Jigs and reels to wind up at UK family's Co Kerry retreat

A long love affair with Co Kerry, and jigs and reels, is about to end for an English family, writes Tommy Barker
Jigs and reels to wind up at  UK family's Co Kerry retreat
Aerial view of holiday house at Seamair, Ferous East, Kenmare

A long love affair with Co Kerry, and jigs and reels, is about to end for an English family, writes Tommy Barker

Time to turn a new leaf...

A UK family’s love affair with a Co Kerry beauty spot started as far back as 1978, but now is coming to a different chapter, as life moves on, and so the sale of their much-loved property called Seamair beckons.

The Kerry chapters of holidays, for the Holladay family from Hampshire, come in large chunks, sort of decades at a time: in fact, it seems like they went with the lower, slower pace of life the area is noted for.

The Holladays’ arrival in 1978 was as a young family, with two children, over for a week in Ireland via a ferry: “We travelled by car through the night from Rosslare in a rainstorm, the only distraction being commentary of World Cup football from Argentina,” recalls dad Nic Holladay, with a clarity to match the next day’s lifting of the storms.

Stunning views at the Seamair, Ferous East house
Stunning views at the Seamair, Ferous East house

“The morning broke still and clear. We had booked only one week but it was the start of a love affair with beautiful Kerry that has continued to this day,” he says from the UK, noting their usual summer arrangement was to rent a holiday cottage for their summer stays, most regularly on the northern side of Kenmare harbour, out along the Iveragh Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry.

After a decade, with the love affair continuing and now with three children, the Holladay clan thought of buying and renovating a traditional cottage, with an absolute imperative that the location should be both ‘right,’ and beautiful.

“Having spent much of the summer in 1998 looking for a suitable candidate we had pretty well given up,” but a fortuitous spin back to Kenmare on the Beara Peninsula side of the harbour or bay from the Castetownbere road revealed a ‘Sites for Sale’ up above the road, just before the privately owned and exquisitely wooded Dinish Island (seen in main pic.)

“No harm in having a look”, they reasoned given the possibility of a decent view across the Kenmare river might be pretty good, at this spot about five miles south west of the town of Kenmare, near Tuosist.

The scenic location of the house in Kenmare
The scenic location of the house in Kenmare

“But, having worked our way up what at that time was an unmade track, we turned to see the view.

“It was stunning: so we had found absolutely the right (we think best) location.

“The fact that at the time it was natural hillside, and we did not have enough money to build on it, was of secondary importance!” admits Nic.

Nonetheless, they went ahead and bought before the end of their holiday and “every year after that, we would go to the site and dream of the day we could actually afford to build there”.

It took a while, almost another decade, as it turned out.

By 1997, with enough funds to allow a build, they engaged architects, got planning and lined up builders and went on to create this four-bed, split level home of almost 2,000 sq ft, with all of the main rooms ‘up the front for the view’ from the sloping, rocky site.

Once finished, their architect observed, “Cosy house you have there, Nic,” and cosy was indeed the word bruited about since of the well-built home by friends, visitors and family.

One of a handful of homes in the setting, it has uninterrupted views over the river/bay, the 27 acre Dinish Island (it featured in these pages in the late 1990s when it was for sale) and over beyond to the MacGillycuddy Reeks, including the country’s top peak Carrauntoohil, and Finn McCool’s Seat.

And, while there are many justly competing claims to ‘the best view in Ireland,’ the Holladay family argue e Seamair is the top contender (having luxuriated in it, they feel it is!) but “if it is not, it must be in the Top 10.” Naming their Kerry home Seamair from the Irish for clover, the happily in clover clan also rolled up their sleeves to landscape, in a natural manner, their site of 0.75 of an acre, with boulder outcrops. It’s blessed with a mild coastal climate, with a westerly aspect, for eye-melting sunsets over water and mountain, to the backdrop of cries of curlews and oystercatchers.

Less natural, at least at the outset, might have been the sound of music.

Living Room
Living Room

“Our family is very musical and so from the first holiday there the children were bought Irish pipes so Irish jigs and reels accompanied us wherever we went,” Mr Holladay reveals and Seamir even became a spot where one member came to for tranqullity and final practice for cello examinations at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Apart from reunions, board games, murder mysteries, golf games and water-borne activities, or car and bike tours of the Beara Peninsula, Seamair’s setting also proved fruitful for training for Nic Holladys’ 2005 successful attempt at the London Marathon. With a hilly route around back lanes and Lake Inchiquin, it made the actual race day a walk in the park, albeit at speed.

In the 23 years since Seamair was built, it hasn’t been rented, only used and lent to family and friends, much loved by grandchildren who enjoyed it much as their parents, and granparents, and when not in use is lovingly minded by a local couple, and the near neighbours are wonderful, says Mr Holladay.

But, now, with family widespread and with heavy hearts at selling up, Nic Holladay reasons “I’m no longer a spring chicken, I need to make sure that my affairs are in order, and so after a family conference it was decided that we did not want the house to remain empty and that despite emotional misgivings it was the right time to sell.

“One of the toughest decisions we have ever as a family had to make — it is so hard to leave somewhere where all one’s memories are treasured.”

They’ve charged agent John Daly of Sherry FitzGerald Daly with the task of finding Seamair’s next owners, and as it goes to market in 2020 at a time of unforeseen uncertaintly across so many fronts, Mr Daly’s still optimistic of a good sale .

Dining Room/Kitchen area
Dining Room/Kitchen area

Key to his confidence, perhaps, is the price point: at €350,000, it’s not way up the scale as so much modern, move-into stock might be in the overall Kenmare area, especially anything so accessible, and with such views. Previous near neighbours at Dawros included the likes of John McColgan and Moya Doherty of Riverdance fame, while UK hard-man. soccer player and actor Vinne Jones also had a Dawros dalliance many years back.

(The Price Register shows a sale of a property called Dawros Point last year, at over €1.4m, while we featured a waterfront 1997 Dawros build on 27 acres back in these pages in the mid-2000s with a €4m+ asking price … for the times that were in it.)

For a fraction of that boom-time, once-high hopes down the Dawros way, Seamair at €350k is in excellent condition, with the living room positioned for maximum viewing pleasure and with sliding patio door access to a terrace. Plus, there’s kitchen/dining room, also with sliding door access to the patio/terrace, a utility, glazed porch and two of its four bedrooms have en suites.

The split level structure also includes a lower level 320 sq ft garage, handy for storage of all-weather gear, boating equipment, golf gear and bikes, while close-by are the Star Marina, a bar and restaurant (Con’s), a post office at Tuosist and and the Realt na Mara national school.

VERDICT: At Seamair, the pipes, the pipes, are both calling, and going.

Location: Dawros, Kenmare, Kerry

Price: €350,000

Size: 184 sq m (1,970 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 3


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