The Coach House replacement has a cool, calm and very contemporary feel, writes Tommy Barker.
The lane-like set of steps up, from sea level towards the higher ground of Scilly in Kinsale harbour, runs by a wooded glen and a tinkling stream, and is called Breakheart Hill — with the name, apparently, coming from the steepness, and heart-pounding gradient through lush greenery, of this convenient but aerobically challenging pedestrian path and steps.
And, set at the more restful and easily-gained bottom end of Breakheart Hill at a spot called the Scilly Bog is The Coach House, a modern build of some note and great, understated quality, bone dry and A3 rated and one that replaced an earlier, slate-hung dwelling on this footprint, all graced by views back over water to the hilly part of Kinslae town, quays and old convent.
Set into the crux of a tight bend between road and hill, and just 200 metres from the legendary Spaniard pub and restaurant which claims a legacy back to 1650, the original Coach House might even have served its time as a boathouse, as there’s a little used slipway into the tidal waters at the sheltered Scilly dam, directly in front of this property.
A previous occupant of the last property here (part slate-hung, like the Spaniard) was yacht designer Rob Jacob, and those with even longer memories might recall how for years residents here at Coach House Mark 1 always seemed to have a pair of matching and identically coloured cars, usually tiny Fiats.
Jogged memories like that are inclined to stick in the mind as The Coach House’s setting is so singular and individual, and you sort of get a run-up to it when coming out along the harbour-fronting road towards Scilly from Kinsale town.
As the ‘Mark 11’ version comes up now for sale, many Kinsale locals presume what they now see as a contemporary home is an evolution of the older dwelling.
But, not so, says estate agent Patrica O’Regan of local auctioneering firm Sheehy Brothers: it’s absolutely newly built, from the ground up, on a specially-tanked lower ground level, with the ultimate design working well with the site’s awkward, sloping topography.
It’s all the handiwork of a company called Belclare Projects, headed up by architect Maeve Cotter and whose design and build expertise includes some of Munster’s most valuable period house renewals, in hot-spots like Glandore and Kinsale, as well as energy-efficient new-builds and one-offs.
Even when working with centuries’ old homes, she’s inclined to bring a high level of energy efficiency, creature comforts and high-level finishes.
At Scilly, Ms Cotter bought and now lives in an upgraded Victorian detached property on high, with commanding views (see pic, right), and a work studio, and its land and steep sloping gardens abuts the Coach House, which she bought separately, around 2013.
The Price Register shows the old gable-fronted and slate-hung Coach House selling in 2013 for €121,500, and subsequently planning was granted for a total replacement, which tucks itself in as comfortably as the old footprint did.
At €121k, it was actually one of the cheaper sales/site purchases in this well-heeled hinterland, as some more elevated Scilly and Ardbrack properties have sold, essentially for site value, at up to €1m a pop.
The Ardbrack hillside above Scilly (a favoured ‘knock and rebuild’ location since the 1980s) is now home to an increasing number of multi-million euro glass box modern design, set up for the all-day sunshine and all-weather town, harbour and ocean views.
Those stratospheric site prices are due to elevation and views, and what the Coach House site lacks in height and commanding vistas, it makes up for in terms of accessability and convenience, just a five minute walk on the flat to the town of Kinsale by Perryville House.
Lesser buyers, builders and architects might have been apprehensive of the site, but it’s likely Belclare Projects only saw the positives: a location in Scilly, harbour proximity, glen, town and water views, and even a share of public profile too in its individual setting.
And, despite being down low in a hollow, it gets sun for much of the day, even in low light winter, says estate agent Patricia O’Regan, and in summer it gets southerly light flooding into the elevated and sheltered back garden off the kitchen/living room, while in summer its front facade basks in afternoon and evening light, with the sun setting over the craggy convent building outline back above the town.
Usefully, there’s a wide first floor balcony off the living room, especially poised for such views, and of the coming and goings of the tides, and boats, and the interplay with seabirds, swans and cygnets.
