Magical farmhouse in West Cork can be yours for €249k
Seek out this enchanting, traditional farmhouse in the land of the fairies
Legend would have us believe that 'fairy folk' are to be both feared and respected. Farmers used to keep them happy by offering a small portion of the harvest each year to make sure their cows kept giving milk and their hens kept laying eggs. It's even believed that some parents dressed their sons in skirts to protect them from changelings, who were thought to take young boys and swap them with fairy children.
From such ancient superstition, the fairy door craze was born. Rineen Woods in Castletownshend, Co Cork was among the first to latch on to the idea when a local man decided to create miniature homes for the 'little people' in the area.
A walk through Rineen Woods will take you past several tiny houses and doors that have been carefully constructed into the roots of trees. Such time and effort went into creating this mini village that you can be assured there are no angry fairies in this part of Cork.
Beside the wood is another enchanting find. A traditional, stone-built farmhouse owned by interior designer Gina Meehan, that has been extended and restored to create its own little piece of magic.
Meehan almost doubled the floor space of the farmhouse after she bought it in 2010. A new kitchen was built to link the original house with an adjacent loft. The loft was then transformed to create a large living space with a mezzanine level. Meehan points out that this could be used as a self-contained unit if you wanted to give guests their own space, or let it out for extra income.
From the porch, you enter the dining room and kitchen area. The dining room has a tiled floor and an oil-fired range with feature surround to heat the house. In the kitchen, the custom-built units are hand-painted, there is a stainless steel gas range and a latch door out to the garden. Off this room is the loft conversion, which has a mezzanine bedroom and tiled wet room.
On the other side of the dining room, you'll find a bedroom, bathroom, sitting room and a conservatory. There are another two bedrooms upstairs.
The house sits on one acre, which is mostly laid out in lawn, mature trees and shrubs. There is a two-storey shed on the grounds that would be ideal for a workshop or home office.
Meehan's light touch is evident throughout the house. Decor is fairly neutral, with plenty of pieces being brought to life with clever design tricks. "I'm very passionate about upcycling," says Meehan, who used to run Annie Sloan paint workshops. "I love this house and it will break my heart to sell it, but my sons have flown the nest and it's now time to downsize."
The farmhouse is on the coast road between Union Hall and Castletownshend, both being about a five-minute drive away. Each town has plenty of small shops, pubs and cafes, but Skibbereen, which is less than 10km away, has a SuperValu and a large town centre. It's only 150 yards to the water at Rineen Bay and is adjacent to the well-known woods. There are six beaches within a five-minute drive of the property.
A car journey to Dublin would take nearly four hours. The closest airport is over an hour away in Cork city and has daily flights to the UK, Paris and Amsterdam.
What To Do
During the summer months, the sheltered harbour at Castletownshend is packed full of sailing boats. Enthusiasts believe it's one of the best places to sail in the country. Holidays are spent by many cruising from Kinsale to Crookhaven, stopping off at places like Glandore, Baltimore and Schull to explore the beauty of the area.
West Cork is also a haven for foodies. Here you'll find a wealth of artisan producers, all eager to show off their goods. Local markets are a great place to discover new products and experience the dedication of the producers to deliver the best and most delicious food you'll find in the country. Some of the finest Irish producers have come out of west Cork, like Clonakilty Pudding, Badger & Dodo coffee, Durrus farmhouse cheeses and Woodcock Smokehouse in Castletownshend.
If you feel you need to balance indulgence with exercise, Rineen Woods is right beside the house. The wood formed part of the Salter Townshend estate and the old Famine wall that was built by the family to keep deer in is still visible today. The looped trail is 3km long and passes through areas of holly, oak, heather and bracken. The fairy doors will keep little ones entertained along the way.
Eating and Drinking
Mary Ann's in Castletownshend might date back to 1846, but the menu has definitely moved with the times. On a sunny day, there's no better place to be than the award-winning pub's beer garden with a bowl of mussels and a cold drink.
The Castle down by the harbour reopened in June as a boutique hotel. The rustic cafe here is a good spot for lunch with delicious homemade soup and cakes, but check opening times as they tend to close during low season.
Casey's Bar in Union Hall may look like your average pub from the outside, but their seafood menu is hard to beat, with the fish coming fresh from the pier every morning.
Rineen itself has a settled feel to it. As you move out to the bigger towns, you come across more holiday homes and seasonal trade. Castletownshend is very popular with the sailing crowd, especially in the summer. As with most of west Cork, there is a bohemian feel to the area, with artists, musicians and writers drawn to these parts for the dramatic scenery and slower pace of life.
What's Not To Like
West Cork is buzzing in high season and it seems like there is no shortage of restaurants and activities to keep you entertained. Often the things that first attract people close down during the quieter months, so it's worth researching what's seasonal and what's not before settling on the area.
Castletownshend, West Cork
Asking price: €249,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill (028) 21404