Saturday 17 March 2018

Get on the guest list in Cork

Spacious Grove House was run as a B&B until last year

Grove House could continue as a commercial enterprise or you could keep it as a six-bedroom family home.
Grove House could continue as a commercial enterprise or you could keep it as a six-bedroom family home.
One of the two kitchens in the house.
The oak-floored sunroom.
The hallway runs almost the full depth of the home.
Dual-aspect sitting room with a marble fireplace.

Eithne Tynan

'There is no love sincerer than the love of food," wrote George Bernard Shaw in 1902. The phrase has been adopted by gastronomes even though it was a line from Man and Superman - in reference to the kind of affection you might anticipate from a Bengal tiger.

Two years later, in 1904, Shaw was holidaying in his native Ireland while writing John Bull's Other Island - a play that would make the King of England laugh so hard he broke his chair, and that would consequently make the playwright's reputation for life.

He stayed at Grove House in Schull, Co Cork, and his signature in the guestbook is preserved there to this day. We do not know what he was given to eat, but the pessimistic imagination runs to an underdone chop.

It wouldn't happen nowadays. Grove House in recent years has been a much admired guest house and restaurant run by Katarina Runske and her family, with son Nico handling the cooking and giving Grove House a sterling reputation for its food.

The guest house closed last year as Runske has embarked on a new venture - a bookshop in the town. So as it stands, the house could continue as at least a partly commercial enterprise or you could just keep it as a family home and watch from the windows as former patrons gather outside looking crestfallen, their napkins tucked into their shirts for nothing.

Grove House was reportedly built in about 1880 as a hotel, and has had other famous guests including Edith Somerville, Jack B Yeats and, more recently, Howard Crosby, who performed a concert there in 2013 in tribute to his uncle Bing.

It's a handsome, blockish two-storey house on an elevated spot at Colla Road, with great views of Schull Harbour.

Added to the 19th century core are some later embellishments including a conservatory to the south and a glass porch at the front, eastern elevation, which the postman must find a pleasantly dry spot in the mornings.

Its period features include ceiling cornicing, arched two-over-two pane sash windows, original pitch-pine floorboards and, of course, conspicuous fireplaces. But if you do intend to convert it back to a private house, a few tweaks will be needed here and there.

The house has two kitchens, for one thing. The commercial kitchen is on the ground floor and has a cold room, prep area and scullery - possibly overkill for the amateur chef unless you really fancy yourself.

Then, on the first floor, one of the bedrooms has been converted to a second kitchen for domestic use. It's quite pretty, with cream painted cabinets, pine countertops and a Belfast sink, all of which you'll have to tear out ruefully. You'll be left with a good-sized bedroom with a cast-iron fireplace and an en-suite shower.

There's a living room on the first floor for private family use as well, which will be a much easier conversion back to a bedroom and it too has a cast-iron fireplace and en-suite already.

There are four other bedrooms on the first floor, three with standard en-suite shower rooms and one with a private sitting room, a bathroom and separate toilet, and sliding doors to a balcony. So after the conversion there will be six upstairs bedrooms and no shortage of downstairs reception rooms.

Two of these are at the front, on either side of an entrance hall that runs almost the full depth of the house. The hall is dominated by an elegant mahogany open-string staircase, lit by a double-height, arched stained-glass window.

To the left of the entrance hall, inside the front porch, is a sitting room, dual-aspect and with an original marble fireplace, and to the right is a drawing room, also with its original fireplace.

Then opposite the commercial kitchen is the dining room, and this opens into an oak-floored sunroom with a vaulted oak ceiling and a door to the garden.

The downstairs kitchen is also served by a utility room, boot room and laundry, so there's almost nothing left to do in the kitchen itself except cook.

Grove House shares its driveway with another group of dwelling houses on the site. The grounds amount to 0.8 of an acre, with two polytunnels that have supplied the restaurant with vegetables and fruit. Elsewhere, large areas of the grounds have been made over to gravelled parking, but there is a courtyard and a lawn, and scope to develop a more lush garden in time. There's also a 400 sq ft guest apartment on the grounds with one bedroom.

Colla Road is close to the centre of Schull, a few minutes walk from the harbour and the main street. The town, about 100 kilometres from Cork city, is thronged with sailors and holidaymakers in summertime.

Grove House

Colla Road, Schull, Co Cork

Asking price: €1.35m

Agent: Savills in Cork (021) 427 1371 and Charles McCarthy in Skibbereen (028) 21533

Indo Property

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