First erected at the Great Cork Exhibition, this cliff top home is perfectly pitched writes Tommy Barker.
Myrtleville, Cork Harbour €650,000
Size: 165 sq m (1,750 sq ft)
Best Feature: Utterly special, historic harbour vantage point
THE sea, and the world and Cork harbour (in no particular order of preference) are all at your feet, at the blindingly-obviously titled Atlantic House, one of the most special home packages with some very specific historic links, anywhere along the Irish and Atlantic coastline.
The question is: where to start the list of reasons to love it, covet it, or simply appreciate it.
Start here, perhaps, in the run up to sailing extravaganza Cork Week, due next week with a full panoply of sails filling the views from this choice-set, crow’s nest or ship’s-bridge like perch of a property.
Who knows: that sailing event might even lure in a buyer from over the oceans, like a mermaid’s siren.
It worked for bewitching a previous owner, a Captain Cooper from Killenure Castle in Co Tipperary, who spotted it back in 1960, and dropped anchor at Atlantic House, and moored his yacht over the headland in Crosshaven, home of the Royal Cork Yacht club, and it stayed in his family’s hands for almost 30 years.
Built as part of the 1902/03 Great Cork Exhibition and first erected at what’s now Fitzgerald’s Park, this seaside villa-like home was later transported to this most special sentinel vantage point outside Cork harbour, above the popular bathing pool amid the rocky fingers at Poulgorm and just west of what’s now Bunnconnellan’s back-in-vogue bar and restaurant by Myrtleville beach.
It’s seen the best of sunny summers, the wildest winters and the world of passing shipping traffic, including glimpses of and links to chilling, shipping tragedies.
Less than a decade after this Great Exhibition house was plonked down by a cliff path with its panorama of ocean vista, the Titanic was one of the most striking sights on its doorstep.
The Titanic lay at anchor off the mouth of Cork harbour, with passengers embarking (123) and disembarking (just eight fortunate souls) by tender via Queenstown, before it continued its maiden voyage to an icy fate further away in the North Atlantic.
And, on any regular day, the sea beneath Atlantic House is studded with tankers, trawlers, dinghies, yachts, kayaks, bathers and birds, porpoises, dolphins, and, on occasion, surfacing whales.
It’s an extraordinary vantage point, scanning all activity into and out of Cork’s great harbour: in fact, it would be quite a perfect, and predictable spot for a lighthouse, save for the fact there’s one already at Roches Point at the harbour mouth’s eastern point, and which will be 200 years in existence in 2017.
Atlantic House is quite the spot to take the long and historic view, on location values alone.
But, making it closer to an even more perfect package is its personality, quirks, sense of age and care, and respect for its roots.
It’s much admired as it stands from the outside and roadside, but inside, it’s utterly beguiling, a sanctuary from the world, and witness to a precious slice of it.
It comes for sale right in time for yachties’ Cork Week, listed with agent Steven Browne of Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan in Carrigaline, who knows he has an absolute beauty on his books, and who’s looking forward to some fascinating viewings from people who won’t believe it’s come up for sale.
He guides it at €650,000, and for anyone who loves the sea, it’s an absolute magnet: the next best thing to being on a boat, day in, day out.
A life on the ocean wave.
Atlantic House was acquired by its current owners, Dr Tom Lambert and Catherine McDonagh in 1989; they live in the US, but they had holidayed in Myrtleville ever before getting the chance to make themselves so blessedly at home for holidays for decades to come.
Their sons even attended the national school in Crosshaven, and learned to sail in Crosshaven too.
“The boys swam regularly in Poulgorm,” says Tom Lambert of the bathing pool down the cliff walk from their home, though admits the folks might not have been quite as keen on the oft-chilly waters though “Catherine and I did take an annual, ritual swim.”
And, he also recalls their pet dog loving the month of August, when the mackerel shoaled in and almost threw themselves up on the rocks after the broiling spratt: “either she fished herself, or took from other fisherman on the rocks,” he says of the canny pooch.
The Lamberts used to rent another summer house, 100 yards away, just on the other side of the steep bracken path dropping down to Poulgorm, called Ceann Mara, from a Monsignor Murphy, and they got to know Captain Cooper’s widow, Mrs Violet Cooper, visiting her on occasions and eventually getting the lucky chance to purchase her harbour home.
She was known as quite a character around the bays and Coast Road, and “her story was quite a window into the Anglo Irish transition,” says Catherine, recalling the Coopers’ previous long connections to Tipperary’s Killenure Castle, which opened to paying guests in 2012 after a restoration by owners who bought the castle a decade or so ago.
In their own time here, the Lamberts have made quiet, gentle and positive marks on Atlantic House, one of only a handful now of surviving building from Cork’s Great Exhibition of 1902/1903.
