Bungalow bliss in west Cork

FOR those looking for a west Cork retreat, here’s one that is fully formed, fully proven and professionally approved.

South Reen is a little-known coastal pearl, out at the end of narrow roads from Union Hall and Glandore, out past Reen pier which in turn faces Castletownshend. South Reen isn’t on the road to anywhere, it is the end of the road, with the shingly cove of Blind Harbour as its coda.

It has been home to Chinese qigong (similar to tai chi) practitioner Ann Shaw for 22 years, and she runs a farm here — South Reen Farm — on organic principles. Some years ago, Ann acquired an adjacent 1970s bungalow, and fully made it over to the property now seen here, used as a homecoming residential retreat for healing and teaching ancient Chinese arts such as qigong. Students come here from Ireland, Europe and beyond, and the place itself probably exerts as much of a positive experience as the courses run here.

This finished house has been used for niche holiday and course rentals and features in several holiday guides, such as Catherine Mack’s Ecoescapes. The area’s natural beauty and abundant islands and bays is complemented by activities like whale watching, angling and kayaking.

It is a special place, and Ann Shaw’s own parents first came across the spot in 1963, when they visited from their farm in the English Lake District, swapping affections from one beauty spot for another. They asked Cork architect Frank Murphy to design a holiday home at South Reen and it was probably the first bungalow ever built in west Cork.

“The builders came down from Cork and stayed in B&Bs in Union Hall,” recalls Ann, though not claiming any responsibility for the thousands of bungalows that followed.

This retreat offering by her farm is, however, now a fairly good example of the bungalow genre, looking right at home on its coastal site after its recent improvements and gable sun-room addition.

It doesn’t have much of a sea view, there’s a glimpse of Blind Harbour from here but the sea is ever-present: you can hear it, as it is just over the ridge field, and on a windy day, foam and spume blows over and settles on the lawns and sheltered decking spot.

Having at one time been an interior designer with the Savoy Hotel group in London, Ann knows her visual treats. Here, she’s kept everything super-simple and restful, so as not to compete with the pastoral and wooded backdrops through the windows. Well, except for the blast of fiery red colours in the kitchen and main living room.

While the house has central heating for low-key creature comforts, high insulation standards and six solar panels soaking up light and converting it to heat, the real fiery blast comes from the large solid fuel stove, fed by Ann’s own supply of coppiced timber from her acres and acres of tended and planted woodland.

This South Reen retreat is being put up for sale on a single acre as a new decade dawns and as Ann’s focus has shifted from its use as a residential retreat. It is new to market with Skibbereen estate agent Erin McCarthy of Pat Maguire Properties, who says it is one of the best quality offerings available in the unspoiled hinterland, in a place where planning permissions are scarce.

Pat Maguire is offering the four-bedroomed, three bathroom 2,000 sq ft quality house plus solidly constructed garage/boathouse for €495,000, and says it is as likely to be appreciated as a full-time residence as a holiday/second home. It may be bought initially for the latter use, and end up as a retirement retreat, he suggests. And, as it is already on several letting websites, it could easily continue to part-pay its way and purchase price.

For those who want a slightly more complete package, there’s a further property offered into the mix, a lofted studio building of about 800 sq ft by the entrance gate and with its own ‘secret’ orchard garden. A further €100,000 is sought for this extra building and plot, and it is almost a ‘must-have’ for anyone who comes so far down such a quiet, calming road.


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