Cover story: Skibbereen, Cork €5 million

Size: Sq m 420 (4,500 sq ft)

Cover story: Skibbereen, Cork €5 million

There’s a global edge to the West Cork gem estate called Creagh Gardens, new to market with an international, understated appeal — and a €5 million price tag.

Billed as “the property jewel of West Cork,” the authentic early Regency house, on 56 acres with acclaimed romantic, Robinsonian gardens has been home for the last decade and more to international IT businessman, serial entrepreneur and ex-chairman of Dublin’s Digital Hub, Leonard Donnelly, his wife Sarah and their young adult family.

Apart from business interests in India and North America, plus angel investments, the Donnellys have also been quiet, serial renovators of some extraordinary West Cork properties, of which Creagh is the most esteemed.

The mix they have tackled includes West Skeam Island in Roaringwater Bay, previously owned by Edward De Bono and James Turrell, which was put up for sale last summer for

€1.5m and which can be reached by boat from Creagh’s pontoons and slips within minutes by fast boat.

The Donnellys also previously owned Glebe House on the other side of Skibbereen, which they sold to AIB’s David Duffy in 2003 for €3m. Mr Duffy further invested in it, and put it for sale in early 2013 guiding €4m to 5m, but it was reportedly since taken off market.

But, there really is another world out there of global wealth interested in exceptional West Cork properties, and near neighbours along this Ilen river/estuary stretch between Baltimore and Skibbereen include David Puttnam at Oldcourt, and now-honorary Corkman, Jeremy Irons with several top properties. The clutch of world-class restored homes and estates around Skibbereen here include Lissard, the Inis Beg estate, the quirky Kilcoe Castle, a restored and converted mill — and classic Creagh.

Creagh Gardens has just been launched quietly to market by agents Charles P McCarthy in Skibbereen and Colliers in Dublin at €5m.

That’s for the full 56 acres, with 15 acres of informal themed gardens with glades and specimen trees dating to the mid 1800s, Gothic ruins, garden rooms, a one-bed gate lodge, bosky bowers, boathouses and a full mile of estuary frontage.

It was originally built in 1820 for Sir William Fane Wrixon-Becher, Baronet and MP in Mallow married to actress Elizabeth O’Neill, who owned 12,000 Munster acres, and whose family seat was Castle Hyde, which is now owned by Michael Flatley. Creagh has had several recent improving owners, especially the Harold Barry family in the 1940s, and it secured ERDF/Heritage & Great Gardens of Ireland support in the 1990s for the gardens with F•s input. Plus it got a new slate roof and cast-iron gutters for the main lime-rendered and ochre-hued residence.

It has also been rewired, replumbed and more, with a deliberately ‘soft’ approach to maintain its charm.

The four-bed home dates to the late Georgian and early Regency era, and it’s quite a modest-sized home in many respects with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a refashioned basement level, with new kitchen and wine cellar for 500 bottles.

Private and secure along the Baltimore-Skibbereen road about 55 miles from Cork city and international airport, Creagh’s real draw is its immense tranquillity and garden havens, inspired by French impressionist painters like Rousseau and Monet, with set-pieces like the serpentine pond and winsome bridge, thatched garden house, moody Gothic tower folly ruin and ancient trees.

There’s a long avenue of Chilean fire trees, an African garden with rare azaleas and magnolias, tropical fruit such as banana trees, palms and tree ferns, thriving thanks to a sea level setting and the warming effect of the Gulf Stream lapping its boundaries.

“To this day, many specimen trees planted in 1820 are still in existence and growing vibrantly,” say the selling agents, and Creagh’s outer shelter belt was repaired prior to the early 2014 storms.

A south-facing walled garden in dry stone has been created, accessed off double doors from the kitchen/dining area.

As the vendors seek something smaller as a West Cork base, planning permission exists for a 3,500 sq ft rear extension, for more bedrooms and bathrooms, a 13m swimming pool, gym, home cinema, kitchenette etc, done in consultation with conservation and heritage architects. Such an extension would make an entirely different proposition for what’s quite a compact, niche period home in a fine setting, with a quarter of its acreage a horticultural delight.

VERDICT: A gem indeed, but it’s up there among the highest priced Munster homes offered for sale in recent years, and that’s even before a prospective buyer factors in extension and garden maintenance costs.

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