Trish Dromey explores Suaimhneas, a well-restored stone cottage with flourishing gardens near Derrynane and Caherdaniel on Kenmare Bay
One can only wonder if the hardship of life in the 19th century could have allowed the boatbuilder who built Suaimhneas near the shores of Kenmare Bay in Caherdaniel to fully appreciate the splendour of the setting.
There can be do doubt that the German who bought the derelict stone cottage in the 1990s must have marveled at finding a summer home by a beach with glorious views of sea, sky, and mountains — and with gardens bounded by rocky seashore.
The current owners, who bought the property 20 years ago, say they feel lucky to have lived in such a unique place “where the scenery changes with the light”, and where they can look out at the sea and the mountains from most windows.
The property was rebuilt, modernised, and significantly extended, the owners exposing some of the original stonework and adding timber beams and panels in every room. With its dormer- windowed frontage it now resembles a traditional farmhouse — although, with three bedrooms and over 1,670 sq ft of living space, is a quite a bit larger.
When the current owners moved in, they were happy to keep it as they found it making only a few modifications over the years.
They knocked a wall to create an open-plan living area, put in a solid fuel stove and, eight years ago, replaced the windows with double glazing.
Their main contribution has been in transforming the 1.6-acre site, and planting a large wildflower meadow in the section of the garden closest to the sea.
“We planted this with more than 25 species of wild flowers picked from the seashore and hedgerows.
“These include creeping bellflowers, red valerian, meadow buttercups, wild orchids, foxgloves, and primroses — as well as masses of wild daisies,” says the owner, adding that the garden provides colour from April to August, and attracts bees and insects.
Called Suaimhneas by its occupants, the house is situated on the lower slopes of Cnoc Na Sulaig, a small rocky hill which can be seen in the background of the aerial shots. Reen Beach, a small sheltered sandy cove, is just 100m down the road, while the rocky seashore at the bottom of the garden is even closer.
Inside the house, the space at the front has been given over to a long sitting/dining room with four windows, including a large one at the side which look out on to Kenmare Bay and across to Beara.
Decorated in traditional cottage style, the room has timber-panelled ceilings with painted beams, half-timbered walls, and mostly pine flooring. The sitting room area has a stove set against the exposed stone of the old chimney breast, while the dining room has a farmhouse feel with a large table and dresser.
An original stone archway leads from the dining area to the kitchen at the rear, with country-style pine units, Liscannor stone flooring, and rough plastered walls.
Off the living area, in a stone-clad lean-to, is a small room with built-in seating and sea views which is used as a studio by the lady of the house, a professional artist who finds inspiration in her surroundings.
Alongside the kitchen, in the extension at the back of the house, there’s a good-sized utility room in addition to a bathroom.
An open-tread timber staircase in the utility room leads to the first floor where the landing area has some exposed stonework and is used as study.
The master bedroom stretches from front to rear, and has an en-suite, a walk-in wardrobe, and a window overlooking Kenmare Bay. There’s also a bathroom, as well as another bedroom at the front and one at the rear.
Outside, the site is divided in two by a road leading down to Reen Beach. In the section of the garden next to the sea is the wildflower meadow as well as a sheltered polytunnel, the owner’s retirement project for the last ten years.
“I’ve planted a range of fruit and vegetables — there’s a fig tree and blueberry bushes, as well as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, and much more.”
In the lawned gardens directly in front of the house, there is a table with a bench which is perfectly positioned to sit and enjoy the sea and mountain views.
At the back of the site, the owners have planted a smaller wildflower/herb garden in addition to a bank of alder trees, some ash and sycamore trees and a small orchard. Because it’s Kerry, there is also a garden with row of fuchsia bushes and some hydrangeas and montbretia.
Guiding Suaimhneas at €495,000, John Daly of Sherry FitzGerald Daly says the views of “turquoise water, the sandy beach and the mountains beyond”, are breathtaking, and that the property would make a magnificent holiday home.
While it has myriad attractions, he believes its biggest draw is the fact that it has extensive water frontage on to Kenmare Bay — something which he says is extremely hard to find: “We are getting international enquiries and already have a booking from the US and interest from buyers in Cork and Dublin,” he said.
Suaimhneas is located at Brackaharagh, a little over 4km from Castlecove and Caherdaniel and 6km from Derrynane Beach.
VERDICT: As close to Kenmare Bay as you could hope to live or holiday.
Size: 155 sq m (1,675 sq ft)