Escape to a cool Cork cottage

Nothing sparks the desire for change like hitting a new decade. Vendor Kate Dunn turns 50 next year and her landmark birthday is the reason she is putting her two-bed cottage on the market after eight years. “I’m going to take early retirement from the HSE and retire to France to live on red wine and fresh air,” she says.

In Normandy, she will be half an hour from Dick Strawbridge and Angel Adoree, the English couple who star in the Channel 4 series Escape to the Chateau. “They’ll be getting a call,” she laughs.

She admits to being ‘knacky’, a trait she says she inherited from her parents who are serial fixer-uppers and bought her her first sewing machine at age nine. Now she makes all her own clothes, and plans to turn her hobby into a new career. Her flair with colour and fabric is clear in the decor at Vale Cottage.

In many ways it is a wrench to leave the 100-year-old cottage near Rosscarbery in West Cork that Kate has put so much into. The cottage needed work when she bought it in 2011. “I wanted somewhere that I could make my own and that would never run out of potential,” she says.

And make it her own she did. Much of the renovation work was done bit by bit over the years by Kate herself. “I had a concrete floor for five years before I could put the kitchen flagstones down – because of time and money.” The front door opens onto the parlour which has a tiled floor, wood-burning stove and white-painted beamed ceiling. To the left is the sitting room which Kate calls her ‘snug’ – it has a cast-iron fireplace and slate floor. The kitchen runs the entire width of the house at the rear and has a half door to the garden and a black-and-white tiled floor. There is a fine old-fashioned stove – prospective buyers may be relieved to know there is a contemporary integrated oven and hob too, and one end of the long space houses the dining area.

The kitchen – like the rest of the house – was put together by Kate. “Everything is either bespoke, handmade, vintage or hand-me-down”.

The stairs lead up out of the parlour to the upstairs accommodation which comprises two bedrooms and the pine-floored bathroom. The master bedroom measures 7 x 2m – Kate knocked down two rooms to make a huge space – and as it has four windows along three sides, it’s a bright space. There is plenty of room on the landing to add another bathroom or another bedroom.

Outside there is potential to extend, as well as to revamp the whitewashed outhouses which, subject to planning permission, could make additional accommodation for guests or for rentals.

Vale Cottage sits on a hill overlooking the estuary and there is a gravelled yard with a sunny bench to one side and a raised patio area on the other which catches the sun all through the day.

It is 10 minutes’ walk to a pebbly little beach known as Mill Cove that Kate says she has to herself all summer long. In addition, Vale Cottage comes with 5.5 acres that run right down to the shore of Roury River.

“There are four acres of good arable land, called the hay field,” says Kate, “which are rented out to a neighbour for his donkey and pony. In return, he supplies timber for my stove.”

The town of Rosscarbery is 4km away, while the bustling market town of Skibbereen is 20 minutes’ drive eastwards and the larger town of Clonakilty the same distance to the west. Cork is 70km away.

This is foodie country with three of this year’s new Michelin stars awarded to restaurants in the county – Ichigo Ichie in Cork, Mews in Baltimore, and Restaurant Chestnut in Ballydehob. Kate likes to head to Pilgrim’s in Rosscarbery, while Kalboe’s cafe in Skibbereen is a favourite stop after the Saturday market. Vale Cottage would appeal to those looking for the good life on a small holding within easy reach of the bright lights of Cork city, or to those in search of a holiday home on the Wild Atlantic Way, with access to beaches such as Tralong, 2km away.

Era: 19th Century

Size: 92sqm

Agent: Charles McCarthy Auctioneers (028) 21533

Viewing: By appointment




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