This property offers the purchaser the opportunity to make a stunning seaside residence entirely their own.
Roberts’ Cove, South Cork €400,000
Size: 1250 sq ft
BER: Best Feature: Give the world the slip.
Best Feature: New station in life
All roads lead to south Cork’s Roberts Cove this weekend, as the coastal community around Tracton hosts its 9th Vintage Festival, with thousands expected to attend tractor pulling, old-style threshing, vintage displays, and motorbike stunt riders in a corn field on high, on one of its embracing headlands.
And, while attendees will come by car, bike, tractor, and shanks mare, they could as easily come by boat, given Roberts Cove’s sheltered setting and beach, along a prosperous-looking coastline setting amid tall cliffs, inlets, and caves on a scenic stretch between Cork Harbour and Kinsale.
They could, if they want, even land up on their own private slipway and tiny beach, at this former early 19th century coastguard station — if they have €400,000 or so for a most special slice of shoreline.
Newly up for sale is this 1820s built stone dwelling, erected by the might of the British Empire after the Napoleonic Wars.
They realised just how vulnerable the Irish coastline was from seaboard attack from abroad, as well as a place wide open for the temptations and spoils of smuggling.
This was the 28th station to be built in the first stage of a whole necklace of stations to ring the Irish coastline, with 160 in all built in the space of a few short years, 18 of them alone in Cork.
Many, but certainly not all, had direct sea access for boat launching, and this example at Roberts Cove is as good as they come.
Just open the boathouse double doors, untie any boat within, give it a short shove, and presto, off down the steep stone slipway like a water chute or roller-coaster, and away with you, into the waves.
The British coastguard service ran this for over a century, scanning the horizon, rescuing craft in distress, and safeguarding revenue as much as possible from the ever-present threat of smugglers, with the stations transferring to the Irish State in 1923, changing name several times until finally being rebranded as the Irish Coast Guard in 2000.
By then, Roberts Cove station had long been decommissioned and was in private ownership.
This month, its current owner, who oversaw much of the more recent physical changes to its conversion to domestic residence, puts it up for sale, and charged with finding new owners is estate agent Steven Browne of Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan in Carrigaline, who guides it at €400,000.
It’s his second quite spectacularly-sited seaside sale offer this summer.
Last month, he put Atlantic House at Poulgorm, by Myrtleville at the mouth of Cork Harbour, to market for its US owners, and that’s already at its €695,000 asking price with a fresh round of viewings lined up for next week and with international interest already shown.
“Atlantic House stirred interest in Cork’s coastal properties, including some inquiries from vendors elsewhere. I said when Atlantic House launched that it was unique, well, here’s another unique one,” says Mr Browne.
This latest arrival might be more individual than unique though, as it was one of 160 stations built in jig-time to meet a defensive need, and many were built to a similar 40’ by 20’ plan.
Floor area is calculated at 1,250 sq ft, with living quarters above a lower-level boathouse, in a stone-built structure.
Set right at the start of the cliff walk in Roberts Cove, behind high stone walls, the site is close to 0.2 of an acre — when the tide is out, at least.
The sale includes full ownership of the slipway, which can only be accessed from the land side through the property, and the small, tucked away beach separate to the main public beach is also included.
The location is instantly appealing.
It’s about 5km from Minane Bridge, 12km from Carrigaline, and 25km from Cork City and airport, while Kinsale’s also a lovely drive away, around by Nohoval and Oysterhaven, and then the Wild Atlantic Way gathers pace west from Kinsale, all the way to Donegal.
However, sheltered from the worst weathers of the wild Atlantic is, indeed, Roberts Cove, whose name recalls centuries of links to the Roberts family, who arrived in Ireland in the 1630s and owned extensive lands, as well as being associated with houses such as Mount Rivers, and Britfieldstown.
The family, still a local Cork presence, set up Carrigaline Pottery in 1928.
Lesley Roberts of Mount Rivers has documents showing a grant of a site in 1796, from a Thomas Howland Roberts of Britfieldstown, for construction of a coastguard station, although as it turns out it took two more decades for work to start on the split-stone structure seen here.
Apart from the bounty of the sea, the hinterland here is home to rich tillage lands and this week end, as its Vintage Festival takes place, its valleys are a blaze of golden barley and cereal promise in particular.
Nearby Minane Bridge is where the Coveney family have had a large tillage farm for decades, and Roberts Cove’s cliff walk is where the late TD Hugh Coveney fell and drowned in 1998, an incident recalled by his son Simon Coveney, now Ireland’s Housing Minister, when he opened the €1.5m Coastguard Station in Crosshaven in 2013.
(The Crosshaven station is a state-of-the-art building as far removed as possible in facilities terms from what was first built in Roberts Cove in 1822, with its bicentennial due in just seven more years.)
What’s the next station in life for this so-rare market offer?
As it stands, and after renovations and conversion, it’s a two-bed, part-time home, yet one that hasn’t reached the entirety of its potential to be something that is truly extraordinary.
