Have your own slice of West Cork in Skibbereen for €7.5m
Liss Ard Estate, Castletownshend Road, Skibbereen, Co Cork €7.5m
Back in the early 1990s when we were swimming up from the depths of yet another recession, a novel concept in tourist accommodation launched in a remote corner of West Cork.
Liss Ard was like nothing we'd ever seen before - not a cosy B&B and definitely not an impersonal global hotel brand. Every detail was fresh, from its Japanese-style paper screens and modernist bedrooms, to the menu, to the Sky Garden designed by artist James Turrell as a crater so that when you lie on its stone slab and gaze at the skies, the space wraps itself around you. Liss Ard was, to my memory, Ireland's first boutique hotel.It was elegant, exotic and reassuringly expensive. And it had the added excitement that you might bump into Van Morrison or Patti Smith or another legend down to perform at Liss Ard festival.
That, however, is just one incarnation in the many lives of Liss Ard. Originally the house was built in the 1850s for The O'Donovan of the O'Donovan clan. Set on a hill, or on the shores of the 40-acre Lough Abisdealy, it was a sturdy Victorian dwelling laid out over three storeys with fine views over the woods and fields of West Cork. In the 1870s, a second house was added at the other side of the lake, hidden by the rise of the land and used by the O'Donovans as their summer house.
Eventually the O'Donovans emigrated and sold Liss Ard to, among others, two brothers, who divided the houses between them, paying £600 for the main house. Over the next 50 years, the estate changed hands several times.
During the height of Cold War paranoia in the 1970s, Liss Ard was owned by Colonel Albert Bachmann, a Swiss military intelligence officer, who reportedly intended it for use as a safe haven for a government in exile in the event that Switzerland was invaded by the Soviet bloc. Apparently, Bachmann fitted the property out with a basement vault that was large enough to house the huge Swiss gold reserves. He sold Liss Ard in the early 1980s but stayed in the area with his wife until his death in 2011.
From the late 1980s to the mid 2000s, the estate was restored and the house, the various stables, coach houses and the former summer house were developed into hotel accomodation of 25 bedrooms in total, with grounds that run to 163 acres and include 10 individual gardens with a charming wild flower meadow and woodland walk among them. The main house is surprisingly compact with just six en suite bedrooms.
Liss Ard is a 10-minute drive from Skibbereen, a bustling country town with a thriving arts scene. Cork Airport is 70 minutes away and, according to local selling agent Charles McCarthy, the Monday morning flight to London is full of locals commuting there. However, whoever buys Liss Ard will have the option of using the new Ludgate digital hub in Skib and so the best of both worlds: London-scale salaries earned at a West Cork desk.