Stunning vistas sure to draw inspiration in Kinsale

This high-end bungalow has fit and finish that take it above the norm to add to Kinsale’s growing property boom, writes Tommy Barker. 

Summercove, Kinsale - €1.2 million

Size: 210 sq m (2,260 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 4

BER: B3

Spain might have a bit of a struggle on its hands with Barcelona and Catalan succession votes and independence moves currently underway, but it seems they’ve retrospectively won a battle, of sorts, in Cork’s Kinsale.

Currently, to mark the October anniversary of the 1601 arrival of 6,000 Spanish troops on the southern coasts, and the Siege of Kinsale which culminated in the Battle of Kinsale, the yellow and red striped flag of Spain flies at the entrance to the popular heritage attraction Charles Fort, run up the pole by Kinsale Historical Society.

And, even more odd looking than the flag’s actual presence is the local area online map that pops up on the Daft.ie property website when trying to get harbour bearings and a lie of the land around Summercove: the famed 17th century star Charles Fort appears as ‘Fuerte Charlie’. Ay caramba!

It’s all possibly entirely fitting for a spot like Kinsale, one of Ireland’s most international towns, stunningly beautiful, the start/end point of the Wild Atlantic Way, just half an hour from an international airport, and a spot where property values are driven through the roof by overseas investors and home hunters.

There’s a full-on boom there once more, the town is heaving — as are its businesses — and the pace of building is hectic.

Ardbrack has a half-dozen or more €1m-€2m houses being built on prime sites, and there’s over 300 new homes on the way in the next few years, reckons locally-based estate agent Josie Dinneen.

She admits that early interest in this recently up for sale home is predominantly from overseas, for now at least, and observed that while the UK/British property buying market has taken a bit of dip (especially with UK-based/Sterling depressed investors) there’s a balancing pick up in US, Canadian and other buyers, including some from South Africa, as well as local demand, Dublin buyers/investors, and other European capitals also.

We met at a place with full-on Kinsale harbour views in a house called Cois an Uisce, meaning beside the water. But there’s a handy bit of high’n’dry elevation to the setting of this one-off, high-end Summercove home with a long sweep of harbour views down over Ardbrack, and into Kinsale town itself.

It’s set off Fort Hill, 200 metres from Charles Fort out the embracing hills surrounding Kinsale harbour, and while Summercove directly beneath it gets periodic stormy sea batterings from its open aspect to the harbour mouth, this is impervious to the waves, other than to survey them all from a safe height.

Cois an Uisce was built 10 years ago, in 2007, at the height of the boom, on a private site, set well off the road to the fort and Madden Park playing pitch, via a paved approach avenue past electric gates, amid a few bungalows redolent of earlier decades.

Designed by Kinsale architect Richard Rainey, it’s a proper bungalow, with all of its 2,260 sq ft (it feels way bigger, though) and five bedrooms spread across a single storey.

In a superficial scan of the floor plan and even layout, it’s not too dissimilar from large Irish bungalows of previous years (and planners may well have insisted on a low-profile), but where it stands out is the detailing, materials, the finishes and finishes, and the quality of the workmanship, done by glanmire-based Hearthstone Construction.

Add all that to the views to be had from a few key compass points, and especially the living/dining area, and it is indeed quite the ‘des res’ for those in the upper echelons of the Kinsale market.

It’s for sale with a €1.2m price tag quoted by Josie Dinneen and her joint selling agent Ron Kruger of Engel & Volkers, who say there’s a reassuring, secure feel to the home, built to a demanding standard, yet subtle with it.[/timg]

It’s not heaving with Celtic Tiger excesses, though, and the real, heavy-duty spend went into the structure, and the external finish.

It’s fully done in dark, rough-hewn limestone with paler pointing right the way around, only offset for some materials contrast by a neat band of dark zinc cladding by the entrance door.

What’s really stand-out, for those that admire craftsmanship, is the slickness of the cut limestone window reveals, splayed to the sides to show even more stone, and matched by cut limestone sills and heads. A more simple cut limestone finish is even used to frame the two ‘up and over’ doors in the adjacent, detached double garage.

There aren’t too many Munster houses done with this level of masonry skill: it’s not a surprise to find the stone workers came from Galway, where this limestone use is a little bit more common.