Its site could allow for extension to the side, as fringing the wall by the public road and cliff path seems the most obvious place to seek to extend: any alterations will, of course, be subject to planning permission.
There are precedents for alterations to such structures given the sheer number that have been decommissioned and ‘repurposed’ down the years.
An example is by Dirk Cove, sheltered by the Galley Head and Red Strand beach in West Cork, where a cove cottage by a slipway and the remains of several 1820s built coastguard structures were taken on in the early 2000s, and utterly transformed.
At Dirk Cove, UK-based, Irish-born Niall McLoughlin, an award-winning architect, added a glass link corridor to a squat cottage and then added a jutting, angular extensively glazed wing pointing to the ocean (see pic, right): It has appeared in many international publications, and would stir the imagination of anyone looking at untapped potential at Roberts Cove.
Selling agent Steve Browne admits that in the next ownership, yet more work will in any case be undertaken, it’s just a matter of scale and budget: “The key thing is this property offers the purchaser the opportunity to own, and to make a stunning seaside residence entirely their own.”
Right now, it’s perfectly habitable and serviced, cleaned out and tidy, and has a wood-burning stove in the main living section, with projecting window bay on struts added above the boathouse doors, giving the best of the views right out to the entrance to Roberts Cove, while two projecting small side windows overlook the inlet and the beach.
This bright room has a kitchen at its far end, and beyond that is a bathroom with shower and a bedroom, while down a half level from the kitchen is a second bedroom.
Underneath too holds much promise, in the original and as yet unconverted boat chamber or store, which housed coastguard craft, equipment, rescue rockets and munitions, while a back room was used as quarters by one of the station’s staff.
The 1901 census shows seven officers quartered at the Roberts Cove station, and by then a far grander chief officer’s house had been built just up the hill along with several small cottages for other staff and which were demolished in the 1920s.
This station is tucked in the foot of the hill and bend in the road, just beyond the beach wall, and close to a long terrace of 19th century dwellings, some still in cottage state, and two are popular bars, the Roberts Cove Inn/restaurant (currently not trading,) and the Harbour Bar.
Views from the front of this coastguard station are to sea, and to the east the views is over water and beach and rocky shoreline to the facing hill, home to a handful of fortunately-sited chalet-type homes hovering over the water’s edge.
There too, and ideally positioned for evening sun, is the very popular and long-established Roberts Cove Holiday Park, with about 60 mobile homes and families who’ve been coming here now for generations of holidays, with familiarity breeding much content.
Nearby also is Ringabella, to the east, and the sandy beach confusingly called Rocky Bay’s only over the hill to the west; the whole area’s popular for all sort of water sports and activities, including fishing, diving, and kayaking.
Flat beds of rocks, popular for diving, swimming, and jumping from below the start of the cliff path walk (it’s a loop along cliffs towards Rocky Bay and back by road) are in full view of the main window of this coastguard station and just 100m away, so it’s clear that in high summer it’s a popular and sometimes busy setting, but off season, you can have it to yourself.
With ownership up for grabs, this is a chance to join a select coterie that includes Cork’s 19th century coastguard stations such as at Crookhaven/Dunmanus, Long Island, Hare and Sherkin islands, Toe Head, Castletownshend, Glandore, Mill Cove, Dirk Cove, Dunny Cove, Ring, Seven Heads, Courtmacsherry, the Old Head of Kinsale, Oysterhaven, Spike Island, Power Head, Ballycotton, and Knockadoon.
For those with grander ambitions, or who may seek to emulate something of the glazed extension style of Dirk Cove’s cottage extension, they may take a sliver of inspiration too from a far grander scheme, yet with some similar resonances.
Back in 2011, TV’s Grand Designs saw Kevin McCloud visit the former RNLI station at Tenby, Wales, precariously perched high above the sea and the enormous beach, elevated on metal legs, with a vertiginous slipway down to the water.
It was enthusiastically embraced by Cardiff-based Tim O’Donovan, a West Cork native from Grove House, Ballineen.
He heads up a Welsh engineering firm called Horans, and he and his wife Philomena from Baltimore effected a remarkable transition and rescue job, for a 2,000 sq ft home on stilts at Tenby.
“When we heard in 2002 that the RNLI were going to build a replacement lifeboat station in Tenby we expressed an interest in buying the old one. Eventually, in 2009, the RNLI, having failed to get permission to demolish the structure, called for would-be purchasers to submit offers, together with plans of the intended use.
"Our offer was chosen, we started the conversion work in February 2010, and completed it in April 2011,” Mr O’Donovan told the Irish Examiner this week.
And, at the time of TV’s Grand Designs, the West Cork-born Tim O’Donovan said the Tenby challenge attracted his eye because moorings in Tenby were nigh-on impossible to get, and “I was interested in this because I could launch a boat from my house.”
Ditto, at Roberts’ Cove, a new/old station in life.