Would-be buyers will be delighted at the return to market of this jewel by the sea, writes Tommy Barker.
Kinsale town — and its scene-setting harbour and fringing hills and terraces, coves and backwaters — isn’t stuck for places to position a property with standout appeal, and it has property prices too on a par with honeyed beauty spots around the globe.
However, if you add into the mix a luxurious 21st century home in a 19th century building with a proud working heritage, in a setting which made Kinsale’s fortunes in previous centuries, fishing, and the local list of hotspot contenders narrows considerably.
In fact, you might be reduced to looking at Pallace Wharf; it’s quite the catch if you have millions to spare, and here’s looking at it.
Even though just set above the water levels in the key, quays core area of Scilly in the extraordinarily beautiful harbour town, Pallace Wharf must qualify for the description ‘prominently sited,’ and is frequently photographed, given it is in full view over the water from Kinsale’s Pier Road, and town park.
The long, low-slung stone-built 19th century building at the harbour’s traditional fishing area of Scilly reportedly got its name from a fish palace/ pallice/ pallace, a press for extracting oil from pilchards.
Set by slipways, still in use and with extensive water frontage, including a mid 1800’s stone-ringed dock, its address is actually Pallace Avenue.
The building earned its keep over many decades serving Kinsale’s fishing industry, with guides suggesting it was built in 1820, initially as a place to manufacture fish boxes for the rich catches from the Atlantic Ocean, and is set by a horseshoe-shaped graving dock, likely to date to 1860, and used in previous times for boat repair and sheltered access at lower tides.
Today, the converted store which has been converted to luxury private home use, and was done to an exceptional level of conservation reconstruction by a committed expert and ex owner.
It carries the date 1840 and the name of its builder, G Dawson, on a carved limestone plaque over the front door and, if right was right, another name and date should be added: that of Richard Good-Stephenson, 2005, as he was the man responsible for rescuing and repurposing what had been an abandoned building, in its own 20th century decline.
Although a pilot by early profession, Richard Good-Stephenson got into the specialist area of building conservation using traditional materials in the 1990s, in the UK and Ireland, and in the early 2000s he won an An Taisce medal for the salvation of Cor Castle in Innishannon, which he turned from a ruin and rubble pile of stones into a remarkable and habitable castle, now his own family home, later setting up companies like Lochplace Conservation, and Cor Castle limes.
Here at Pallace Wharf, he once more stuck to best practice principles, restoring and repainting, using stone, lime plaster, render, dash and limewash for a breathable building, did the roof in Welsh Penryn natural slate, with cast- iron rainwater goods, stone sills and hardwood sash windows and more.
Then, he added creature comforts, and tech touches: in came underfloor heating as well as radiators, a heat recovery system, five en suite bedrooms with high-end Italian, Philippe Starck and Villeroy and Boch sanitary ware and fittings, Bose sound, a kitchen with mahogany tops and Miele and Falcon appliances, and floors in limestone, oak and wool carpeting.
He had over 5,000sq ft to play with, and maximised its potential, without compromising its integrity and presence.
In its centre it has a double height entry hall with mezzanine bridge atop a wide staircase, linking both ends of the first floor’s five bedrooms, with long landings, and conservation-grade skylights dotted in the high/ vaulted ceilings.
At ground are a welcoming hall, a spacious kitchen/dining room, large utility by a back hall, a study, dining room, and a 25ft by 20ft living room, with three windows to the front for dock and garden views.
Then there’s something quite special; a glass endwall and glass door overlooking a two-storey loggia (it also opens to the master bedroom suite directly above), essentially a covered sit-out balcony and all-weather inner
harbour/ Scilly dam viewing spot.
Floored in Liscannor stone, this loggia faces directly to the Kinsale Low Road which starts to wend its way over and up to Scilly and towards the Spaniard bar, and views from it include high tides and low, mud flats for a period twice each day, bird life and boats: fish, even.
And, seagulls happily scatter the shells of mussels and molluscs with abandon around Pallace Wharf’s grounds, lawns, gravel paths and dock stones.
The grounds include a separate, detached stone-built old second building, about 1,600sq ft over its two levels, once used as a fish smokery.
It has hardwood doors front and back, ideal as a boathouse, or a double garage, or both, and has other clear high-end uses, subject to conversion and planning consents.
In the first half of the 1800s, over 4,500 people were employed around Kinsale alone on vessels in the booming industry which floated many boats along the south coast, and which on-shore employed another 1,500 in jobs from boat building and repair, to rope and sail making, as well as allied trades such as coopering, salting and preserving.
Now, paradoxically, while the fishing industry has been in long 20th and 21st century decline, the fact Kinsale is a starting and end point for the Wild Atlantic Way is another key underpinner of the tourism and hospitality economy which, in any case, has been doing very well for, oh, about the last half century.
Throw in things like proximity to Cork City and international airport (30 minutes, easy by car), a plethora of high-end dining spots, and the presence of the Old Head of Kinsale Golf Course which has a particular draw for the very rich, and really a buyer for Pallace Wharf could come from anywhere, and pay almost anything.
The proof will be in the viewings and the bidding, and while no guide price is publicly quoted, it’s likely its appointed selling agent Dominic Daly will be expecting offers over €3m to land this historic, and quirkily sited and blessed, Kinsale property, in overall excellent condition: it could be quite a haul, in any case.
It last sold in 2005/2006, at market peak when it had carried a guide price of €4.3m with a trio of local and international estate agents.
It was sold by January 2006, for a reported €4m (pre-Price Register clarity days) and its buyer had come from Dublin, with a background in architecture and property development, and quite clearly affluent.
Mr Daly, who has valuable connections to the Old Head Golf Course set-up, has already had one of two promising early inquiries and viewings, and says work is starting to spread about this true one-off Kinsale property’s return to market after well over a decade in its current owner’s hands.
The only restraint for would-be buyers (apart from the price expectation, which may rule some of us out) might be how public its front grounds are to the water and the facing Pier Road.
This may be a concern for some, who value extreme privacy (it wouldn’t, for example, have suited Michael Jackson, whom Mr Daly showed a number of Cork properties to many years ago, when that reclusive pop star hid out with his children for a period upriver of Kinsale at Ballinacurra House.)
Apart from some on-going maintenance, the property’s relatively unchanged from how it presented as a turn-key home, but is now furnished, colonised and fully lived-in, loggia and all.
In fact, about the only significant change this 180-year old Pallace Wharf property has seen since its conversion from fish box factory and processing plant is the quite recent demise of one of its two sentinel, c 100-year-old cedar of Lebanon trees out in its front ground, with just one now as a location marker.
As if you could miss it?
Quite the catch, indeed.
Kinsale Harbour €3m+
Size: 495 sq ft (5,300 sq ft)