Apart from the gamut of waders, a handy hand-painted information board guide to the Scilly bog’s wildlife is provided for (in Irish) by Kinsale Tidy Towns, right by the side of Scilly’s Coach House, detailing the possibility of also seeing robins, blackbirds, rooks and crows, thrushes, pheasants, as well as foxes, hares, rabbits, hedgehogs, otters, and badgers. Not quite the wildlife often expected in Kinsale, and it’s on this property’s glen-like doorstep.
An original stone boundary wall, finished in rough dash, still surrounds this property too, with a choice of vehicle and pedestrian gates for access.
It has off-street secure parking even though most times the clear off-road space to the side is most useful and most used.
A lower section of the build, first encountered on arrival, houses a plant room for the home’s geothermal heating (delivered underfloor, in concrete floors at both levels, so walls are radiator-free,) and further along to the front is a slate ramp leading to the front door, with protection from the elements given by virtue of the overhead viewing balcony.
Once inside, the simplicity of the layout is apparent, with good-sized en suite bedrooms at each end of the ground floor entry hall.
All floors are tiled in the same large, pale grey tile, sort of looking like limestone, with the underfloor heating, and oak doors featuring internally throughout.
A carpeted stairs runs up the middle, to a largely open plan kitchen/living/dining room, very large and airy, thanks to a triple aspect, and lots of glazing, including a rooflight to the rear.
Here, it’s all about the views back to the outdoors and Scilly dam and towards the town, with a large expanse of glazing.
Sliding doors give access to the usefully-sized balcony, easily able to accommodate tables and chairs aplenty, and a clear glass screen as balluster, for thru’views.
This balcony, and the internal area inside, is a little bit on public display as a result, but it’s a compromise most occupants will be more than happy to live with.
At this upper level is the en-suite master bedroom, at one gable end, and it has a triple aspect, with a deep window to the front for comparable views to those from the living space and balcony.
Oak-floored, and with part-vaulted ceilings, it’s a very decent sized room, and a bonus is the glazed, single door to the back garden and patio terrace with south-east aspect.
Also opening to this private patio space and almost entirely open plan is the kitchen, dining and living space, again with part-vaulted ceilings which really do ‘lift the lid’ on the floor area and give back a sense of airy proportion.
Combined, the living section is 23’ by 15’, next to the 15’ by 15’ kitchen/dining section, with island, and only part tucked away is a laundry/utility room, with compact guest WC to the back.
Flooring here is timber, limed for a pale matt look, and kitchen units are well set out, plain white, and there’s a circular stainless steel sink in the island, and a larger sink in the main run of worktop space by a window.
It’s very functional, effective and easy on the eye, has a five burner hob on a range cooker, but for those buying a three-bed at the upper end price wise, at or around the €750,000 mark, the kitchen finishes are distinctly mid-market. What, no granite?
(In fairness, the first things many buyers of up-market homes do is rip out the kitchen, irrespective of the level of quality/waste it represents.)
The upside-down layout of The Coach House works extremely well with the site’s gradient and outline, and while it’s all just a bit shy of 2,000 sq ft, it in no way feels tight for space, or storage (the lower level plant room will hold a fortune of stuff, sails for boats, surf boards and bikes, etc.)
Its target market is likely to be relocaters/traders down, who’ll be buying into all the services, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants in this most scenic and busy tourist town.
Having one first-floor master bedroom and two more en suite bedrooms beneath won’t, perhaps, suit young families, but it’s perfect for older occupants, and those who’ll have visitors to stay.
Because of the quality of the build, relaxed, calm and contemporary feel, all “finished to an impeccable standard,” say agents Sheehy Brothers,) and naturalistic site landscaping as well as energy efficiency, it’s also ideal for those who want a ‘lock up and leave’ second home in chi-chi Kinsale, less than a half hour from Cork city and international airport.
VERDICT: Nicely understated, individually sited, and impeccably built.
Size: 176 sq m (1,900 sq ft)
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