House of the week

IT will be a hard job keeping up with the neighbours at this farmhouse buy — but, it’s likely the buyers will in any case be fairly well-heeled, and Hunter wellington-shod.

Newly up for sale, after the death of its bachelor farm owner, is a rare, rare west Cork offering to get the covetous mind’s cogs a-whirring. This lot has half a mile of sheltered sea frontage to wonderful Roaringwater Bay, 30 acres of private headland with views of islands and the Fastnet Lighthouse, an old-style but solid century-old farmhouse, practical yard and outbuildings — and a castle.

Welcome to Rossbrin Castle, first and foremost, one of the signal towers strategically placed along the west Cork shoreline, all within sight of one another, and in varying states of repair. Next stop east along the way, actor Jeremy Irons’s fully restored colourful Kilcoe Castle is an object lesson in castle renovation. But, he didn’t start with a tower in as parlous and precipitous a state as Rossbrin.

Not only is Rossbrin described as a ruin, it is a fairly dangerous state, with several deeply worrying cracks evident in its upper section, and you’d want to take care prowling around it in a high wind.

But, what a setting! It’s up on a rocky outcrop, properly placed for strategic viewing over privately-owned Horse Island to Cape Clear, out to the Fastnet, and back towards the entrance to Schull harbour.

Originally an O’Mahony castle, Rossbrin is the remnants of a four storey tower house with two flanking towers, and the remains of a vaulted lower room are still evident, under the ominously looming single, soaring corner of stone and stairway.

Where Rossbrin Castle sits is where any new owner would ideally like to site a house. But, it’s unlikely planners might concur with snuggling up close to such a prominent monument, so intending new residents may look at other house site options. Or, they may simply and cost-effectively choose to work with the existing house, which was sited for shelter, and which still has fantastic inland and inlet views, with boats moored around this property’s shoreline, thanks to the presence of the well-regarded Rossbrin boatyard a few hundred yards away.

This stretch of coastline is very much an under-the radar “Golden Mile”. The fact Rossbrin’s off the main linking road only adds to its allure.

The lot is for sale with Stephen O’Keeffe of James Lyons O’Keeffe auctioneers in Schull, who guide at €800,000, and who readily acknowledge that back in better times “it would have been worth millions, but when the owner was asked if he was interested in selling, he’d answer “not a blade of grass”.

The entire available mix includes 30 scenic acres of grass in several large divisions, with access roadway and water, cattle shed (with better views than the existing house), stone outbuilding which looks like it might be an earlier dwelling, and the two-storey traditional farmhouse, now damp but eminently salvageable, with a large solid fuel stove powering central heating. The house is easy to upgrade, and those of a more speculative bent, or with lots of money, will surely look at the possibility of a second, better sited home, and possibly even tourism potential. If used as an organic/hobby farm, the castle’s presence and profile will allow immediate “branding” opportunities.

VERDICT: This is a sale to watch for 2012. Will an Irish buyer emerge, or be trumped by an overseas purchaser? Oh, and bring a boat.

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