Wednesday 18 September 2019

Devouring the scenery - a stunning home with mountain and sea views

An award-winning Donegal home allows you to see all without being seen writes Alison Gill

Tuath good to be true: The property on the Fanad Peninsula has direct access to the beach, with 180 metres of water frontage
Tuath good to be true: The property on the Fanad Peninsula has direct access to the beach, with 180 metres of water frontage
Tuath Na Mara is just a stone's throw away from the shore
The kitchen is located on the south-facing side of the house
The property has 180 metres of water frontage
Floor to ceiling windows provide a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and coastline

Alison Gill

Tuath Na Mara, at Fanad in Donegal, is a house that devours the surrounding scenery.

From the inside, it's floor to ceiling windows leave it completely open to the remarkable Donegal beach, sea and mountain views that surround it. But outside in the landscape, rather than ruining that same scenery, this low slung and ground-hugging house is almost invisible. You'd have to look twice to see it.

What architects and architectural aficionados like in a home often differs radically from the preferences of Joe Public. But in the case of Tuath Na Mara, all sides are in agreement.

Because back in 2008, the leading Irish architectural body, The Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI), decided to include a Public Choice category in its annual awards - offering the Irish public a chance to vote for the first time for their favourite new building, whether that be a hotel, a one-off home or a civic block.

Tuath Na Mara is just a stone's throw away from the shore
Tuath Na Mara is just a stone's throw away from the shore

The ballot was conducted through an open online process. The public voted with their feet for Tuath Na Mara.

Designed by MacGabhann Architects, to float low on the ground and provide a platform for the beauty around it rather than a fight with it, the house is located amidst some of Ireland's outrageously wonderful scenery on the Fanad Peninsula. The first view of this house from the road is of the charcoal-coloured rooftop, with its metal zinc cladding chosen to blend in with the natural colours of the rocks below. The roof appears to zig-zag and was designed to catch both the rising and setting sun.

The long, narrow and vaguely crocodile shape of the house (it almost appears to have an open mouth at one end) means that each room inside has a front-row seat to enjoy the wild sea outside that never fails to deliver on drama. The architects say that the shape was intended to create an atmosphere that is not just relaxing, but meditative.

Hidden away from public view, Tuath Na Mara is approached via a raised driveway. With floor space of 1,556 sq ft, the house has a pebbled forecourt to the front. Inside, two main 'den' areas are located at each end of the house and wrapped in glass. Sandwiched between them are the three bedrooms and additional living spaces. The hallway that connects all the rooms in the house doubles as a library with feature bookshelves and window seats providing little reading nooks along the way.

The long design with a reception at each end means that it could be also be easily divided into two separate self-contained units, with a deck on each side. This would make it an ideal holiday home for two families that would like to share the burden of the investment, while holding onto their own private space and independence.

On the south-facing side of the house is a living space that provides a dining room, kitchen and seating area, as well as two bedrooms and a bathroom. The north-facing section is similar, featuring a compact living area and the master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, as well as a utility room.

Floor to ceiling windows provide a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and coastline
Floor to ceiling windows provide a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and coastline

There is a solid wooden floor throughout the house and the bathrooms are tiled. It is heated by solid fuel stoves and oil-fired central heating, and has a private water supply. Tuath Na Mara also comes with eight acres of grounds, which are bound to the east side by the beach. To the side of the house is a planted wood, a pond and a garden with mature trees.

Aside from the views, the most appealing aspect is its direct access to the beach, with 180 metres of water frontage.

In this unspoilt part of the country, life is quiet and intrusions are rare, making it a perfect retreat for anyone needing to escape the hassles of modern-day living. There's a reason why actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick decamp up here every year. The roads are never busy and the locals will never bother you.

The Fanad Peninsula is the second most northerly point of Donegal and stretches north from Milford to Fanad Head and on down to Ramelton Village. On the west side is Mulroy Bay and Lough Swilly to the east. Some of the country's finest beaches, like Ballymastocker in Portsalon (voted second best beach in the world by Observer Magazine), are within reach. And they're as striking on a wild winter's day as they are during a July heatwave.

For golfers, Portsalon links course is 6km away or Ballyliffin, with its two championship courses, can be accessed via the Lough Swilly ferry.

Just north of the cottage is Fanad Lighthouse, built by George Halpin and first lit on St Patrick's Day of 1817. Standing at 22 metres high, it is now used as a helicopter base for the service and maintenance of all lighthouses along the northern coast.

The kitchen is located on the south-facing side of the house
The kitchen is located on the south-facing side of the house

The house also has broadband, for those who like to get away from it all but can't quite manage to cut it all out, or for the remote worker who will have an office with a view that will be difficult to beat. Tuath Na Mara, the first People's Choice building of the year, has just been placed on the market through joint estate agents DNG Boyce Gallagher in Letterkenny (074) 916 8608 and Savills Country (01) 663 4350.

If you want to devour Ireland's best scenery, the guided asking price is €475,000.

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