Life in splendid isolation in idyllic Co Clare cottage
Follow in the monks' footsteps at this idyllic and remote Co Clare cottage
If it's seclusion you're after, you'll find it in spades at Abbey View House in Bellharbour. Two fields away is the Corcomroe Abbey, which was built in the late 12th century by a group of monks who were known to seek out isolated areas where they could build their churches and set about the task of becoming self sufficient and free from contact with the outside world.
The well-preserved abbey lies in the grey hills of the Burren and is visible from the cottage. In fact, you can walk out the back door and straight up on to Turlough Hill and on to Oughtmama, where the settlement can be explored.
The current owner bought this cottage in 2009 from an American couple, who, he said, put all of the hard work into the property. The house had already been reroofed, rewired and replumbed. To make the house his own, the owner put in a new kitchen, moved the stairs from the living area into the hall and put in two Velux windows upstairs. (There is planning permission in for another Velux in the attic room.)
After living in it full-time, the owner and his wife have decided to move on because of work commitments and commutes. He believes it would be a perfect home for anyone who could work remotely or who is retired.
"If you have the fortune to not have to travel to work, or not work at all, it would be an idyllic life," he says. "It's remote and rural, and an amazing place for star-gazing. You could have an all-night party here and nobody would ever know."
For a mid-19th century Irish cottage, this home is very large at 1,970 sq ft. It has been well-kept and retains much of its traditional charm, with exposed walls and large kitchen hearth.
On the ground floor the entrance hall leads into the kitchen with its solid fuel stove where the old hearth would have been. There is an open-plan triple-aspect living/dining room with another stove. A double bedroom and bathroom complete the accommodation of this level.
Upstairs there are two more double bedrooms at each gable end of the house, and a bathroom. There is also a storage room that could be converted into another bedroom or study.
Outside there is a walled garden to the rear with a few old outbuildings. There is also lawn to the side and front of the cottage.
While the house is secluded and private, it doesn't take long to get to a bit of life. It's situated between Ballyvaughan and Kinvara, both about 10 minutes drive away in either direction. Galway Technology Park, on the outskirts of the city, is 35km away so a commute to work would be very manageable. Dublin is about two and half hours away by car on the M6. The nearest airport is Galway city, which would take around 40 minutes by car.
What To Do
Hikers and hill walkers are drawn to this area because of the Burren. There are enough loop walks to keep you going for years. It's recommended that you do at least one walk with a guide so that you can learn about the Burren's archaeological and geological wealth. Just beside the house is Burren Wild Tours, where you can book a local expert and spend the day out walking, stopping along the way to enjoy a packed lunch from the family cafe.
A much shorter walk would take you up to the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey and the churches of Oughtmama. The effigy of the Chieftain king Conor O'Brien, carved faces and flowers on top of large columns and the smiling bishop carved into a wall must be seen to be appreciated. Many people are drawn to it for its peaceful atmosphere, so lucky is the owner who can walk across a couple of fields and soak up the tranquillity whenever the mood takes them.
A 15-minute drive from the cottage will take you to the Aillwee Caves and Birds of Prey Centre. Roughly 300m of cave passage is open to the public and a tour takes 35 minutes. After the caves, you can get up close and personal with eagles, hawks and owls at the bird centre that opened in 2008.
The location of Abbey View House could not be better for chocolate lovers for just down the road is Hazel Mountain Chocolate. The bean-to-bar factory, cafe and shop is open to the public, and runs chocolate-making workshops as well as yoga classes.
Eating and Drinking
Daly's pub is just a mile down the road in Bellharbour. If you get there between 6pm and 8pm, you'll find a busy bar with locals catching up after a hard day's work, ready for an impromptu sing-song depending on the night.
A drive to Newquay and Linnane's Lobster Bar would only take five minutes. This is a traditional pub that was built over 300 years ago. It was extended and re-opened in 1990 and has become well-known for its seafood menu.
Ten minutes away in Ballyvaughan you have a choice of L'Acro Italian restaurant, Hylands Burren Hotel or Burren Fine Wine & Food. You can't beat dinner at the award-winning Gregan's Castle for a special occasion. The Blue Book hotel won Georgina Campbell's Hotel of the Year in 2016. If you don't want to fork out for the fine dining experience, light lunches and afternoon tea are served in the Corkscrew Bar.
In Kinvara, Enoteca Il Molo is a popular Italian wine bar and cafe that serves weekend brunch with a side of jazz. The restaurant at the Pier Head is a good option for seafood lovers, and you can head into the bar after dinner for a pint and some live music.
There is always a lot of overseas interest when traditional properties in an area like the Burren come on the market. Agent Diarmuid McMahon says that interest from the UK is still strong because investors want to get their hands on some European assets. Bellharbour itself has a mixed clientele of artists and environmentalists from Ireland, UK and Germany.
What's Not to Like
The cottage has a BER of F, which the new owners may wish to address. The old walls are 1m thick but are obviously not doing a good enough job of keeping the cold out and the heat in. The present owner put in an extra stove but the windows are still single glazed.
Abbey View House
Bellharbour, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Asking price: €285,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald McMahon (065) 6867866