Fancy buying a barn in the countryside? This one is completely restored and the kitchen is a dream
Raise high the roof beams of literary life in this rural retreat in the Garden of Ireland, writes Eithne Tynan
'I've got this dead Irish streak of laziness in me," remarked the novelist Catherine Gaskin on the BBC's Desert Island Discs back in 1980. It was a remark that, as well as being a teensy bit racist or whatever, was also a downright fib.
Gaskin had been born in Ireland (in Blackrock, Co Louth) in 1929 but had moved with her family to Australia as a three-month-old baby. At the age of 15 she started writing her first novel, This Other Eden, which became a best-seller when she was only 17 years old. She would go on to publish another 20 novels, which is not lazy by any standards other than perhaps those of Barbara Cartland or Anthony Trollope.
Having lived in London, New York and the Virgin Islands, Gaskin eventually returned to her native land in the 1960s. This time she set up home not in Louth but in Ballymacahara, near Ashford in Co Wicklow, where she and her husband renovated a cottage and established a garden on their 30 acres of land.
The Ashford area has form for this sort of thing. It's the home of both the 16-acre 'secret garden' of Wren's Wood and of one of Ireland's most celebrated gardens, the 20-acre Mount Usher. The aspiring gardeners of Ashford, it seems, are never daunted by too much acreage.
About one-and-a-half kilometres from Ashford is this detached stone cottage known as The Barn, at Ballymacahara. This means the owner can make a 20-minute ramble over to Mount Usher, feast on a breakfast of blueberry and macadamia nut pancakes, and afterwards roam around the garden jotting down ideas - a drift of bulbs here, a stand of azalea there.
The Barn has only a little over a quarter (0.27) of an acre of grounds, so you won't be able to replicate Mount Usher, but there's plenty of scope to work on the garden that's already there.
At present it has a lawn, old stone walls and beds of shrubbery, and nature has been more than generous with free contributions such as long-range mountainy views and plenty of venerable old trees.
The house itself has already been thoroughly taken in hand, having been fully renovated and extended. It remains a dainty cottage, however, with a floor area of just 840 sq ft and only four principal rooms.
However, unlike many cottages of its kind and vintage, it hasn't been forced against its will into supplying a poky first floor. Instead the ceilings have been raised and there are skylights dotted about everywhere, so all the rooms are tall and bright.
The Barn faces due south, and at the front you'll find a glass entrance porch with a terracotta-tiled floor and exposed stone walls. To this sweet little room has been added a comfy armchair, so it's just the spot in which to catch up on Catherine Gaskin's oeuvre.
Inside the red-painted front door is the central hallway, an artery linking all the rooms, with a sloping timber ceiling, porcelain-tiled floor and redbrick walls.
There's just one main reception room and it's in to the left here, an open-plan kitchen, sitting room and dining room occupying the entire western corner of the house. Thanks to this it's triple-aspect, with windows to the south, west and east, and has a vaulted ceiling with skylights to boot.
The living area is against the western wall, where there's a brick fireplace and a raised wood-burning stove. The kitchen is at the opposite end and is fitted with cream cabinets against an exposed brick wall. There are French doors here leading to the back garden, and a second glass door next to the chimney gives on to the side garden.
Also off the entrance hallway are the two bedrooms and the bathroom.
The main bedroom is at the eastern corner of the house and is dual-aspect, although it doesn't have a window to the front. It does miss out on southern light because of this, but you are least guaranteed privacy from delivery men pulling up into the front garden with your latest consignment of reading matter. On the eastern wall is an arched glass door leading out into the garden out there.
It's about five minutes' drive from here to Junction 15 of the M11, which means you can get to Dublin city centre in about an hour. Alternatively, if you've a streak of laziness in you, there's also a bus (Route 133) from Ashford to Dublin Airport via the city centre.
The sale is being handled by a new agency, Lambert McCormack Property.
The Barn at Ballymacahara
Ashford, Co Wicklow
Asking price: €495,000
Agent: Lambert McCormack Property (086) 395 1167