Other subtle details, and ones which added to the build challenge day-one (consulting engineer was locally-based Mark Salter) become evident on a walk around the perimeter: there’s deep eaves on most facades, and the downpipes are run inside the limestone outer layer, keeping lines clean: in fact there’s hardly a downpipe visible across the house’s front facade.

 

Internally the challenges to the masons continue: many of the bedrooms and bathrooms have similar splays around their mostly vertical windows, and there are some internal wall curves to confound the blocklayers and plasterers, most notably in the hall/utility, where the bedroom corridor takes a sharp, right turn, and in an effective little alcove in the far end, master bedroom.

Overall condition is pristine, inside and out, and Cois an Uisce has been earning its passage for its owner in recent times, on a corporate let, understood to have fetched about €3,500 a month for a pharma company senior figure.

Next owners could be local, Irish or overseas, full-time or more occasional, or internationally
mobile, perhaps flitting back and forth to London or elsewhere for work via Cork airport.

Thanks to its external finishes, it’s very low-maintenance on the outside, and the ground area’s not overly large, so should be easy enough to keep in trim.

It’s done to a corporate level, to be sure, yet the fact there are five bedrooms and two en suites puts it within more a regular family buyer’s ambit as well, if they can rise to the price €1.2m level.

Layout is in two sections, day and night, with a good flow of kitchen into dining (with patio/terrace access) and large living rooms, with inset gas fire and the best of harbour views from a large corner window.

That vista, looking over water right to the heart of Kinsale and its pier road and marina and period homes stacked up the hill behind, is engrossing all day long, in almost any weather and it’s one of the rare water views on the south coast that’s almost as attractive at night, when the town lights up, buzzes and glistens, with reflections dancing back over the waves.

Cleverly, the joint agents use night-time photography as well as day images, and drone footage online shows Cois an Uisce’s setting at its best. Ms Dinneen says “one or two viewers have said they feel like they are looking out at New York, or over LA, with the beauty of the many lights.”

On calmer evenings, they can be enjoyed as readily from the outside seating areas as from within, with feature composite decking mixing geometric runs with curves and even a slight deck slope.

There’s a small, contemporary zen-like sunken pond/water feature, low-level hard and soft landscaping, some low raised beds, considerable planting, and an attractive boundary screening wall of old railway sleepers, vertically set and giving almost a marine feel.

Back inside, there’s several clusters of Velux windows set into the low slung, low-pitch Tegral-tiled roof, bringing light deep into what is admittedly a broad and deep house. Flooring is understated tile in kitchen and bathrooms, and oak elsewhere and all doors, skirting and architraves are also in oak for a continuity of look.

Interior designer was Valda Rumley in Belgooly, and the look is restrained and contemporary, many of the walls are a calm grey/blue shade, easy on the eye and not interfering with hung prints and paintings.

Similarly, the good sized bathrooms are well decked out, but not extravagantly so in terms of tiling or brand-name sanitary ware, almost unusually so for a peak-time, Tiger days 2007 build. Continuing in that vein, there’s restraint in the high-quality solid oak kitchen, with distinctive oak cupboards with long, horizontal slats, and Neff appliances. Surprise! worktops aren’t the almost ubiquitous black granite which might have been expected, but more easy-care quality melamine.

However, for those who do, indeed, need their stone counter fix, the breakfast bar divide is, in fact, in a cool, shiny, glistening black quartz or possibly granite.

Again, brushed steel sockets and light switches which were pretty much de rigueur in the mid-2000s are conspicuous by their absence at Cois an Uisce, here they’re white, but above standard for all of that.

And it’s not like the owner/builder was cutting corners or costs when you examine the build, with subtle ceiling slopes, rounded walls, abundance of stone and even rounded, curving composite decking

Cois an Uisce was a labour of love for its owner, an Irishman who has worked all over Africa over several decades, with an engineering background.

Its attention to detail, in fact, is signalled in the property’s sturdy entrance pillars framing the remote-controlled electric gates. Those big, block pillar have a set-back/inset, in polished limestone, and smack of quality, sort of the opposite of eagle statuary, or large urns and roundels more customarily put atop pillars at big, one-off Irish homes.

It’s being sold now as he has another challenge he’s keen to start on, doing up a prominent period home close to Cork city centre in desperate order, and in need of huge investment.

He has, at least, proven his talents and tenacity with this understated, uncompromising one-off in so-chic Summercove.

VERDICT: Hasta la vista, baby.

Pictures: Jakub Walutek

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