Wednesday 17 January 2018

Great outdoors in Co Mayo

Extended and renovated 1950s cottage has plenty of room for guests, writes Alison Gill
Doughmakeon, Louisburgh, Co Mayo
Asking price: €225,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Crowley (098) 29009

The cottage in Doughmakeon enjoys views of the sea at the front and Croagh Patrick at the back
The cottage in Doughmakeon enjoys views of the sea at the front and Croagh Patrick at the back
View of Inishturk from the house
One of the four bedrooms

Alison Gill

THE town of Louisburgh in Co Mayo obtained its distinctly French name when it was constructed as a "planned town" by Lord Altamont in 1795. He built it to house Catholic refugees who had fled sectarian purges in the north. Around that time it is estimated that about 7,000 were driven out of Armagh alone.

Having constructed the town, Altamont decided to name it in commemoration of his uncle, Henry Browne, who had participated in the naval Battle of Louisbourg against the French. The taking of the Louisbourg fortress in Nova Scotia in 1758 opened up Quebec and marked the beginning of the end of the French in Canada.

Nuala Moran and her partner Dave Madden have been coming to Louisburgh from the UK for years. Nuala's mother was from Roscommon and Dave's roots go way back to famine times when it's believed his family left Mayo for the UK. Louisburgh had always been their destination of choice when holidaying in Ireland, so after many trips they decided it would make sense to have a base there for themselves and their two sons.

"We bought a place in Louisburgh in 1997 and were happy enough. All the while though, we were fixated on getting a place close to the beach, so when the site in Doughmakeon came on the market in 2000, we went for it," says Nuala. "There was an old 1950s wreck on the land and we were advised by our architect to knock it down and start again. We seemed to be surrounded by new builds, so we thought it would be nice to try to restore the old cottage because there was still a lot of character to it."

The couple renovated the old house and built on to make it a four-bed holiday home.

"We were fed up looking at dull, brown holiday homes so we decided to inject a lot of colour into the décor and make the place stand out," says Nuala.

The location is definitely the main attraction of this property. It's the last house before the sea on a small country road, which continues on as a track down to Emlagh beach. The house looks out to the sea and Inishturk, and at the back to Croagh Patrick. There is a lake in the field in front which attracts a lot of wildlife.

"We designed the house with guests in mind, so we made sure there would always be room for visitors," says Nuala. "The 'dorm' as we called it, with its two sets of bunk beds, was always full of kids. Any time school was out, we went to Mayo, with family and friends in tow."

The kitchen
The kitchen

Now that their sons are older, the couple feel it's time to sell up and pass the house on to a younger family. "We had great times and memories in the house," says Nuala. "The house was great for entertaining. We also made great friends with locals and fellow holiday-homers."

The House

The cottage looks small but at 1,335 sq ft, the accommodation is quite generous for a holiday home.

The porch leads into the old part of the property, where you'll find the sitting room and the kitchen. Both rooms have a vaulted ceiling and are decorated in maritime colours. The sitting room has a solid-fuel stove and views out to Inishturk. The kitchen has a maple laminate floor, fitted units and a stainless steel splashback. There is a utility room off the kitchen. There is also a study in the original part of the house, which could be used as a bedroom. A shower room completes the old building.

Living room
Living room

A hallway leads into the new build where you'll find four bedrooms and a bathroom. All bedrooms are a reasonable size and are carpeted.

Outside, the garden extends to about 0.6 acre of low-maintenance lawns, and is fenced.

The Locale

Louisburgh is 21km west of Westport on the R335. It's a small town with plenty of character. The house is a 10-minute drive into Louisburgh and about half an hour from Westport. A car journey from Dublin would take over three-and-a-half hours via the M4, while Galway city, at nearly 100km away, would take close to two hours. The nearest airport is in Knock, which is just over an hour away, and has regular flights to London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and Birmingham.

Louisburgh is good for local shopping, but Westport would be a better bet for supermarkets, with the choice of SuperValu, Tesco and Lidl.

Things To Do

It's the perfect location for the outdoorsy types. There are numerous hiking trails around the area, with Croagh Patrick on your doorstep. The beaches in Mayo are famed for their beauty. Emlagh is just down the track from the house, but if you want a change of scene Carrowmore, Old Head and Bertra are all close by. Summer Sup at Old Head is a stand-up paddle-boarding school that is great fun for all the family.

The instructors are experienced and patient, and most novices find themselves up and running after one lesson.

On a clear day, a boat trip from Roonagh Quay to Clare Island is highly recommended. You can take in the dramatic, west coast sights on the short journey, and when you arrive on the small island there is plenty to fill a day, with a choice of walks, adventure sports, fishing, horse riding, or even yoga.

Six miles from Louisburgh on the Leenane road, Glen Keen Farm is designated as a special area of conservation because of its unique habitat and wildlife. City folk will love the full farm experience where you can cut turf, enjoy the sheep-herding demonstrations and learn a bit of wool spinning. When the hard work is done, you can hang up your wellies and enjoy homemade treats in the tearooms.

Every year, the Féile Chois Cuain is held in Louisburgh on the May bank holiday weekend. This is a celebration of traditional Irish music, and is renowned for its informal and impromptu sessions.

Eating and Drinking

Country Kitchen on the Main Street in Louisburgh may not look like much from the outside, but inside is a warm and welcoming restaurant with a great local and seasonal menu.

Gaffney's, also on Main Street, has a good €25 set menu and is best known for its seafood.

On Bridge Street, The Derrylahan Bar and Bistro is a good option for pub grub and a decent pint.

The Crowd

Americans come and go, but it seems to be the Dubs that come back to Louisburgh again and again, escaping the rat race in their remote holiday homes. Agents say that Brexit has definitely put a spanner in the works when it comes to UK buyers, but they have noticed young Irish people returning from abroad looking for a piece of the good life in Louisburgh.

What's Not To Like

Louisburgh is buzzing in the summer and dead in the winter. This means that a lot of the things that attract visitors in the summer, are closed out of season. It's worth doing a bit of research on what's seasonal and what's not.

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