Coastal location and luscious lawns at much-loved Lisheen House in Cork

Tommy Barker reports on an exceptional harbourside home, in impeccable order inside and out.

Coastal location and luscious lawns at much-loved Lisheen House in Cork

Kilbrittain, Cork €975,000

Size: 4,500 sq ft on two acres in Kilbrittain

Bedrooms: 7

Bathrooms: 4


Best Feature: Sublime and super-special

It was the family home of celebrated Irish modernist artist Patrick Scott, who died last year aged 93, but the sublime, Co Cork coastal Edwardian-style Lisheen House evolved out of a far humbler dwelling called Flaxfort Cottage.

In fact, the only clues as to any domestic modesty are the hand-coloured architect’s drawing for this comfortably-sized two-storey residence, hanging today in Lisheen House’s hall, showing the original two-roomed cottage, and then quite some ambition, all fully realised and seen here today in these images.

This special, Kilbrittain water-aspected Lisheen House is where leading artist Patrick Scott was born in 1921, and Scott trained first as an architect, before making the move to painting in 1960.

His valuable paintings, many of the featuring paintings using gold leaf, are in leading collections, and he died in February 2014, the day before a major retrospective of his work opened at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

After his death, one of his notices remarked that Scott came from “faded Cork gentry.”

But the 1930-rebuilt Lisheen House gives at least some lie to this assertion. If the family’s fortunes had faded (before Patrick Scott’s paintings made such strong sums), today Lisheen House is a polished gem, gently and tasteful gilded.

Down the decades, Lisheen House has had several owners, including writer Damien Enright, but it’s probably true to say that today, it’s in as good (or far better) shape as it has ever been since it was first built. That’s quite probably due to the fact that its current owners just ‘got it,’ from the get-go.

It has been owned, and much improved, in the caring hands of Jack and Cindy O’Mahony for the best part of 20 years, and they are now downsizing, and simplifying their lives, having lived in “up to 30 houses, in four countries,” reckons Cindy.

They have Ireland, the UK, the US and Australia in their background, and now live half the year in Australia, and half in Kilbrittain. Jack O’Mahony’s a local man, born in Courtmacsherry across the bay from Lisheen and he emigrated aged 23..... but still has kept every cadence of his West Cork accent.

At the time Lisheen House last came up for sale, the O’Mahonys were living part-time in Castlefreke, and Cindy came to view here on her own.

She knew it was what they wanted, and agreed to buy, and ‘kindly’ let Jack know they had found a new home. He wasn’t disappointed and, their Castlefreke home sold as readily.

After two decades of happy residence, Lisheen is for sale with auctioneer Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing in Cork city, who is going to have some joyous visits in summer days to this quiet exceptional harbourside home, in impeccable order inside and out on peaceful grounds, and price-guided at €975,000.

It ticks just so many boxes, too. It’s within an hour of Cork city and airport.

It’s an easy strike to Kinsale to the east, and Clonakilty to the west, it’s a (relatively) sheltered spot on the Wild Atlantic Way, and its back roads, byroads, boreens and lanes are bedecked in wild flowers this time of year.

Passers-by along the road here skirting the shoreline of Courtmacsherry Bay get fleeting glimpses only of Lisheen, noting ‘there’s a nice spot.’ and then they are gone: what really marks out (and masks) Lisheen is its fine stand of Monterey Cypress trees (macropcarpa) by its entrance pillars and gates, framing views from the house out to the tidal bay reaches.

Fortunately, the century-plus trees - which are a real coastal setting feature in places from Monterey California to South Africa, and Ireland’s Ivernia peninsulas, - are far enough back not to pose a threat to the house, but they do form an impressive sentinel entry presence up the house’s side-set entry porch.

A quite recently added sun room, put on to the gable facing the entrance drive and the water beyond now sets an even-better first impression of the quality to be delivered within, and outside in the gardens, where a large gazebo with central, large, four-person hot tub, under a glazed roof apex, is an inspired all-weather addition for night-time star-gazing, and day and night time views over the water to Courtmacsherry.

There are two wonderful acres of ground here, where off in the inland distance in folds of countryside another original Scott family home can just about be glimpsed.

Discretely set next to Lisheen is a private house fashioned out of old courtyard buildings, and that has been the home and workshop of skilled artisan furniture maker Eric Pearce, who wed Patrick Scott in 2013 in a civil partnership, in the last throes of pre-marriage referendum days as a coda to a relationship that had lasted many, many years with Kilbrittain at its core.

Now looking to partner Lisheen House into new occupation, auctioneer Malcolm Tyrrell bills the 4,500 sq ft home as “a truly superb country house, completely restored and upgraded, set amidst beautiful grounds and overlooking Courtmacsherry Bay. It now provides excellent accommodation, while retaining all its original charm and character.”

