A bastion of the old British Empire, Ballinluska House in Myrtleville is up for sale but is under threat from the sea, writes Tommy Barker.
Myrtleville, Co Cork €595,000
Size: 4,500 sq ft on 1 acre
Best feature: Its history and setting
THERE’S an irony in the fact that a coastal building set up to watch out over the ocean waves, and monitor shipping at the mouth of one of the former British Empire’s most strategic ports, is under attack now..... by the sea itself.
As Ballinluska House comes up for sale, this place (which also boasts a family link to the Norwegian royal family,) not only needs a canny buyer with a vision for its re-use, but its also needs a King Canute-type of rescuer, to hold back the sea.
Coastal erosion is evident, at this property’s boundary it needs an engineering solution to address.
This substantial former coast-guard station dates back 125 years and lies by the entrance to Cork harbour, imperious above the sandy horseshoe of popular Myrtleville beach.
On a grassy acre by the sea, it’s quite a local landmark, but has been boarded up for years.
Built as a defensive, watchful sort of place in the 1890s for the customs service of the British Admiralty, it has highly distinctive gable-end projecting windows, called bartizans, used as a 19th century look-out eyrie, monitoring warships and marine threats, mindful of smuggling activity and, essentially, a bastion of Empire, on the edge of the Atlantic and by vital shipping routes.
It came into local family hands decades ago, owned by the Long family who have Crosshaven/Myrtleville roots and properties, and was used for many years as a holiday home property, within 100 metres of the beach by road, or 50 metres via a cliff.
Ideally set for idyllic long summer days at the beach, the tide also came in royally for a son, Aaron Long when he wooed and won the hand of Princess Ragnhild Lorentzen, daughter of the late Norwegian Princess Ragnhild, in 2003 — going on to live in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, and swapping the sands of Myrtleville for the Copacabana.
Now, the Long family have decided to sell, and it’s a rare listing, full of local history, but boarded up, and in need of TLC, and a vision.
On an acre, facing south west and drenched in the sun when it shines, and in sea spray in the wildest of winter storms, Ballinluska House is walled and gated.
Its acre includes a long row of old service outbuildings, a boathouse, and a roadside site, of c 0.5 of an acre.
It is guided at €595,000 and selling agent is Steven Brown of Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan in Carrigaline, who’s on something of a coastal property roll right now.
In July, he launched the evocative and ocean-scanning Atlantic House, on the other side of Myrtleville at Poulgorm at €650,000.
With roots going back to the Great Cork Exhibitions of 1902/03, it featured here as a cover story and and it’s already ‘sale agreed at over €700,000.
Also gone ‘sale agreed’ with SFO’D, at an even quicker pace, was a small coastguard station and slipway at Robert’s Cove a few miles west along the shoreline. It too featured here, and has gone over its €400,000 AMV.
Interest from overseas and from returning Irish, was particularly keen, says Mr Brown.
As he launches Ballinluska House on the open (and awaiting overseas) market, he again summons up the descriptive adjective ‘unique,’ and once more he’s on the money.
Despite being intimidatingly dark inside, with sealed up windows and doors, you can almost smell the potential within, and without.
The current layout of the main dwelling (cautiously viewed with aid of a phone/torch) shows up to nine bedrooms and four reception rooms, and internally it is a bit of ‘gut’ job.
It’s a five-bay structure, two-storey with box end bays and lean-to additions, with red-brick chimneys, quoins and window surrounds, with projecting oriel or bartizan windows and timber sash glazing.
Whatever becomes of it next, it’s going to be an expensive and somewhat challenging project.
Steve Brown say there’s clear scope for further development, grounds for guests and/or boutique hotel, with a spot-on aspect, just a few miles from Crosshaven, and a 30-minute commute to and from Cork city and airport.
This convenient coastal area has seen some strong recent sales; individual sites with views can fetch up to €300,000, and older houses can get demolished and replaced, a la Kinsale and Ardbrack ‘knock ‘em’ trends.
One Poulgorm bungalow, Ceann Mara, with cliff frontage sold last year for €560,00 and may be replaced.
The beach is perennially popular, and the village has a shop, Pine Lodge bar/music venue, as well as the scenically set and thriving bar/restaurant Bunnyconnellan’s.
Myrtlevile also hosts a year-round swimming club of hardy souls.
First priority for a brave soul buying here at Ballinluska will be to gauge the rate of erosion and devise a suitable engineering solution, some revetments, gabions or rock-wiring perhaps, as the soft cliff appears to be mix of rock and sand, and is showing signs of having been eaten into, generously.
VERDICT: May the tides turn in favour of Ballinlusk House.
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