West coast wonderful
Ballynew, Cleggan, Co Galway: €395,000
If you want to protect yourself from the slings and arrows of the Irish property market, invest in a country home with a sea view, preferably somewhere along the Wild Atlantic Way. According to Sinead O'Sullivan of Matt O'Sullivan estate agents in Clifden, a house with a view of the water will hold its value better than most.
"A property with a good sea view," she says, "could generate up to €100,000 more than a property without."
The latest Daft.ie Report shows that property prices in Co Galway have risen 53pc from their lowest point in 2013. However, there are still bargains to be found, even for properties with glorious sea views.
Ballynew has just reduced its asking price by €30,000, to €395,000, after 18 months on the market. For that sum you could find yourself the owner of a fine architect-designed, four-bedroom property running to 175sqm and set on three acres, with the additional lure of a fair-sized artist's studio equipped with water, heat and light.
When the vendor, Dubliner Fran Wilson, and her late husband Brian clubbed together to buy the place with friends in 1992, Ballynew was a very different proposition. "You couldn't even get into the site," she says. "It was derelict and in terrible condition, there was no running water - it was just a little shack really sitting there."
Fran and Brian had been living in London for 10 years or so, as were their friends. "We got totally hooked on the place to be honest and we always loved coming to the west of Ireland."
With the help of architect Don Heneghan, they converted the property into a two-bedroom cottage with a sleeping loft over the kitchen area and cleared away several outbuildings. And so it remained for many years, an idyllic spot for many a holiday, while Fran and Brian lived abroad.
After seven years or so, their friends and co-owners decided to move on and Fran and Brian took the opportunity to upgrade.
"We went to town on it then," she says. They asked Don Heneghan to design something with more space, something that would fit into the local vernacular style. His design retained the original cottage, but reconfigured it so it now comprised a utility room, double bedroom and en suite, all accessed off a lobby or hallway.
The new wing leads off the other side of the hall, and was angled to take advantage of the spectacular views, with a double-height living/dining/kitchen space. "In the evening with the sun setting, it's a lovely place to eat," says Fran.
The couple were living in Paris by this time and Fran bought much of the furniture there. "It was a bit of a journey," she laughs. "It's hard to put a French dresser in a briefcase."
She didn't want what she calls "a real kitchen kitchen" in the middle of the living area. Instead she opted for simple built-in units with wooden counter tops, a chef's hob, Belfast sink and plenty of space for a large dining table.
A staircase in one corner of the space runs up to the mezzanine which houses a study area. Set into a large fireplace below is a stove which make for a cosy sitting space.
A second living room with double doors to the garden, wooden ceiling beams and a fireplace leads off the open-plan room. Another bedroom and the main bathroom are also on the ground floor. "The master en suite is huge," says Fran. "It's lovely and has a Jacuzzi bath - when you've climbed mountains you need that." Upstairs there are two further double bedrooms, both en suite.
The grounds slope down towards the coast with views of Inishbofin and Cleggan Bay and pier. There is a beach at Cleggan but Fran's favourite is at Rossadillisk, about 10 minutes' drive away. "It's gorgeous. There is a lovely stretch of pure white sand and it's very safe."
Life has moved on for Fran and her three children. She now has five grandchildren, and her beloved husband Brian passed away a number of years ago. She finds she is no longer making the journey from Dublin to Ballynew so frequently, though she has many happy memories of the family's time there. "I wish I could fold it up and put it somewhere else," she says.
Era: Rebuilt in 2000
Agent: Matt O'Sullivan (095) 21066
Viewing: By appointment