At one with nature
Teach na Coille is designed to make the most of the great outdoors, writes June Edwards
Set back off the road in the midst of a magical wooded site stretching to two acres and dotted with meandering paths, Teach na Coille, at Craggaunowen, Quin, Co Clare, is aptly named.
Built just over a decade ago, the house, which exudes good taste and simplicity, is home to Irish dancing teacher Michael Dillon and landscape gardener Stephen Wheatland.
"I grew up just two miles down the road, and spotted this piece of land for sale when I was home on holidays from England back in 1999," explains Dillon.
Having returned to England, he couldn't get the wooded site back in Craggaunowen that he knew so well from childhood out of his mind.
"I had no intention of moving home, but once I saw the 'for sale' sign on that site, there was no turning back," he adds.
But with nature very important to both owners, they set about designing a home that would fit the beautiful site without taking from it.
"We wanted something very organic, something that would blend with the natural element of the site, and not just a big house surrounded by a tarmac driveway," says Dillon.
"Respecting the site was very important to us because already so many of the wonderful trees on the original site had been lost through development.
"In more recent times this site was owned by the boy scouts, but there's quite an interesting history to this land because originally it was part of the Cullane estate owned by Thomas Steele," explains Dillon.
At one time The Liberator Daniel O'Connell lived here in order to get elected as an Irish MP in the British parliament for Co Clare.
Steele, an eccentric known locally as 'honest Tom', allowed O'Connell to build a folly on his estate, to enable him to have the necessary 'foundations' in the county to be elected.
Disillusioned by Irish politics and the famine, Steele later fled to London where he ended his days penniless.
And O'Connell's folly was eventually knocked by a farmer who owned the land.
The house is also close to the recreated crannog where visitors can see how Irish lakeside dwellers used to live more than a thousand years ago.
Not visible from the road, and situated in a woodland setting, Teach na Coille is completely private.
"What's lovely about the house is that it's very quiet and rural and yet we have neighbours all around, which is great," says Dillon.
A spacious contemporary-style, single-storey home, Teach na Coille has a floor area of 127sqm, and includes a large open-plan kitchen cum living/dining area, sitting room, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a stunning conservatory that opens out to a beautiful decked area surrounded by trees.
The other side of the house opens out to a large American-style veranda and with several seating areas dotted throughout the site, there are plenty of places to chill out.
"The design of the house was important because we wanted to bring that sense of the outside, inside the house.
"We got professional help with the design but we did a lot of the hard work ourselves.
"It was a real labour of love and there were plenty of horrible days and nights hauling and lifting. But we got there in the end," says Dillon.
The owners opted for a quality build from the start, choosing a Cygnum timber frame construction that increases energy efficiency and reduces heating bills.
Doors and windows are Rationel Norwegian pine, while underfloor heating is laid throughout.
To bring a little of the outdoors into the house, the owners opted to use beech wood throughout the house, in terms of the kitchen, flooring and furniture.
"We're surrounded by so many beech trees, it was nice to use that material indoors," adds Dillon.
They also managed to incorporate local Liscannor stone in the facade of the house.
But the stunning conservatory is where this easy fluidity between house and garden is really noticeable.
Surrounded by trees and plants on all sides, and with some fantastic indoor planting, the conservatory is the highlight of this charming property.
The garden and outdoors eere very much Stephen's area as he is a professional landscape gardener who trained at London's Kew Gardens.
The woodland area, which combines a mix of native and introduced trees, has 86 varieties of plant species, all chosen to complement the site.
"Thanks to Stephen the site is really well planted. We have a hosta garden, a bog garden, several water features and a huge variety of ferns and rhododendrons. "It's beautiful all year round, but particularly in spring when the whole woodland comes to life. We even have red squirrels running around," says Dillon.
The best of both worlds, Teach na Coille is in a quiet rural setting, but is just 20 minutes' drive from Ennis and Shannon Airport, and is 30 minutes from Limerick city, while the villages of Quin and Kilkishen are close by.
The house has been designed in such a way that there is potential for future owners to develop further accommodation at first-floor level.
"It's a beautiful home in a fantastic setting and we'll miss it, but with my parents both passed on, now is a good time for a change," adds Dillon.
Teach na Coille, Craggaunowen, Quin, Co Clare. Price:€349,000. Contact Leyden Auctioneers 065 6820555