THE new owners of Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen, a favourite bolthole of stars including Bono, are investing several million euro into the property ahead of its May reopening.
US investors Dominic Properties have bought the property for €3.5m and design work is now underway before it is relaunched as a premier wedding destination, and boutique hotel that will be open all year around.
Liss Ard will be managed by Destinations founded by Colin Best and Michael Johnston. Speaking from his base in California, Michael told The Southern Star they had been searching for a property like Liss Ard for some time, and it was ‘love at first sight’ when they saw the ‘magical’ spot back in September.
Michael, who has extensive hospitality experience including running hotels in Russia where he spends part of the year, said there’s a move away from branded hotels, and towards a more unique and authentic visitor experience, away from cities. ‘And we feel Liss Ard can provide that.’
The estate comprises a six-bed mansion, nine-bed mews house, 10-bed lake lodge, a 40-acre private lake, and 163 acres of woodlands. It’s also home to a crater-type Sky Garden, one of only two in the world created by American artist James Turrell.
While built in 1850, in the early 1970s the estate was bought by the Swiss government and a purpose-built bunker was installed in order to create a safe space for governmental officials seeking to flee from the threat of nuclear war. There was also talk of strong rooms and vaults that were designed to store Swiss gold reserves. Michael said he was aware of the rumours, but hadn’t yet seen the rooms.
More recently, Liss Ard was a venue for outdoor concerts and has hosted stars such as Van Morrison, Oasis, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, and Lou Reed.
Bono hosted his birthday party there back in 2016 and the cast of the most recent Star Wars instalments also stayed there when they were filming at Skellig Michael with star Daisy Ridley gushing in her love of the spot.
Owned by the Swiss Stern family for the past 25 years, it went on the market in 2016, with an asking price of €7.5m, before dropping to €5m.
The current management team headed up by Aidan Shannon and staff are being kept on for the property’s next chapter. Michael, who plans to spend part of the year in West Cork, said the strong community ties built up by the team will be maintained and developed.
He also said they were aware of West Cork’s reputation as the country’s culinary capital and a strong emphasis will be put on their food and beverage offering to enhance this.
The sale was jointly handled by Maeve McCarthy of Charles McCarthy Estate Agents & Roseanne De Vere Hunt of Sherry Fitzgerald Country Homes.
Maeve said: ‘This is a great news story for Skibbereen and West Cork. A real vote of confidence in the West Cork hospitality sector after what has been a challenging year.’
Timo Stern added: ‘he family is very happy to have found in Destination a company that will continue the tradition of making the beautiful estate of Liss Ard available for tourism purposes and as such, to provide employment to the local community and enhance West Cork as a quality tourism destination.’