House of the week: Hospitality replaces hostage-taking at Baltimore's Cove

House of the week: Hospitality replaces hostage-taking at Baltimore's Cove
Pictures Niamh Whitty/ Beacon images

There's been a recent history of hospitality at The Cove, by the Beacon road in West Cork’s Baltimore, exemplified by this home/B&B called the Slipway – but hospitality wasn’t always the flavour of the day.

The Cove is also when one of the most notorious hostage raids in Irish history occurred, when Algerian raiders visited in 1631, sacked houses locally, and pulled startled sleeping men, women and children from their beds. 

They abducted over 100 of them, most of them English settlers, taking them back to North Africa to serve as slaves, or as galley oarsmen.

That strike by the Barbary slavers was the biggest ever such raid on Irish or British shores, and the Sack of Baltimore has inspired poems (including one by Thomas Davis), songs, books, films, and themed bars.

It led to a distraught Baltimore being all but deserted for many years after, with residents moving to Skibbereen.

Whitewashing the Beacon in Baltimore on September 21st., 1967. Picture Michael Minihane
Whitewashing the Beacon in Baltimore on September 21st., 1967. Picture Michael Minihane

Ironically, the captain of that slaving ship was a Dutchman, Murat Reis the Younger, so perhaps there’s an appropriate irony and reparation in that one of The Slipway’s welcoming co-owners, Wilmie Owen, is Dutch.

The large house, of some 3,400 sq ft plus ancillary self-catering cottage, gets a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Tripadvisor, and has also been recommended by John and Sally McKenna’s Guides to the 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland, by Michelin, by Georgina Campbell’s Jameson Guide, and by Guide le Routarde Irelande.

The Slipway’s own website notes its owners speak English, German and Dutch; clearly, The Cove’s other residents have forgiven the Dutch/Algerian incident, and moved on. 

In fact, Baltimore celebrates an annual Pirate Festival each June, recalling the Sack of baltimore and many other notorious piracy events along the south-est coastline.

Now, the South African/Dutch owners of The Slipway too are moving on and selling up, and estate agent Olivia Hanafin of Sherry FitzGerald O’Neill reckons its days as a B&B are coming to an end.

House of the week: Hospitality replaces hostage-taking at Baltimore's Cove

Gien its size, scale, setting and options, Ms Hanafin is pretty certain it will be bought and returned once more to private ownership, as a pretty impressive one-off, with a further outlay of cash likely to be invested on top of her quoted €795,000 AMV.

Baltimore gets some very well-heeled Dublin and Cork property buyers, and there’s a clutch of families or even dynasties with long links, and multi-property ownership in the scenic and sheltered harbour, much loved by sailors.

Sherry FitzGerald O’Neill have some recent form locally, with several sales in excess of €500k, and one of those was for a three-bed terraced home at 2 Cliff Estate, making €550,000, while another house at The Cove sold for a recorded €515,000.

With some striking touches and views, and a great upper level sun room with feature glazing, The Slipway runs to c 3,400 sq ft with five en suite bedrooms, guest annexe with one bedrooms, old stone cottage, and a workshed, all on a site or nearly 0.7 of an acre facing the sandy, horseshoe-shaped cove, within a short c 10-minute walk of the centre of Baltimore.

There, the hill-set village has shops, bars, cafes, restaurants including one Michelin-starred eaterie, The Mews. 

House of the week: Hospitality replaces hostage-taking at Baltimore's Cove

Skibbereen is a short drive away, Cork city and airport are c 90 minute off, and ferries to Cape Clear and Sherkin Island leave from Baltimore’s pier, where there’s also a dinghy sailing club, pontoon, and RNLI station to back up all the marine and angling activity. (Before serving time as a highly rated B&B, The Slipway was owned by Baltimore family the Bushes, whose surname still proudly sits over one of the village’s longest established bars and eating spots.)

The Slipway and The Cove are in a quiet backwater, on the way towards the iconic local landmark, the Baltimore Beacon, a 50’ tall 19th century signal at the mouth of Baltimore harbour facing Sherkin Island and nicknamed Lot’s Wife, given its possible resemblance to a pillar of salt.

Now, if only someone was up there at the beacon's footprint, in the 17th century, oh, say around June 20 1631, keeping a decent eye out, the place might never have got The Sack?


Slip into something comfortable at The Cove.

The Cove, Baltimore, West Cork


Size: 317 sq m (3,400 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 6

Bathrooms: 4


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