VIDEO: House of the week: Rochestown, Cork, €850,000 

IT’S AN island, but more in name than reality — welcome to Rochestown’s Hop Island, a hop, skip and a jump from suburban Cork, from Douglas village, and from the vital, arterial ring road.

VIDEO: House of the week: Rochestown, Cork, €850,000 

One version of the origin of the name ‘Hop’ Island is its association in the mid 1700s with a Huguenot family and a Monsieur Lawrence De La Main, who had estates in France, and a dance school in Cork’s Rochestown, at this location.

The use of the word hop, after all, has a pedigree preceding the hops, Lindy hops and hip-hop moves of the 20th century.

While dance schools might have reigned in the 18th century, today Hop Island will be best known to legions of horse-lovers, as it has been home to an equestrian school and riding arenas, clustered around a late 18th Century home.

Hop Island runs to 12 acres, linked to the ‘mainland’ and the Rochestown Road by a strip of land little more than the width of the road visitors can drive over.

The island has just five houses plus the remnants of an old watch tower on it.

Now, one of that handful is for sale, on two acres, with hundreds of metres of water frontage to the tidal stretches of Lough Mahon.

As Rochestown property offers go, it’s one of the most unusual.

Estate agent Michael McKenna has the sale of a former lodge on Hop Island, with its central portion at least a century or two in age, and added to on either side in more recent decades, so that now there’s nearly 2,800 sq ft here under its several roofs and add-ons.

Owner since the 1990s has been architect Maeve Cotter of the conservation construction company Belclare Projects, who has lived here on and off, as have other family members since she moved to West Cork, and more latterly to Kinsale.

When she bought it, it hadn’t been lived in for years: “people thought I was mad, saying ‘why do you want to live so far out of the city’?” she recalls with a smile, as in the interim, the city and suburbs have come out to meet it.

Best example of the colonisation is the nearby high-density Harty’s Quay and its nine waterside apartment blocks, with 160 apartments built in the early 2000s on an old shipping quay protruding — like low-density Hop Island — into Lough Mahon, and forming part of the views from here.

On its very own private two acres with paddocks (used in the past by the riding centre,) this lodge is guided at €850,000 by Mr McKenna, who expects it to get viewings from a niche market, and even those more attracted by site potential than by the house itself (The Hop Island Equestrian Centre was offered to market twice in recent times, in 1999 at €1.5m, and in 2005 at €3m on 2.7 acres, but its owner Liam O’Driscoll decided to stay put, at one time going for planning for a retirement home/community on his waterside lands.)

As a dwelling, this former lodge is not without its charms, with up to three living rooms, two with fireplaces, a kitchen with a red oil-fired Stanley range providing much of the heat, and five bedrooms (three of them en suite), plus main bathroom, store, and back hall.

Two of the rooms are upstairs, under the sloping original lodge section’s roof, with old chimney pots, a few windows have ornate fretwork around arches, and there are some old limestone steps and flags by a south-facing terrace.

At best, it’s a renovation task, and anyone looking at it now with its current price tag is going to want a lot more comfort than what’s here, though it is currently lived in.

It might be stripped back, considerably altered, or largely or even completely demolished, all subject to planning permission of course, for a dramatic one-off with water views and access.

It’s not a protected structure, but the setting is special, so sensitivity will be called for, and glimpses of an adjoining property just to the north, seen through stands of Scots Pines and other evergreens, silver birches and eucalyptus, give an indication of what could be done here too.

A good source of advice could turn out to be the vendor Maeve Cotter and Belclare, but she says she’s selling as she has a busy pipeline of projects in Kinsale where her Belclare Projects sign boards are up on some high-end restorations.

VERDICT: Horses for courses

Rochestown, Cork


Size: 261 sq m (2,800 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 4


Best Feature: Water frontage and rare island setting

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