January. The month of new beginnings and grand plans. On these cold and dark days, holidays are at the forefront of most people's minds. Many have already looked at the flight sales, checked out hotel rates and discussed whether to stay home or go abroad. It's also the time of year when people may consider, not just this year's holiday, but investing in their future holidays for years to come.
Investments in holiday homes went by the wayside in Ireland when the crash hit. Agents in many popular holiday spots around the country are now noticing that, while the Brits may be sitting back to see what happens with Brexit, the Irish are slowly returning to the holiday home market and taking advantage of the gaps in demand.
For those looking for a no-hassle option, Magheramore Cottage in Manorcunningham, Co Donegal might be of interest. It has been recently restored by local woman Carmel Patterson, who saved it from becoming just another crumbling cottage like so many dotted around the county.
"I've always dabbled a little bit in restorations and I particularly like cottages, so I always had my eye on this one as it's only a couple of miles from my own home," says Patterson.
"It would sit in the sun, glinting and I always promised myself that if it ever came up for sale, I'd buy it. There are so many big, plastic houses sticking out in the countryside, so there is just something about traditional Irish cottages that sit in the landscape so naturally. I was afraid if I didn't buy it, someone would else would come along and knock it down and build something that would never be as beautiful.
"It hadn't been lived in for a while and had been quite neglected. The gable wall was falling in and the plaster was all off the walls, and when the architect came to look at it, he literally fell through the floors."
Patterson stayed within the original footprint of 1,600 sq ft. Working on a tight budget, she says it was the availability of energy grants for things like drylining the cottage and putting in a new boiler system that made the whole project possible. The cottage now has a BER rating of C2.
The front door of the cottage opens into the living area with its high ceilings, wide plank oak floor and solid fuel burner, which is connected to the boiler system.
Glass doors lead you into the kitchen/dining room, which has double aspect windows, fitted cream-coloured units, timber worktops, grey floor tiles, an integrated oven and ceramic hob.
The hallway to the bedrooms has a Moroccan tiled floor and double doors leading out to the garden. The first bedroom has a dressing room and an en suite bathroom complete with roll-top bath with shower attachment, and handmade floor tiles. The second bedroom is also a double room, and the main bathroom has a large walk-in shower.
The cottage sits on 0.75 of an acre, which is made up of lawn with mature trees and shrubs, a gravel drive and path around the house and plenty of space for parking. A shed to the rear of the property that has been plumbed for a washing machine and wired for a dryer.
Manorcunningham, a small Donegal village overlooking Lough Swilly, is within walking distance of the cottage and has a local shop and a couple of pubs, but not much else.
It has become a bit of a commuter town for Letterkenny, the largest and most populated town in Donegal, which is only about 10 minutes away by car.
There's plenty of shopping options here, with Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Mace supermarkets, and Derry is just under half an hour away with its good choice of eateries. A regular bus service goes through Manorcunningham to both Letterkenny and Derry.
What to do
One of the main attractions in this part of Donegal is Glenveagh National Park, and it is the type of place you'll visit again and again. The estate was created by John George Adair, a wealthy land speculator from Laois, in 1857.
He began the construction of Glenveagh Castle in 1867 after marrying his American wife, Cornelia. After his sudden death in 1885, Cornelia took over the running of the estate and introduced deer stalking.
Following her death in 1921, Glenveagh fell into decline, and was mostly occupied by Anti-Treaty and Free State Army forces during the Civil War. The last private owner of the estate was Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia. He devoted much of his time to restoring the castle and developing the gardens. In 1975, he agreed the sale of the estate to the Office of Public Works, which then opened the property to the public as a national park in 1984. Admission to the park, visitors centre and restaurant is free, and tours of the castle cost €5.
Tropical World in Letterkenny is a good spot for kids. It's like a mini zoo with birds, reptiles, meerkats and spiders. The butterfly house has exotic butterflies from all over the world in free flight, and there is a coffee shop, picnic area and play area to keep everyone happy.
There are plenty of golf courses within an hour's drive of the cottage, with the closest, Letterkenny Golf Club, charging €20 for midweek green fees.
Eating and drinking
The Lemon Tree restaurant in Letterkenny is regularly recommended, run by brothers Thomas, Gary and Christopher Molloy who are passionate about sourcing local food and ensuring everything is made freshly on site. Their award-winning chowder is a must.
Also in Letterkenny is the Brewery Bar & Restaurant which serves a mean fish and chips, and a good selection of local craft beers. A 20-minute drive north takes you to the heritage town of Ramelton, where you can enjoy the seafood menu in the Bridge Bar, with a side serving of traditional music.
The lively city of Derry, with its young population, is worth the extra few miles for a night out. A Saturday night in Bennigan's Bar and Jazz Club on John Street won't disappoint.
The area around Manorcunningham is not best known for tourism. The village itself is very quiet and has more housing developments than quaint cottages, as it is a popular commuter town for people working in Letterkenny.
That said, the local community is tight and any newcomers are sure to receive a warm Donegal welcome.
What's not to like
Manorcunningham is not the most obvious part of Donegal in which to buy a holiday home.
The village is decent but hasn't quite got the appeal which attracts tourists to other, more popular parts of the county.
The many beaches up along Lough Swilly, like Lisfannon, Rathmullan and the renowned Ballymastocker are a bit of a drive away.
Asking price: €198k
Agent: Franklins, Letterkenny, (074) 918 8000