Holiday home haven in Donegal for €295k
When Hans de Jong and his wife Willy ("yes, we know it's a funny name in Ireland," says the affable Hans, "but in Holland it is very normal") embarked on their search for a second home in Ireland back in the late 1990s, they made contact with Letterkenny estate agent Paul Franklin.
"It was in the days before the internet," recalls Hans, a keen photographer, "so he sent hard copies of the photos of the house to us in Holland. We liked the look of it and it was the first house we went to see. The day was awful, the rain was pouring down, the house was in terrible condition, but we loved it. The situation and the views are just so beautiful."
Jacob's Cottage is tucked away down a private lane and occupies a half-acre site, 10 minutes' drive from Dungloe. When the de Jongs bought the house in 1999, their principal home was still in Holland. "We came over for a weekend once a month and worked on it until it was finished," says Hans. "It took us almost two years."
The couple did most of the renovation work themselves, stripping the cottage back to its bare walls before starting to put it back together again and installing double-glazing and oil-fired central heating. They brought in a professional thatcher to return the roof to its former glory and, once the work was completed, began to spend more and more time in Donegal.
"We loved coming here so much," says Hans, "and we asked ourselves, 'Where did we want to live, to make our home?' I was working in Holland in sales but I had a good conversation with my boss and we were able to work it out so that I was able to do everything online or on the phone. I've been working like that for the past 10 years."
The de Jongs have since sold their house in Holland and invested the proceeds in extending the original Jacob's Cottage - adding on a sun-room opening out onto a large deck to maximise the spectacular views out over Trawena Bay and a Scandinavian log cabin-style extension to provide two additional bedrooms and a second bathroom. The main house now has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an open-plan kitchen/living/dining area.
A detached one-bedroom timber summer cottage is rented out for €425 per week in low season and €525 in high season and there is a hot tub and a barbecue house that gets year-round use.
"It's a lovely place in which to sit and enjoy good food and a few drinks," says Hans. He says that the shopkeepers of Dungloe have got used to him looking for charcoal at Christmas-time.
Another thatched stone structure on the property is used as a timber store.
In the summer months, Hans swims across the road from the cottage, as he doesn't mind the seaweed and the crabs, but Willy prefers to drive the 10 minutes to the sandy beach at Dooey.
The de Jongs are not leaving Donegal but feel the time is right for a new project, so they are on the hunt for something else in the area.
Paul Franklin, who sold Jacob's Cottage to them all those years ago, is once again on the hunt for a buyer. The de Jongs' hope is that it will be bought by someone who will treasure it as much as they have.
Era: early 19th century
Agent: Franklins (074) 918 8000
Viewing: By appointment