FINE country houses dot the River Blackwater, like pearls on a flowing necklace. But, too often the only way to spy them is from the sky, or more strenuously by boat.
A canoe paddle up or down a river (yep, down is easier) is a perspective-changer, a real-eye opener; fabulous houses that you never even knew existed face the river, and shun the road, packing in the privileges of wealth, removed from the busier world beyond.
Apart from the sheer length and variety along the River Shannon’s narrows and lakes, the 70-mile long Blackwater river must have some of the country’s best hidden homes and mansions, through counties Cork and Waterford.
Near Youghal, there’s the Ballynatray estate, where the house and lands made over €11 million several years ago. At Fermoy, Michael Flatley has reputedly poured close on €30 million into his Castlehyde home, and Mallow Castle was recently bought for around €8 million by the bar-owning Scriven family, who are understood to be looking at development potential and an offices deal with Cork County Council.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s the Duke of Devonshire’s landmark Lismore Castle, which must be close to priceless when you compare its merits with those other proven, but lesser, best-sellers.
Then, there are the River Blackwater’s lower-profile homes, offering the same sort of quality of life for an (ahem!) more manageable sum. Such a house is Ileclash, launched in these pages last weekend, and possibly even a snip at €4 million.
The name may come from the Irish ‘leach glas’ meaning ‘the limestone castle’, says its selling agent Michael H. Danies, himself a Blackwater river region resident and country homes specialist, who is selling for an English/Scottish couple. They are relocating to the West Indies, despite having only bought Ileclash in a private, off-market deal a year or so ago.
That couple had spent three years looking for just such a place, it had to be Georgian, and it had to be on the River Blackwater.
On its eleven elevated acres, steeped in antiquity and archaeology, Ileclash is quite a property package. A genuine Georgian home, with later Victorian additions plus a very recent sun-room extension to the spacious kitchen, it has first-rate living rooms, with all architectural details intact and enhanced, but molly-coddled as well with creature comforts such as super-effective heating and plumbing.
And, it has not one, but two, guest cottages in a courtyard setting, an immaculate walled garden, raised beds, formal parterre hedging and grounds, all inside its quite imposing entrance pillars and beech drive. There’s one full-time gardener, who clearly takes enormous pride in presentation and care.
The inside is just as good as the gardens, with about 7,000 sq ft of living space, including six quality en suite bedrooms, and it has the signs of regular upgrading and expenditure over the past several ownerships. Among its more distant owners was British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosely and Diana Mitford, whose marriage scandalised the inter-war English society, with their marriage taking place in Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’ drawing room, in a ceremony attended by Adolf Hitler.
Hitler didn’t ever make it to Ileclash, a couple of miles down river of Fermoy, though the WW1 movie the Blue Max did feature German-English air battles, filmed in the 1960s a half a mile from this house, with daring flight sequences under the still-standing steel viaduct.
Classically proportioned, but not truly symmetrical, as might be expected with the Georgian norm, it has a fine five-bay entrance front with low fanlight to the east, by the gravel drive with large bay laurel tree in its turning area. It also has an attractive south/garden facade with two large feature bows of three bays each, with a further three bays beyond and the Victorian additions are faced towards the immaculate walled gardens and children’s playground.
Ileclash house was built on a limestone escarpment above the river, with secret grottos and caves, riverside walks, and comes with ownership of half a river island, and single bank fishing right on a mile of this top-class salmon river.
The private grounds (about 11 acres) include a ring or fairy fort. There are views of Licklash Castle to the east, and a Norman castle and the Victorian viaduct to the west. Fermoy is just two miles away, and the new M8 tolled bypass of the town puts Cork city, the airport and other centres within an easy drive...no more of Fermoy’s notorious traffic tail-backs.