Welcome to the lesser-spotted Coney Island, West Cork style.
Known in lore, legend and song, Coney Islands range from a peninsula at New York’s Long Island, famed for leisure activities, roller coasters and fairground attractions, to at least two in Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s Co Down has a Coney Island, lyrically and lushly immortalised in a spoken song by Belfast native Van Morrison: in it, he name-checks a string of villages you’d pass through in the area on a day-trip to go bird-watching, buying the Sunday papers, and stopping off at Ardglass for “a couple of jars of mussels and some potted herrings in case we get famished before dinner.”
You could do pretty much do the same song and slow recitation, starting in West Cork’s Skibbereen, perhaps rounding out by Lough Hyne, or passing via Lackahane and Oldcourt, out to Baltimore harbour and the Cove, passing any amount of places to get your mussels, and being told of the high days in the 19th century of herring hauls landed at Baltimore, and round off your trip to watch seabirds by the cliffs at the Beacon and Coney Island.
Baltimore’s end of peninsula-set Coney Island is indeed a coastal cul de sac: next stop the Atlantic, Sherkin Island and Cape Clear, plus the Fastnet, before the ocean intervenes before New York’s Coney Island once more.
This southern Irish version, home to just a handful of architect-designed homes in a Cape Cod-like almost Kennedy Compound clique, won an An Taise Context Award in 1984, for the 1970s-built cluster by RIAI architect Neil Hegarty, and was built for the late Michael Whelan and his wife Maureen: Mr Whelan founded Aran energy that decade and sold in 1995 to Statoil for over €200 million.
Neil Hegarty was a one-time Cork City Architect, who also won an RIAI Award for Housing in 1975, for his 1960s-built Dundanion Court project in Cork city’s Blackrock.
Coney Island’s buildings are lower density and more diverse, done in the spirit of Kinsale’s Castlepark cluster, writ large and in low, elite numbers, and held in high architectural esteem.
Now, a Coney Island home comes to market, on a half an acre, with option to purchase on a fuller ten acres, of rough and rockland, but scenically sublime.
The Hegarty-designed house runs to about 2,200 sq ft, mostly at ground level but with mezzanine under the apex of asymmetric roofs and double height space, some used as extra bed spaces above central bedrooms and reached via a variety of ladder/steps, as well as a living area with sea views via Veluxes on a mezzanine over the open, split level kitchen/dining room, plus a study on high.
Auctioneer is Maeve McCarthy of Charles PMcCarthy & Co in Skibbereen, and she guides the signature 2,200 sq ft four-bed at €750,000-plus on its half acre, or over €800,00 all-in, with a short walks back to Baltimore village’s services, bars, shops and top restaurants like The Mews.
She says that it is in a most-private location with views and south-westerly aspect overlooking the harbour and Carbery’s Island and Ringarogy Island, with all-day views of island ferries and the hustle and bustle of sailing/boating activity.
She notes that Baltimore is a sought-after West Cork location and adds that Coney Island/The Cove is as-special again.
Accommodation sees four bedrooms to one side, with access corridor to the rear, and there’s also a sun room, and a large, split level kitchen/dining, with breakfast bar, and living space a few steps up, with lots of varnished sheeted pine ceilings, and some white painted fair-face concrete (ie, unplastered) block walls.
Overall condition is good, and quite in keeping decor-wise with its 1977 build, and it has oil central heating and a D2 BER.
“It’s a truly unique offering to the West Cork property market, positioned in one of the most outstanding locations in this wonderful fishing and sailing village of Baltimore,” enthuses Ms McCarthy.
: To quote Van Morrison on ‘Coney Island’ “Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?”