The estate agent has sold the sumptuous Ileclash three times before. It’s easy to see why, writes Tommy Barker.
Location: Blackwater Valley, Fermoy, Co Cork
Size: 649 sq m (7,000 sq ft) on 12 acres
Bedrooms: 6 plus 4
Bathrooms: 6 plus 3
Best Feature: Perfection
“I’VE sold this house three times before, in the last 40 years or so,” says estate agent Maurice Cohalan to the owners of Ileclash, as we’re greeted by Diane and Michael Frazer on the threshold of one of the River Blackwater’s finer period homes, replete with historical and movie world references.
The veteran auctioneer has laid down his credentials, as he and his estate agent daughter Jackie Cohalan bid to make it a fourth company sale at Ileclash, around its guide price now of €3.5m.
He’s not the type to add the usual financial services disclaimer that “past performance is no guarantee of future returns”: no pressure, then, in this €3.5m Cohalan Downing sale jointly with Colliers in Dublin.
This pristine Georgian original, with later Victorian wing, two picture-perfect guest cottages, walled gardens, and extensive networks of limestone caves entered down by its riverside walk and all with fishing rights, has had a string of appreciative owners, and is probably at its absolute peak right now.
Ileclash has most infamously been associated with Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Fascist Union in the run-up to the Second World War and who was friendly with Hitler and Mussolini – quite a troika of notoriety.
Mosley married one of the Mitford sisters, Diana, in a 1936 ceremony which infuriated British society, taking place in the Berlin home of Nazi propaganda maestro Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler in attendance.
Interned in 1940, the couple later lived for a period in Clonfert, Co Galway, and in 1955 bought Ileclash from Percy Benson, who had restored it, using it primarily for holidays before later decamping for full-time residence in France.
Diana’s diaries, published in The European, recalled Mosley fishing on the Blackwater and, when she climbed down the cliff through their grounds, the river looked “as blue as the bay of Naples in August”.
Landscape, topography and river setting continue to make privately-set Ileclash as special today as it ever was, set back past formal gardens and 60’ up on a limestone escarpment and buff by grotto-like cave entrances along the Blackwater river bank; indeed as pretty as many an Italian pastoral idyll.
Its 12 acres include restored woodland and riverside walks, a mounded ring fort or tumulous, half an island in the river island, and single bank fishing rights of over 1km on the Blackwater, where salmon fishing had a long pedigree and eel beds are now protected.
Blackwater Valley is host to some of the country’s finest properties and estates, from Lismore Castle and Ballynatray at the river’s mouth to Strancally Castle, Dromana House, and Michael Flatley’s Castlehyde, on the other, upriver side of Fermoy from Ileclash and hoping to sell for €20m.
Views from the exceptionally well-maintained grounds at Ileclash (the farm land, bar 12 or so acres, was kept back in previous sales) include the Roche clan’s Licklash Castle remains, as well as an earlier Norman tower.
Still standing proud over the river is the steel Victorian railway bridge, Carrickabrack Viaduct, which linked Mallow to Waterford before it closed as a rail line in 1967.
Spectacularly, that bridge had a key role in the 1966 First World War film The Blue Max, starring George Peppard, James Mason, and Ursula Andress.
Stunt pilot Derek Piggott passed between its arches up to 30 times for filming, with less than 2’ wing tip clearance on each pass.
Today, Ileclash is rightly described as “one of the jewels of the Blackwater Valley” by the property’s selling agents as it gets a fresh market launch (we covered it here several years ago with a €4m-plus asking price, via other agents).
Current owners the Frazers purchased it after their plans to buy a Georgian house in West Cork met repeated hurdles.
Buying the five-bay Georgian Ileclash off-market for a reported €4m from the Feehan family, they spent an estimated €2m or so on conservation and upgrades under the guidance of architect Peter Murphy of Frank Murphy & Co, including a new roof and all new sash windows throughout, redoing decoration to an exceptional level.
They also redid the formal box hedging and sheltered walled gardens, and terraced riversides walks and climbs.
Supremely comfortable, with underfloor heating at ground level, it has five reception rooms — two side by side have elegant bay windows facing the river valley, where the Blackwater flows out of sight beneath the limestone escarpment.
Most rooms, including the hall, have original fireplaces, plus there’s a conservatory by the kitchen with roof lanterns, overlooking a walled garden, where red squirrels feed with impunity from bird boxes in this enclosed, manicured, green oasis.
A first-floor library links to a guest suite in the latter, Victorian rear wing.
There are five large bedrooms, one with large bathroom leading to dressing-room, and the comfortable country cottages give more space for accommodating big family events and get-togethers.
A mile from Fermoy, two hours from Dublin, and 30 minutes from Cork City and airport, Ileclash is well-set for entertaining, hospitality, and hideaways.
VERDICT: In terms of location, quality, and comfort, Ileclash can hold its head up with the very best of Munster’s period home buys.
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