Commuting from Ireland: the pull of the south-east

As prices plunge on Emerald Isle, a dreamy thatch or stately pile could be yours, right by the sea yet close enough to the airport to commute.
Two hours' drive from Dublin and within an hour of Cork airport in south-east Ireland is the fishing village of Ardmore - a destination that, despite its year-round population of only 400, has something of a literary heritage.

The late Nobel laureate, acclaimed poet and writer Seamus Heaney, was a regular visitor, while Booker Prize nominee Molly Keane lived there for 50 years, writing novels including Good Behaviour from her house overlooking Ardmore Bay.

BBC correspondent and author Fergal Keane has holidayed there every summer of his life, fishing with his children off rocky Goat Island or picnicking on one of the six local beaches in a village he describes, with typical Irish flourish, as "the place of my people".

Sleepy, well-kept Ardmore is Ireland's oldest Christian settlement. It has one main street, a 12th-century tower, a few fishing boats bobbing in the cove and two wonderful craft shops selling local pottery, warm tweed throws and work by Irish artisans. This seaside resort in County Waterford is a popular weekend break from Cork or Dublin and a big hit with visiting Americans.

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Life's a beach: The delights of Ardmore make it  - just about - worth the commute from London

A hotel by the sea
In 2005, Dublin-based couple Gerri and Barry O'Callaghan bought a run-down hotel in Ardmore and spent three years rebuilding it. Today, the Cliff House Hotel is Ireland's only five-star seaside hotel, and the Michelin-starred restaurant is always packed. 

The 39 rooms face the ocean and are decorated in colours that ensure this modern limestone and glass building suspended over the sea reflects its surroundings. The Donegal tweed used throughout, for example, sourced from Eddie Doherty in Ardara comes in fuchsia to represent coral, marine blue for the sea, green for Ireland and a fabulous pale purple to denote the abundant local heather.

There's history, too, with Ireland's largest private collection of campaign furniture, designed for luxury travel and military campaigns and found in every room. Most of it dates from the 18th and 19th centuries and was sourced through Christopher Clarke Antiques in Stowon-the-Wold with additional Irish examples from Nicholas Loughnan in Youghal.

An Irish lifestyle
Local estate and buying agent Brian Gleeson says ownership in Ardmore is split 60:40 between second homes and full-time residents. "Waterford suffered badly in the financial crisis with property prices falling 50 to 70 per cent from the 2007 peaks," he says.

"However, Ardmore remained unspoilt through the buoyant Celtic Tiger days and it is like stepping back in time. We have people locally who commute to London weekly because it is such an easy journey through Cork airport." As well as running his property business, Gleeson is a horse racing commentator, a familiar face on Irish TV and recently signed to Channel 4. 

He lives in a tall Georgian house in Ardmore with his young family and says the lifestyle is a big part of the appeal. "There are three golf courses nearby, where you can play for £56 in total, and we are close to the market town of Dungarvon and to Lismore, which has a castle owned by the Duke of Devonshire."

Property values
Ireland's deep recession saw the economy contract by six per cent as the country experienced the world's biggest property crash. According to the Central Statistics Office, residential prices dropped by 57.4 per cent from February 2007 to August 2012. Prices in Dublin rose 17.5 per cent last year, outperforming even the London market. Away from the Irish capital, however, they continue to fall.

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£144,000: a thatched, three-bedroom house with a small garden beside the sea in Ardmore with great rental potential, through Gleeson Property

A detached, thatched, three-bedroom house in need of updating but set a few steps from the sea in Ardmore - and which would rent for 20 weeks a year - is £144,000, while a semi-detached Georgian house with six bedrooms run as a B&B will set you back £286,600.

"There are wonderful opportunities in Ireland now at all price points," says Gleeson. "Last year a 6,000sq ft house beside the sea that was £3.52 million in 2007 sold for £921,000."

A three-bedroom farmhouse in three acres at gorgeous Whiting Bay is £205,000. It needs a similar amount spent on it but leads directly on to the beach and the only neighbour is top racehorse trainer Aidan O'Brien. Georgian Muckridge House in Youghal, also in need of much cash and TLC but with 102 acres of farmland, is £819,000.

Contacts and fact file
* Cliff House Hotel: Rates start from £147 for a deluxe seaview room with breakfast.
* Tourism Ireland
* Brian Gleeson
* Aer Lingus flies from Heathrow to Cork.

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