East meets the West in this Co. Cork cottage for €395k
Lisin na Cre, Ballydehob, Co Cork €395,000
So attached was Beth Hallinan to her native Midleton that as a seven-year-old she ran away from boarding school - Holy Child Killiney - to return to the east Cork town. Beth, a cook who wrote a food column for the Sunday Independent in the late Eighties, is, she says, "very Midleton". One grandfather was the miller at one end of the town, the other the distiller at the opposite.
Using her £3 pocket money, Beth, who had been sent away to school after her parents moved to Africa for her father's work with the colonial legal service, travelled on her own by taxi and train to a favourite aunt's home in Cork's food capital. She lived there for a year before being sent to school in England, as it was "more difficult to run away from".
It was a typically enterprising act. After an eventful life in England, which included raising four children, setting up her own catering business, owning a series of successful restaurants and cooking for the ex-king and queen of Greece, she returned to Ireland to be near her ailing elderly mother.
Having worked in Lismore Castle as the cook for several years, she then bought and renovated Rathcoursey House in Ballinacurra, Co Cork, in 1998. She ran it as a guest house for the greater part of a decade, somewhat reluctantly selling it in 2004, "because there was a huge amount of work" which was becoming increasingly unmanageable.
"My mum used to take us on holiday down to West Cork. And it was kind of a holiday world to me. So I thought 'Oh, I'll live in West Cork'," she laughs. "My son found Lisin na Cre in the newspaper. It was owned by a lovely guy, Michael McMullen, a very old gentleman."
He had employed the holistic method of biodynamic gardening. The place was "wild and lovely and I sort of fell for it," Beth recalls.
The grounds are idyllic, about four acres of garden, which include an orchard, kitchen garden, meadow, a hen house named The Guggenhen and a zip wire for the grandchildren.
The property, which went on the market in May of this year, is made up of two separate structures. The larger house, a 92.9sqm farmhouse, is a typical West Cork farmhouse, Beth says. "Three windows upstairs, two down and a chimney at each end."
The ground floor porch leads into a kitchen/dining-room, and sitting-room. There is a guest bathroom downstairs. Upstairs, there is a master bedroom and smaller bedroom and a spacious bathroom, formerly the third bedroom, which Beth transformed. "It was in good order," Beth recalls of the house on moving in. "I rewired it and that kind of wrecked it a bit. And so I had to completely redecorate it."
The second structure is a smaller cottage and Beth says each house is a "complete home" - she lives between the two."I stamp my passport and move over into the other one," she laughs.
The 19th-century cottage was essentially a ruin when Beth moved in, with no floors and no roof. A grandmother to 10, she was faced with either tearing it down, such a danger did it present to young children in its existing state, or completely renovating. She chose the latter.
The cottage now has two bedrooms, one en suite, a shower room, and an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining room. Both houses have slate roofs and wooden floors throughout. The larger white house has gas central heating and the pink cottage is heated by a wood burning stove and storage heaters. Beth used traditional lime mortar, which keeps out damp, and the floors and ceilings are insulated. "It's incredibly warm and dry," she says. Both homes have double-glazing.
The bespoke standalone kitchen units in both houses are made from spalted beech and silver fir that Beth brought from Rathcoursey and had planked. She also brought an oak, which her son used for the interior of his yacht - the house is the perfect bolthole for any keen sailors. Beth herself sails in the area.
The seaside village of Ballydehob is roughly three miles away and the beautiful Audley Cove beach is nearby. The south-facing property enjoys views of rolling countryside at the front, and is backed by forest. "I can see the sea, especially from the lavatory," Beth laughs.
This is an ideal property for a retired couple with extended family - Beth will entertain a large family party for Christmas.
After that, she says while she would love to build, plots are hard to find, so another renovation seems on the cards. "I never really think ahead. I think I'm up for one more adventure."
Size 93sqm farmhouse, 74sqm cottage
Agent Charles McCarthy (028) 21533
Viewing By appointment only
Sunday Indo Business