Tommy Barker visits a Regency villa in Cobh that’s steeped in history.
VIRTUALLY a private beach, around 180 metres of shoreline frontage, full southerly views of the mouth of Cork harbour, a period dwelling and 1.8 acres of woodland and terraced gardens — Cliff Cottage has a lot going for it.
It is above the main shipping channel into and out of Cork harbour, one of the world’s finest natural harbours, and its setting gives it a bird’s eye view of passing ships and cruise liners. In its history, dating back to 1820, it would also have looked out over shiploads of emigrants, as well as the Titanic when it anchored just outside Cork harbour in 1912.
Before the construction of a new approach road in the ’70s, access to Cliff Cottage was via cliffside paths and donkeys frequently carried guests to the doorstep. All very Mediterranean island on Cork’s own Great Island.
Its beach, called Kitchen Cove, has long been associated with sailors and sea-lore, is popular for bathing and becomes most private at full tide.
Essentially a compact Georgian villa, Cliff Cottage also has possible further/future site potential, proximity to Cobh town (a mile to the west,), many original internal architectural and decorative features and a throng of plants from the great houses at Fota and Cuskinny which took root a century or more ago.
A surprise early summer market offering, it is due for public auction on July 18, guided at €1.2 million by its selling agent Rod Spencer of Spencer Auctioneers in Galway, who are selling for its owners of the past 16 years, a UCC professor and a writer. He says it could be bought and upgraded by its new owners, while others may see scope on the 1.8 acres for one or two other house sites.
The vendors were, however, refused permission recently for one new house, with water supply cited as the reason, so including plans for an upgraded supply/water mains might open this particular development door, though the site’s essential attributes will demand a very high quality design and application.
The neighbouring houses along/off French’s Walk are substantial detached residences on generous grounds, with two new houses recently added to the mix, while the period Regency residence Merton, with up to seven bedrooms, 5,000 sq ft of gracious space and on a hectare of grounds, is also for sale with Michael H Daniels, who seeks a revised €1.65 million, down from €1.75m when it was put on the market 14 months ago.
But now it is opportunity time for Cliff Cottage, with so many attributes in its favour, most of them site-related.
Its 180º harbour views is frequently punctuated by mature planting and deliberate set-pieces, with a south-racing crazy paving terrace in front of the four-bedroom house, and a choice of walking routes through its 1.8 acres of grounds. The path down to the shingle beach surely beckons, and even if Cobh hasn’t yet got permission for its long-awaited yacht marina, a new owner here will surely find a spot for a craft, even if it is just a windsurfer or dinghy.
Rod Spencer says the gardens are “historic, a veritable nature haven with its own microclimate” and, thanks to plant exchanges between Fota House and Cuskinny House (just to the east), species here include stands of mature oak and beech, Monterey Cypresses, Australian tree heaths and daisy bushes, and ornamental Myrtles with cinnamon-coloured bark, all planted in the mid-1800s.
Since the early ’90s, the vendors have extended this range of exotica further with plantings of Chilean Southern Beech, Persian Ironwood and Liquidamber, with supplementary plantings of fig and damson trees, roses and shrubs, herbs and grasses, as well as rhododendrons, azaleas, fuchsia and camellias.
Nearby are woods, marinas, marshes and other amenities and, apart from the local flora, the fauna of bird life and marine creatures is rich, with visitors including gulls, kittiwakes, herons, cormorants and grebes, as well as shoals of mackerel, common and bottlenose dolphins, orcas and seals.
All of this, plus there’s a commuter train service to and from Cork city just a short haul along the shoreline, as well as Cobh town a few minutes away.
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