The owners of the stunning ‘Jigsaw Cottage’ former guest house in Moyne, south Wicklow, recently placed their labour of love on the market for €485,000. Although they have explained their reasons for doing so, how this unique property has not been snapped up yet remains a real puzzle.
It was a typical mid-November day in 1998 when Grania and Richard More-O’Ferrall first spied the secluded five acre property on the outskirts of the village of Knockananna.
Having trekked the length and breadth of the country in search of their dream home, the Dublin couple knew instantly that their search had come to an end. They promptly purchased the property in 1999 and renamed it ‘Jigsaw Cottage’, because “the puzzle of finding the ideal place had finally been solved”.
Having run a run small chain of flower shops in and around Dublin, cleverly named ‘Molly Blooms’, the intrepid pair decided to embark on an entirely different enterprise altogether. Over the next 20 years of Grania and Richard’s stewardship, the couple shaped and moulded the 226.77m² property into the perfect place for passing hikers, ramblers and walkers to rest their weary bones.
“We both felt the need to get a bit of greenery around us,” Richard said. “We always said, if we moved to the country, that we wouldn’t just prop up the local bar. We knew we’d have to do something. We weren’t sure what that was but, as soon as we cast our eyes on this property, it was an instantaneous decision. It just ticked all the boxes.”
Jigsaw Cottage enjoys the idyllic backdrop of the rugged Wicklow Mountains National Park, with Lugnaquilla and its smaller outliers as the spectacular centrepiece. To the south lies Ballycumber Hill, a prominent ridge interlaced with an array of looped hiking trails of varying length. Crucially, the world-renowned 130km long Wicklow Way passes within just 1km of the property.
The golf enthusiast is similarly spoiled for choice, with Woodenbridge, Coolattin, Glenmalure, Mount Wolseley, Carlow and Baltinglass all within easy reach. The higher-profile European at Brittas Bay and Druid’s Glen at Newcastle, are all under an hour away.
Inspired by the unique combination of local hiking opportunities and outdoor amenities, the couple opened the guest house in mid-2001. Business grew steadily over the following decade, with international tourists flocking to the Wicklow Way providing a steady stream of customers.
“Ryanair opening up new routes around Europe was the best thing to happen to Irish guest houses since sliced pan,” Richard joked. “We had so many international guests, it was fantastic craic meeting and hosting so many interesting people.”
“The first year we were open we had a young man stay with us. He arrived late in the evening and all our rooms were full, but we let him camp in the grounds. We got chatting the next day and he explained that he did website design. We got to talking about The Wicklow Way and came up with idea of collaborating on a website.”
Together, Richard and his mysterious guest, Eoin, set about creating wicklowway.com – a website that breaks the route up into sections and ties them in with accommodation along the way.
“We put together a very doable four to five day route, depending on your pace, starting in Marlay Park and running all the way to Conegal,” Richard said. “I chatted to guest house owners along The Wicklow Way, and got them on board. The website worked a treat, and really became the backbone of our business. I’m sure it was for many of the other guest houses too.
“We had guests arrive from all over Europe who had happened across the site. At that time, it would have been one of the sole resources for information on the route, so it was just a case of the right idea, in the right place, at the right time.”
The ever-active couple now feel it is time to down-size, move closer to younger family members and make way for more energetic heads and hands to take over their ever-evolving work in progress.
“We’re getting too old and cranky,” Richard jested. “Ah, it has been great fun. We’ve met some smashing people here. But the house is just too big, and the grounds are far too large for two octogenarians to handle! We’d like people who have the energy to keep doing what we’ve been doing here.”
Richard maintains that the property is ideally suited to re-starting the successful guest house, which features five generously-sized bedrooms and bathrooms.
Sitting on the site of an earlier dwelling, the present cottage was built in the early/mid 1990s. The house is south-facing, with an exterior finish of locally sourced granite, perfectly complemented by a clever combination of wood and brick.
The first floor contains a sitting room, with a brick-built open fireplace and a solid oak floor. There is a study and a purpose-built drying room, for wet hiking gear and boots. Solid-wood double doors lead through to the spacious dining room, which features exposed timber beams, rustic-style tiled floor, a brick chimney and an alcove containing a Stanley wood-burning stove.
Situated at the west end of the cottage, the spacious conservatory/sun room is accessed via timber framed double glazed double. A timber door leads to the recently refurbished kitchen, which has an adjoining pantry.
A traditional carpeted staircase with timber bannister leads to the upper landing. This provides access to four of the timber-ceilinged bedrooms, two of which are en-suite. There’s also a hot press, linen cupboard and access to the insulated attic via a trapdoor and fold-away stairs.
The accompanying 5-acre holding offers an abundant supply of organic vegetables and fruit, free-range eggs, locally harvested honey, and homemade cider for family and friends. It also incorporates two polytunnels.
There are two heritage variety apple orchards – one dessert and the other cider – the latter of which doubles as a secure poultry enclosure. Further afield there are recently established mixed (mainly oak) woodlands.
The property is approached from the public road via a short lane way leading to the 100 metre gravelled entrance driveway. There is a maintained parkland area to front of house, incorporating a nature-friendly pond and flower beds surrounding a sunny timber deck area.
To the rear, there is an extensive organic vegetable and flower garden, managed in accordance with Charles Dowding’s ‘No Dig’ method. The exterior buildings include a cut stone utility room, incorporating and eco-friendly Biomass (wood-pellet) and solar panel central heating system, a sauna and a cider store.
Unsurprisingly, managing agent Jack Quinn, of Quinn Property, said that there has been a steady amount of interest in the property.
“We’ve had a lot of interest, especially from people who have been living in cities and are looking for a bit of a change in lifestyle,” Jack said. “It’s so peaceful and tranquil in Moyne, it’s just the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle.”
This article was written by Eoin Mac Raghnaill of the Wicklow People and can be accessed here.