Tuesday 18 June 2019

Ireland's three most luxurious thatched cottages built by wealthy Danish family up for sale

Ireland's most luxurious thatched homes are at Kenmare Bay and now they're on the market

The elaborate cottage orne exterior of Little Hay
The elaborate cottage orne exterior of Little Hay
A view from above of the three thatched houses
The foyer of the garden cottage
The Garden Cottage's stone exterior
A living room
The La Cornue range oven in the rustic kitchen
The sweeping staircase in the hall of Little Hay
Little Hay's patio views
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Convulsing against the steely values of the industrial revolution, the Romantic movement that sprouted from 1770 and lasted until 1848, sought alternative inspiration in the range of human emotions, in mother nature and in pastoral histories, folk tales and legends.

In verse the Romantics gave us Byron, Shelley and Wordsworth. They brought tales from Grimm brothers and Bronte sisters. On canvas we had Constable and Turner while Wagner provided the heady score.

The European wide Romantic influences also permeated the design of homes from the grandest to the smallest. Of its architects we had Adam for the calm neoclassical and Walpole for the wild neo-Gothic. Perhaps the most extravagant Romantic builder of all was King Ludvig II, who bankrupted himself erecting lavish fairytale dream castles all over his Kingdom of Bavaria before his ministers finally had him committed for alleged insanity and then, in mysterious circumstances, likely bumped him off.

Despite modern architecture's general disdain for the designs of the Romantics with their fairytale faux pastiches, the rest of us love their buildings to bits. Southern Germany's tourism industry thrives today on the castles of "Mad King Ludvig" - his most famously elaborate, Neuschwanstein, draws 1.5m visitors annually. The mountaintop marvel of spilling layers and rocketing blue turrets also inspired Disney's famous Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles.

A view from above of the three thatched houses
A view from above of the three thatched houses

Aside from fairytale castles, and Gothic mansions, the romantics favoured recreations and interpretations of medieval thatch buildings for gate lodges, hunting lodges, morning tea gazebos and luxurious residential cottage retreats - often very large homes couched in a small dwelling characteristics - what became known as the cottage orne style.

When the Danish Hoyer shipping family began investing in tourism in Ireland in the 90s, they found natural scenery in buckletloads but not a lot of built fantasy about. Applying the commercial benefits of Romanticism, they remedied this by building the waterside Sheen Falls Hotel in Kenmare - one of Ireland's most unashamedly romantic hotels. Soon after they completed three eye-catching thatched homesteads in the English-led cottage orne style for additional guest accommodation. Most definitely not in the native Irish vernacular with not a half door, three legged stool or settle bed in sight.

The houses, Little Hay, Marianne's Cottage and the Garden Cottage, have been rented out to tourists ever since and benefit those who want a little romance and privacy away from the hotel itself, but to be close enough to benefit from the estate's leisure activities.

The Hoyers sold the hotel in 2014 for €5m but wisely held on to the thatched trio for a few more years. Now with tourism ramping up a record year, two have been placed on the market for €1.75m the pair while there's an option of purchasing Marianne's Cottage, for an additional €1.25m, taking the total for the small thatched Hamlet on Kenmare Bay to €3m.

The cottages have been built with extra large internal dimensions and top dollar fittings. The yellow and green painted Little Hay (2,852 sq ft) was built in 1996. The entrance hall leads into a huge open plan living space that is the living room, kitchen and dining room and sun room, all interlinking and with views of the bay. There are timber-beamed ceilings, a solid timber floor and the kitchen has a rustic (and hideously expensive) 'La Cornue' range oven as its centrepiece.

In the hall, a dramatic sweeping staircase takes you upwards to an arched eyelid window and the upper landing. There are two very large double bedroom suites here, each with its own ensuite and separate balcony while the master chamber also comes with a substantial dressing room. Next door is the stone faced Garden Cottage (1,403 sq ft), also in the cottage orne style. This was built in 2000 and the main open plan living space incorporates the kitchen, lounge and the dining room. Both bedrooms have their own dressing rooms and ensuites and French windows to the terrace. The cottages sit on 2.7 acres on the shore and each has its own driveway entrance. Located on an adjoining site of 1.3 acres, is the biggest of the three, the pink Marianne's Cottage, which has two bedrooms, with open beam ceilings, a log fire, sun rooms and marble bathrooms on 1.3 acres. Little Hay and Garden Cottage have both been leased continuously to the Sheen Falls Hotel for guest use and this arrangement can be continued for new owners.

A living room
A living room

Little Hay, Garden Cottage and Marianne's Cottage

Sheen Falls, Kenmare, Co Kerry

Asking price: €3m

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country (01) 639 9300 Sherry FitzGerald Daly (064) 664 1213 & Christies International

The La Cornue range oven in the rustic kitchen
The La Cornue range oven in the rustic kitchen

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