Sunday 4 December 2016

Cork estate boast luxury touches for €3.75m

The Bilberry Estate Midleton, Co Cork: €3.75m

Fran Power

Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30

A fine country Georgian estate
A fine country Georgian estate

Back in 1959, when brothers Florian and Thomas Riecker were children of 14 and 12, their mother hit upon Bilberry Estate in Cork's Midleton as a spot roughly midway between their home in Canada and their boarding school in Switzerland. She was looking for somewhere she and the boys could spend the summer holidays.

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"She chose Ireland because of Shannon airport and flights to and from Canada," say the brothers. Other pluses were the fact that Ireland was neutral and that English was the spoken language. It was also a country deep in economic depression after years of De Valera-led austerity, and Shannon airport must also have been full of young hopefuls leaving in search of a better life.

Mrs Riecker would have had her pick of lovely old properties. "There were many houses on the market in Ireland at the time," recall the brothers, but what swayed her was the fact that Bilberry "had central heating", an uncommon luxury in 1950s Ireland.

Bilberry was also south facing so bathed in as much sun as the Irish climate could muster. And it was in good condition - the previous owner was a navy officer who had moved to Cobh to be closer to the sea. But he had kept the house shipshape.

Coach house with own gateway
Coach house with own gateway
The timber beamed living room
One of the six bedrooms at Bilberry

The front section of Bilberry House was built in the 1770s, while the rear is a later addition, possibly dating from 1820.

In the 1850s, it was valued at the princely sum of £8.15 shillings. Today, the house is on the market at €3.75m, a sum that includes 195 acres of a working tillage farm, woods, a walled garden and lovely grounds. Designed by well-known British garden architect Russell Page, they are well maintained, putting on a spectacular show of colour year round. "Our mother put so much love and effort and spared no expense in the garden and now that it has fully matured, it really shows," say the brothers.

There are umpteen barns, outhouses, a tack room, storage sheds, stables and a coach house that is nicely self-contained within its own gates and walls. A caretaker's apartment has garages and a workshop on the ground floor and living quarters with two bedrooms upstairs while there's a second two-storey apartment in the yard. There is a further lodge across the road from the entrance to Bilberry Estate itself - the land is also split with roughly 135 acres around the house and the remainder across the road.

While the house itself is surprisingly modest for a Georgian property, it is still a substantial house by 21st century standards. There are some luxury touches such as a heated indoor pool and sauna with changing rooms, while a tennis court and walled garden with a pretty orchard and lawns should be enough to lure the most reluctant outdoors.

The property has lots of potential and, according to joint selling agent Roseanne de Vere Hunt of Sherry FitzGerald. "It's in good order but would need cosmetic modernisation of, perhaps, the bathrooms and kitchen."

Bilberry could easily be repurposed as an equestrian venture, a location for an artisan food enterprise, boutique accommodation, or be updated to remain a fine private estate.

For the young Riecker boys back in the '60s and '70s, it must have been a glorious holiday spot and they returned for many years after. "We loved the setting, the style of the house and the ambiance of each room. We will miss the peacefulness of the surroundings."

Era: c1770

Size: 590 sqm house plus coach house, apartments, lodge, on 195 acres

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01) 639 9300; Sherry FitzGerald O'Donovan (021) 462 1166

Viewing: Strictly by appointment

One of the six bedrooms at Bilberry
One of the six bedrooms at Bilberry
Coach house with own gateway
The timber beamed living room

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