With its private cinema and ‘posh dorms’ it’s no wonder the newly re-opened Crosshaven House is topping travel editors’ must-see lists, writes Vickie Maye
NOEL CORCORAN had been working as a quantity surveyor, moving to oil rigs all over world, living out of suitcase. And then, after 15 years, enough was enough, it was time to come home, settle down.
He had a plan. After years of camping in his youth, and then more than a decade of living in hotel rooms the world over, the jigsaw clicked into place. He would create an eco hostel.
And so the search began for the perfect site. The moment he saw Crosshaven House in 2013, his plans changed in an instant.
“I saw it on a Wednesday,” he recalls. “By Friday I had an offer in for it.”
Crosshaven House sits atop a hill, commanding sweeping views of the small coastal village. It is the centrepiece, your eyes are immediately drawn to it as you meander the winding narrow road. Yet for years Crosshaven House had no purpose.
This beautiful Georgian building lay largely vacant and in disrepair. For a long time it was in the hands of the community association — it was the the rundown base for local discos, home to a local FAS office.
It was a far cry from its Downton-like origins, built in 1769 by the Hayes family.
It stayed with that line until the ’70s, when an American, Graham Flint, snapped it up.
Years later it changed hands again, first to the community association, then to a Dublin family, the Cripps. They made a huge investment, effectively Noel says, saving the property structurally. Under their ownership the house was painstakingly restored to its former glory, damaged cornicing and rose garlanded ceilings were repaired, bathrooms were added to make every bedroom ensuite and windows were replaced to make it watertight.
Their plan was to create a stately house for private hire — small weddings, or corporate events. A sudden death meant the property was tragically back on the market before their refurbishments were complete.
When Noel took it over, there was still a lot to be done.
But first he had to decide its purpose. It wasn’t easy — the house could only accommodate small weddings. There was no grand hall, no overspill of bedrooms. And anyway, that had never been Noel’s dream. He knew he needed to think outside the box to make this new venture a success.
And then he had an idea, one that was nothing short of genius, resulting in a holiday destination quite unlike anything that exists in Ireland today.
Crosshaven House would be divided in two. Upstairs, in the main house, walls would be knocked to create five suites (one a larger family option). With its Georgian windows, four poster beds, standalone baths — it can only be a matter of time before Crosshaven House takes pride of place in the Blue Book, a compilation of Ireland’s best country houses.
But there was another part to Noel’s plan. Downstairs he would create three dorm bedrooms. Just down the road, Crosshaven’s Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest in world, draws a constant flow of international visitors. The coastal village is popular for fishing holidays and for walkers.
Noel knew that these people wouldn’t be seeking out lavish stately home accommodation.
So he created 51 Degrees North (the coordinates of Crosshaven House), with its own separate entrance from the lower west wing.
51 is no ordinary hostel. There are three rooms, one with six bunks, the other two sleep four. The design is like nothing I’ve seen before (when part of your job involves travel, it says a lot when a room really blows you away). Original white washed stone walls, barrel vaulted ceilings and brick voussoirs are exposed throughout. Handcrafted beds in a New England style are set into the walls of the nautical themed rooms with private reading lights and sockets with USB ports. And then there are the curtains, added to each bed for privacy — but they make you feel as though you are walking through the set of Some Like it Hot, that iconic train scene. Any moment now, you think, Marilyn Monroe will pop her head out between the curtains with her ukulele. Like we said, no ordinary hostel.
And still there’s more. Noel built a sauna, with weary sailors and walkers in mind. And to top it all off, there’s a nine seater cinema. Vintage red seats were sourced, old style red curtains, surround sound.
It was the first room Noel completed.
“I just had to have something done that I could look at and say I can do this.”
There’s a private kitchen at 51 Degrees North too, complete with double AGA cooker, designed with an evening beer, glass of wine or communal game of cards in mind.
Noel only opened in May this year. And already it’s reached the top of magazine features on must see travel destinations in Ireland.
He wanted it to be perfect, he says, before he opened it to the public.
He engaged Hearthstone builders, specialists in Georgian restoration. Mary Cunningham, an interior designer based in Clonakilty was sought out to oversee the suites and reception rooms. The beautiful drapes and curtains, designed with John Joe West of West Cork Curtains, are a key feature refurbishment.
Everything, right down to the new Crosshaven House logo, is absolute perfection.
The country house operates on a B&B basis, though it can be fully booked out and catering arranged.
Noel envisions upmarket hens and stags, families, sailing crews and simple girlie getaways will be his regulars at 51 Degrees North. And he’s determined to keep it affordable. The dorm can’t be booked by the bed, the room needs to be booked in full. So the four bed dorm, when full, works out at €47.50 a head. “I just wanted to be fair to people,” Noel explains.
Cronins, just down the road in the village, is a popular option for dinner — or visitors can bring take out back to the communal kitchen at 51 Degrees North (the local chipper, Chish n Fips, is one of Ireland’s finest). By day there are even more options with River’s Edge cafe on the waterfront and Grumpy and Wise on the cusp of the beautiful Crosshaven walkway, along the Owenabue river.
Do the maths and if four friends came away, relied on inexpensive takeout, and watched a movie in the private cinema, it’s a night out for little more than €50.
Noel knows his location is strong — walking, sailing, nearby golf clubs, beaches — and 51 Degrees North and Crosshaven House cater for every taste and market.
For a man with no experience in the hospitality sector, Noel Corcoran has created something very special at Crosshaven house.
Watch this space.
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