Harbour town is at your feet at lofty Dromderrig

Despite a guide of €2.25m, this trophy property in Kinsale is well-placed to draw international interest, Tommy Barker reports

Harbour town is at your feet at lofty Dromderrig

AFTER a period in the price doldrums, Kinsale seems to be back in a position it occupied, ever before the boom, as having some of Munster’s most expensive properties.

It had a clatter of successful sale over and under the €1 million mark in 2012 — tops in 2012 was about €1.7m for a waterfront Georgian home. And, it certainly had more big-ticket sales than its entitlement in percentage terms of housing stock, with a half a dozen or so in the €750,000-€1m bracket; that’s quite possibly down to the fact (like, say, Kenmare, or Killaloe) Kinsale has such an international appeal to relocators, as well as a location less than a half an hour from Cork’s international airport — a point appreciated by pilots and flight crew who also choose to live by the town.

We’re talking serious lifestyle appeal here, in a town with charming, higgledy-piggledy streets and tumbling hills, as well as a hinterland which scrubs up well and impresses on first and subsequent visits. It’s looking especially well now, having endured a couple of disruptive years of road and drains works.

Serene above all of the town (and the harbour’s) day and evening activity beneath is Dromderrig House, a Georgian home of understated distinction, built c 1820, significantly renovated around the year 2000, but utterly free still of Celtic Tiger era excesses and bling. Its current owners have been here since the early 2000s, having lived locally for a period before that (at one time they had a castle near Carrigaline.)

Dromderrig was fairly extensively renovated just prior to their purchase/arrival, having been sensitively done up by an entrepreneurial couple Des and Lisa McGahan, who afterwards went on to renovate the far larger Balllinacurra House a mile or so up along the River Bandon: that was where they hosted the late pop icon, Michael Jackson, after he took refuge there for a few weeks back in a summer of Irish idyll, in 2007, amusing himself by looking at private Irish estates and homes to buy.

Dromderrig House comes publicly for sale with Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing, after a few weeks quietly on the market prior to Christmas. It’s guiding € 2.25m - and, even at that, it’s not the dearest house on the market in the south coast Irish harbour town. That honour probably goes to Fastnet House, in full view across the water at Ardbrack: the spectacular, Scott Tallon Walker-designed 6,000 sq ft Fastnet House on an acre and a half, built by Howard Holdings’ Greg Coughlan for a reported €6m, is also on the market with Mr Tyrrell for €3.75m.

These two trophy homes, facing across the harbour, are done in almost diametrically manners; one’s all cool, glass box-like and contemporary with a basement swimming pool, the other is also basemented, age-appropriate, with retained features and proportions, renewed sash windows and a fiery red Aga in its low-key country home kitchen.

Yet, Dromderrig House is more of a townhouse than a country house, set near the brow of Compass Hill looking over Kinsale town. There’s a popular scenic walk around the hill which passes by Dromderrig, and the panorama includes the inner and outer harbour, James Fort, the Dock and Charles Fort, and everything in between, as the Bandon river wends its way to the sea.

Those great views are to be had from the front porch and portico with its ornate columns, from the moment the heavy front door swings open, as well as from both of its two principal reception rooms and from three of its four upper floor bedrooms.

In all there’s 4,500 sq ft of space to savour here, with a good proportion of that gratis of a decent basement, with its own suite of rooms that include a bedroom, bathroom, a home office/den, wine cellar and a laundry. But, the real charmer down here is the massive, full-width family/games room, 50’ wide and 15’ deep, currently home to a TV/lounge seating area by a giant cast iron stove and inglenook fireplace, next to a pool table and full home bar with mahogany counter and brass trimmings. For those who think that home bars can be a bit on the naff side, this may either change that opinion or copper-fasten it. It’s the size of a small pub or a big snug, with beer/stout on draught, and all of the accoutrements you’d find in a proper bar. There’s no half-measures, it’s scene-set to be the life, soul and source of many a good party or family gathering.

These lower-ground floor rooms (with old slate and stone floors in places) get good light in, despite their basement status, thanks to full depth windows and the fact there’s an alley running like a moat right around the house, meaning dryer, brighter spaces and extra outdoor circulation.

The real quality rooms are above, with formal reception rooms left and right of the central hallway. Each of these rooms have a double aspect, with side as well as front sash windows with drapes and pelmets as well as pine shutters, plus 12’ high ceilings, simple ceiling cornices and roses.

There’s an inner and outer hall, with limestone floors, plus a superb fanlight over the dividing glazed doors, and beyond there’s elegant curves to the hardwood handrails, both for the shallow-step stairs down to the lower level, and a grander rise to top floor, past a lofty, rear arched window.

Up on this top floor are four comfortable double bedrooms plus main family bathroom with bath, separate power shower, bidet, etc, and the master suite has a double aspect, adjacent dressing room with shower cubicle, and second bathroom.

The water system is pressurised to serve the several good multi-jet showers, and heating is oil-fired, plus there’s an alarm. Two of the bedrooms have fireplaces, and overall it’s said to be an easy property to heat and keep warm.

Decor is appropriate to the house’s era, and maintenance has clearly been to the fore in its several recent ownerships.

Dromderrig House is on a site of 0.75 of an acre, and effectively is part now of a small gated niche, as it shares its original larger grounds with three other houses once past electronically-controlled gates. The neighbours are a detached house and two semis, done in a faux period style with slate-hung facades, built by an earlier Dromderrig owner, Denis Sheehy.

Each of the adjacent houses seems to respect neighbouring privacy, and in any case all eyes are to the front for the views, and centre-court Dromderrig House has the best section of garden, to the back, rising up from a landscaped terraced section. This garden (reached from a well-built sun-room to the back of the house) catches morning and evening sun. The whole garden is nicely planted (‘though it’s hard to envisage its summer finery in this wintry depth, but there’s hidden horticultural treasures) and towards the back boundary is a large shed, and a barbecue spot with an outdoor pizza oven/stove, and green-belt fields beyond.

Selling agent Malcolm Tyrrell says Dromderrig House is going to have a significant appeal to buyers who ‘get’ the Kinsale lifestyle, and who want what he says is one of the best detached period homes in all of the town, with some of the best ‘grand circle’ views to boot.

The town itself, with all of its bars restaurants, shops, cosmopolitan vibe and yachty and boating feel and activity is justa few minutes’ walk downhill, past a clutch of similar era, albeit smaller Georgian homes and a small few contemporary insertions as well, all prized for their views.

The best of those views are omni-present from Dromderrig’s main rooms. In fact, the house is visible from lots of other parts of the town, and is immediately discernible in aerial photographs of Kinsale — many of which grace the walls of Dromderrig.

This over-basement house has all of the requisite finery that the market’s upper-end buyers might want, without any onerous care burden of worry about keeping acres of and acres of grounds. It even has an old, cave or grotto-like well to the back of the house, as a reminder of more basic times and as a contrast now to its convenient mains services.

Its sash windows were professionally reworked in the last decade, the exterior walls are an easy-keep dash, painted with a stucco band around the middle, the slate roof has a low pitch, and the front terrace by the colonnaded portico is quietly elegant, and a spot favoured by the house’s occupants for time-whiling, and tea and coffee taking.

VERDICT: Low-key luxury, in a prime Kinsale viewing pitch, makes Dromderrig one for the internationally mobile set, or for some of Cork’s better-heeled citizens in search of a lifestyle shift.

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