No 1 Rockcliffe is beguiling due to period details views, and more, says Tommy Barker. Pictures: Denis Minihane
There's both a long history and a bright future for the gleaming period home 1 Rockcliffe, in the heart of East Cork’s reinvigorated coastal village of Ballycotton.
The robust, bright and sea-scanning three-storey tall Victorian home dates to 1890, to the estate of Mountifort John Courtenay Longfield, and down the years has been associated with families such as O’Briens, Slineys (the Sliney surname still is represented locally,) and Ballymaloe Crafts, associated with the famed country house hospitality dynasty.
It was acquired in the early 1990s by Jim and Wendy Whelan and by skilled woodworker Sacha Whelan of Allen family lineage, and he installed some superb flooring in Spanish sycamore, as well as the current, chunky hardwood kitchen units, adding to the existing quality joinery and old pine floors buffed to a sheen.
But, its current good health is down to the current owner who bought 1 Rockcliffe in 2011, in a market lull, and that allowed her to spend a whole lot more on it since.
Originally from West Cork, the present owner was lured to East Cork (usually, ne’er the twain shall meet, what with local allegiances and all that) after a period spent living abroad in Italy; she rented locally when she returned for work, and plumped for No 1 after she grew to love Ballycotton, it setting and character.
The Price Register shows it selling for €255,000 in 2011 and since then it has had its round-headed windows replaced, bathrooms redone, has new central heating, and a multi-fuel Stovax stove installed in the rejigged, full-width, first floor living room, the owner’s favour room, loved as much for its comfort as for its views over its luscious private garden set just across the road, and the with sea and beaches at Garryvoe beyond.
She put in timber sliding sash windows in front, and pvc double glazed sash ones behind, while keeping true to a remarkable stained glass window on the stair return, overlooking sheltered, enclosed south facing courtyard or patio garden, decked in Liscannor stone. The house is pristine, inside and outside now, bedecked and bejewelled by select art, large paintings, some mementoes of time enjoyed in Italy, along with ceramics, sculpture and glass works.
There’s also some stunning local photographs, done by skipper Colm Sliney, who has an inter-generational Sliney family link to Ballycotton and to its lifeboat service (the acclaimed Marvel Comics illustrator Will Sliney is the next in line, mixing a career in Manhattan with work in East Cork.) Who’ll come out now, and from where, for the 1,350 sq ft (it feels larger).
It’s put up for sale by estate agent Adrianna Hegarty in Midleton with a €395,000 price tag, and that’s even less than half of what she secured over a year ago for an uber-contemporary modern build (€825,000) on the Church Road.
Since then, she’s just through a bidding war of a superly set do-er upper, the 200-year-old Atlantic House, which apparently reached c €480,000, with Ballycotton locals attributing Atlantic House’s purchase to local dynamo, the locally-born tech-sector multi-millionaire Pearse Flynn, who’s built a ‘Grand Designs’ architectural triumph overlooking the lighthouse and island, before the Cliff Walk. The same Mr Flynn is also actively redeveloping a former stone-built local church into a visitor and community-use centre, crafts outlet and cafe , with Rose Construction very active and visible on the site’s approach to Ballycotton’s Main Street.
Ms Hegarty says No 1 Rockcliffe is beguiling because of its period detailing, such as window shutters, old floor boards, high ceilings, views, and creature comforts and practicality. The charm’s a bonus.
Internally, it has an entry hall with a dining room with deep bay window and seat, linked to a rear kitchen off to the left, with previous occupant Sacha Whelan’s wood-working ability to be admired.
There’s also a black old, Stanley cooker range in pride of place as the modern kitchen’s heart, a bright rear hall/utility with back patio/garden access, plus laundry space under the stairs.
The first floor now is opened up to one full-width, yet deep, L-shaped living room with home office section, stove, big imperial purple L-shaped sofa and behind is a bedrooms with varnised floor, plus shower roms.
Another flight of stairs (with original handrails a delight) leads to a top floor with two front bedrooms with sea views. Up here too is a large, re-done main bathroom, now with large double power shower, while a very large dresser made by Sacha Whelan from old pine has been transported up to this top level....and will be left in situ for the next owners to enjoy, having been quite the thing to heft up along.
The previous owners replaced the roofs on Nos 1 & 2 Rockcliffe in the 1990s, and since then the house has new condenser oil central heating, zoned, with alarm, insulated attic, sympathetic double glazing fore and aft and, overall, is in walk-in order through, says auctioneer Adrianna Hegarty.
Apart from its enclosed rear garden, there’s a small front garden, railed and planted and pretty, serving as an ante-chamber to the main act, the stone-faced lofty house itself, while across Main Street is No 1’s real garden piece de resistance, a postcard pretty garden past a pedestrian entrance gate, with a patio, Liscannor stone back boundary wall, and with the sea and views beyond, and the rocky shoreline underneath.
Plants are country cottage style, and include verbena, dahlias, hydrangeas, peonies, crocosmia/montbretia, lavender, daisies and more, and, unsurprisingly, the garden is often sneakily photographed in all its colourful and seasons splendour, says No 1’s departing owner, job well done.