House of the week: Red Lodge, Inchydoney, West Cork

Inchydoney, West Cork

€395,000

Size: 98 sq m (1,050 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 1

BER: E2

Hard, hard years and long, lean Famine times left their imprint, to this very day, leading to happier times, beach holidays, an uplift in prosperity, and vastly improved roads access, in and around West Cork’s Clonakilty, and it’s all because of causeways.

Devised as much as Famine relief schemes via the Congested Districts Board as they were for practical purposes, a small network of causeways was decided upon, from Clonakilty town along the harbour side to Inchydoney Island, with first moves dating to 1840s.

Further causeways were then added, from Inchydoney Island across to local spots like Muckross/Dunmore, Cloheen and Granagoleen, opening easier access to remote townlands by providing shorter, direct and usually ‘dead straight’ runs of elevated roads, ringed or fringed in local stone.

Thus it was Inchydoney, for example, fruitfully ending its ‘island’ status at the mouth of Clonakilty Bay or harbour. In the intervening decades, once cut-off sections of land have been reclaimed, valleys and one-time estuaries have silted up, and the landscaped has altered at its own pace.

Such Famine relief schemes also saw piers built around Ireland’s west coast, and roads which were built for little or no practical purposes, often just up hills, to provide some work and a reason to pay/support/feed starving men and their families, in blighted times. In myriad ways, the Famine altered the Irish landscape for ever, as well as vastly reducing the population, and altering the pattern of land use, ownership and tenure.

Turns out, Clonakilty’s causeways at least had positive impacts, and also done later in the 19th century were similar ventures at Rosscarbery, and Red Strand, opening direct routes to places previously reached via more circuitous routes and bay fringes. Building such causeways needed little other than basic engineering and rudimentary building talents, and, of course, quarries for stone.

Here at Inchydoney, a limestone quarry or two on the island provided an abundance of limestone, so all all that was needed was men to do the hard graft of labouring, often on empty bellies.

Nine men died on the first day of work on one causeway at the Famine’s depth, says local man and keen historian John Kingston of Springmount, who traces the Kingston family back 10 generations on the edges of Clonakilty. Earlier generations had owned boats, some capable of holding cargoes of 500 tonnes, exporting livestock to England.

That maritime activity ceased after the harbour silted up once its ‘island’ status was altered, turning instead to farming, and today’s generations have seen the critical rise of importance of tourism to Clonakilty. It’s West Cork’s ‘beach capital,’ with the Blue Flag Inchydoney beaches voted Ireland’s favourites, and home too to a five-star hotel, and a year round population of 150 to 200 individuals.

Will new owners of Red Lodge (pic, above left) add to ‘the island’s’ year-round population? Stone-built back in 1845, as a home for the quarry master assigned the task of excavating limestone for the causeways around Clonakilty bay and Cloheen inlets, Red Lodge is in a prime setting, looking west towards Dunmore, over the main access road to Inchydoney’s beaches.

The year-round population of Inchydoney island stood at 235 in 1841; it halved to 101 by 1861, and reached an absolute low of 36 in 1911, recovering to 193 by 2006, dipping again slightly during the recession, and now growing again.

Estate agent Con O’Neill, of Clon-based Sherry FitzGerald O’Neill, is selling Red Lodge for a local business family, who’ved owned it for generations, and he notes that “some of the earliest surviving maps of the island refer to ‘Red Lodge’, and the red painted walls, slate and chimney stack, which give the property its unique character, remain.”

Maps of the mid 1800s do indeed reveal the transformative progress of the principal causeways (two link Inchydoney to the mainland, and thus to the town, just a few kilometres away) and one shows a long series of stepping stones across Cloheen strand intake, to shorten the route around Granagoleen for those heading towards Galley Head, Dunmore and Ardfield.

Mr O’Neill says the red-tile roofed Red Lodge has been carefully renovated and extended, is on about a half acre, and now is a c 1,050 sq ft home of character with two first floor bedrooms (one with eye-level postbox like slit windows for extra views), and a third one at ground level.

There’s also a modern kitchen, a good quality bathroom, an attractive open plan living area with stove in a stone chimney breast, as well as a semi-circular feature sun room, for basking in, and bird-watching from.

VERDICT:

Local stone roots, indeed.

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