House of the week: Union Hall, West Cork

This foreshore property in a stunning West Cork harbour setting has a long and varied sales history and is now back up for grabs, better than ever before. Back, too, the sort of value it had in 2003, guided at €900,000, writes Tommy Barker. 

Union Hall, West Cork

Price: €900,000

Size: 106 acres

Bedrooms: Wreck of house

Bathrooms: Outdoors

BER: N/A

Best Feature: Lookout

A holding of 106 acres, by the mouth of Glandore harbour by Union Hall, it has a series of coves along its c1km of shoreline; elevation and views; watchtower/beacon; fresh water lake, old promontory fort; and a ruined farmhouse which could add to hopes of a new build among its fields and retained mature trees.

In the current ownership, much of the land has been cleared and improved, with a new entrance purchased and an internal access road put in place, which all adds to its appeal to several buying niches, from farmers to Far East trophy-home hunters.

(Speaking of local trophy homes, the former home/compound of Tony O’Reilly, Seacliffe, on six acres in Glandore, which sold to a London-based couple for €1.5m, is now available to rent, at up to $10,000 a week. The mix there includes up to 13 bedrooms spanning the main Georgian house, guest cottages, outdoor swimming pool, tennis court, and a glorious Glandore setting.)

Meanwhile, across the harbour at Ballincolla, Union Hall, is this more remote, more private, 106-acre lot. Owned for decades by a ‘local boy made good’, the late Barty Whelton, who went to the US as a youth, travelled east to west and on to Alaska, making good money along the way, and came back to his native shores in the mid-1900s to buy up lots of land parcels around Union Hall. He was a familiar sight on West Cork roads, driving his sporty 1980s Mercedes coupe, or a vintage Rolls Royce.

He gave land around the Drumbeg Stone circle to the State, and back in 2003 had this 106 acres at Ballincolla for sale, guiding €1m. Back then it was quite untamed, a haven for wildlife, and he once boasted that you could berth the Queen Mary in the larger of the coves by his property.

It sold to a US-based buyer, and among those to cast an eye over it in the 2000s was John O’Connor, who developed the Old Head of Kinsale Golf Club in an even more challenging headland setting, and who had notions of replicating the Old Head idea in several other spots of Munster.

It came for sale again around 2013, guiding €500,000 via Charles P McCarthy in Skibbereen, and now, coming into 2018, he has it back on offer, but at €900,000-plus, with added value, he reckons, due to land improvement/reclamation, with about three-quarters now arable and far better access, all about 1.5km from pretty and welcoming Union Hall village and fishing port, and less that 90 minutes from Cork City and airport.

Mr McCarthy says the buildings are in a most secluded part of the farm, set among mature trees, and the coastline is a bonus for those into sailing once they get to know the safe passages and ways around the islands Adam and Eve, with sailing lore advising to avoid Adam and hug Eve.

The area is historically noted for some shipwrecks, as well as the recent tragedy of the Tit Bonhomme, a fishing trawler which sank in January 2012, with the loss of five lives among the crew of six.

This land at Ballincolla faces across Glandore harbour to Prison Cove, ironically titled seeing as it is near to where a number of paintings stolen from the Beit Collection at Russborough House in 1974 were recovered. An IRA gang, which included British heiress Dr Rose Dugdale, had stolen 19 paintings worth £8m and which included a Goya, two Gainsboroughs, three Rubens, and a Vermeer.

This Ballincolla land by Union Hall and within the Glandore catchment could be bought by a farmer, given its improvements and guide of €9,000 an acre, and has been rented for farm use recently, too.

Glandore exerts its own draw to the rich and occasionally famous, with about a half-dozen €1m-plus sales since the crash, including the period makeover at Seamark at €3.7m in 2012, and The Rectory just last year, at €1.35m.

VERDICT: What a place to drop an anchor, a gold-plated one, surely?

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