Defying the passage of time
A mix of period and modern blurs the fine vintage of this residence
There must be something in the waters around Innishannon, Co Cork, that have a rejuvenating quality, keeping the local houses (and their occupants) young and fresh.
Take Rockfort House, a few kilometres outside the village, which was the home of the Shorten family in the early 20th century. Sarah Shorten was there on the night of the 1901 census, describing herself as a farmer's daughter, single, and 24-years-old. But yet ten years later, at the 1911 census, Sarah was only 30. By some miracle, she had aged only six years in a decade.
There may be a clue in the fact that by then Sarah was still single - a hopeless enough state for a 34-year-old Edwardian female. And to make matters worse, she had two sisters married, both younger than herself. Well, it was either that or the waters.
Sarah's home, Rockfort House, doesn't give away much about its age either. It's said to date from the 18th century, and is clearly marked by name on the first-edition OS map (the area having been surveyed in 1841). It has gone through some structural amendments since it was built, and the result is now a complicated arrangement of hipped roofs and gables broken up by bay windows, dormers and sashes, together with a mixture of stone facing and painted render, so from the outside it's an organic-looking house with plenty of character.
Inside, too, it has some very fine period features mixed with chic and modern architectural effects, giving the impression that this is a house that really doesn't want you to know how old it is.
Before it closed in 1961, the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway used to run through the grounds, quite close to the house, and there was a flourmill near the property too. Both the mill and the railway have long since vanished, but south of the house the old railway route can be seen meandering down towards the Brinny River and the old Kilpatrick Tunnel.
Close to where the mill stood, on the banks of the river, there's a pond. The grounds now amount to six-and-a-half acres with parkland and woodland, a vegetable garden and an orchard, as well as outbuildings, old stables and a two-storey, one-bedroom gate lodge at the end of the 250-metre avenue.
The main house has a floor area of 5,700 sq ft, although with all that there are ostensibly only five bedrooms - four on the first floor and one guest bedroom suite on the ground floor.
The overall dimensions do also include a converted attic, and there are three more rooms that could doubtless be used as bedrooms as well if there were no one around to lecture you on the chapter and verse of building regulations.
That leaves almost the entire ground floor for living rooms, of which there are several arranged around an elegant reception hall with a classic chequerboard-tiled floor.
The main reception room is a bay-windowed lounge, about 16ft square, with an original wood floor and a white marble fireplace with a solid-fuel stove in it. Secondly, there's a family room, also with a bay window and a black marble fireplace, and there's an archway there leading to a snooker room with French doors to the garden.
The kitchen is fitted with maple cabinets and granite countertops, and has a matching centre island with a breakfast bar.
There are steps down from the kitchen to a living and dining area with exposed brick and stone walls and a solid-fuel stove.
From the kitchen you can reach the conservatory as well, where there are folding doors out to the patio.
Also in the kitchen there are stairs leading to a mezzanine level with a vaulted ceiling, used as an office.
You'll find original cast-iron fireplaces in two of the upstairs bedrooms.
Two of these bedrooms also have adjoining dressing rooms and en suites with cast-iron baths and separate showers.
There are family shower rooms on both the ground floor and the first floor return.
The village of Innishannon is three-and-a-half kilometres away, on the Bandon River. It's the home of author Alice Taylor (To School Through the Fields) and is a busy village with shops, cafes and a national school, as well as some pleasant antiquities such as the Old Market House and Innishannon Tower.
Near the village, on the far side of the river, is Dromkeen Wood, where there's a forest walk described by Coillte as "a bluebell wonderland" at this time of year.
Cork city itself is about 25 kilometres away up the N71, and the road will be busy at times as Innishannon is home to a great many Cork commuters.
Rockfort House is for sale with Cohalan Downing in Cork city, (021) 427 7717, and has an asking price of €1,150,000.
Innishannon, Co Cork
Asking price: €1,150,000
Agent: Cohalan Downing, Cork city, (021) 427 7717