MOST people look will look at a run down derelict cottage and see a ruin — only a few can look at it, imagine what it once was and see the possibilities of what it might be.
Falling in to the second category is ceramic artist and potter Rachel Milotte, and her husband the investigative journalist Mike Milotte: the well-known investigative reporter won the 2010 Irish Film and TV best current affairs documentary award for Freefall, looking at Ireland’s economic and financial collapse, while in 2012 he published an updated version of his 1997 book, Banished Babies: The Secret History of Ireland’s Baby Export Business, which exposed the scandal thousands of Irish infant dispatch to the US.
Between them the creative artist and dogged writer and researcher turned a ruined cottage in the foothills of the Knockmealdowns into the summer home they imagined it could be.
Set amidst rolling countryside with views of hills and valley, it’s now a picture-postcard thatched cottage with whitewashed stone walls, green windows and a renovated stone barn.
And, inside it has all the traditional features you could expect, including a large fireplace, exposed beams and latched doors.
When the Milottes came across it, the 19th Century cottage at Ballysaggart had been abandoned for a few years since the death of its last owner Mick Moore.
It was September 2001 and the couple had completed their fourth renovation project on their home in Rathmines and were looking for another, in hill-walking territory, as a holiday home.
What they found, five miles from Lismore, was a run-down cottage, with dilapidated thatch and no running water, septic tank, toilet, bathroom, or electricity.
Amazingly the only electricity on the entire property was a single light in the cow shed.
The Milottes, who wanted to go hill walking in the Knockmealdowns, said yes as soon as they saw it and agreed the deal the same day. “
The location — atop a hill with virtually 360 degree visibility — was stunning,’’ says Mike.
Renovations took three years and involved importing Turkish thatch and Mike and Rachel spending weekends and spare time working on it.
The services of a local stone worker and thatcher were secured and also those of a plumber who put in gas heating and a carpenter who made timber double-glazed sash windows for the cottage.
During the process a new living room was added on, constructed with large polystyrene blocks imported from France.
“These were slotted together and filled with concrete to provide double insulation,” reveals Mike.
After fixing up the cottage they worked on renovating the old stone barn nearby, insulating it with 100mm of Kingspan.
Once the interior work was complete, the Milottes began reclaiming the site, planting lawns as well as hazel trees and fruit trees.
They acquired an adjoining field and planted 300 or 400 trees including hawthorn, beech, oak, birch, and ash.
At a distance of around 30 metres from the house they put a fruit cage with raspberry canes, rhubarb, blackcurrant, gooseberries, and artichokes.
Outside the living room window they added a west facing patio to take in the views.
For the best possible vantage point, the Milottes advise visitors to go to the top of the meadow from where they can see Helvic Head, Dungarvan Bay, and also get uninterrupted views of the Knockmealdowns.
Looking to the west they say the site offers views of the Araglin valley and to the south, the Blackwater valley.
In 2012, Rachel and Mike — who had worked for 17 years on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme — moved to London.
They sold their Dublin home and rented out this rural hideaway as a holiday let — calling it Mike Moore’s Cottage, in honour of its previous owner.
They say it’s been let 26 weeks every year and has attracted visitors from all over. As a picture-postcard Irish cottage with scenery, it has achieved very favourable mention on TripAdvisor.
Since their move, the Milottes have visited less and, finding it difficult to maintain from a distance, have reluctantly decided to sell. Mick Moore’s Cottage is now listed by Sherry FitzGerald Reynolds who are guiding it at €169,000.
In addition to an abundance of thatched charm and scenic tranquility, the property offers over 1,100 sq ft of living space as well as a site of around an acre.
In the 660 sq ft cottage there’s a tiled kitchen/dining room, with a small number of units, a Belfast sink and a stove as well as a timber floored living room with a stove and patio doors. Inside the oldwalls too there’s a small utility area, a timber floored bedroom and a bathroom with mosaic tiles.
In the 450 sq ft converted barn there are two timber-floored rooms as well a studio used for pottery making and a shower room. There’s also a storeroom with extra insulation where the Milottes planned to put a sauna for relaxation after the exertions of a day spent hiking the hills.
Auctioneer Sinead Reynolds says interest in the cottage is coming from both far and near.
“We’ve had viewings from UK and Irish buyers. A lady drove down from Dublin especially to see it and we have bookings with more viewers coming from the UK.”
Mick Moore would certainly be amazed by what Mike Milotte has made of his cottage: more prime times ahead.