SERENITY: there’s an air of sublime calm and communion with nature, at this home called Rock Castle.
The name makes it sound altogether more rugged than its hospitable reality, reached by road and river, previously on a goods rail line for coal imports, and hard to leave today by any route.
A house for all seasons and tides, Rock Castle is a Bandon riverside residence with boathouse, jetty, pontoon and old, stone outbuildings and stables, on woodland gardens, all on the site of an old castle.
It’s set just above the rise and fall of the tides on this picturesque estuarine and forested stretch between Kinsale and Bandon.
More precisely, it’s between Kilmacsimon, and Innishannon, which is the end of the tidal reach of the River Bandon, and the dividing line between those two latter addresses, Kilmacsimon and Innishanon, is a tiny stream which runs down though the two acres of river-fronting grounds at Rock Castle, giving a soundtrack of river-gurgles to the grounds and fragrant garden terraces.
Dating to 1800 and of good, modest Georgian stock with an ecclesiastical pedigree (previous owners include the Alcock and Becher families,) the setting is simply exquisite. Back in the day it was defensive too, between a bend in the road and the river, along the densely wooded vale, both sides of the valley three miles from the bridge at Innishannon.
It’s entirely green here, either side of the Bandon, and Rock Castle faces Shippool woods which are on the Kinsale side of the river.
Over there at Shippool, the walls of an old tower still stand by the start of a public walk, a virtual switchback of paths along the river bank through forestry. Over here, on its private and more ornamental tended grounds, stone from the old, c 1300 AD Carrigonassig (Carigonass) Castle has been used in part to build this later arrival oh, about 216 years ago.
The current owners came here in 1990, and found it by serendipity: they came to see another house for sale, and were told locally that the German owner of Rock Castle had decided just four days previously to sell up and move from Ireland.
Into boats and the water, they swooped on it, swapping it for a previous home also by the water by Croshaven/Currabinny.
With family now reared and abroad, it’s selling up time for a place that appears to have been minded and appreciated by successive owners.
It is quite the prize riverside catch, seemingly in a backwater, but in truth within a short trip of ... wait for it, Innishannon, Kinsale, Bandon, Cork city and airport, beaches at Garrettstown, and the loveliest of local bars 250 metres downriver, at the quays at colourful Kilmacsimon.
Some of those spots just mentioned can be reached by boat or kayak more easily if judged on the rise and fall of tides, ’though you’ll need a car for Cork city and the airport.
The family ‘fleet’ here today sees some kayaks, an open aluminium Canadian canoe, a Zodiac inflatable and a Laser dinghy easily accommodated in the weather-scuffed boathouse, and up until a year or two ago a 23’ fishing boat was kept here too, giving ocean access once past Kinsale.
This verdant stretch of the River Bandon was, traditionally, used for shipping, with cargoes of coal landed at colliers quays upriver and downriver of Rock Castle from sandlighters up from Kinsale, loaded onto waiting train carriages along this stretch of pastoral idyll and rich farmland over the valley’s hills.
Those days of industry and heavy hauling are long gone: today, the river hosts some occasional passing craft, more likely show-off swans who are plentiful along the reed beds and inlets.
Also calling by are seals, who’ve been known to clamber up on Rock Castle’s private pontoon, as well as otters; fish frequently break the water (though less plentiful than on their arrival in 1990, say the obervers at Rock Castle) and in addition to the fish there are fowl and feathered visitors, from herons to waders, swans, egrets, and even more latterly, ibises.
Humans glide by too: Rock Castle is just upriver of Kilmacsimon Rowing Club, a very successful coastal rowing club, with a new clubhouse provided in 2013, heaped in honours and which includes a World Champion, local oarsman John Keohane, among its members.
Training takes place here in front of Rock Castle’s long foreshore of 200 metres of water frontage, and there’s a boatyard also at Kilmacsimon Quay itself, a short upriver haul from Kinsale.
