Built around 1830 as a summer residence for the Rev Percy Smyth of Headborough, Monatrae House has retained an atmosphere of sun and seaside ever since, and is now looking for an owner with €1.45 million who will be as devoted to its character as the Swiss family which has lived here for the past quarter-century.
Having served before that as a retreat house for a religious order and later as a country house club offering equestrian holidays, Monatrae has been fully restored now as a unique family home.
On 4.85 hectares joint agents Ganly Walters and Sherry FitzGerald Hennessy will tell you it's more small estate than a single property, for the extensive coach houses and outbuildings have been transformed. Inside, the graceful house is warmed by fine elm, oak and pine flooring, panelling and shelving, by fireplaces framed in beams or brick and by deep-set double-glazed windows augmenting the modern heating system.
Monatrae is very well- known to people who never visited it, for it sits prominently on the peninsula of Piltown and Ferrypoint across the Blackwater estuary from Youghal. It is, in fact, hard to miss, yet when reached by several turns off the Waterford motorway it turns out to be nestled in woodland and shrubbery, with fenced lawns and pastures yielding to the sea shore and immaculate greens closer to the main house and out-offices.
The wide fanlight over the original front door is echoed inside by a great curtained arch spanning the width of the hall, where comfortable sofas have been grouped around the fireplace.
On one side of the hall is the library, panelled in elm which gleams with titles as well as light from its sea-facing windows, and beyond this the reception or music room is lined with pitch pine imported from a 300-year-old house in England.
The rooms at the back of the hall overlook either the paddocks or the modern conservatory which (with the walled swimming pool beyond) runs the entire depth of the house, bringing extra light into the diningroom.
This four-windowed space is generous enough for a banquet, and indeed two of its planked tables are of banqueting dimensions, while the round oak table could accommodate King Arthur and more than a few of his knights.
A tiered fireplace is framed in brick over stout piers and the ceiling is beamed and painted. The kitchen also has both brick and timber to its credit, with attractive seating arrangements along with an oil-fired Aga, an adjacent cellar and, as is true throughout the house, carefully installed storage spaces and worktops.
Upstairs where there is also a spacious attic with access to the roof, the fusion of craft and charm is again gently obvious. The five bedrooms are large, several double-aspect, all with adjoining bathrooms and showers.
Earlier owners had partitioned these rooms to make them en suite, but the divisions have been removed so both space and furniture have a chance to shine without any loss of convenience – and all the fireplaces, including one of almost medieval design, are in working order.
Cupboards have been set unobtrusively into the woodwork on the main landing and the two appealing apartments here can be completely self-contained. Although nothing is fussy or declamatory there seems to have been a joy in getting the detail just right.
The proprietor’s Italian-Swiss origins are a little more obvious in the treatment of the courtyard apartments where the bright uncrowded rooms are also equipped with efficient kitchens and bathrooms.
The emphasis on the use of timber, brick and stone reminds the proprietor of the help of neighbours such as Bernard McGrath, of the professional work of cabinet-makers Will Casey and Ger Broderick of Castlelyons and of Dave Prickett, of the granite sinks from stone-cutter Michael Sheedy of Midleton and of masons Neilus and the late Con O'Callaghan of Youghal.
Traditional craftsmanship, authentic plasterwork, undisturbed or restored perspectives and the addition of such facilities as a treatment room, sauna, laundry, wet rooms and guest bathrooms are all indications of the loving sensitivity with which Monatrae has been returned to its original purpose as a house for living comfortably at a spectacular location.