Fancy your own fortress? Mix of old and new in Cork for €695k
A mix of old and new behind 3ft-thick stone walls
Your classic English stockbroker is expected to live in an ostentatious mock-Tudor mansion in "leafy" Surrey, surrounded by Jaguars, ponies and gin.
He is not expected to occupy a mysterious stone-built fortification in west Cork, surrounded by Masseys, Holsteins and whatever passes for Guinness down there.
But the man who built The Fortress, in the townland of Foilnamuck four kilometres from Ballydehob, was a London stockbroker. Admittedly this was back in the 1970s, before the emergence of the Gordon Gekko 'greed is good' stockbroker stereotype. It's likely he did not wear braces, like Michael Douglas in Wall Street. But his intentions regarding the house are something of a mystery - as indeed is the house itself.
Apparently constructed around an older building and incorporating some of the fabric of that, it has 3ft thick stone walls and is three storeys tall. The high stone walls make it look old - like an early industrial building perhaps - but it's not old. Similarly the lone chimney and the abundance of small windows make it look like a fortress but it's not - despite its name - a fortress.
One thing is clear though: it must have cost an absolute fortune to build. The stockbroker brought the chunky cut stones for the quoins from the UK, along with the expensive cast-iron rainwater pipes. He paid good money to give this 20th-century Irish house an 18th-century English interior. And then, after all that trouble and all that money, he never lived in it.
The property was bought by its current owners, a German couple, in the 1980s, and they report that by then it was almost a ruin, with animals squatting on the ground floor.
The Germans despatched the livestock and fixed up the house, and lived in it themselves up until the late 1990s. In latter years it's been a holiday home for them - and a particularly roomy and well-situated holiday home at that. As the crow flies it's less than 200 metres from the sea, with lovely views of Roaring Water Bay, and it's on 2.3 acres of grounds with all the seclusion you could wish for.
Within, the total floor area is around 3,875 sq ft, meaning that each of the three floors is about the size of an average urban family home. Yet despite the lavish dimensions, there are only three bedrooms. This is partly because the actual living space at present is only about two-thirds of the total area, the top floor being an attic that hasn't been fully kitted out. But it has flooring, windows and skylights and so is quite ready to become a fully functioning part of the house. On the two floors below, it is a quirky sort of structure, both in layout and design. Between entering the ground-floor hallway and gaining the top of the rather lovely open-string doglegged staircase to the first floor, it's as if you've come forward two centuries.
The ground floor is all exposed stone walls and pendulous beamed ceilings, starting in the entrance hall. Straight ahead from there is a sitting room in old English farmhouse style - long, cosy and low - with a solid-fuel stove in the stone fireplace.
The kitchen is also on this level, and has a dark blue Aga against another exposed stone wall. The cabinets are wood-topped and country-style, and the ceiling beams have been colonised, as one would expect, by pot hooks. At 323 sq ft, the kitchen is plenty big enough for unceremonious dining, and there's a separate pantry too.
The ground floor also has a guest bedroom, rather tubular at about 21ft by 7ft, with a large en-suite off it measuring 14ft by 9ft4. The en-suite also opens into the laundry so putting on a load of whites might have to be carefully timed if someone is in there flossing - or worse, shorting pork belly futures.
On the first floor, then, you're suddenly in a much more modern house. There are two bedrooms on this level, one of which has an en-suite, and a family bathroom. But the main room is a big lounge, measuring 24ft9 by 23ft4 and occupying the entire corner of the house, with windows on three walls.
This room is where the owners go as soon as summer sunshine takes precedence over winter warmth, and it's where they go to get the best views of the surrounding countryside and the water.
Along with all the stone inside, the garden is full of rocks as well - though here they're for form rather than function. There are flowerbeds within low stone walls, mossy rockeries and paved terraces, all softened by swathes of lawn and mature trees, and with seats placed here and there to take advantage of the changing light and views.
The grounds also include a detached workshop and stable block, so there's scope for a home office or studio or even extra accommodation should any stockbroker friends come to see what you've got to show for yourself.
The Fortress, Foilnamuck, Co Cork
Asking price: €695,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill in Skibbereen (028) 21404