Island cottage perfect retreat

Tommy Barker says Heir Island property offers rare opportunity.

LOTS of rare types wash up on Heir Island — of the human and other kinds.

The vendors of a modern island cottage on the west Cork coastline, boat-builder Gubby Williams and artist Christine Thery, know its attractions well as they recently found a rare loggerhead turtle on their marine doorstep.

Loggerheads (not to be confused with the more common leatherback turtle) generally don’t survive in our colder waters, getting ‘cold stunned’ as they drift northwards in the Gulf Stream.

They are more acclimatised to temperate places like the Cape Verde islands, off the west coast of Africa, and ironically enough it is west Cork human natives who are driving on property development there.

We go there, and the turtles come here, to paraphrase a Christy Moore song line.

Gubby and Christine Williams have been Heir Island residents for the past 14 years, but “are moving back to Ireland,” as they say of their plans to relocate.

They came across Heir before their round-world sailing trip in the 1990s, spotted a site on the island before leaving, and picked it up five years later on their return. Given the island’s cachet appeal, sandy beaches, tight planning restrictions and regular ferry service, re-sales won’t ever take so long again. Heir has 23 year-round human residents, plus a swelling of summer time fair weather friends and holiday makers, and there are daily ferry links, plus an acclaimed seasonally-operating restaurant

Estate agent Charles McCarthy of Skibbereen is selling their year 2000-built, storey-and-a half home on an acre, and says it will be a quick seller.

He seeks offers over €600,000, and has an offer over the €500,000 mark in the first week.

Island drums beat out the property news, obviously, and there hasn’t been a house offering openly in years.

The vendors won’t be cutting their links with Heir, Island needless to say, and in fact Gubby Williams has forged a long-lasting tie, having built and sold a new boat class to his own adapted design, called the Heir Island Sloop, a seaworthy day-sailer craft on traditional lines.

About 20 boats are now sailed and raced in west Cork each year, and Gubby plans to have a bigger base to manufacture more boats once they relocate.

Artist Christine Williams exhibits and sells her landscape and portrait paintings under her maiden name Thery in the Gate Gallery in Skibberen primarily, and an assured artist’s eye has been brought to bear on the couple’s own Heir Island home.

It has a north-westerly aspect, facing towards Mount Gabriel and positioned for glorious sunsets, and despite being modelled on the traditional form, has lots of glass for year-round brightness.

It has two first floor bedrooms and a bathroom, with gable and roof windows, and the lower level has kitchen/dining with oil-fired Rayburn and west-facing patio doors, sitting room, rear hall with pantry, shower room and a third bedroom.

The property, on a picturesque acre, has a guest chalet by a pond, and a workshop 20’ by 12’, with boats to its credit. The acre is rich in wildlife, flora and fauna, and includes a nearby strip of land with water frontage, and both deep and shallow water moorings.

Pay a suitable €600,000-plus sum and surely Gubby Williams will throw in a complementary Heir Island Sloop into the bargain.

Tell him all the builders in Dublin are doing it with BMWs.

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