Dive into Ballycotton at the Depp end

East Cork coastal village back in wealthy buyers' spotlight, 25 years after Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and John Hurt lolled around shooting the aborted movie Divine Rapture
Dive into Ballycotton at the Depp end
Altair, Ballycotton, Co. Cork

What's the fate for this seaside property called Altair, on a prime half an acre of sea-scanning land within the picturesque and scenically-set East Cork village of Ballycotton?

Pleasantly-sited, it’s a home with a history that goes back almost 200 years, from humble origins as an estate cottage, to 1970s growth and ‘reimagining’ as a split level bungalow, with the sea views the barely-changing constant to this property’s presence.

But, now that it’s for sale, might it get uprooted entirely, cast aside and skipped, and replaced with a 21st century new-build, on a more opportune and central part of its site? Most likely.

Altair’s fresh to market with estate agent Adrianna Hegarty, who is based in Midleton but who lives locally and who says Ballycotton is definitely enjoying a renaissance: among the recent buyers was TV celebrity Vanessa Feltz, who bought a contemporary bungalow by a nearby bay in 2017 for €475,000.

In the case of Altair, Ms Hegarty is selling the sizzle, rather than the sausage: the setting, the view and the vista, and while its half acre isn’t even on the coastal side of the main road in and out, the fact it is up over it makes it particularly quiet and that’s quite a fair trade, she argues.

Ballycotton Co. Cork July 1995: Marlon Brando and John Hurt on the set of the abandoned film, 'The Divine Rapture'
Ballycotton Co. Cork July 1995: Marlon Brando and John Hurt on the set of the abandoned film, 'The Divine Rapture'

Ms Hegarty prices the property at a not-inconsiderable €495,000, but really reckons what she’s selling will be bought as a site, with “wrap-around views of the bay,” and within a few minutes’ walk of everything in the village.”

As she prepared to post it online for sale, listing it as ‘a prime development site,’ she posted a video she took on the site to a number of clients she had in mind for it.

Since then, it’s been backed up with drone video and aerial images from photographer John Finn which, with its seagull eye vantage, shows the location to its very best.

Tellingly, and again in terms of selling the sizzle and not the grizzle, Altair’s online listing doesn’t even include an internal photo gallery: not one single image inside.

It’s already attracted keen interest, Ms Hegarty indicates and doesn’t comment on the offers already in, other than to say the inquiries have rolled in from the UK, South Africa, Dublin and Cork, as well as local interest of course: “these are all returning Irish that have a grá for Ballycotton,” she states.

The existing house hasn’t stood the test of time too well, it appears that parts are in quite poor order; the BER’s a G, and it wouldn’t do to well in an engineer’s survey and examination.

Scenic views at Ballycotton, Co, Cork. Photo: Denis Scannell
Scenic views at Ballycotton, Co, Cork. Photo: Denis Scannell

In fact, on the basis it has stood since 1840, and been up and down since, it just might scrape a ‘pass’ on a ‘predictive grade,’ on the basis that it hasn’t fallen down yet!

One well-regarded local builder has already surveyed it for a client, and the word coming back is that to demolish, and replace it with a contemporary home (likely to be split level with living quarter above for the fullest panorama) could come in at a cool €500,000, and that’s on top of the eventual ‘site’ purchase price.

The Price Register shows just two Ballycotton property sales over €700,000 in the past five years, The Bungalow at Church Hill at €825,000, and Ardcarraig at €750,000, back in 2015.

Wealthy locally born entrepreneur Pearse Flynn, who has invested several million euros and started several tourism/hospitality ventures in the village of his birth, including Sea Church restaurant and adjacent live music venue, undoubtedly has the best-sited home in Ballycotton, likely to have stood him well in excess of €2m.

Pearse Flynn, at Ballycotton, Co. Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Pearse Flynn, at Ballycotton, Co. Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

It’s a very contemporary, thrusting piece of copper-clad, split level design, by Kiosk Architects looking out over a fall of cliffs to Ballycotton Island and its lighthouse … the lighthouse being on the best site of all, but with access issues!

Funnily enough, it seems that Altair’s roots go back to more or less the same period as the now all-black lighthouse, about or just after the 1840s.

Today’s owners and vendors of Altair bought it in the 1980s, and say the original part of the structure was reputed to have been a hunting lodge for the Castlemary Estate, with the first recorded paying tenant a Sarah Lever, there up until 1860s at least.

Ballycotton, Co, Cork. Photo: Denis Scannell
Ballycotton, Co, Cork. Photo: Denis Scannell

A 19th century Griffith’s Valuation shows she had a plot of over two acres, which ran down to what’s now the ‘new’ road by the grotto, valued at £2 15 shillings a year, and the standard cottage was, like many others of the era, nominally valued at £1 a year.

Johnny Depp, surrounded by fans, on the set of the film, 'The Divine Rapture' in Ballycotton, Co. Cork July 1995
Johnny Depp, surrounded by fans, on the set of the film, 'The Divine Rapture' in Ballycotton, Co. Cork July 1995

With access to the deeds, the vendors say that it was, similar to almost every part of Ballycotton, owned by the landlord Mountiford Longfield, which later tenants rented from his estate until the 1970s.

It appears to have been purchased outright by a John Brien Whelan, likely to have been a long-time tenant, with the deeds signed by the last of the Longfields, the aromatically-titled Rita Narcissa Flower.

It sold once more then, and that purchaser “extended the house significantly, to what it is today” and was named Altair in the 1980s by then-owners, the Suttons, who held until selling to the current full-time occupants, in the 1990s.

That was about the time Hollywood A-listers like Marlon Brandon, Johnny Depp and Debra Winger descended on Ballycotton in summer 1995 for the subsequently abandoned movie, Divine Rapture.

VERDICT: Given it’s now in its third century, what next? Upheaval, uprooting and upscaling, it seems.

Location: Ballycotton, East Cork

Price: €495,000

Size: 0.5 acre

Bedrooms: N/A

Bathrooms: N/A


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