Discover the joys of the strand

Tommy Barker casts an admiring eye over an idyllic West Cork retreat.

WHEN it comes to Discovering Ireland, Graham and Mary Gosling were years ahead of the posse.

The inventors of the Discover Ireland board game in 1987 (have been beachside at West Cork's rugged Long Strand since the 1980s.

It is a wildly beautiful spot, with rocky cliffs and headlands, a bracing beach a mile long, popular with walkers and surfers, and tousled tufts of dunes behind, with woodland walks back to Castlefreke as a further backdrop. It is located within an hour's drive of Cork city, six miles from Clonakilty and three miles from Rosscarbery, and this proximity has driven up property values in the last couple of years.

Cases in point include a two-bed ground floor apartment by the Inchedoney Lodge and Spa Hotel, currently under offer at €335,000 with Kieran O'Gorman estate agent.

The same estate agent got over €200,000 for a wholly derelict cottage near Galley Head, without sea views and needing full rebuilding. And, if you factor in sea views, well, the sky is the limit.

Overlooking Long Strand and Kilkeran Lake, a small country cottage in need of modernisation made €315,000 last autumn, and now the crop of 2004 sales offerings are stepped up a gear even higher.

John Hodnett of South Western Services in Clonakilty, with Liam Hodnett joint agent in Skibbereen, quote €350,000 for Summerhill, a pristine three-bed house, home to the Goslings and with seaside sunsets to warm the cockles of the heart. Given the trend of big money prices in the vicinity, they won't be too surprised if bidding brings it on quite a bit further.

Super-strict planning regulations have put an absolute premium on existing coastal properties, say the agents. Thus, occupants and vendors of seaside houses are the beneficiaries of the lack of available sites.

The Goslings ran a tea shop and guest house nearby for years beside the beach at Long Strand, and got the idea for the Discover Ireland game when guests returned in the evenings asking about places to travel to during their holidays.

A few years ago, they moved inland between Rosscarbery and Glandore, but the lure of the sea was too strong for Londoner Graham and Mary, who grew up in the area and who walks the beach every day, hail, rain or shine.

"The children will kill us for selling," she says, although the 'younger' Goslings Mark and Nicola are now in their 20s and living in Cork and Dublin.

Mary and Graham want to find a place with more office space for their business Gosling Games, but in any case have recently secured planning for an extension and detached garage at Summerhill.

Snug Summerhill, painted a cheery maritime blue, is a compact well-kept dormer with west-facing views along the beach to Glandore Bay, and the bulk of the site is to the front with the views: there's another similar house close behind of similar vintage, now being overhauled and extended.

Equally suitable for holiday or full time occupation, Summerhill has two decent sized dormer bedrooms reached up an open tread stairs, there's a ground floor third bedroom, small office with amazing (and distracting!) views, and a dining room off the open plan living room and kitchen.

There's also a main bathroom with shower, and conservatory /porch to the rear. The decor is immaculate, using tile, slate, timber and stone as a natural palette, and heating is by electric storage heaters.

There's also a solid fuel cast iron stove in the living room, which really pumps out the heat just the thing to welcome you back after a blustery January walk on the beach.

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