Magnificent gardens offering all year round colour the star attraction at restored cottage on the Ring of Kerry, writes Trish Dromey.
Tahilla, Co Kerry
Size: 144sq m (1,550sq ft)
Carlsberg don’t do romantic hideaways — but even if they did, they would find it hard to create one with the glorious gardens and stunning scenery of Dereenrickard Cottage at Tahilla, on the Ring of Kerry.
While the restored stone property is totally charming, it is the magnificently planted gardens which provide most of the magic.
“The garden is like a large picture — it is designed to provide colour and interest all year round,” says Dutch owner Peter Martius, an artist who ‘painted’ almost seven acres with the colours of hundreds of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias, and the varying shades of green provided by dozens of different tree specimens.
When Peter and his wife Roely bought the property in the 1993, it had been derelict for close to 50 years and the small holding of 19 acres was wild and overgrown with gorse and briars.
“There were almost no trees on the site — the only thing left after we cleared were a few holly trees and one big oak tree, everything else that is here now, we planted,” says Peter, explaining that he and his wife spent a full year working weekends and evenings clearing the site before this was possible.
They saw potential in the old cottage, which had been abandoned by a bachelor farmer who had emigrated to the US — but mostly in the fertile soils of the site which slopes down to Kenmare Bay and is influenced by the warming currents of the Gulf Stream.
For the new owners, the spectacular views across the blue waters of Kenmare Bay over to the Beara peninsula and the craggy peak of the Knockatee Mountain, completed the picture.
Concentrating all their efforts on the site, they drew up a design for a six or seven acre garden, purchased substantial quantities of plants from Mount Congreve Gardens in Waterford, and started plotting and planting.
Stonewalls, pathways, patios, seating areas, a large goldfish filled pond and birdhouse set on top of a tree trunk are just some of the many features they added.
The star attraction is, however, the multitude of flowering shrub offering all the colour of an artist’s palette.
Peter estimates that there 60 or 65 specimens of rhododendrons planted in groups of three and around 30 or 40 varieties of camellias planted in equal numbers.
“We have planted to provide all year round colour. There are camellias which bloom in November, rhododendrons that flowers at Christmas, and one called Polar Bear which has white flowers in August. Most are scented so that you can tell just from the fragrance where you are in the garden.”
For viewing this month, the garden has put on a technicolour display in all shades of pink, red, purple, as well as yellow, white, and orange.
Numerous tall tree ferns provide an exotic effect while the many broadleaves will, according to Peter, enliven and enrich the colour scheme as summer progresses.
It was three years after Peter and Roely bought the property that they turned their attention to the 1870s-built cottage. Having laboured long and hard on the garden while living nearby, they brought in an architect and a builder for the final stage.
Ensuring that it blended into the newly wooded landscape, they kept it totally traditional with timber beams and exposed stone.
Extending it to 1,550 sq ft , they put on a bay window from which they could look out on the bay and the gardens and also added a kitchen extension and a second bedroom.
Accommodation includes a comfortable sitting room with a huge stone fireplace with timber mantle, waxed pine flooring, pine ceiling beams, Dutch furniture and magnificent views from the bay window.
Also at ground level is a tiled kitchen/ining room with oak units with granite worktops as well as a shower room and a study.
Fitted with a bespoke pine staircase, the staircase has been turned into a library with a full wall of bookshelves. Upstairs, there’s a bathroom and two bedrooms.
Modern comforts include gas heating and teak double glazed windows and the property has a C2 energy rating.
A half-door from the kitchen leads out to a patio and on to a variety of paths leading to the gardens, which take an estimated 40 minutes to get around. Somewhere Between six and seven acres have been turned into informal gardens while the remaining 12 acres have been planted with trees and laid with paths.
While the garden design was finished in the mid-1990s, Peter says the planting has been ongoing with specimens and cuttings he has picked up during his travels to places such as . “A garden is a living thing — it is never finished.”
In the beginning, the only animals found to be on the site were some sheep but Peter says that since the trees have grown, wildlife and birdlife have taken up residence.
“We have seen red squirrels and we often see the pinecones they leave after eating the seeds.”
Selling points in addition to glorious gardens and stunning scenery — include a Ring of Kerry location, within 9km nine kilometres from Sneem and 15km from Kenmare — as well as privacy.
“You can’t see the cottage from the road and from the cottage, you can’t hear or see anything from the road,” says Peter, explaining that access is via a 150 metre long driveway planted with trees and camellias.
Seeking offers of €775,000, Elaine Daly of Sherry FitzGerald Daly describes the gardens at Dereenrickard Cottage as the most amazing she’s ever been in. She says the charming cottage and its wonderful gardens have already been attracting foreign interest.