This distinctive Crosshaven home has stunning views to lift the spirits, but also has some quirky hidden depths, finds Tommy Barker.
THERE’S a touch of James Bond’s exotic gadgets to the approach to The Upper Deck, a perfect spying point for watching the comings and goings of the Irish navy, celebrities visiting Cork harbour in super yachts, or even the cream of the world’s sailors.
The latter are due en masse in Cork harbour summer 2020 for Cork 300, the tricentenary of the world’s oldest sailing club, the 1720-founded RCYC.
All can been espied from the comfort of the sun-room, or from the canted deck, the grounds, terraces and hideaway perches of this one-off private home: you just have to get into it first.
First up, there’s tall, sliding electric gates to secure preliminary access to this 2,400 sq ft home on its 0.4 acre of shore-fronting grounds, all lushly planted up.
Then, once ensconced on the upper deck car park of the property, and having suitably admired the panorama beneath and beyond, there’s a private lift to contend with, encased in steel and glass, comfortably holding four persons at a go.
This silently glides down several levels to a lobby by the ‘man cave,’ in the basement of a two-storey garage/storage building with ready upgrade and conversion potential.
Next, once out of the lobby, you’re into a sheltered courtyard, packed with plants and adorned by a John Behan sculpture of a flock of birds, and this is where you can finally get to start to appreciate the many hides and reveals of this very deceptive, and distinctive, seaside home.
Crosshaven’s Upper Deck is at the very far end of the Point Road, the last house out along this c 1km stretch from the centre of the village and roundabout, stopping just before the rise up to Camden Fort.
It’s in almost as defensive a position, or at least good a surveying one, as that former British military fort, which is now a popular visitor attraction.
This is a house that has gone through several iterations, having started its days most likely as a 1960s cottage, associated with the Donnelly family, and up to about 20 years ago with Tom Donnelly, a sometimes flamboyant and former manager of the Cork Opera House.
Tom Donnelly and his Dutch partner later built a Dutch-style, or mansard roofed, bungalow in this Point Road prized perch; that Dutch woman’s daughter was a horticulturalist, and she started the gardens off on their way to being what’s now an essential, integral part of a special property package.
Tom Donnelly sold up about 20 years ago, to retire to Spain, and the current owners bought and started their own changes, lucky enough to have it as a second/seaside home, and working on it in two distinct phases.
They added a lofty-ceilinged sun room on the western end, which is triple glazed and impervious to all weathers, and apart from having a sweep of Cork harbour as its background panorama, it also looks out over select high-quality landscaping, a viewing balcony with glass balusters and low-slung Adirondack chairs, a sizeable hot tub, and a standalone, compact craft/hobby room.
The most dramatic alteration/addition came about 10 years ago years, though, when they worked on the two/three-storey garage/parking deck facing the Point Road.
It’s big enough to take three cars behind the sliding gate, and on the house/Crosshaven side is the sleek and silent steel and glass external lift.
“Friends and visitors have jokingly called the lift the Elysian,” say the Upper Deck’s owners, wryly adding “and they’ve called it other things too. ” It certainly does set a deft tone of exclusivity, ever before stepping a foot over the threshold of the actual, upgraded and extended ‘80s era house, now back for sale some two decades after its last market offer.
Although it still does have that distinctive mansard roof, with Veluxes aplenty and some balconies, it’s quite the different home now, lifted to another level of finish both inside and outside, and easily earning the monicker The Upper Deck.
It’s being brought to market by estate agent Michael O’Donovan of Savills’ Cork city offices, and he expects enquiries from near and from afar — over the waters, even.
It will be a bit of a prize for local purchasers, especially for anyone into sailing and the sea, and the starting line for the RCYC race nights 7pm-ish each Thursday evening is directly in front of The Upper Deck’s long shoreline, at the mouth of Crosshaven harbour and the Owenabue estuary.
“You’d hear some choice language at the starts,” the owners admit, and they may also be privy to crews’ start tactics, given how surprisingly well sound travels over water.
Other than that, there’s the sound of snapping sails and taut rigging, trawlers and tankers across the harbour by Whitegate, marine engines, RIBs, cruisers and cruise ships.
On the day of the Irish Examiner’s visit this Monday, the cruise ship the 3,600-passenger-strong Crown Princess had just berthed in Cobh, in full distant view from the Upper Deck, seen through the channel between Spike and Haulbowline islands, its enormous scale seeming to dwarf St Colman’s Cathedral higher up to the east in the town, making it look for all the world like a village chapel.
Also at the time of the visit, the Irish Navy’s sleek P63 class offshore patrol boat the LÉ William Butler Yeats, which takes a crew of up to 44, was quietly making its way oceanwards from Haulbowline.....at least it looked like it, but the Upper Deck’s marine-minded ‘master’ didn’t train his binoculars or telescope on it, nor was it identified at the time in his ‘Ship Finder’ phone app which tracks ships’ movements internationally...so, travelling incognito, it appeared.
That’s all the sort of thing that engages the senses in a spot like the Upper Deck; there’s never nothing happening on its doorstep.
The house’s owners also have a very powerful, but squat, astrological telescope for even closer-up views and detail digesting.
Martinis shaken, or stirred?
Visible too as permanent fixtures are the likes of Currabinny and its wooded brow, along with several of the cluster of Cork har
bour’s pharma plants towards Ringaskiddy: even if you wanted to block them out, they are now firmly identified by the presence of a handful of enormous wind turbines.
