Set in the natural landscape of West Cork’s most rugged peninsula, this Ardgroom cottage is an escape bolthole from city living, writes Tommy Barker.
Back in 1998, the TV movie Falling for a Dancer aired on UK and Irish TV, written by top Irish author Deirdre Purcell, and it was set in a part of the country she knew and loved, along the Beara Peninsula, and around Ardgoom.
It was only a few years after that another writer, this time an academic one with a career at various times in Ireland, the UK and France, visited the same remote and wildly beautiful Munster peninsula – and, she fell on the spot for a property, this one, at Barrakilla a couple of mile from Ardgroom.
In fairness, it would have been hard not to fall head over heels for it back in 2004, given the fact it had just been rescued by a skilled and sympathetic local builder, who breathed new life, and modern day comforts into it.
Then, there’s also the setting, with views from its elevated Beara rocky setting over Ardgroom Harbour, Kenmare Bay, ringed with rocky shorelines, enveloping countryside with patchwork fields, distant hills and mountains on the next peninsula by Sneem, all set pieces in nature’s abundance.
Next, combine all that, house and setting, plus grounds of half an acre with some very attractive natural landscaping with trees, shrubs and native flowers, stone-flagged terrace girding outcrops of rock, wending paths, and a weatherproofed large stone shed for storage, with galvanised roof and whispering ‘further potential.’
The owner, who bought it while living in Dublin as a pension and a weekend and holiday bolt-hole appreciated the “fantastic” work done by the local contractor who “brought out the charm of the cottage while making it into a modern and comfortable place to live.”
She says that prior to the builder’s intervention, “it was due to be demolished and had planning permission for a ‘modern box’, but luckily the original structure was saved.”
One end of the original cottage, now the dining room, had been used for butter churning, and the other end which is now a study is where a few cattle were kept, so it really was a case of no food air miles and farm-to-fork, via the parlour.
At the time of purchase “I was living in Dublin then and coming down for weekends and holidays was a dream. I used remember always feeling the weight coming off my shoulders - my ‘piece of heaven’.”
Now living and working in France, and reckoning the distance makes keeping her Beara bolt-hole unsustainable, she extols her love for the Beara Peninsula.
“It still is one of the most unspoilt beautiful places in Ireland, I love it that there are secret places to find for swimming and stunning walks, and in Ardgroom we have the benefit of both a beautiful lake and the sea.
"There are days when the sheer beauty of Beara takes my breath away.”
The 16 years of ownership and use meant many, many happy times and memories: “holidays are relaxed and simple, there are wonderful people close by and I have made many friends.
“It was the place where I did a lot of writing and friends who are artists and writers would often stay in the cottage and loved the space to be creative.”
So, wrench decision made, and the property by the Cork-Kerry border near Lauragh is freshly on the market for sale, listed at €269,000 by estate agent John Daly of Sherry FitzGerald in Kenmare about 30kms away around the wending peninsula roads, and it’s about 17km from the fishing port of Castletownbere.
This is the time of year such winsome rural and coastal Irish properties naturally find their way to market, set to look good for a four to six month window and likely to get fair weather.
Covid-19 has put paid to much market activity, but not all of it, and people can still dream, and make plans, and consider alternative lifestyles and home-bases.
If we are recalibrating for life quality reasons, Beara has lots to recommend it for lockdowns, social isolating, cocooning, all with a village’s amenities and services a few miles away from Barrakilla at Ardgroom.
The area near this well-kept home (between the coast and Slieve Miskish mountains) and its grounds also has deep water piers, plus the Beara Way walking routes.
And, while the c 1,087 sq ft three bed cottage is now modernised and gets a respectable D2 BER, a lot of the typical features and feel of an old Irish cottage are here, crisply detailed.
There’s a half-door at the entrance, a cast iron fireplace in the living room, a small multi-fuel stove in the varnished pine kitchen, pine panelled ceilings in the dormer-style bedrooms, and there’s also a pair of heritage-style side hinged skylights on the main front roof sections, with more standard Veluxes to the back.
Externally, there’s a mix of exposed dry stone wall finishes on the side wings with varying roof profiles and slight, raised barges, while the main, mid-section looks to have whitewash or limewash finish over underlying stone, falling just short of an igloo appearance.
External joinery, doors and windows are hardwood, double glazed, and there’s oil central heating, with water and waste on site, via a bored well and septic tank, for a bit of ‘off-grid’ self-sufficiency, while there’s broadband via Vodafone for necessary connectivity and remote working.
Separately, the charming old outbuilding baring its stone gable towards the house itself runs to about 200 sq ft, says SF’s John Daly, with an entry door in the near gable, and with some small windows and a further door in the side walls.
Mr Daly said there’s been a quick burst of inquiries, he is lining up ‘virtual viewings,’ and says it’s as suitable as a primary residence as a full-time home.
Also on the stone front in the locality, but with far older roots are two megalithic stone circles, on diagonally opposites in Argroom, the best known being Canfea, with tapering uprights.
Anyone would fall for this reinvigorated, stone-aged Beara beauty.
Ardgroom, Beara Peninsula
Size: 101 sq m (1,087 sq ft)