WHAT is it about castles and Munster? In many other parts of the country castles do what they generally are allowed to do, ie slowly decline into a state of gracious old age, then dereliction, and then end up how they began, as a pile of random stones.
Not so down south, where castle renovations, and even castle building, has reached heights unseen in 500 years or more.
Actor Jeremy Irons led the charge with Kilcoe Castle in west Cork, and it stands as a shining sentinel example of best practice.
Some of the same specialist building crew have been stuck into the long-haul rebuilding of Castlefreke Castle, on-going now for four or five years, and possibly with years left to run in the hands once more of the Freke family who are treating it very much as a ‘Grand Projet,’ with appropriate estate development as well.
Cor Castle in Innishannon came back from the metaphorical grave (it featured here c 2001), in the hands of a private developer and old buildings specialist Richard Good Stephenson of Lochplace Conservation, who now lives there with his young family, on his own family’s long-held old grounds. It is truly splendid.
Dunboy Castle in Castletownbere is another mammoth restoration task, largely achieved and set for a hotel/tourism venture, although work on the €60 million venture has now understandably slowed.
Then, there are those who’d rather build their own castles in the air: recent examples include the heavily castellated An Colu in Kenmare, for sale for €10m, and a Limerick castle Heathfield, just finished and seen in these pages last month, for sale for €2.8m. An Colu near Kenmare seems pure Disney-esque (crossed perhaps with Hugh Heffner’s Playboy mansion) ironic really because Roy Disney is the owner of an Irish castle, Coolmain near Kinsale, which is on the discrete end of the turreted ones scale.
It isn’t all over yet, either.
Down in Monkstown, Cork harbour, work has started recently on re-fashioning the original 1600s Monkstown Castle, home at one time to 450 soldiers...and set to be a private home once more when complete.
So, after all of those done deeds, or mostly done deeds — fancy a try at a castle project yourself?
Belvelly Castle, standing sentinel on its water-fronting site at the old humpback bridge at Belvelly on the way to Great Island and Cobh in Cork harbour, is currently for sale with Colliers Jackson Stops, who seek €375,000 for owner Peter Inston.
Architect Peter Inston had bought Belvelly castle back around 2005 (it was on the market for around €150,000 at the time) and before that he’d bought Cregg Castle in north Cork near Michael Flatley’s Castlehyde mansion. Mr Inston was Michael Flatley’s architect overseeing that house’s costly renovations and refurbishements, said to have cost €20m to €30m.
Cregg is still an unfinished project, and no work has been done to Belvelly Castle in recent years. Dating to the 15th century, and a fine example of a medievel square fortified tower, it rises to just over 80’ in heights and is a national monument.
Visible still are the battlements, the mullioned windows, the murder hole, spiral stone staircase and old recesses and rooms.
Its site is essentially its own footprint, little more.
Colliers Jackson Stops country sales team say the chance to take on a project in such a location is rare. “The end result is a tantalising prospect, a breath of life into a beautiful 600-year-old national monument that is merely minutes from one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.” That would be Cork, then, 11 miles away.
And, if you want a bit of local antiquity, Sherry FitzGerald have the fully restored and converted Martello Tower at Belvelly still for sale, with 1,500 square-ish ft of space within, supremely comfortable, for around €1.5 million.