Tuesday 27 September 2016

'New' Victorian farmhouse in Skibbereen on the market for €395k

* We look behind a deceptively old exterior into a thoroughly modern living space
* Unique selling point: A 'new' Victorian farmhouse

Eithne Tynan

Published 30/10/2015 | 02:30

Living room with painted ceiling beams and solid-fuel stove.
Living room with painted ceiling beams and solid-fuel stove.
The airy and spacious entrance hall.
The kitchen has a centre island
A spacious landing
The house was built in the 1990s but made to look like a 19th century farm cottage.
The master bedroom.
The dual-aspect study

In the centre of the townland of Bunalun, near Skibbereen is an estate house which was formerly known as 'Mount Music' and the setting for the 19th century Big House novel Mount Music by Somerville and Ross.

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This was published in 1919, even though 'Ross', aka Violet Martin, had by then been dead for four years. Edith Somerville continued to claim shared authorship with her late literary partner as she maintained they were in "spiritual contact."

The story was based on the outcome of a mixed marriage between a Protestant and Catholic in a big house setting and remains controversial for its less than flattering depiction of native Irish traits.

The same house was also home to one Captain Anthony Morgan, who served in the 95th Regiment of Foot and who was fictionalised in the novels of Patrick Mercer, the former British Tory frontbencher.

There is entrepreneurial creativity too in this small townland district, which is also the birthplace of Bunalun Organic. Founded in 1999, the company has gone on to become Ireland's flagship organic food brand and is widely admired, not least for the sheer imaginative effort it must have taken to make rice cakes respectable.

Then there's architecture, and a house in the townland of Bunalun - about half a kilometre from 'Mount Music' - that is itself almost a work of fiction.

From the outside, this picturesque detached property looks like a 19th-century Sommerville and Ross-era farm cottage, mellowed by the decades, with its tree-shrouded setting, its seasoned stone façade, its dainty sash windows, and its sideburns of creeper. But the quaint impression the house conveys is pure artifice. In fact, the place was built in the 1990s.

At any rate, that false impression of great age would be dispelled the instant you walked in the front door. There is nothing old-fashioned about this house, and it has none of the drawbacks of a 19th-century dwelling. There are no poky rooms, no cobwebs, no signs of encroaching damp, and no gloomy corners that the sun never investigates.

Instead, you'll find large open-plan spaces, clean lines, and light streaming in unexpectedly through an abundance of French doors and windows - so much light that even with the walls painted in a voguish palette of dark greys and beiges, the rooms are still bright.

It's not small either, as an elderly cottage will tend to be. This house is 2,100 sq ft in size, with four bedrooms. These are all on the first floor, arranged around a large central landing that itself is more than 200 sq ft - big enough to accommodate a couch to relax on while you're waiting for someone to finish getting ready. The master bedroom has an en-suite, and the main bathroom is also on this level.

The ground floor, meanwhile, is in two parts, with a smaller, single-storey wing to the southeast adjoining and perpendicular to the square block of the main house.

This wing houses a dual-aspect sitting room measuring over 18ft by 14ft, with sliding glass doors onto a terrace outside. At one end of the room is another set of sliding doors opening to a study, also dual-aspect, with windows overlooking the garden to help take your mind off your work.

The main block is almost all open-plan, accounting for some of that daylight that streams around the house. The front door opens to a little windowed porch, and to the left is a snug living room with painted ceiling beams and a solid-fuel stove.

This flows directly, past the turning staircase, to an open-plan kitchen and dining room on the right, which takes up more than half the floor area in this part of the house.

The kitchen is fitted with pale painted wood cabinets, and there's a big, irregular centre island with a sink and breakfast bar, for unceremonious snacking. For more formal meals, the dining area of the room has enough space for a long table, and next to it is a glazed double door giving onto another terrace outside.

There's a utility room off the kitchen with a guest toilet adjoining, and you can get to and from the back garden discreetly from here too.

As to that garden, it's one-and-a-quarter acres, so there's plenty of work to keep green fingers busy. The house is reached by means of a curved driveway lined with both mature and maturing trees, at the end of which is a parking area behind the house. A pair of wooden sheds at one end of the garden, opposite the sitting room, are double-jobbing in that they provide shelter for a deck, current site of an outdoor grill and fireplace.

Elsewhere, there are lawns and flowering shrubs, an orchard and a vegetable garden - organic, naturally, in view of the location.

The town of Skibbereen is about five minutes' drive away - three-and-a-half kilometres. You can reach Cork city, 80km up the N22, in around an hour-and-a-quarter.

Bunalun, Skibbereen,  Co Cork

Asking price: €395,000

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill in Skibbereen (028) 21404

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