Those turbines are 99m to their hubs, and 149 m to the top of the whirring anes, and that makes the twice the height of the city centre’s Elysian 17-storey tower.
By way of comparison and contrast, Cobh’s St Colman’s Cathedral spire is 91m above the ground, and it’s placed 25 metres above sea level so the harbour turbines reach higher to the heavens than St Colman’s highest point.
Truly, a setting like The Upper Deck’s, allied to some powerful viewing lenses, a modicum of curiosity, and access to Google, and the world’s your oyster.
On a quiet day, the sound of terns is the sound of summer, and seals can be seen popping their heads up in the waters beneath this 0.4-acre property’s boundary.
There’s access to the shoreline, or at least there was access via a path to a section where steps or a ladder could get a body up or down if so inclined to swim or to go fishing, but the house’s current occupants have more or less let it grow over as it wasn’t really on their radar.
It’s an option for the new owners, though, and on its launch, The Upper Deck is priced at €795,000 by auctioneer Mr O’Donovan.
It’s probably the fourth, upper-end property to come to Crosshaven’s market this year, on either the Point Road or the Camden Road.
A spring launch was Fernbank, on the Point Road, with about 1,600 sq ft and extensive water frontage plus easily accessed private pontoon, seeking €850,000 via Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan the same agency also brought the larger, contemporary-styled Sundance, on Camden Road, with more elevated views but more distance back from the water, for sale later on with a €750,000 guide.
It’s had lots of viewings, and offers currently stand at €700k on Sundance.
Most recently, Cohalan Downing Associates brought the 1800s-built Camden Lodge on a large Point Road site of 0.8 of an acre, needing full overhaul, and they priced that water-fronting offer at €645,000, and it’s ‘sale agreed’ at an as yet-unknown sum.
So, an unexpected degree of choice in this plum Crosshaven perch is quite the thing for a quiet mid-late 2019 property market.
In The Upper Deck’s strong hand is the size, with 2,400 sq ft and with two of its four bedrooms en suite; its top-notch, walk-in condition; the novelty of its lift access; the precise setting as the last home on the Point Road, and the further potential of the stand-alone two-storey garage, with parking deck.
Covering some 975 sq ft, it was solidly engineered and built with the possibility of conversion to self-contained accommodation in mind, so has services in place, as well as provision for WCs and wash rooms, and has an opening for a stairwell between the two internal levels, with concrete floors.
The lower level, used as a capacious store, has windows in situ facing the sea, and provision has been made for window opes on the next level also, and the Kone brand lift can service both properties.
The main house has at least four access points to the grounds: the most distinctive is the almost traditional looking front door by the courtyard, flanked with a specially commissioned stained glass side panel depicting the views visitors can expect to see on the home’s other, sea-facing side.
Thus, the panel depicts sails, first and foremost, clouds, water, Cobh’s cathedral spire and even the multi-coloured ‘deck of cards’ hilly terrace, with the signature, ruby red circle an actual piece of Tiffany glass.
Inside, art abounds, mostly by Irish artists and there’s some low-key maritime memorabilia and sea charts, unsurprisingly enough, along with some select sculpture and wall lights by Maura Whelan (not part of the property sale).
The main double/triple aspect living section has been opened up quite a bit from the previous owners’ layout too, with a gas fuelled fire fitted, and engaging views of the entrance courtyard, with its tall, retaining back wall shrouded in Boston Ivy and interspersed with fuschias, and the most enormous heads of hydrangeas.
That plant that crops up too in other garden sections, with a full panoply of acid soil-loving plants, all in rude good health.
The list include low berberis hedging, willow, sycamore, maples and acers, cherry trees, clematis, camelias, rhododendron, and there’s both a steep, wild flower section just gone to seed, and a seating bower, with a view framed by trees down to the pier at Camden Fort.
Yet, despite the array, it’s all quite low maintenance, thanks to sandstone paving, gravel beds and paths, in lieu of lawns and flower beds.
The health of the planting is testament that, despite the house itself being more or less directly north facing, and below road height, the sheltered site gets quite a lot of sun (the solar panels are very effective,) especially being quite broad, and has spectacular sunsets over the water and estuary, from various vantage points and from the sunroom, with its 15’ high ceilings and rooflights inset into the flat, membrane-sheathed roof.
Just about every room here has a view towards the water and the harbour, some better than others, (the best are sublime.,) While there’s a hardly a thing to change, some who come to view might want to open it up even more to those views and, if so, the kitchen might be the place to make that own, individual intervention: more glass, anyone?
On balance, The Upper Deck hits a number of grace notes, as good for full-time residence as for part-time use (the urbanite owners mostly live in Cork city when not lured down here).
In almost any setting this house would be very good, here it’s taken to another level, given all the harbour sweep and activity that it surveys.
The gardens are unexpectedly good, and not overly demanding, and there’s near or long-term scope for a self-contained unit in the garage, say Savills.
Then, there’s the novelty but also the practicality of the elevator access, while for those shy of technology, there’s also stepped access from the roof terrace parking and a further pedestrian path and discrete gate back up to the Point Road at the property’s village end.
Oh, and there’s also that shoreline frontage and access to consider opening up once more, for a speedboat or wet suit arrival from the sea: what’s not to like, Mr Bond?
VERDICT: A diamond that’s forever.
Crosshaven, Cork Harbour
Size: 222 sq m (2,400 sq ft) +975 sq ft