Tuesday 20 February 2018

Holiday properties on the market: Restorative powers

Views from old farmhouse inspired French visitor to buy and transform it

Hilltop Cottage sits on a secluded road, but the seashore and beach are just 200 metres away
Hilltop Cottage sits on a secluded road, but the seashore and beach are just 200 metres away
The gardens are wild and natural
The property during the restoration work
The cottage before its was restored
A bedroom
The open-plan kitchen and living room
The bathroom
The patio

Alison Gill

Although there are hundreds of stone circles across Ireland, nobody is quite sure what their purpose was, or how the large boulders got to the often inaccessible locations they can be found in today.

Most are believed to have been placed somewhere between 3000 and 1500 BC, but excavations have not revealed enough artefacts to uncover the mystery surrounding these structures.

Cashelkeelty stone circle can be found in a forest in Lauragh, Co Kerry. Originally a five-stone circle, only three stones remain today. Despite the damage, this is an important site in stone circle history because an excavation in 1977 provided evidence of the age of the ring. In a central pit covered by a flat slab, the remains of a cremated adult were found, which allowed archaeologists to date the circle at around 1200 BC.

Walkers often come upon this stone circle while on the Beara Way, and are both struck by the beauty of the location and moved by the sense of history.

It's this mystery and beauty that originally drew Colette Mougin here. Originally from France, Mougin lived in Germany, London and Cornwall before arriving in Kerry in 1991.

"From the day I put my foot in Ireland, I thought, this is it," says Mougin. "I came back from looking at the house and there was a sunset over the water and I knew that this is where I was supposed to live."

In 1997, Mougin bought a little corrugated farmhouse by the sea at Collorus Harbour. Architect Tony Cohu from Bantry came on board. The biggest problem with the house was that the view to the south was blocked by rocks.

"The house was like a cave when I first bought it," says Mougin. "We phased the rocks out to expose the back of the house. Fifteen lorry-loads of rock came out and these glacial boulders were later used to do the driveway."

Builder Paddy Crowley from Eyeries got to work on the house itself. Here the floor was sunk by 1ft to gain height and the ceiling lifted by 1ft. "I didn't want to lose the feeling of a traditional house stuck in a hill," says Mougin.

"By gaining those two feet, we brought the house back to the way it was originally. All the walls were plastered with hemp, which is great for insulation but also gives nice round edges like in an old farmhouse.

"We got Spanish slate for the roof, and the staircase, doors and windows were made locally. No corner was cut in the renovations."

The house

Hilltop Cottage has been carefully restored to recreate the farmhouse feel without the draughty windows and doors. The house has been opened up to make the most of the views across Kenmare Bay and Macgillycuddy's Reeks.

There is an entrance to the front at the patio, but Mougin said it's the rear door that she usually uses. This opens into a utility room with its slated floor. There is a shower room beside the utility.

The rest of the downstairs is open-plan, with a fully fitted kitchen with timber ceiling and natural slate floor. The living/dining area has timber floors, the original stone fireplaces, a wood-burning stove and a door that leads out to the patio.

There were originally three bedrooms upstairs, but now it is one large bedroom with four windows to maximise the views. There is also a bathroom on this level.

Outside there is a large workshop that has electricity, double-glazed windows, is fully plumbed and insulated, with a wood-burning stove and kitchenette. This would make a great studio/office or could be used as extra accommodation. There is another outhouse and tool shed.

The gardens are wild and natural, with Mougin determined "to keep anything that was good and indigenous". There is a vegetable and fruit garden, chicken coops and beautiful hedgerows.

The property is currently being let out as a holiday rental and has many reviews on Tripadvisor that enthuse about the house and location, including one stating: "The house is genuinely old and has been wonderfully renovated, showing its thick walls and traditional features. It's not sleek, instead it's the kind of house that you know is genuinely loved."

The location

Straddling Cork and Kerry, the Beara Peninsula runs from Kenmare in the north to Glengarriff in the south. Hilltop Cottage is approximately halfway between Kenmare and Castletownbere. It's a short drive from the R571, just west of Lauragh.

While it's on a very secluded road, the seashore and beach are just 200 metres away. Ardgroom village is just 5km away and has a shop, pub, petrol station and café.

Kenmare is about half an hour by car and has plenty of shops, restaurants and a Supervalu supermarket.

A drive to Dublin would take about four and a half hours. The nearest airport is in Cork, which is just under two hours away. The closest train station is in Killarney.

Things to do

Walkers and hikers love this part of Ireland. The Beara Way is on your doorstep with so many walks to choose from. It would also be a great location for boat lovers. Not only can you see your boat mooring from the house, but Collorus Harbour is safe and sheltered, and you can sail comfortably across Kenmare Bay to Parknasilla Hotel.

Pedal and Boots in Lauragh is a small business where you can hire bikes for the whole family and get all the information you need on routes and trails.

After a long day on the saddle, you can return and sample the local artisan foods in the café, where the walnut cake is a must.

About halfway between Lauragh and Kenmare is Gleninchaquin Park, a long narrow valley that was formed by glaciation about 700,000 years ago.

Steeped in history, it is a great place to spend a day exploring the dramatic scenery of the waterfall, rock pools and local wildlife.

Very close to the house is the Beara Gallery, where you can view work by local artists, ranging from realistic landscapes to abstract textural designs.

Eating and drinking

Josie's in Lauragh was established in 1926 by James O'Shea and is run today by his granddaughter, Mary. The restaurant is comfortable and homely, and serves great fish and chips.

The Village Inn in Ardgroom is a popular watering hole with cycling groups. The bar is open all year round but the restaurant operates only in the summer months.

Just 10 minutes from the house is O'Sullivan's bar. The local seafood platter or the crab sandwich come highly recommended. And as for the Guinness…

The crowd

The house is well off the beaten tourist track, so you don't have to worry about passersby looking to take a picture of your 'cute farmhouse'.

Mougin says her neighbours are a mix of Irish, German and Italians.

Agent Tadhg O'Sullivan comments that people interested in buying into the area at the moment are predominately German or Dutch.

What's not to like

There's no quick route to Hilltop Cottage so if you were using it as a second home, you may not fancy facing into such a journey every weekend.

Hilltop Cottage

Collorus, Lauragh, Kenmare, Co Kerry

Asking price: €285,000

Agent: DNG Timothy O'Sullivan, (064) 6641566

Indo Property

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