Monday 23 September 2019

In Pictures: One of the only homes on Red Island comes to the market for the first time

One of the only homes on Red Island, Lambay House comes to the market for the first time

Lambay House was built in the 1960s beside the Skerries Martello tower
Lambay House was built in the 1960s beside the Skerries Martello tower
How the site looks today
The front door
The house occupies one-third of an acre
The conservatory has double doors to the garden
The entrance hall
Postcard of South Strand beach with the holiday camp in the background
Postcard of Red Island with the Quinn's holiday camp
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

At last the sunshine is poking through and Ireland is shivering into its first official week of summer. Even so, you're not likely to be planning a two-week sojourn sunbathing at a seaside holiday camp on the Dublin coast.

But before affordable air travel arrived in the 1970s, the typical city family might already be packing its bags for Quinn's holiday camp on Red Island in Skerries for 14 days of sand, swimming, ice cream, music, donkey rides, bingo, sing songs, and if they were lucky, occasional sunshine.

Located on a scenic sandy headland spit, Red Island was run by Eamonn Quinn whose son Feargal (former boss of Superquinn) honed his marketing skills here as a lad waiting tables and calling bingo.

Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was also filled with post-war British holidaymakers who travelled over by ferry. They came for the food rather than the weather because rationing was still in force in the UK and a summer holiday in Ireland meant good eating and plenty of it.

The camp had comfortable bedrooms and central heating, as well as a dance hall, theatre, miniature golf course, sun lounge and bar, and remained popular until the 1960s, when it accommodated around five hundred guests a week in peak season, with most coming from the north of England, and the remainder from Northern Ireland and the Republic.

From the late 1960s, though, its popularity declined due to competition from cheaper and sunnier destinations abroad and the Troubles in the north. During the 1970s, bands such as Thin Lizzy and Horslips played summer gigs in the dancehall, but it closed for good at the end of that decade and was demolished a few years later; the land was bought by the local authority and most of it is now a public park.

Lambay House was constructed right next door to the famous holiday camp in the 1960s, at the sunset of its days. Red Island is not actually an island, although it was once, known in earlier times as Key Island and later as Haven Island, both references to the harbour on its north shore for which the island forms a breakwater and shelter.

This scenic headland is connected to the mainland and the town of Skerries by a roadway that forms part of the quay wall of the harbour. According to the Skerries Historical Society, one explanation for the name Red Island is that it refers to the dyeing or 'barking' of sails, an industry with which Skerries was once associated. Huge pots were filled with tree bark and boiled over fire to create a pitch-like, reddish-brown substance called 'cutch', into which the sails were dipped before being taken to the island and spread out over the rocks to dry, causing the rocks and soil to become reddish in colour over time.

A local farmer once operated glasshouses on Red Island and these were taken down to facilitate the building of Lambay House. It is one of very few houses on Red Island, and now comes to the market for the very first time.

Its one-third of an acre site is spectacularly located, adjacent to the Martello tower built to defend against the prospect of a Napoleonic invasion, and connected by line of sight with another tower on Shenick Island off the coast which can be reached on foot at low tide. This more than anything confirms that Lambay House has the best marine viewing spot in Skerries. Martello towers invariably occupy the very best coastal positions on the sites which best optimise the ocean views in all directions.

Lambay House, which has 2,530 sq ft of living space, is virtually intact in terms of its 1960s design, but it's also looking worn and tired inside. Only a purchaser seriously committed to the architectural style of that decade will look upon Lambay House as a restoration project. But there may be some hipsters in this camp, given that many of its original internal design aspects are by now looking decidedly cool again.

Accommodation includes a kitchen, dining room, sitting room and a huge tiled viewing conservatory. There are five bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The house has a workshop on the grounds. The front garden has parking for several cars and there is direct access from the elevated south-facing back garden to the South Strand beach, and to the deep water bathing places known as The Captains and The Springboards, which have long been two of the principal attractions of Skerries, along with the cliff walk and the sea-fishing.

Other options are to consider a wholesale upgrade and extension, which would involve stripping the house out completely, or to explore the development potential of the site in terms of a multiple unit scheme.

The most radical option, and one which may appeal to a purchaser with deep pockets and dreaming of a bespoke seafront trophy home, would be to knock the house, hire a good architect and start from scratch towards a big contemporary luxury home on what must be one of the very best sites on the east coast. Because of the development potential it's asking price is €1.3m.

It's five minutes' walk from the village, even closer to the harbour, where the ever-popular Stoop Your Head (known by locals simply as Stoops) is known for its prawn cocktail, an hors d'oeuvre that is so very 1960s camp.

Lambay House

Red Island, Skerries, Co Dublin

Asking price: €1.3m

Agent: Kelly & Co, (01) 8491155

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