Wednesday 28 September 2016

Forty shades of green

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Liss Ard estate, Co Cork
Liss Ard estate, Co Cork
Colonel Albert Bachmann

One of the larger estates to come on the market in recent years is Liss Ard near Skibbereen in West Cork. Originally the home of the O'Donovan Chieftain the place is now a leisure estate on 163ac with a 25 bedroom capacity located in several lodges and in the main house. It is on the market by private treaty with a guide price of €7.5m.

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Located outside Skibbereen the Mansion house was built by the head of the O'Donovan clan in 1850 and the Lake House was added as a summer house in 1870.

The house and estate were sold by the family in 1924 and the place has had many owners since then. In the 1980s a major renovation and restoration initiative was undertaken and the entire estate was transformed into a celebrity retreat centre.

The rich and famous including Oasis, Van Morrison, Patti Smith and Nick Cave have availed of its graces and pleasures and the estate has also played host to music and food festivals in recent years.

The main house is of 1850s vintage and built to regency design over three floors. Much of the original décor is still intact including cornicing, doorframes and fireplaces.

The second building on the estate is known as Lake Lodge. Overlooking the 40ac private Lough Absidealy, the lodge was built in the 1870s for hotel and guest accommodation.

Adjacent to the main house is the Garden Mews. Once the stable block it was converted into four cottages to provide independent apartment suites for guests. Each of the cottages has access to private landscaped designed gardens. Behind the private cottage gardens is the main Walled Garden.

Liss Ard is on 163ac with Lough Absidealy accounting for 40ac. The rest is made up of ten gardens on extensive grounds that are mainly in woodland, with some meadows.

Great care and thought has been put into designing and laying out the ten gardens, all of which are interlinked with carefully laid out paths.

The gardens are comprised of mainly native Irish flora following a process that involved the reintroduction of rare indigenous species of trees with wild flower meadows cultivated to help maintain a natural habitat for the local wildlife. A unique feature of the gardens is the Irish Sky Garden designed by the famous James Turrell.

The sky garden takes the shape of a crater with a stone structure at the bottom. Lying on the stone structure and looking up gives the effect of being in a dome and seeing the sky from this perspective is a totally new and different experience.

The ten gardens of Liss Ard include the Woodland Garden' with grass pathways meandering through native trees like beech, oak, hazel, birch and pine.

The Water Garden and Arboretum is the largest of the gardens and contains a variety of introduced species set around three lakes that form part of a reed bed filtration system for Liss Ard House.

The Wild Flower Meadow is a haven for natural wild flowers while the 'Coppiced Woodland' is home to a selection of sweet chestnut, alder and hazel coppice.

Nature reserve

Wood from the coppice has been used for fencing and mulch for some of the garden paths.

The Lakeside Walk is a nature reserve running alongside the edge of the lake.

The other gardens include the Waterfall, the aforementioned Sky Garden, the Woodland Walk, the Bog Garden along with the Rock and Woodland Garden

The estate includes a partly walled gardens currently in grass while a formal lawn is bordered by a huge Spanish chestnut tree, a Californian cypress and copper beech trees. The grounds also include a hard tennis court.

The private treaty sale is handled by Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes and Charles McCarthy auctioneer, Skibbereen.

The spy who came in from the Alps

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One of the most colourful owners of Liss Ard was Colonel Albert Bachmann (pictured), a Swiss military intelligence officer who, on his own initiative, used government funds to acquire the estate during the 1970s era of Cold War paranoia.

His plan was that Liss Árd could be used as a base for a Swiss government in exile in the event of an invasion of his homeland by the Soviet Union.

He fitted the property out with hi-tech security equipment and also converted the basement into a vault designed to house the Swiss national gold reserve.

The plan was something of an embarrassment to the Swiss authorities when it was uncovered in 1980 and the property was disposed of by the Swiss in the early 1980s.

Colonel Bachmann, however, bought several other properties in the area and lived out his days in Cork until his death in 2011.

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