House of the week: Former Coastguard Officers' House in Ballycotton a historic and scenic treat

IRELAND’S coastline is having quite the moment of international recognition, what with the likes of the extraordinarily successful Wild Atlantic Way and the coastal fringe of Ireland’s Ancient East, and now, the stunningly-filmed, informative and evocative four-part TV documentary on RTÉ One, Great Lighthouses of Ireland.

House of the week: Former Coastguard Officers' House in Ballycotton a historic and scenic treat

Tommy Barker reports

Ballycotton, East Cork - €575,000

  • Size: 206 sq m (2,235 sq ft)
  • Bedrooms: 5
  • Bathrooms: 2
  • BER: Pending

IRELAND’S coastline is having quite the moment of international recognition, what with the likes of the extraordinarily successful Wild Atlantic Way and the coastal fringe of Ireland’s Ancient East, and now, the stunningly-filmed, informative and evocative four-part TV documentary on RTÉ One, Great Lighthouses of Ireland.

Gracing the screen for much of last Sunday’s first episode was Ballycotton lighthouse dating to the 1840s, a place where the keepers on the island could keep in contact with spouses and family on the mainland, via semaphore signals and spy-glasses. But, decades before the black lighthouse tower was erected,

on the nearby Ballycotton Island, another network of eyes was keeping careful watch that of the coastguard service.

Formed out of the 1809-established British Water Guard, by the 1820s, a staggering 160 Irish coastguard cottages had been established (accommodating/employing over 1,800, including officers and boatmen) under what was by then called the Protective Coast Guard, maintaining vital coastal defences and overseeing revenue protection and generation, in a protective ring around this island. Part of that 1820s drive was the construction of a series of homes for coastguard workers in Ballycotton village in East Cork, overlooking the bay and sheltering pier, set between the road and the water’s edge, with sea access via a slipway lower down the sloping grounds.

There’s a half dozen cottages in all, with one in particular a bit bigger and grander and taller than those buttressing it on either side and — yes, as you might expect, this ‘superior’ mid-ships house was a home for the coastguard’s officer class, with that status delineated by its extra spaciousness, width, and height.

Today, almost exactly 200 years later, it still has that slight ‘standing head and shoulders’ extra edge over its neighbours, the terrace of homes of the more regular boatmen, wearing its seniority like epaulettes over that same flanking half a dozen houses, all looking out north-east, to the sea, with the main road through the village and towards the cliff path to their back.

And, after 50 years in the same UK-based family’s ownership, Atlantic House, or the Coastguard Officers’ House, is up for sale, pitched at a suitably elevated price of status, pitched at €575,000, by selling agent Adrianna Hegarty in nearby Midleton. She says locals and visitors have coveted this bay-scanning house in particular, over many years, and many may relish the rare opportunity to buy.

It’s coming to the open market right when Ballycotton’s on a bit of a roll, after a locally-born individual returned from the US has invested several million euro in Ballycotton property, including a striking, contemporary private house overlooking Capel Island. and Ballycotton’s signal outpost, the lighthouse.

Also, the British TV personality celebrity, presenter and journalist Vanessa Feltz has bought a modern build, architect-designed 2,300 sq ft holiday home just over the hill, on 1.5 acres at Ballytrasna with westerly sea views last summer after it appeared in these pages, guiding €490,000. Ms Feltz — who has been a regular seasonal visitor to Ballycotton and Ballymaloe for over 25 years — has also served her time in the Celebrity Big Brother house, and the Price Register shows her no-bother Ballycotton house purchase fetched a tidy €475,000.

Another architect-designed ‘glass box’ on Ballycotton’s Church Hill, which launched in Ballycotton in August at €850,000 via agent Adrianna Hegarty (and which was a cover story here in Irish Examiner Property that month), is now under negotiation. So the bigger picture is that there’s a well-beaten path of upmarket home-hunters scouting the area of late.

The last sale, meanwhile, at Ballycotton’s Coastguard Cottages, appears to be No 1, back in 2015, at €250,000.

The mid-section €575k Atlantic House runs to about 2,000 sq ft, with no fewer than five bedrooms. It has two good reception rooms, either side of a Victorian-tiled central hall, reached past an elliptical porch front entrance with conical slate roof, facing north east. It has a two-storey extension to the back, where there’s also a pedestrian gate set into a high boundary wall on to the village’s main street, between the Bayview Hotel, and Ballycotton pier.

The 200-year-old stone-built house’s overall condition is good, with retained old sash windows, but lacks some modern comforts like proper central heating.

VERDICT: One to watch out for.

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