all but complete in its graceful grounds, as first viewings for its planned sale commence with East Cork agents DNG Spillane, who guide the sturdy and well-kept Victorian property at €1.2 million.

Though the auctioneers might not say it outright, the reduction of trees in Carrigrhu’s private thicket just a mile or so outside the town of Cobh will be to the property’s sale advantage, as water views carry a price premium. Now there’s a harbour view to the south, and an even more attractive one from the front of the house to the east, down to the beach and slip and old boathouse at so-picturesque Cuskinny.

This charming view (right,) includes the famed Cuskinny marsh, home to an acclaimed array of wildlife and birdlife, and the nature reserve has been the venue for a number of years for RTÉ’s Dawn Chorus presented by Derek Mooney.

The house was built in 1880 and, say DNG Spillane “is steeped in local history, full of old world charm and character, yet an ideal family home.”

The four-bay, two storey slate roofed with bay windows and luscious, ever-planted grounds was built by the Aldworth family and was home to local notables Colonel and Lady Mary Aldworth, during whose tenure it was a place of high renown amongst Admiralty and high society.

An ancestor,Elizabeth Aldworth (nee St Leger) had been initiated into the Freemasons in 1717 after inadvertently seeing a secret Masonic ritual in her father’s home in Doneraile: her membership is acknowledged in a brass plaque in Cork city’s St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, where she is interred.

Carrigrhu House stayed in Aldworth family hands well into the 20th century, and in the 1970s it was rented to a group, said locally to have been followers of the Indian mystic and guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who had a worldwide following. Around Cobh, they got local nickname of Screamers, mixed up perhaps with the Atlantis Community of primal scream therapy adherents in Donegal for years, up to 1980.

What next for Carrigrhu House? It has been in private, appreciative Swiss family ownership for about 25 years, well tended and with all of its 3,800 sq ft fully utilised but, yet has not been overly upgraded.

It has retained most original features, as well as some fine parquet flooring, ceiling plasterwork, sash windows, and spacious interlinked reception rooms giving a triple aspect and several access points to the grounds and paths.

Its layout is asymmetrical, with a double-width and gracious entrance hall, and has an overall easy elegance, without being imposing.

It has five characterful first-floor bedrooms under vaulted roof ceilings and steep dormer window pitches (with ornate bargeboards outside), and has refitted quality bathrooms, with a very good master suite with standalone bath and upstand taps, while another bedroom has a private dressing room.

VERDICT: Roll on Spring and fresh growth.

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