Trump cards are both its condition - a testament to not being constrained by budget or maintenance niggles (if anything needed work, it got done) - and more than a modicum of good taste and respect for house’s era, topped up with all mod cons like solar panels for hot water, alarm, CCTV and super-effective central heating, underfloor heating under the slate floor in the 24’ by 11’ conservatory.

Sash windows in the conservatory appear to be quality pvc done to look like timber: in fact, it’s almost the opposite, they are painted hardwood sash double glazed, painted so finely there’s not a brush-mark to be seen in the glistening white gloss paint.

The O’Mahonys used local Skibbereen architect Donal Hoare to oversee the sun room addition and the house’s overall overhaul, and the same painstaking care is evident over all three levels.

Lisheen House has three of its seven bedrooms at its uppermost level, under sloping eaves, and they are almost monastic in their simplicity, with exposed stone walls at the gable ends, windows are in the roof, and this level also houses a bathroom, and a small office/store with CCTV monitor screen showing any untoward activity about the property.

There’s also storage space, for lots and lots of suitcases, as required by an extended family often on the move.

The middle floor accommodates four bedroms, one or two with fireplaces, and the 29’ by 14’ master bedroom has a double aspect and views to Wood Point; a dressing area is off past a curtained arch, and beyond again is a wet-room/ shower room.

The main family bathroom, again, is up to a high-spec, with large shower, Victorian bath, twin sinks and marble tiling, and there’s a further shower cubicle almost as an afterthought, behind an anonymous door by the stairs to the top floor.

Even though Lisheen House weighs in as a seven-bed home of 4,500 sq ft, the peculiar thing is that

it doesn’t feel way too large: you could almost ignore the top floor, except for when guests come, and pretty much make use of all the other rooms, all year around.

The quality interior tone is set from the porch inwards, with glistening polished red quarry tiled floor, and continues then off the carpeted hall, past a plush carpeted sitting room/TV room with rich red walls an fireplace with pine surround.

The largest room is the 31’ by 11’ drawing room, where the vein of a white/grey marble insert is picked up and replicated faithfully in a hand-painted timber surround.

Stripped pine ornately carved Corinithian columns were antique finds, invited to Co Cork from a UK house and made to feel right at home here, next to a baby grand piano.

This double-aspect room’s windows have replacement sashes, painted white, contrasting with stripped pine shutters - a mix that works smoothly well, and the room then opens to the oh-so comfortable sun rooms, heated underfloor and by the sun, super light and bright.

That’s in some contrast to the 18’ by 12’ dining room, which with its part-exposed original stone wall is darker, ideal for evening gatherings-in, the floor oak, and giving lots of heat is a oil-fired four-oven Aga, making for the ultimate extravagance during dinner parties - sort of the convenience of a ‘Hostess’ serving/warming trolley, in a two-tonne piece of toasty hot green cast iron.

The kitchen’s none too scanty either, and is a place that has seen some serious cheffery.

There’s a good mix of cook books to show some serious intent (Ottolenghi’s entire collection to-date) and the owners say some friends who run a West Cork restaurant have trialled some of their recipes here on their enormous, Vulcan stainless steel stove, with gas rings large enough and hot enough to stir-fry an ox: you could nearly imagine the gas rigs a dozen miles away at the Kinsale gas fields stepping up production when this beast of an oven is in full flame.

On a more organic level, the gardens include productive herb, veg and fruit bed and bushes.

Units in the hard-working, hard wokking kitchen are in limed or antiqued ash, made by a highly regarded local joiner called Junior Jennings, and the O’Mahonys sing his praises: he’s also done much of the other joinery work for them in their home.

Kitchen worktops are a reddish granite and the island has an off-set, irregular shaped top, also in granite, which sort of shows a case of thinking outside the box-shape.

A long utility/back pantry is hard-working too, with shelves groaning under the weight of sauces, condiments and cans, and a quick trip across a sheltered yard reveals a secure, stone-faced store room, used as a wine cellar.

Next to it is a craftily created stone arch with sturdy oak door and porthole window, draped in ivies and topped by an old bell and stone surround.

Back around at the house’s main approach, there’s a large two-car garage/workshop which gives access to the back hall for off-loading shopping or suitcases, irrespective of the weather.

Also all-weather is the purpose-built hexagonal gazebo, with slate roof and glazed apex.

This inspired garden room houses a large hot-tub, a fridge and wet bar, while double French doors in untreated oak open to garden glories, paths and terraces and views and, every now and then, glimpses to cars passing by, oblivious to the fact there’s a slice of West Cork coastal heaven just over the neatly-trimmed hedges.

VERDICT: Every bit as good as it looks in these sunny-day pictures.

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