There’s probably only a handful of properties between Innishannon and Kinsale with their own private boat facilites such as Rock Castle’s floating pontoon and quay and boathouse, and it’s accessible at most stages of the tides, if you know the channels well enough.
Also along this stretch is the boatyard at Kilmacsimon Quay, upriver is the mini-chateauesque Innishannon House Hotel, and downriver is singer Tori Amos’s Georgian home, irregularly visited, near Kinsale, as well as Ballinacurra House, a spot again with water frontage, and favoured by the late Michael Jackson and his children during his Irish soujourn some years ago.
Who’ll come now for Rock Castle, this rarest of property mixes given its ease of access to so many points that enhance daily living, and within a half-hour of an international airport too?
Kinsale of course has a wide international appeal, and that aura may well extend the several miles uprivertoKilmacsimon. Sherry Fitz in Cork city are close to an unconfirmed €1.5m sale of a modern retreat in private woods, Tearmann House, built by UCC President Michael Murphy and his wife Siobhan along the River Bandon.
And, Innishanon’s Downdaniel House and Garryhankard House near Upton have also quite recently found buyers in the €1.2-2m category) Yet, a buyer could as easily be a local family and needing to work daily, or weekly, in Cork city, and Rock Castle could be a very easy commute into the bargain.
“In a place like this, every day could seem like a holiday,” admits estage agent Don Brennan of Sherry FitzGerald Brennan Busteed in Bandon, who guides Rock Castle on its market launch at €1.25 million.
Aside from its history, castle-stone provence and setting, it’s a fine home in anyone’s book. It has about 3,300 sq ft of bright, quality accommodation, with four bedrooms and an office/writing room on over two acres of tended woodland gardens, with mature hardwoood trees of over a century’s growth in the main, along with flowering rhododendron, azaleas, camellias and, right now, the last gasp of bluebells and wild garlic under dappled trees (oak, lots of beech, ash, yew, and chestnut), all amid lawns dropping down to the riverbank.
There are up to three access points to Rock Castle, or four if you include (as you should) the river. The grounds are book-ended with gates high above the river, dropping down to this choice sited residence.
Here too, in the middle of the walled courtyard behind the house and its rear extension, is a large, arched but little-used gate direcly onto the Kilmacsimon road, probably more useful for the times you need to get machinery (or a boat) in for storage.
Back here there’s a long run of low, single storey stone outbuildings with galvanised roofs and arched doorways, as well as a very good bright tall stone garage/workshop.
Those outbuildings hold charm and promise, along with heaps of felled timber, and that’s especially useful as the interior of Rock Castle has two wood-burning stoves on its ground floor as well as a kerosene-fuelled Aga in the warm kitchen/family dining annexe, reached past thick stone arches from the central hall and drawing room.
Monday morning early, when the Irish Examiner visited, the river had just started to drop after a turn of tide and the house was bathed in sunlight, and swathed in planting including roses and wisteria by its sun room and terrace.
The terrace is a sheltered spot just off the kitchen, enlivened by the sound of the tinkling stream in its last, leafy and channeled 100 yards’ dash to the Bandon, and the sea beckoning beyond.
There’s a simple symmetry to the front facade, with comfortable reception rooms left and right of a wide central hall and fan-lit entrance, and walls internally are white, in the main, for displaying paintings, art, and books: one wall, surrounding a wide picture window, is lined in bookshelves, showing a love of reading and writing, while off the other, far reception room is a sun room/painting studio with garden, river, stream, and terraced views.
A broad stairs leads to a rear double aspect (E/W) bedroom, while three front bedrooms off a stepped landing all have river views. The master bedroom is large, flooded with light and river vista, and has a dressing room behind, with en suite further within.
Given recent sales in the hinterland within an easy 20-minute commute of Cork city, Rock Castle now becomes available to those who want the area, city, Kinsale and airport proximity... and the water frontage may well be the deal clincher.
VERDICT: Push the boat out for this one.This is a house for all seasons and tides.
River Bandon, Cork
Sq m 308 (3,300 sq ft)
Best Feature: Woodland home where the river heads to the oceans.
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