Graham Norton may have put West Cork’s Ahakista on the map with his tweet about his neighbours selling a home close to his own — but Norton has already helped land at least one major talent as an Ahakista resident.
Six years ago, a key voice artist on The Simpsons, Harry Shearer, was a guest on Graham Norton’s show with Eddie Izzard: this year, the 71-year-old Californian who used get up to $400,000 (about €295,000) per episode — voicing Mr Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner, and many more — bought an Ahakista hideaway to add to his homes in California, Lousiana, and London.
He’s understood to have bought The Warren by Ahakista pier, a modern dormer home which had been on the market through Harrington Estates for €495,000. Shearer’s buy includes a guest apartment and a chalet with five-person hot-tub, a melting pot for Shearer’s many characters. Fame and fortune side by side, so now, who’s up next for Ahakista? And might the supremely talented Shearer have buyer envy already and trading-up hopes floated immediately?
The beguiling Kitchen Cove comes to the market this month and is a rare and special buy. A vastly upgraded and extended farmhouse home on five water-front acres with beach opposite Norton’s own multimillion-euro period home, Kitchen Cove carries a €1.2m-plus price guide with Charles and Maeve McCarthy of Charles P McCarthy, and it is making international waves.
The Irish Examiner reported last week about Norton’s helpful tweet that Kitchen Cove was up for the taking, after promising its vendors he’d give them a plug. Within a day, the house’s sales details on McCarthy’s website had 5,500 hits, and it’s gathering pace still thanks to the reach of Norton’s 800,000 Twitter followers.
Grateful vendors in this case are London-based PR consultant Stephen Palmer, and his wife Helen, who has Connolly family roots on the Sheep’s Head peninsula.
The couple had been coming for holiday in West Cork for decades, with a small 1970s holiday home on the peninsula’s northern shores.
“We met up with the previous owners of Kitchen Cove, from the UK, in Arundel’s pub across the bay and they told us they were thinking of selling,” says Stephen.
“It wasn’t on the market with an agent; we visited it, but didn’t really like it much at the start as the grounds were very overgrown. But we quickly realised just how wonderful it was.”
They bought in 2002, just a year before Norton paid €1.6m for his Georgian pile in view from here, across a stretch of sheltered water, and both buyers started improvements.
Norton worked from the inside out of his grand purchase, using Clonakilty-based Edge Architects, while the Palmers mostly concentrated on the acres of grounds at Kitchen Cove.
Its two previous owners, a lawyer from Maine in the US and then the UK family, had already made sizeable investments and extensions at Kitchen Cove, and its American owner was the one who created the still quite dramatic double-height main living room within its old, original stone walls.
Landscape gardener Pat Higgins had been recommended to the Palmers, and all agreed it needed a naturalistic, soft look rather than “Surrey lawns”, as Stephen notes wryly and appreciatively.
So, they put in paths through copses of trees, and a winding stream for drainage with a small stone bridge for garden focus, and they re-opened up access to the property’s second beach, which has a modicum of sand.
It’s a waterside bathing spot much loved by Stephen and Helen’s grandchildren, several of whom have just returned to the UK, hence the couple’s decision after 12 years in fairly full-time Ahakista occupancy to move back to be with them there.
In stark contrast to the Palmers’ off-market buy, the social media and high-profile launch of the house now to the wider property market may encourage international interest (continuing a trend of overseas ownership). It already has its first viewings booked in from the UK via Skibbereen-based Charles McCarthy who says it’s in a secluded location, “on the water’s edge with its own private slipway, and is an exceptional property overlooking Dunmanus Bay, enjoying unrivalled views of one of the most stunning vistas on the West Cork coastline” (and of a certain Mr Norton’s home, too.)
Kitchen Cove’s a pretty modest- sized and tastily kept 2,200 sq ft (204 sq m) four-bed home of immense character and heft, complete with kitchen garden on its five acres of land, with lots of gently shelving and rocky shoreline.
Its original lofty core still has old exposed stone walls, some stone-flagged floors along with beamed ceilings, massive exposed joists and mezzanine over the kitchen. This mezzanine, a TV/den space, has gable window and fireplace, big sofas and faces in the other direction down this long run of main, character-full room to the far end’s traditional Inglenook fireplace and white-painted chimney breast. There’s a novelty in seeing inaccessible windows and ledges above head height, left from what used to be upstairs rooms; it’s like a reminder of the former
Annelie’s Kinsale restaurant of 1990s fame. As the two previous owners did Kitchen Cove’s main extension work [the Palmers toned down colours a bit, giving a peaceful calm to the place], allowing the selling agents to describe it as “tastefully extended and modernised over the years, to now provide a home of style and comfort, one which makes the most of its unique location.”
The comfortable main sitting room is big enough to take a baby grand piano, and although ceiling height isn’t near as lofty as in the main old house, there’s enough space for a small chandelier for a bit of posh. Other rooms include utility, halls, and some seating spaces stolen by carefully-selected windows, along with four bedrooms.
The main/master is en suite, with a French door to one of the several garden terraces. This sleeping quarter also has a dramatically-large bay window facing the bed, with window seat for views over the bay to the pier and seasonally moored yachts, RIBS, and fishing craft (Kitchen Cove has its own slip for boat owners).
When visitors do call, by boat, plane or car, they’re inclined to want to drop at least a metaphorical anchor, so it’s handy that there’s a self-contained one-bed cottage just shy of 300 sq ft for overnights and longer.
The main dwelling has three good bathrooms, one contemporary in style, another other more traditional with old roll-top cast iron bath. For those thinking of taking the plunge, McCarthy auctioneers are seeking over €1.2m for this hideaway slice of coastal heaven on the Sheep’s Head peninsula.
The long, rocky finger into the Atlantic is home to diverse communities at Durrus, Kilcrohane, and Ahakista, and the Sheep’s Head walk winds among some of Ireland’s (and the Wild Atlantic Way’s) most inspiring scenery. Ahakista has a small winter population but lots of get up and go, with celeb and non-celeb summer residents, along with rowing club and annual festival and quizzes (compèred by Norton, August 1 this year) with bars like the Tin Pub, and a restaurant.
It’s about 10km from Durrus, with even more food and drink offers, and 20km from Bantry, and previous residents include Christy Moore, who rested here in a round, stone eco-house he has since sold.
On a more sombre note, Ahakista is also the dignified home of a circular, stone memorial and sundial by noted sculptor and carver Ken Thompson, in memory of the Air India Flight 182 disaster. It is one of four memorials to the 329 victims of a terrorist attack: the 30th anniversary of that blast just off the West Cork coast is June 23, 2015.
A place apart.