Stone cottage in Cork is an ideal romantic bolthole for €545k
The McCarthy clan built Kilcoe Castle in west Cork in the mid-15th century in the hope of repelling foreigners. It hasn't worked. And the towerhouse failed to live up to expectations not just once, but twice.
First, the castle fell to English forces in 1603, though admittedly it was one of the last west Cork strongholds to give way. Then it was captured by another Brit almost 400 years later - this time it was film star Jeremy Irons, who bought it with his wife Sinéad Cusack in 1998.
Irons got busy with the serious non-partisan business of restoring the castle. He spent a reported £1m on it, the last portion of which was accounted for by hundreds of gallons of plaster and peach lime wash.
Irons has spent the past decade or so defending himself for painting his castle in "fresh rust". This was how Kilcoe Castle looked originally, says Irons, and archaeologists and historians generally agree. It doesn't wash with the locals though, who cannot fathom why you would want to cover up seven-foot-thick dressed stone walls in this manner.
They like their raw stone walls down west Cork way. Successive generations of English invaders - to wit, expats coming to settle on Ireland's Riviera - have built and renovated houses to achieve exactly the sort of cut-stone appearance that Irons plastered over.
Take Cír Mhór, for instance, a pretty, architect-designed cottage about 500 metres from the castle. It's all stone fronted, with a flowering creeper, and a slate roof made up of assorted huddles of gables and barges, decorative soffit and fascia, and dainty dormer windows. It looks cut out of the landscape, and almost invisible in it.
Inside, too, it's something special, with superior finishes such as pitch-pine floors and materials salvaged from the nearby 19th-century church of Corravoley, which was demolished in the 1990s.
Cír Mhór, named after a mountain on the Scottish Isle of Arran, is so quaint and so discreet that it would make a lovely romantic hideaway for a couple seeking a west Cork bolthole with beautiful sea views.
It's not the sort of house, though, that three or four pairs of friends could visit for a weekend. It has only two bedrooms in its 1,820 sq ft, one of which doesn't offer much privacy, and there's a third bedroom in a guest cottage on the grounds.
The pitched-roof porch at the front of the house forms a smallish entrance hall, with rooms left and right of it. To the left is the master bedroom, which has an en-suite, a fireplace and a door to the garden.
The reception rooms are all on the other side of the hall. First there's an open-plan living room and dining room, measuring around 19ft by 15ft. This room has a wooden floor and a beamed ceiling, and there's a wood-burning stove in a raised fireplace at one end. Beyond this is the kitchen, which measures 14ft9 by just under 12ft and has a corner window overlooking the garden and the sea. This room has a terracotta-tiled floor and a beamed wooden ceiling which, naturally enough, has become a hanging zone for pots. There's a second, smaller porch leading out to the front of the house from the kitchen, so you can put the bin out without having to trail rubbish through the house.
Straight ahead of the living and dining room is the conservatory - undoubtedly the best room in the house, and surely a strong contender for world's most beautiful conservatory, with a shiny wood floor and French doors to the garden.
The conservatory has a vaulted solid roof with skylights, and its back wall - the exterior wall of the house - is in stone. Apart from that, it consists mostly of timber-framed windows overlooking the water, including one vast, full-height window on the gable end.
Upstairs there's a small bathroom and the second bedroom, which has a gallery landing overlooking the living room below and a large window overlooking the sunroom. It's a beautifully finished room, with the gallery having been formed from the church altar rails. But with that gallery and the sunroom window, there's little hope of concealment here from the rest of the house, so it's not surprising the current owners use it as a second lounge or study instead of a bedroom.
There is more sleeping accommodation to be had in the guest cottage, which consists of a bedroom measuring just over 15ft by 10ft6 with a bathroom off it. Also on the grounds there's a detached workshop and utility.
Cír Mhór has a garden of 1.4 acres, with stone steps down to a sunken lawn, busy flowerbeds, and a profusion of both indigenous plants and welcome interlopers such as fuchsia and lavender. It's sheltered from the road by a jumble of native hedging, but the end of the garden is open to the sea views.
It's just under six kilometres from Ballydehob, and about 11 kilometres from Skibbereen. Cork airport is about an hour-and-a-half away by car.
The selling agent is Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill in Skibbereen (028) 21404, and the asking price is €545,000.
Kilcoe, Ballydehob, Co Cork
Asking price: €545,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill in Skibbereen (028) 21404