Retreat to the country for luxury and innovation

LET there be light: the couple who renovated this west Cork farmhouse bathed it in light, beaming direct rays from the skies into their heart of a kitchen, while cocooning much of the rest of the home in warming insulation. And, they did every inch of it with a natural flair.

Located by the side of a woodland boundary stream, at Brade, near Union Hall, Leap and off the Skibbereen road, this extended farmhouse is very much a retreat in its own right, although coincidentally, is it also located in the country estate-like grounds of a religious retreat centre.

Much of the surrounding land here at Myross Wood Retreat Centre is owned by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, who had bought the 18th century water-fronting home in 1946.

This was a few years after it left Townshend family hands, as in the Castletownshend and Derry House Rosscarbery Townshend’s. Myross was originally built for a Rev Arthur Herbert from Killarney’s Cahernane, and has been a retreat centre since 1970.

This farmhouse is reckoned to be Victorian in origin, say auctioneers Charles P McCarthy, who have the recently renovated and upgraded home on two and a half acres half a mile inland of Myross inlet as a bit of a special listing, and guiding at €450,000-plus.

The setting practically speaks (or whispers) for itself, but they add that “the farmhouse is a rare commodity in today’s market, restored, extended and renovated to a very high standard while never losing sight of its quintessential appeal”.

The long farmhouse and its now-converted old outbuildings make for a large 2,000 sq ft and adaptable property, with three characterful and comfortable first floor bedrooms. There is almost twice as much floor area again at ground level.

There’s huge integrity here, and no small measure of innovation: bringing an extra dimension to the converted old end buildings — which pre-date the main house block.

They would have been residential in their day, given evidence of fireplaces and the way roof lights have been cleverly integrated into the roof-ridge of the two smaller stone-faced buildings.

The scene-stealer of a space is the kitchen, a real cooks’ delight, with exposed beams, insulated new roof with that roof light and argon-filled glazing, slate floor and double aspect windows.

An immense, single piece of thick, rough-hewn Valentia slate is the sink surround, drainer and worktops, a real job for life (and millennia) on top of solid timber kitchen units made by Skibbereen joiner Ian Camfield. He also made the frame that supports an immense old butcher’s chopping block, used here as a kitchen island.

Cleavers still clinging on to the block’s side indicate this house’s owners are serious cooks — or butchers.

The simplest of material is used for the main look: hence, lots of old timbers, either reclaimed or salvaged, old stripped pine, and painted doors with large slate flags for flooring.

These combine with solid wood flooring, timber windows and art and artefacts abound.

There’s pottery from Kerry, and tables from India, all comfortable bedfellows in the look.

Other reclaimed materials include radiators salvaged from convents, old metal shop front lights used for kitchen mood lighting, and a low-slung cast-iron cooker, dated 1918 with the legend made by Wolfe’s of Skibbereen.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, and a new owner might choose to replace it with a working range or stove Stanley, whose continuous heat would certainly put extra warmth into this large space with its thick stone walls, left exposed on both sides.

Thanks to concerted efforts in the rest of the house, this Brade home has earned a C3 energy rating, which ain’t bad for its era, and there’s a pair of ground-mounted solar panels which provide hot water for many months of the year.

Other than the welcoming, party-friendly kitchen there’s a similar sized/ proportioned room at the house’s very end, needing a use as much as a few finishing touches.

Up the other end of the house are two cosier sitting rooms, one with fireplace, the other with a solid fuel stove.

Both have wood floors and windows on each side wall, gratis of the fact that the whole house is one room deep, with at least four if not five access points along its length to the gardens and grounds.

The original staircase has remained in situ, serving three pitch-pine floored bedrooms, a main bathroom with roll top bath and feature inset shower, while one of the bedrooms is en suite, with pumped shower.

The main, largest bedroom, meanwhile, is attractively shaped, with high ceilings, a gable fireplace and a well-placed window which gives views over the sloping gardens to the stream beneath.

Very much a house of one favoured aspect, the southern side has full length graveled terraces and outdoor dining space, with two orchards nearby.

And, there’s a choice of two approach avenues, one to the back ideal for parking, and an almost magical, old world, time-frozen lane to the southern side.

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