Rhapsody in blue found by the sea in Kinsale

A magnificent view and a heated swimming pool make this a virtuoso property outside Kinsale, writes Tommy Barker.
Rhapsody in blue found by the sea in Kinsale

The setting was the clincher, even then, back 20 years ago. “ I walked into the room, saw this space and the view, and I could already ‘see’ my piano there....I knew it was the house for us.”

So says acclaimed musician and pianist Billy Crosbie of this family home, high on a hill above Summercove, with views out to Kinsale harbour and up the Bandon river estuary past the town, towards and past the bridge towards Sandycove and Ballinspittle. It’s got quite the long view, indeed.

Not only are the water vistas expansive in the mid-distance, there’s also a water aspect way, way closer to this deceptive-sized property. It’s an outdoor swimming pool, heated, so feel free to dive on in.

The pool is just one surprise of this lifestyle property which has been home to Saran and Billy Crosbie since late summer of 1997 when they instantly fell for this just-built house, at a townland called Bawnavota.

Billy, a former newspaper man, and one-time director of Thomas Crosbie Holdings, remembers the day well when he first visited this ‘outer Kinsale’ house, at Bawnavota as “it was the week that Princess Diana died in Paris.”

Now, with two decades down, and family more or less reared and grandchildren in train, the couple has decided to downsize... even if finding a trade-down home with space for the baby grand piano could be a bit of a challenge.

Hugely well-known in Kinsale and music circles, Billy Crosbie was a founder member of the Cork City Jazz Band which played more then 25 years in Actons Hotel Kinsale, as well as at jazz fringe events, and, eh, he was instrumental in the Irish Examiner’s backing of the Guinness Jazz Festival: getting a piano up on top of Blarney Castle by helicopter was one of his stunts that had the Cork festival festooned across the US on Good Morning America TV the next day.)

Billy still plays in Kinsale, mostly at weekends, mixing rock ‘n’roll with R&B, swing, and jazz and soul. However, the ‘blues’ are confined to the colour of the house walls externally, and in some internal rooms and kitchen units too, in this family home where if those same walls could talk, they’d croon.

In more recent years, a musical baton is being wielded, as Billy Crosbie is now also a piano teacher, with dozens of pupils, aged from five years to 70 coming for tuition to this distractingly-set piano. And, given the month that’s in it, he’s going heavy on the Jingle Bells variations for the younger cadre.

Saran Crosbie doesn’t rest on her laurels either, it seems: the morning the Irish Examiner visited, she was leading a slightly more vicious-sounding workout and exercise class in the adjoining gym and workroom, with Kinsale ‘ladies that lunge’ joining in her regime in a standalone temporary structure next to the house.

Meanwhile, the blue-hued house itself, a large dormer, has four principal bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms up on the first floor level, with a part gallery landing over the stairs and hall.

In addition there’s a proper granny flat to the right, with external access, and it has a kitchen, living room, shower room, and overhead is a lofted bedroom, with Velux.

For those without grannies or others to keep an eye on, this granny flat can be rented out for income, or lent to guests... given the proximity to Kinsale (and 30-minute commute to Cork city and airport) , there really won’t be shortage of takers, the only question is, do you rent, or give free?

Showing even further adaptability is a section off on the far side of this family home, where there’s yet another self-contained area, with kitchen/living room and bedroom, and which has been taken over at present by an adult son.

Handily, it can be accessed from within the main house, or independently also, by a side door beside the gym building.

Outside also is a polytunnel, and numerous garden sheds assigned various storage or work functions. The largest, in effect a chalet and overlooking the 10m by 5m swimming pool, has c 250 sq ft, with veranda, and served its time as a music room for the children growing up and finding their beat.

Also in the acre of landscaped grounds are fruit trees, herb and veg beds, and assemblies of old railway sleepers for training plants around, as well as an expanse of recently re-done decking, a barbecue area and a pond outline where the family have been thinking of switching the elements, and making it a fire pit instead.

Back inside the main 3,250 sq ft house, there’s an entrance porch leading to a hall with part-double height section with balcony above, but instinctively the eye is drawn through the large lounge out to the conservatory/sun room with south west aspect, flooded in light and open to the best of the views, including Charles Fort.

Off to the side is a large kitchen/dining room, with kitchen on the upper half, with pale blue painted units, and the breakfast/dining section is down two steps, has an open fireplace for cheery good heart, and is where double doors open to the patio and swimming pool.

Dividing the kitchen/diner from the 20’ by 12’ living room (with stove) is a study/family room, and there’s also a utility/laundry room, and guest WC.

Bawnavota is located about three miles from Kinsale town proper, within a walk of Summercove, a national school, the Bulman pub and Kinsale rugby club, and closer still is the Carlton Hotel, now run by the Macdonald hotel group in Scotland.

Selling agent is Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing, who seeks offers close to an asking price of €925,000: he says the setting is quiet, the house is private and well-serviced and only a few minutes from Kinsale, yet removed from the throngs, whilst the array of extras, such as the self-contained sections and outside buildings give it a total of almost 5,000 sq ft of space and many options.

It’s not a cheap buy (little in Kinsale is) and it’s in a setting where planning permission is hard to get. Right next door, for example, a 57-acre farm holding, with run-down old house, has just gone ‘sale agreed’ with estate agent Christy Buckley after a hectic bidding process. It made €1.7 million, or close to €30,000 an acre, and - notably - wasn’t bought by a farmer.

VERDICT: Rhapsody in blue

Summercove, Kinsale


Size: 306 sq m (3,276 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4/5

Bathrooms: 6


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