House of the Week

A house with a cellar, steeped in Irish and horticultural history, is a summer seller in Cork.

The hideaway 19th century Árd Cairn House in Ballintemple was visited by Charles Stewart Parnell back when it was owned by nationalist politician Maurice Healy, a one-time MP for Cork and a brother of Tim Healy, who went on to become the first Governor General of the Free State, in 1922.

A lawyer as well as a politician strong on land law, Maurice Healy ended his days in Cork, dying at his Ballintemple residence — Árd Cairn House — in 1923.

An even earlier owner of the house was William Baylor Hartland, one of a long line of Cork horticulturists, with family ties to famed Kew Gardens: the Hartland family had celebrated nurseries at the Lough (Hartlands Road recalls their tenure there), Turners Cross and Temple Hill. A great businessman, marketeer and bulb breeder, known in particular for cultivating a wide variety of daffodils, WB Hartland exported worldwide and his c1900 catalogue for seeds and bulbs showed Cork at the centre of the world. Hartland’s own Cork home became Árd Cairn, in 1889 when he had 10 acres of nursery around this fine, still proudly standing home; it gave its name in 1890 to a revived old apple species, known still as the Árd Cairn Russet, a late-keeping apple.

Shorn of its acreage (the O’Flynn Construction scheme Copper Hill was built on much of the 10 acres) but with lots of privacy still, Árd Cairn House is now set to change hands once more, as its owners, the Murphy family, are about to trade down after doing considerable work to the period residence since taking it in hand in 1989. It’s in walk-in order.

Reached within Copper Hill, and on the market with Timothy Sullivan who guides it at €725,000, it’s a fine four-bed home on two floors over semi-basement or cellar, complete with wine store in this lowest level.

Rather intriguingly, it’s all reached via a trap door in the main hall’s old pine floor, just the sort of thing to get childhood imaginations all fired up. The cellar (bone dry) has about 375 sq ft in all, and a bit more excavation would add to the available headroom and, thus, its further potential.

While externally Árd Cairn (or Árdcairn, the spellings vary) House looks almost like a reproduction build, thanks to smooth re-rendering and pvc double glazing, there’s no mistaking its authenticity as soon as you reach the worn limestone steps to the freshly painted front door.

Upgrading work inside has been sympathetic, with three good reception rooms with fireplaces, the best being a double-aspect drawing room 22’ by 16’, with bay window and original old stone fireplace. Across the hall is a dining room, and behind is a family room, plus a kitchen with painted units topped with solid oak, with access to a west-facing back garden fringed by an old high stone wall along Temple Hill.

There’s a guest WC downstairs, and a large and attractive large main family bathroom with original deep cast iron bath — the room’s one to lounge about, splash about and luxuriate in.

All four bedrooms off a large landing are doubles, with great, green valley views over Ballintemple/Blackrock towards Lota at the front, and several rooms have a double aspect.

Having done the house a service in its maintenance and retention of internal details, the vendors are downsizing, set to build a contemporary low-energy house alongside on a site they’ve retained, while to the south of the house and attached are converted courtyard-type buildings also being retained.

VERDICT: Ard Cairn’s period home package is a neatly-sized one with just enough ground to enjoy, without being a burden. Bring on lots of daffs, and a few fresh russet apple trees to make its acquaintance.


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