The big read

With its pri­vate cinema and ‘posh dorms’ it’s no won­der the newly re-opened Crosshaven House is top­ping travel ed­i­tors’ must-see lists,

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside - writes Vickie Maye

NOEL COR­CO­RAN had been work­ing as a quan­tity sur­veyor, mov­ing to oil rigs all over world, liv­ing out of suit­case. And then, after 15 years, enough was enough, it was time to come home, set­tle down.

He had a plan. After years of camp­ing in his youth, and then more than a decade of liv­ing in ho­tel rooms the world over, the jig­saw clicked into place. He would cre­ate an eco hos­tel.

And so the search be­gan for the perfect site. The mo­ment he saw Crosshaven House in 2013, his plans changed in an instant.

“I saw it on a Wed­nes­day,” he re­calls. “By Fri­day I had an of­fer in for it.”

Crosshaven House sits atop a hill, com­mand­ing sweep­ing views of the small coastal village. It is the cen­tre­piece, your eyes are im­me­di­ately drawn to it as you me­an­der the wind­ing nar­row road. Yet for years Crosshaven House had no pur­pose.

This beau­ti­ful Geor­gian build­ing lay largely va­cant and in dis­re­pair. For a long time it was in the hands of the com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tion — it was the the run­down base for lo­cal dis­cos, home to a lo­cal FAS of­fice.

It was a far cry from its Down­ton-like ori­gins, built in 1769 by the Hayes fam­ily.

It stayed with that line un­til the ’70s, when an Amer­i­can, Gra­ham Flint, snapped it up.

Years later it changed hands again, first to the com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tion, then to a Dublin fam­ily, the Cripps. They made a huge in­vest­ment, ef­fec­tively Noel says, sav­ing the prop­erty struc­turally. Un­der their own­er­ship the house was painstak­ingly re­stored to its for­mer glory, da­m­aged cor­nic­ing and rose gar­landed ceil­ings were re­paired, bath­rooms were added to make ev­ery bed­room en­suite and win­dows were re­placed to make it wa­ter­tight.

Their plan was to cre­ate a stately house for pri­vate hire — small wed­dings, or cor­po­rate events. A sud­den death meant the prop­erty was trag­i­cally back on the mar­ket be­fore their re­fur­bish­ments were com­plete.

When Noel took it over, there was still a lot to be done.

But first he had to de­cide its pur­pose. It wasn’t easy — the house could only ac­com­mo­date small wed­dings. There was no grand hall, no over­spill of bed­rooms. And any­way, that had never been Noel’s dream. He knew he needed to think out­side the box to make this new ven­ture a suc­cess.

And then he had an idea, one that was noth­ing short of ge­nius, re­sult­ing in a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion quite un­like any­thing that ex­ists in Ire­land to­day.

Crosshaven House would be di­vided in two. Up­stairs, in the main house, walls would be knocked to cre­ate five suites (one a larger fam­ily op­tion). With its Geor­gian win­dows, four poster beds, stand­alone baths — it can only be a mat­ter of time be­fore Crosshaven House takes pride of place in the Blue Book, a com­pi­la­tion of Ire­land’s best coun­try houses.

But there was an­other part to Noel’s plan. Down­stairs he would cre­ate three dorm bed­rooms. Just down the road, Crosshaven’s Royal Cork Yacht Club, the old­est in world, draws a con­stant flow of in­ter­na­tional The coastal village is pop­u­lar for fish­ing hol­i­days and for walk­ers.

Noel knew that th­ese peo­ple wouldn’t be seek­ing out lav­ish stately home ac­com­mo­da­tion.

So he cre­ated 51 De­grees North (the co­or­di­nates of Crosshaven House), with its own sep­a­rate en­trance from the lower west wing.

51 is no or­di­nary hos­tel. There are three rooms, one with six bunks, the other two sleep four. The de­sign is like noth­ing I’ve seen be­fore (when part of your job in­volves travel, it says a lot when a room re­ally blows you away). Orig­i­nal white washed stone walls, bar­rel vaulted ceil­ings and brick vous­soirs are ex­posed through­out. Hand­crafted beds in a New Eng­land style are set into the walls of the nau­ti­cal themed rooms with pri­vate read­ing lights and sock­ets with USB ports. And then there are the cur­tains, added to each bed for pri­vacy — but they make you feel as though you are walkvis­i­tors. ing through the set of Some

Like it Hot, that iconic train scene. Any mo­ment now, you think, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe will pop her head out be­tween the cur­tains with her ukulele. Like we said, no or­di­nary hos­tel.

And still there’s more. Noel built a sauna, with weary sailors and walk­ers in mind. And to top it all off, there’s a nine seater cinema. Vin­tage red seats were sourced, old style red cur­tains, sur­round sound.

It was the first room Noel com­pleted.

“I just had to have some­thing done that I could look at and say I can do this.”

There’s a pri­vate kitchen at 51 De­grees North too, com­plete with dou­ble AGA cooker, de­signed with an evening beer, glass of wine or com­mu­nal game of cards in mind.

Noel only opened in May this year. And al­ready it’s reached the top of mag­a­zine fea­tures on must see travel des­ti­na­tions in Ire­land.

He wanted it to be perfect, he says, be­fore he opened it to the pub­lic.

He en­gaged Hearth­stone builders, spe­cial­ists in Geor­gian restora­tion. Mary Cun­ning­ham, an in­te­rior de­signer based in Clon­akilty was sought out to over­see the suites and re­cep­tion rooms. The beau­ti­ful drapes and cur­tains, de­signed with John Joe West of West Cork Cur­tains, are a key fea­ture re­fur­bish­ment.

Every­thing, right down to the new Crosshaven House logo, is ab­so­lute per­fec­tion.

The coun­try house op­er­ates on a B&B ba­sis, though it can be fully booked out and cater­ing ar­ranged.

Noel en­vi­sions up­mar­ket hens and stags, fam­i­lies, sail­ing crews and sim­ple girlie get­aways will be his reg­u­lars at 51 De­grees North. And he’s de­ter­mined to keep it af­ford­able. The dorm can’t be booked by the bed, the room needs to be booked in full. So the four bed dorm, when full, works out at €47.50 a head. “I just wanted to be fair to peo­ple,” Noel ex­plains.

Cronins, just down the road in the village, is a pop­u­lar op­tion for din­ner — or vis­i­tors can bring take out back to the com­mu­nal kitchen at 51 De­grees North (the lo­cal chip­per, Chish n Fips, is one of Ire­land’s finest). By day there are even more op­tions with River’s Edge cafe on the wa­ter­front and Grumpy and Wise on the cusp of the beau­ti­ful

Pic­tures: Joleen Cronin

Ac­com­mo­da­tion at Crosshaven House is a mix­ture of dor­mi­tory-style, above, and lux­ury suites with four-poster beds, be­low; the house also fea­tures a nine-seater cinema with vin­tage seat­ing and sur­round sound.

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