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€2m Dalkey tower is Ireland's most expensive one-bed

If you need a supremely-secure home which is capable of sinking a battleship (or two), then Bartra could be your castle - just so long as you have the hefty €2m to pay for it. Barta Tower at Harbour Road in Dalkey is currently Ireland's most unusual and expensive one-bedroom home (the highest priced after that is a one-bed cottage in Malahide for €750,000).

The early 19th century Martello has a fabulous 360 degree sea and mountain view from its top deck but it also has no proper windows to speak of.

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The shower room with white Carrera marble finish, which used to be the powder store in the 19th-century Martello

The shower room with white Carrera marble finish, which used to be the powder store in the 19th-century Martello

Bartra Tower at night

Bartra Tower at night

The open-plan living room/dining room/reception area

The open-plan living room/dining room/reception area

The fridge and kitchen sink next to the open-plan living room and dining area

The fridge and kitchen sink next to the open-plan living room and dining area

Bartra Tower

Bartra Tower

The master bedroom suite with fireplace and free-standing bath

The master bedroom suite with fireplace and free-standing bath

An aerial view of Bartra Tower

An aerial view of Bartra Tower

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The shower room with white Carrera marble finish, which used to be the powder store in the 19th-century Martello

Long owned by the family of the late architect Sam Stephenson, who resided for many years at the adjoining Bartra House, the tower is the most lavishly-restored live-in Martello of the 16 survivors left dotting the east coast from Balbriggan to Bray.

In 2006, just as the Celtic Tiger was getting ready to tank, Bartra became the subject of a lavish restoration headed by Sam's architect niece Simone Stephenson and the resulting home has been commended as the most sympathetic of all of Ireland's Martello restorations.

The origins of this robust fortress stretch back to Corsica in the late 18th century, the heyday of a British navy which was used to prevailing victorious as it broadsided its way around the oceanic world. Equipped with the world's best battleships in superior numbers and the best-trained personnel, it squashed every other naval power at sea. HRH's fleet could also float up to level its enemies' coastal trading cities and ports. Few were happy to see them coming.

But one fateful day in 1794, two vessels, the Fortitude and Juno, pulled up against the small 16th century round tower at Martella Point in Corsica with plans to conduct the usual cannon-fire demolition.

They pounded it for two and a half hours "without making the least impression", said Vice Admiral Hood supervising. Both ships were forced to retreat thanks to damage from furnace-heated shot damage projected from the roof of the tower, which threatened to set them on fire. Later the Martella tower was hammered by cannon for two days solid from 150 yards before the soldiers inside finally surrendered (presumably with deafness claims in the bag).

The British were astounded to find that there were just 33 inside the barrel-shaped tower, with only two mortally wounded. In 1803 when they withdrew from Corisca, the British also had bother trying to destroy the Martella Point tower with explosives.

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The lesson was not lost on naval chiefs and the following year they began surrounding Dublin with these towers.

Say "Martella" with a plummy British accent and you get "Martello" - the name these defensive structures erroneously came to be known by.

When first built, Bartra would have been manned by about 12 troops and well stocked as a frontline fortress to the Napoleonic naval invasion, which was expected to take place at nearby Killiney Beach. The standard design for a Martello was 40ft high with a door located 10ft off the ground facing away from the sea and equipped with a ladder which could be pulled up.

The walls were 8ft thick and the roof was surrounded by a thick wall with two sets of rails running like a clock around the outside.

A single 18lb gun was fixed to a railed carriage anchored to the centre on a swivel so it could be rotated 360 degrees like the hand on a clock.

With this shooter you could hit a target 1.5km away with single balls (you could take out Glenageary from here) or red-hot grapeshot canister 200m away (you could pepper the DART). The latter 'hot shots' had the effect of embedding a wooden ship with dozens of red heated-balls. No wonder Juno and Fortitude were repulsed.

Each tower had six rooms. On the ground floor where the walls were thickest was the powder store. Beside it was the supply room which could hold enough food and water to withstand a siege.

Upstairs was the officer's quarters and the men's quarters. There was a fireplace for cooking and heating, and the windows or vents were opened in at an angle to prevent stray cannonballs from disturbing the ambience.

Today, the interior is kitted out in a contemporary style with the exposed Dalkey granite of the original on show in all areas.

The garrison room with its barrel-vaulted ceiling is an open-plan living, dining and reception area with a custom-designed suspended kitchen.

The lower floor has the master bedroom suite which comes with the one bedroom itself.

But this is quite a suite - it has a study, a dressing room and an ensuite bathroom with a free-standing bath.

The original granite flags were lifted during the project to plant some under-floor heating beneath. The powder store is today a luxurious shower room in white Carrera marble.

On top is the timber-decked roof garden surrounded by a parapet and today sporting a barbeque in place of the hot shot.

The views are also pretty hot - from Howth to the Dublin Mountains and directly into Bullock Harbour. The garden is almost circular with a high granite wall around it for privacy.

Previous plans for a glazed three-bedroom extension had been shelved following murmurings from An Taisce among others, but planners may be sympathetic to another shot at it going forward.

Harbour Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin. Asking price: €2m. Agent: Ganly Walters (01) 662 3255.


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