Many of those original pavilion timber structures were dismantled and relocated, many coincidentally or otherwise found their way to coastline settings, often for holiday uses.
One pavilion made its way to Kilbrittain/Harbour View, and traded for years as a small hotel, overlooking the beach, and another was placed at the foot of the wooded hill at Currabinny, facing the entrance to Crosshaven and the Owenabue estuary.
It’s still happy in its ‘new’ setting.
As is Atlantic House, another venerable survivor, and over 110 years young.
The Lamberts added comfort to the interiors, without jeopardising or compromising them, and the high-ceilinged central hall is still a gem, featuring painted century-old timber panelling, in suitably muted shades and yet with an ineffable maritime air at its core.
The California-based owners used the services of Dundalk-based architect Fergus Flynn-Rogers to ‘remodel’ for them, and he stayed true to the bones and character and era of the house when he added on a sun-room/conservatory on the western gable, which links to the hall/main living room, to the attached kitchen, and to a sheltered sun terrace just in front, sharing the same terracotta tiled floor as the indoor, adjacent sun-trap.
On a bright day, sitting in this niche with whitewashed walls, you could be in some Greek island idyll, Crete, or the heights of Santorini, only it’s pure, decent Cork coastline, like.
It spans Power Head to the east, past Roches Point lighthouse and on, westwards, to Ringabella and Fountainstown.
Among the many ships that passed in the night, and by day, were passenger liners and trans-Atlantic emigrant boats from Queenstown (back when Cobh was still a vital port for the British Empire,) and Catherine Lambert’s own maternal grandparents emigrated from Ireland; her grandfather, in 1906, and her grandmother in 1914, and “those ships would have have passed in front of Atlantic House on their way to America,” remarks Tom Lambert of yet another poignant connection for their years here.
He repeats a claim made locally that the French writer Victor Hugo wrote part of the classic 19th century novel Les Misérables at what’s now Bunnyconnellan’s bar/restaurant around the wooded headland towards Myrtleville, called after the Myrtle flower.
Earlier still, Sir Francis Drake would have passed this point when he ran for cover from the Spanish Armada, up the bends of the Owenabue estuary, and centuries later, in the 1960s, ‘Round the World’ yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester visited ‘Bunnys,’ which dates to the 1820s and which was originally known as ‘The Little Cottage on the Rocks’.
Truly, this is a spot that has seen much in its day.
Now that high and dry Atlantic House comes to market, estate agent Steven Browne of SF O’Donovan observes “this is a once in generation sale, Atlantic House has only ever had a handful of owners.”
He reckons that, excluding a useful integrated garage by a utility area, there’s about 1,750 sq ft within this house’s timber and rendered walls.
It has a replacement, metal-clad insulated roof around its red-brick chimney stacks, and inside are two fireplaces, one a polished period piece in the main living room with English Rose motif, and the other’s in the far-end bedroom, a double aspect room with east and south ocean views.
The other two bedrooms are at the back of the house, by the Coast Road facade, and are rooms with a lovely old feel and character.
Back on this side too is the main bathroom with white marble shower screening around the bath on the walls, and it has a pretty and very functional feature porthole window, with a circle of lace trim for privacy screening: it’s a sweet touch.
The far end of the hall, past an entry porch, has been cut a tad short to create a book-lined and board-games-lined study and writing den, free from the visual and weather distractions that are a constant presence in the main living room and the adjoining kitchen/dining room, each with a bay window, and a must-try window seat by the kitchen that will transfix and anchor visitors to the spot.
These latter ‘best rooms’ interconnect with wide, glazed and wood-panelled double doors painted an assertive dark ocean blue, with feature crosspieces, and four overhead ‘porthole’ cut-outs for an original, maritime twist.
The only place with better views is the wrap-around, breathtaking decked terrace, on two sides of Atlantic House and part-canted out over a section of steeply sloping garden and grounds dropping away down to the pathway between Bunnyconnellan’s and the bathing pool at Poulgorm.
Atlantic House’s immediate, private grounds screened from the public road are a surprise: they’re immaculate, cottage-garden style and flower bedecked, adding a whole extra dimension and even scent to the package.
Location’s a short spin from Crosshaven, where Volvo Cork Week starts next week, July 10-15, with up to 130 yachts racing, and with some sailing races under the ‘nose’ of Atlantic House.
On the ‘other’ sale front, the aforementioned-nearby bungalow called Ceann Mara went for sale in 2015, guiding €350,000 via Woodward and sold last year for a whopping €560,000, according to the Price Register.
Since that strong sale result, there’s been a planning application to demolish, and rebuild, Ceann Mara, lodged by Kinsale architect Richard Rainey.
No such demolition fate should befall the precious Atlantic House: it stands, and long may it continue to stand, on its many, many merits.
VERDICT: Utterly special.
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