From humble beginnings and frugal living to the location chosen by the President of Ireland to meet Emma Mhic Mhathúna, the couple behind Gorman’s Clifftop House and Restaurant take with them many precious memories of a home that is now up for sale.
Sheelagh Gorman recalls how she missed the big day when Ms Mhic Mhathúna and her five children met Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at the Gormans’ Ballydavid home because of overseas holiday plans she had made with her daughter.
“The President’s office picked our house for the meeting and it was a huge, huge honour to have that happen here,” she says.
Her husband Vincent stepped into the breach.
Photographs taken on the day show an elegant Ms Mhic Mhathúna, one of CervicalCheck’s most high profile victims, greeting the president and his wife on May 16, 2018, in the lounge at Gorman’s Clifftop House. Tragically, she died five months later, aged 37.
It’s rumoured that Ms Mhic Mhathúna, who had a passion for the Kerry Gaeltacht, was at one point keen to buy the Gorman house, which has been on the market for two-and-a-half years.
Sheelagh, a Dubliner, says building the house and business was “a terrific journey”, which began in 1977 when she married a man from West Kerry who “wanted to stay put”.
With a €7,000 loan from a local hardware store, they got the house off the ground and opened in Easter 1980 “with four tables in a little sitting room”.
“We lived so frugally, we cycled everywhere, we didn’t have a car. Vincent got a job building chalets and we had €5,000 paid back by the end of the summer,” Sheelagh says.
“At the beginning, I was making breads, tarts, crumbles, quiches. I’d sell stuff to take-away too. It just grew from there.”
In 1988, they built on the restaurant and in 1990 Vincent travelled to Ballymaloe where he did a three month cookery course.
“We were able to grow the restaurant from that. We’d a good life,” says Sheelagh, “but I’m 62 now and Vincent is 64 and we’d like to do something else while we are still able.”
Sheelagh, who over the years was also a Bean a’ Tí to students attending Irish college, says Clifftop, which they increased massively in size in 2000, is ripe to be taken to the next stage, but she doesn’t have the energy for it.
The ready-made business has awards aplenty, from AA Ireland, Georgina Campbell, Good Food Ireland. Sheelagh says occupancy rates have been excellent with plenty of repeat business.
“But it has potential to be taken further.” “It could be a wedding venue or a retreat centre or a small artisan food business. Or continue as is.
“It’s a good going concern and at that price, you are getting three acres with views in every direction because we are on a bend. Or it could be an amazing family home - we had some fabulous family occasions here, and it’s so nice that the whole family can stay,” Sheelagh says.
“Clifftop was my dream and it would be nice to see someone else have a good story to tell out of it. It allowed us to stay in Ireland and raise our family when everyone else was emigrating.”
Selling agent Daire McCann of DNG W Giles describes Clifftop as “a ready-made business”, or perhaps a holiday home for a number of families looking to come together and buy something special.
It has nine generous ensuite guest bedrooms, in addition to a separate apartment/private quarters upstairs, which consists of a fine kitchen and living room, as well as a sitting room with ocean-facing veranda.
A double bedroom, ensuite, and three children’s rooms, as well as a bathroom, complete the apartment.
The centre-piece of the guest section is a 40-seater restaurant with open fire and windows that maximise views out over the Blasket Islands, while a bar has the benefit of a restaurant licence.
The restaurant is served by a large, state of the art commercial kitchen.
In Kerry Gaeltacht heartland, between Murioch and Feothanach, Clifftop is still just a 15 minute drive from Dingle.
It’s described as “the only four-star guesthouse and restaurant on the Dingle Peninsula”.
VERDICT: Áit iontach, radharc dochreidte (Fab place, unbelieveable view).