This renovated cottage in Kerry with a pond and lush gardens is the dream
Lavish gardens were a labour of love for owners
Long ago there was a priest who used to go about the country on horseback. One day he stopped at the parish church in the old village of Tahilla, near Sneem in Co Kerry, and thought he'd drop in for Communion. The priest asked a man standing outside the church if he'd hold his horse for him, and was furious when the man refused.
"Don't you know that I have the power to stick you to the road if you don't do as I say?" thundered the priest, to which the man replied: "Why don't you stick the horse to the road, so?"
The story is told on the Sneem parish website because in Kerry they're so famously proud of their humour that even the clergy will sacrifice a little reverence in favour of merriment.
The old church in Tahilla is long gone, replaced by the neat, 'new' late 19th-century St Patrick's Church about a kilometre up the road in the new village.
But if you subscribe to Dorothy Frances Gurney's principle that "one is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth", you might be better off making your way east of the church for about two and a half kilometres, to visit one of the most magnificent gardens in Co Kerry.
Derreenrickard Cottage was bought by its current owners almost a quarter of a century ago, in 1993. Like so many house buyers before them, they believed they could make a comfortable home out of the then derelict cottage overlooking Kenmare Bay. But unlike most buyers, they also believed they could make a beautiful garden out of the surrounding 19 acres of scrub.
It was a phenomenal act of faith and, what is even more miraculous, it has paid off. The grounds of Derreenrickard Cottage won the Viking Irish Garden awards in 2006, judged by Gerry Daly.
Within three years of buying the property, they had refurbished and extended the house. The garden, though, afforded a more enduring source of both labour and solace.
It's full of both native and exotic plants, with statuesque trees including oak, beech, wild cherry, sequoia and London plane, as well as evergreens such as holly, Monterey pine and Douglas fir. Colourful shrubs such as camellias, azaleas and magnolias abound, and the place teems with wildlife such as birds and squirrels.
Paths wind unobtrusively through the whole, down towards the shore of Derreenrickard Lough, and there are benches set at vantage points here and there for when you want to pause and savour "the kiss of the sun for pardon and the song of the birds for mirth". Other manmade touches include a pond close to the house, beside the patio, and a second patio and barbecue adjacent to a smooth expanse of lawn.
Despite its size, though, it's an informal and reasonably low-maintenance garden. Indeed it belies the amount of labour that must have gone into it; it looks as if it was crafted by nature itself.
However, even the keenest gardener must spend some time indoors, nearness to God's heart notwithstanding. And despite the splendour of the owners' work on the grounds, the house itself is far from being an afterthought.
It's a stone-fronted cottage of 1,550 sq ft, although at that there are only two bedrooms. That's because the ground floor is given over to large living areas and, needless to say, they face south and west so as to have the best views of the garden and the sea beyond
The first of the reception rooms is a library or study to the right of the entrance hall, with a gas-fitted fireplace. If you pass through the library, you reach a dual-aspect living room with exposed ceiling beams, a huge traditional stone hearth and a bay window overlooking the grounds.
The eat-in kitchen, also with exposed ceiling beams, is at the back of the house and has a half-door leading to the patio. There's also a utility room off the kitchen, and a shower room off the entrance hall.
A pretty open-string timber staircase rises from the library to the first floor, with bookshelves built in on the quarter-turn landing.
Upstairs, along with another bathroom, the two bedrooms are dual-aspect with dormer and gable windows, and views of the garden and the bay to the south and west.
The property is on the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way, and two-and-a-half kilometres from Tahilla, where you'll find the aforementioned church and a national school. It's about 10 kilometres east of Sneem and 16 kilometres west of Kenmare. The Parknasilla Resort and Spa is less than 10 minutes' drive away.
It's for sale for €775,000 with joint agents Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes in Dublin, (01) 237 6402, and Sherry FitzGerald Daly in Kenmare, (064) 664 1213.
Tahilla, Sneem, Co Kerry
Asking price: €775,000
Joint Agents: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, Dublin, (01) 237 6402, and Sherry FitzGerald Daly, Kenmare (064) 664 1213