Friday 18 August 2017

Peek inside this secluded Connemara thatched cottage brimming with inspiration

The Ferns, a thatched cottage built 20 years ago, is located on an elevated site overlooking Cloonisle pier and bay
The Ferns, a thatched cottage built 20 years ago, is located on an elevated site overlooking Cloonisle pier and bay
One of the five bedrooms
Half-and-half front door
The living room with exposed beams;
Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill with daughter Shura
Views from the cottage over Cloonisle bay
The dining room
The nearby village of Roundstone

Alison Gill

The story of poet Ted Hughes is evidence enough that Connemara makes the perfect hideaway. After the suicide of his American poet wife, Sylvia Plath, Hughes became the victim of much gossip in London, surrounding his treatment of Plath and the apparent reasons behind her death.

He needed to get away, and so he and his lover Assia Wevill took off for Doonreagan House on Cashel Bay.

They arrived in February 1966 along with Frieda and Nicholas, Hughes's children with Plath, and Shura, his daughter with Wevill. The broken family craved some normality and peace, and it was in Connemara that they found it.

Hughes claimed in letters to friends that he was inspired to write some of his best work there, including the beginnings of his epic series 'Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow'. Wevill wrote and painted, and Frieda went to the local school. Hughes looked back on this time in Doonreagan as one of the most productive writing periods of his career. There was even a play written about this time in Hughes's life by playwright Ann Henning Jocelyn, the current owner of Doonreagan House.

The living room with exposed beams;
The living room with exposed beams;

Just up the road from Doonreagan is the Ferns cottage. This traditional thatched cottage is also the result of a couple wanting to get away from it all. The Darlings from Dublin built this holiday home 20 years ago and used it regularly with family and friends over the years. The family now feel it's time to pass it on as they don't use it as often as they used to, but will always have fond memories of their holidays there.

The House

The Ferns, located slap bang in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, was designed as a traditional country hideaway. It can comfortably sleep up to eight people and has full planning permission for an extension to the main house and a garage.

You enter the property through a half-and-half door into the hall with an exposed stone wall and Liscannor stone floor. To the right is a bathroom and two bedrooms - one double and one single. To the left is the kitchen and utility room that leads into the dining room. The kitchen has wooden fitted units, a Rangemaster double oven, Belfast sink and a Hoover fridge. The dining room is entered through an archway and has views over the garden and on down to the sea. There is an open fire and double doors to the patio area.

The living room is at the back of the property and also has sea views and a high ceiling with exposed beams.

Upstairs there are three more bedrooms. The master has an en-suite bathroom with rainwater-style shower and partly panelled walls. There is a hot press and a large linen store and a door up to the attic.

Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill with daughter Shura
Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill with daughter Shura

The house sits on a very private site so could suit those who truly want to hide away every now and then. It would also be good for writers and artists who need peace to enable the creative juices to flow, where there is no fear of being disturbed.

The landscaped gardens are planted with mature trees and plants. The natural stone patio walls have been designed to show off the varied garden elevations and views. There is a large patio area that has been positioned to make the most of the sun when it shines.

The cottage is very well-maintained and needs little if no work.

The Locale

The Ferns is located on an elevated site that overlooks Cloonisle pier and bay. Roundstone is just a few minutes away by car. The busy town of Clifden is under half an hour away and has plenty of shops, supermarkets, restaurants and markets. A car journey from Dublin to Cashel would take about three and a half hours. Galway city is over an hour away and the nearest airport is in Carnmore, which is about 75km away.

What to do

Views from the cottage over Cloonisle bay
Views from the cottage over Cloonisle bay

Connemara beaches are known for their beauty. A short drive will take you to Dog's Bay and Gurteen beach. Theses beaches lie back-to-back in a unique setting and are well-sheltered from the currents, making them ideal for families.

For those who aren't happy to hang around the beach all day, Killary Adventure Company in Leenane is about half an hour away and has activities for children and adults. You can try your hand at anything from high ropes to waterskiing, or archery to raft-building.

This is also a great part of Galway for walkers with the Twelve Bens and Maumturk mountains close by. The Cashel walk starts just up the road from the property at the Zetland Country House Hotel. This track leads down to Bertraghboy Bay. Alternative starting points along Cashel Bay will lengthen this walk.

Nearby Lough Mask and Lough Corrib are very popular with anglers for their brown trout. Fishing trips can be organised locally.

Eating and Drinking

Beside the property is the well-known Cashel House Hotel. Here you can relax with lunch or afternoon tea in the bar, or dine in the restaurant where local seafood, meat and poultry is showcased.

The dining room
The dining room

In Roundstone, O'Dowd's pub and restaurant won Pub of the Year last year in the Georgina Campbell awards. It's a traditional Irish pub with a seafood menu to die for, as Campbell's review can confirm. "O'Dowds also supplied the best seafood platter we had this season - so good in fact that nobody remembered to photograph it!"

Clifden is a good spot for pubs, with Lowry's and Griffin's ensuring a great night out with live music and a good pint.

The Crowd

There is so much uncertainty around the holiday home market at the moment. UK buyers would usually be quite active in this part of Ireland but most are now holding off to see what Brexit will bring. Americans have always loved Connemara and more so now as they look for a safe haven in this worrying era. Roundstone and surrounding areas have also traditionally been popular spots for well-heeled Dubs.

What's Not To Like

The roads around the cottage are narrow and winding so walking to the pub at night is only an option for the very foolish.

The Ferns

Scrahallia, Cashel, Co Galway

Asking price: €335,000

Agent: Janet Carroll (087) 4002020

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