Going back to nature in east Clare
Designed with the environment in mind, this is an ecological haven
The gardens at Derrynaneal in Feakle, Co Clare, contain a flourish of wild flowers and medicinal herbs courtesy of the property's owner, the botanist and ecologist, Dr Frances Giaquinto. Here you will find resident otters, red squirrels and hedgehogs. There are also 137 species of moths and butterflies, including the rare EU-protected marsh fritillary butterfly. As a herbalist's paradise it has more than 60 native medicinal plants.
Giaquinto has also used her love for simple, sustainable engineering solutions to install a rain water system which provides filtered water. Alternatively, if you just want to use the water for washing the car or irrigation, there is a mechanism which allows the rain water to be switched off and water brought in from the stream on the boundary. Meantime, the botanist has been involved in the war against invasive plant species in Ireland, not least the dreaded Japanese knotweed which is extremely difficult to eradicate. She has been at the forefront of generating new and more effective methods of removing the plant, which can break up foundations.
Derrynaneal means 'oak forest in the cloud' and was once regarded as the most sacred part of the great forest of Aughty, which covered most of east Clare and south Galway. These days the forest is still giving, with the woodland area surrounding the house providing a continuous supply of fuel for the stove. Giaquinto manages all of this land organically, with an abundance of apple trees, vegetables and herbs.
Built in 2005, this three-bed, eco home is timber-framed and timber-clad. High ceilings and intelligent use of natural light make this house bright and airy. The living area downstairs is open-plan with the kitchen leading into the sitting room. The kitchen has a double-height ceiling and cathedral windows. It is fitted with red units and solid wood worktops. There is a gas hob and electric oven. Off the kitchen is a tiled and fully plumbed pantry, which is designed to be a cool room.
The sitting room has a multi-fuel stove set into a red, brick fireplace. The south-facing sunroom makes the most of the views of the gardens, with windows on three sides and double doors out to the deck. There is a double bedroom on the ground floor with a door leading out to the garden and an adjoining bathroom. There is also a bright study on this level, with bay doors opening to the decking area, which could easily be converted into another bedroom.
A beautiful, bespoke ash staircase leads you up to a gallery that overlooks the kitchen. The master bedroom has a large en-suite bathroom and double doors out to a balcony. There is plenty of storage in the eaves.
The property uses passive solar design and is well-insulated. The septic tank has an additional reed bed system. It sits on just over three acres and is set back from the road, so feels very private and secluded. The outbuildings include a workshop, tool shed, a lean-to with a freezer and a wood store.
Feakle is a small, pleasant village in east Clare that sits between Killaloe and Ennis, both being about 30 minutes away. The nearest city would be Limerick, which is 36kms south of Feakle. It is surrounded by lakes, rivers, mountains, moorland and valleys. Shannon airport is a 40-minute drive from Feakle and a journey to Dublin would take about two-and-a-half hours by car.
The village itself has a few shops, a post office and a couple of pubs. There is a Supervalu in nearby Tulla for bulk shopping, or if you're willing to go further afield, Ennis has a Tesco, Aldi and Lidl. There is a thriving farmers' market in Ennis every Friday, where all produce must be grown, reared, caught, brewed, pickled, baked, smoked or processed by the stall holder.
East Clare has many attractions but one of the main draws to the area is the Raheen Wood Steiner School. The Steiner education places more emphasis on learning through imagination and creativity, and takes the needs of the 'whole' child into account. Since it became recognised as a national school, interest has exploded, with families coming from all over the world to take up much sought-after places.
What To Do
Traditional music has always been a major focal point in Feakle and Tulla, with several festivals taking place throughout the year. The Feakle Festival of Traditional Music takes place every August, with lively sessions by local musicians and workshops in everything from tin whistle to set dancing.
There are many walks around Feakle, but the Ballycroum Loop is the one to choose if you want to get a taste of the local area, as you pass through forests, bog and megalithic tombs.
For horse-lovers, Ballyshannon Horse Riding School and Stables is just over 20kms from Feakle. Here you can book a woodland trek or just take a ride into the picturesque village of Quin for a pint or afternoon tea.
Ennis, with its narrow, pedestrian-friendly streets, is the perfect place to wander and maybe pay a visit to one of the art galleries, the cathedral or Clare Museum.
Eating and Drinking
Pepper's Bar in Feakle is where it's at. There are many regular or impromptu traditional music sessions to be found in this pub. Established in 1810, Pepper's now serves food all day and considers itself to be the 'cultural centre of east Clare'.
Nearby, Shortt's Bar also plays hosts to musical evenings and is very popular with tourists who want to get a taste of a proper Irish knees-up. Here you can often catch owner Gerry Shortt encouraging everyone to join him on the dancefloor for a spot of set dancing.
The Piper's Inn in Ogonnelloe changed hands in 2011, and is now more restaurant than bar, but there is still a snug area for a cosy pint, and the top-class menu is all about local produce.
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to food in Ennis and recommendations often include The Dining Room on Market Street, The Cloister Restaurant on Abbey Street and Seasons 52 on Parnell Street.
As festival central, Feakle is a big draw for aficionados of traditional Irish music and they come from far and wide to enjoy the local music scene, which is among the strongest in the west. Feakle was the home to the well known fiddle player and politician Bill Loughnane.
Many locals are also members of the Irish Chamber Orchestra in Limerick. Feakle is not far from the motorway so residents can work in the city and be back to the beauty of east Clare in half an hour.
What's Not To Like
Derrynaneal may not be suitable for a family with young children. The grounds have been very carefully planned and maintained, and would probably be more suited to a couple with an interest in ecology or botany, who have the time to give to this unique estate.
Feakle, Co Clare
Asking price: €269,000
Agent: Green Valley Properties, Bodyke (061) 921498