The sun is glowing, the sand is gritty and day-trippers are descending on the little C-shaped beach at Sandycove Point, in south Co Dublin. Swimmers, seals and seagulls share the water, but even those who regularly round the rocky point at Kavanagh’s — a local name for the red-roofed Neptune Lodge — may not quite know the extent of the extraordinary property that lies above them.
The Dalkey granite-built walls of the Battery that rise out of the bedrock of land and sea were built soon after 1800, following the construction of the nearby Martello tower as part of the coastal defences against Napoleon’s fleet. Reams of military history have been written about the 0.4-acre site, with maps, plans and section drawings showing the guard room and soldiers’ quarters, and documentary accounts of its use, during the second World War, as a base for anti-aircraft guns and searchlights.
But there’s a family history embedded there too, starting in 1955, when the late owners bought it from the State at sealed bid for just under £2,000.
As you walk up from the beach towards the Forty Foot bathing spot, you might get distracted by Michael Scott’s 1937 architectural landmark Geragh, and the James Joyce tower to the right, and miss the pedestrian gate on the left that incorporates the name Battery. This yields to a verdant path sloping through a lush garden to what appears as a three-bay house, with rendered exterior and a sash window either side of a timber bay, but is in fact only a section of the property, formerly the quarters for up to 36 soldiers. There is off-street parking with a gate to the road around the point.
The front door opens into the first of many surprises, an almost Mediterranean courtyard roofed by vine-clad wooden slats and floored with cobbles. The family brought these from the lower part of the site, where the master gunner’s store — still bone dry inside, according to the owners’ son, and accessed down a flight of granite steps — shares open grassy space with other outbuildings that his father, an OPW architect, used as workshops and in which his mother polished stone.
From the entrance it’s impossible to resist going out to the south-facing terrace, which the owners built above the outbuildings. “My God, what a spot it is in the mornings,” says the owners’ son, adding that it’s also pretty special in the evenings when the sun goes down between the Pigeon House towers and over the tip of Ringsend, across Dublin Bay.
Beyond this is what must be the south city’s most private garden, naturally fertilised by windblown seaweed and bounded by the battery wall, with bolts, possibly from a flagstaff or the lights, rusted into the rocky outcrop at the centre. The ruined roof of the soldiers’ privy, a brick structure, is the only thing visible from the path below, and the 270-degree views captivate the eye from Dún Laoghaire around past Howth and back to Scotsman’s Bay and Dalkey. “It’s like Cap Ferrat in Dublin,” says the owners’ son.
Inside, the original guard room is now the drawing room, in which the only concessions to grandeur are the marble mantelpiece and sash windows. Glass doors lead to a conservatory, and the drawing room also opens into the modern section of the house, which was originally a yard that the owners covered in as they gradually connected and extended the habitable areas. A long kitchen with hand built wooden units borrows light from the courtyard and leads through a hall to the living/dining room.
Next to this is a bedroom, with mezzanine, lit by the square bay window that offers wide sea views and from the window of the en suite (which the artistic, imaginative, well-read owner used for her crafts) the parapet of Geragh lines up perfectly with the tower. Behind this, the gunpowder store became the barrel-vaulted bathroom and steps lead up to two more bedrooms that the owners fashioned out of the rudimentary 1940s sleeping huts. The Ber of F reflects the unorthodox structure, which covers 175sq m (1,884sq ft).
The Battery, according to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s 2022-28 development plan, is located within an architectural conservation area and the wall itself, an essential element of the coastline’s architectural heritage, is a protected structure listed in the Record of Monuments and Places.
And so any plans for the property are bound to involve careful discussions with the council planners; there are lots of possibilities for a buyer with an open mind, a big budget and a visionary architect who might, for example, build in the lower yard, with bedrooms below a living/kitchen/dining room to absorb the existing terrace. It’s a rare and extraordinary opportunity to purchase a piece of Sandycove Point: property people often describe amenities as being on the doorstep; at the Battery, the Forty Foot is your actual doorstep. It is for sale through Lisney Sotheby’s International Realty for €3 million.