Faced with stone from Sneem, facing down to Derrynane and Kenmare Bay, and facing up to Dark Sky Reserve stars and nighttime galaxies via a diamond-shaped feature window, all to a musical backdrop of bass notes heard through open doors from an Art Deco baby grand piano once owned by booming-voiced English actor Brian Blessed... truly, there’s a lot going on to engage the senses at Arcadia.
Called after the Greek word for a hillside idyll and pastoral perfection, Co Kerry’s Arcadia by Caherdaniel is a 2003-built, irregularly-shaped architect designed one-off home, just below the Ring of Kerry, on a slope cascading towards the National Park at Derrynane House, three kms from some of Europe and the Wild Atlantic Way’s most beautiful beaches.
It’s been the much-used retreat of UK-based Sandra and Grahame Walker, their adult family and grandchildren, for months on end each year and is, says the retired lawyer, “being sold with a very heavy heart, and only for health reasons.”
Originally born in Cork city, Sandra Walker’s parents emigrated to Australia when she was a young child; they also lived in Papua New Guinea, where her father worked as a judge, sometimes trying cases of cannibalism, and of head hunters – sort of putting Irish court cases firmly in the realm of the banal.
On return to Europe in the 1960s, Sandra settled in the UK, but she and subsequently her husband Grahame kept a flame for the prospect of a home from home in the south west of Ireland.
Their chance came in the late 1990s when a site came for sale at Caherdaniel, and after they passed the Dingle design offices of White and Van Huut, they engaged the services of architect Steve White, with the quietly assertive result seen here nearly 20 years on.
The Kerry-based architect, known for his way with off-standard windows and shapes, designed in this instance on a precious 0.83 acre site with input from his engaged clients, and as he reasoned ‘there are no rectangles in nature,’ there’s hardly a rectangle or square in the layout of this very aesthetic Arcadia, with out of kilter angles and intriguing window shapes, in hand-crafted cedar timber frames.
It must, surely, have tried the patience of Waterville-based builder Michael Fitzgerald and his carpenters, masons and more, but deliver it they did, to a high standard, and facing it all in sandstone from a quarry by Sneem, while landscaping on their tiered and temperate gardens was by Killarney-based Tadhg Ryan, mixing wild flower sections with lots of native plants, as well as colourful hydrangeas, montbretias and more, while there’s also massed boulders, plus a hidden garage, tucked into the site’s slopes.
Internally, there’s over 2,000 sq ft, with a main, double height living space with the dramatic full height (say, 20’?) feature and faceted window and off-square glazed double doors, while the mezzanine above is home to a library with oak shelving, the Art Deco baby grand piano, and some classic Eames lounge chairs and ottoman stools.
Artistic touches abound, in features like bespoke stained and leaded glass, some in circular frames, and even in window placements, like some clerestory frames too, while internal finishes include oak and Amtico flooring, a maple kitchen (Miele appliances) with black granite tops, baths with walnut surrounds, cedar joinery, and, as a centrepiece among the displayed art an landscape paintings, is a sculptural bronze whirl, in a seaweed wrack pattern, over the open fireplace.
Reluctantly selling, the Walker family say they have had summers seasons of three to five months’ duration here, as well as Christmases and significant birthdays such as 70ths, with 14 guests accommodated for one recent celebration.
Arcadia is fresh to market this August, with a high level of services, listed with auctioneer John Daly of Sherry FitzGerald Daly who guides at €575,000.
He notes the strong links many Irish families in cities like Cork, Limerick and Dublin have with Derrynane, Caherdaniel and Waterville further out the Ring of Kerry, often going back generations, and says there’s so little chance now of getting planning for anything in this stunning beautiful area, that those who want a base here, full or part-time, have to buy pre-existing homes.
He notes too the calibre of the majority of the couple of dozen neighbouring one-off houses sharing this exalted setting under the Ring of Kerry road, and while the top sale showing on the Price Register for Caherdaniel over the past decade is €375,000, Mr Daly reckons this offer will be seen as an arcadian prize to peruse and to pursue.
Definition of Arcadia: “a region or scene of simple pleasure and quiet....” Clearly not called after a one-time Cork city ballroom of the same name.....