A woodland wonder

With its rural idyllic setting near the city, Bracken Lodge offers the best of both worlds, writes Rose Martin.

BRACKEN Lodge was conceived as a retirement home — a retirement home for a very active couple, even if they were aged well into their 70s at the time of the commission. And in comparison to their former home, (Rocklodge House,) Bracken Lodge at Cork’s Carrigrohane was a downsizing move for the late Alan and Betty Haughton. They traded the old, Georgian family estate for a simple, but luxurious, two-storey house in part of their own woodland. Now, with the passing of famous tennis Davis Cup player, Alan Haughton, the unique Bracken Lodge is on the open market for sale.

The property is being handled by Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing who says the house is pitched at offers in the region of €750,000.

And, at the risk of a cliche, it’s one of those rare buys: a substantial, architect-designed property on five acres in the sort of setting that took over 200 years to create. It is a simply beautiful location on the outskirts of Cork city: in May, with ditches ablossom and the scent moving in the air, this Lee Valley location is at its most splendid best.

Bracken Lodge sits sentinel over the Coolatanavally, a steep ravine cut through by the Shournagh river just before it meets the Lee at Carrigrohane. Ancient woodland survives here because the land is too difficult to farm, but not to plant. The acid soil allows a blowsy profusion of rhododendrons and azaleas in electric colours. The fact of the sale means that non-locals get a window of opportunity to live in this greenbelt zone. The split-level house has meadow land, steep wooded hillside, banks of planted garden and vast private valley views.Yet the location is minutes from the city, so it’s fine for commuters, who get the best of refined rural living in a triangle that takes in Cork, Ballincollig and Blarney. The design, executed by Walter Stansfield of McCarthy and Stansfield, follows the transit of the sun around the site and the house is designed almost like an embrace, with arms in the east and west and centred by a large sun terrace in the middle. Alan Haughton had a rough idea of what he wanted — there was an Italian villa in mind, according to his son, engineer Peter Haughton, (who restored a Georgian terrace in Cork city and a Martello Tower at Belvelly, Cobh) but Stansfield has created a house with more than a touch of an upmarket Spanish finca.

There are those carved teak double doors at the entrance, the theatrical stucco finish to the exterior and the fact that the sheltered location can feel like a slice of the Med. With the sun beating down on the private clearing and the house sheltered by ancient trees, this is a very sheltered property, unseen from the road and approached via a long driveway. The entrance is in the middle of the building, but the informal entrance is at the rear, where there’s an arch through to the back door.A standalone garage is connected by a rain porch. The kitchen is a simple space with a ‘U’ arrangement of units and a window overlooking the rear garden: it also has double door access onto the terrace. This house is very deceptive because it looks like a bungalow, but has two stories, with the lower level following the contours of the site. The upper level has two bedrooms with two further bedrooms on the lower floor arranged in a flexible layout that would allow independent living for guests or relatives. Upstairs, the kitchen leads through to the formal dining room, again with framed views over the woodland below and then onto a large, rectangular living room with double doors onto an circulation/sunroom area in the centre of the house’s curve.

Downstairs, there’s another huge bedroom, with built-ins and a smaller, but still double room, with main bathroom and kitchenette between and the house has plenty of storage, upstairs and down.


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