House of the week: Curious castles in Cork and Kerry

Tommy Barker reports on two castles in Cork and Kerry.

WHEN it comes to the hunt for an Irish castle, in a waterside setting, Cork and Kerry have polar opposites currently on the market, and at opposite ends of the price spectrum, too.

One’s priced at €150,000, but needs ‘work’ to make habitable. The other once had a price tag 100 times higher, a whopping €15m back over a decade ago, since reduced to €10m, and down now to €4.5m… but is in walk-in, swim-in or sail-in condition.

One, pictured right, on a riverbank in north Cork by Castletownroche is called Castle Curious — and, the other, on the Ring of Kerry, is even curiouser still.

Set on the banks of the River Awbeg in North Cork are the standing remains of Castle Curious, built in the late 1840s by the sole efforts of a local Castletownroche eccentric and craftsman, Johnny Roche.

Possibly salvageable in any capable hands of the right, next owner, and set in quite dense woods, Castle Curious is on 2.5 acres, adjoins an old riverside mill in even worse condition, and is on the open market for sale for US-based owners, via Cork city estate agent Dominic Daly, with a guide price of €150,000.

Selling the three-storey ruin for Chicago-based owners, a group of friends who were among the high school inventors of a game called Cards Against Humanity which describes itself as “a boardgame for truly nasty people,” Mr Daly describes their Castle Curious as “a truly quirky property.”

It’s understood the friends bought Castle Curious about three years ago, and they and their ‘card-carrying’ friends have been quite regular visitors, dropping by by limousine after trans-Atlantic flights to explore this bit of the ‘old sod.

Munster’s famed River Blackwater, and its tributary the Awbeg, are dotted with castles, some in ruins, others in splendour. Poet Edmund Spencer celebrated the Awbeg in his 16th century work the Faerie Queen, calling it the Gentle Mullagh, staying locally in Kilcolman Castle at the time.

Centuries later, and equally waxing lyrical, Cork auctioneer Dominic Daly extols it as “a unique opportunity to

purchase a little bit of historic Ireland!” And, with tongue possibly in cheek for a roofless property (albeit one with the necessary turrets and crenellations) which he has listed online as a one-bed, one-bath property, Mr Daly adds that it’s “in need of completion to meet modern standards.”

That’s Castle Curious: now for curiouser, and curiouser still.

Built 20 years ago, on the Ring of Kerry between Kenmare and Sneem is An Culu, a Gothic-revival style extravaganza, some 9,000 sq ft of elaborate workmanship, atop a fantasy grotto like basement swimming pool, like something from a Playboy mansion, or a Disney movie, if ever those twain should meet.

Set on five acres by the Ring of Kerry Golf Club, with water frontage, An Culu’s a whimsical but rock-solid five-storey build, with moat, turrets and towers and slate roof, with a modern, cantilevered construction (and internal lift) at its core, and an interior that pays homage to 18th and 19th style craftwork, carvings, mouldings, stone work, ceiling frescoes, and galleries.

It was the dream of London-based entrepreneur, Kevin Reardon, who had a family background in Cork, left school at 16, and built up a string of about 50 filling stations in London, which he sold.

He spent three years building An Culu, integrating it with an old estate ’tea house’ on the grounds. He has said his family have lived there at times full-time, but with children grown up, it’s too, big, and not used often enough to justify keeping on.

It has been described as Kerry best-kept secret, and when previously listed with another international selling agent, those coming to view had to sign a non-disclosure agreement not to reveal too much detail about it.

It’s changed selling agents (but, not hands) once or twice since its lofty €15m, ask and now Savills’ agents James Butler in Dublin and Catherine McAuliffe in Savills Cork, have it at the far more agreeable €4.5m/£4m level… against a backdrop of Munster property market sources who say a deal of well over €5m is in the offing in coming week, on another waterside Irish castle.

VERDICT: Curious and curiouser still, indeed.

CORK and KERRY

Price: €150,000/€4.5 million

Size: 900 sq ft/,9000 sq ft

Bedrooms: 1/6

Bathrooms: 1/6.

BER: N/A. C3

Best Feature: Curiosities

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