Thursday 27 October 2016

Rescued from the ruins- Lust after this restored country house in Dingle

Restored country house gave new life to old furniture too

Alison Gill

Published 16/09/2016 | 02:30

The sun room at the rear of the property
The sun room at the rear of the property
Port Na hAbhann - the detached traditional farmhouse is a three-bed property
Inside the sunroom
A window draws the eye to the surrounding countryside
Dingle harbour
The living room with solid fuel stove
Stone steps in the garden
The kitchen with wood flooring and cream cabinets

The people who currently own Port na hAbhann acquired a time capsule when they first bought their holiday home in Dingle in 2001. The roof had fallen in, the rear wall of the building was hidden behind a thick growth of bushes and trees, and there were briars growing through the panes of the kitchen windows.

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But inside lots of furniture and utensils were still in place as if the previous occupants had just moved out. Willow-patterned china plates and cups were carefully displayed in the kitchen cabinet, with two old armchairs awaiting their owners' return.

A local builder came on board to restore the main house and rebuild the rest, using the original footprint as a guide. The internal rooms were rebuilt to the same dimensions and the extension was faced with stone from the old walls.

A new kitchen cabinet was made so that the china could once again be displayed in the same place. The two old, tattered armchairs were restored in Tralee and returned to their original home.

The sun room at the rear of the property
The sun room at the rear of the property

After nearly two years of hard work, the owners moved in during the summer of 2003, with the house becoming a living part of the village once again.

The house

The detached, traditional farmhouse is now a three-bed property, with additional accommodation in the annexe at the end of the building.

The entrance hall has American oak flooring and wood-panelled walls. The traditional design continues into the living room with its solid fuel stove and the restored armchairs on each side.

The kitchen has country-style cream-coloured units, granite worktops and the aforementioned display cabinet. There is a sun room behind the kitchen, currently being used as a dining room, with views out to the mountains.

Also on this level is a tiled utility room that's plumbed for a washing machine and dryer, and a guest WC with a pump shower and a specially commissioned Louis Mulcahy sink.

Inside the sunroom
Inside the sunroom

Upstairs there are three bedrooms and a bathroom. All bedrooms have timber floors and the main bedroom has a fireplace.

The stone extension at the end of the property is a self-contained unit with its own entrance. Accommodation inside this annexe includes a small kitchen, a large sitting room with oak flooring and a solid fuel stove, a shower room, and stairs up to an attic room. The current owners have, at times, used this extension to generate extra income, taking the overspill from the local B&B. It would also be an ideal space for teenagers who crave a bit more independence.

The house sits on two acres. The gardens are private with mature trees and shrubs, with two outhouses for storage to the rear. Across a small boreen, on one side of the garden, a large field leads down to the Feohanagh river.

The locale

Port na hAbhann is located half a mile off the Feohanagh road, about 10km northwest of Dingle on the peninsula, at the foot of Mount Brandon.

The scenery may be stunning but there's not much around in the way of facilities. Everything you need is a drive away in Dingle, where you'll find supermarkets, independent stores and restaurants galore. If you want to get a flavour of local produce, Dingle hosts a farmers' market every Friday from 9am-3pm.

The living room with solid fuel stove
The living room with solid fuel stove

A car journey to Dublin takes nearly four and a half hours via the M7, while a trip to Cork city would take just over two and a half hours. Kerry airport is about 70km away in Farranfore, with direct flights to Dublin, London and Frankfurt.

What to do

Its proximity to Mount Brandon makes Feohanagh is a great place for walkers. The most scenic route to the summit is the Faha way, a moderate-to-strenuous 8.5km hike that starts at the Faha Grotto.

There have been fatalities on Brandon in the past, so all of the usual hiking precautions should be taken seriously before embarking on any trek.

If you'd prefer a coastal route, the lighthouse walk starts and finishes in Dingle town, and follows the shoreline of Dingle harbour and out to the lighthouse. There are some good vantage points along the way to spot Fungie the dolphin, the friendly mammal who has created a multi-million euro tourism industry for Kerry.

Gallarus Oratory, just down the road from the property, is Ireland's best preserved early Christian church, believed to date back to the 11th or 12th century AD. The small structure is lit by a single window and local legend states that anyone who climbs through this is guaranteed access to heaven. It has become so popular with tourists lately that there's now a visitor's centre with coffee shop.

For those sunny summer days, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. The closest one to the property is Feohanagh beach, 3km away.

Eating and drinking

Just out the road is Gorman's Clifftop House, which may look like a run-of-the-mill B&B from the outside, but inside is an award-winning restaurant run by Síle and Vincent Gorman. What started out as a café grew into a B&B, then, after a stint in Ballymaloe Cookery School, the couple opened the restaurant.

Food is a hot topic in Dingle and some of the best restaurants include Doyle's, The Chart House and Out Of The Blue Seafood. For a pint, try Dick Mack's, Foxy John's or O'Flaherty's Bar.

The crowd

Tourism is big business in Dingle, and getting bigger by the day with the arrival of the Star Wars and Top Gear crews (and fans). This means lodgings are hard to come by, with seasonal workers and tourists taking every spare room in the town.

Agent Hilary Stephenson says that when a house comes on the market around Dingle, there is generally little interest from locals. All interest these days come from people who've holidayed in and fallen in love with the area. It's also popular with retirees from the capital, and hasn't yet lost its appeal for UK buyers since the Brexit vote.

What's Not To Like

Water, water everywhere, but this property does not come with sea views, although its countryside views are lovely.

Port na hAbhann,

Moorestown Village, Feohanagh, Dingle, Co Kerry

Asking price: €350,000

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Stephenson Crean, Tralee, (066) 7180822

Indo Property

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