Postcard perfect thatched cottage on the market in Ballyvaughan for €220k
Thatched cottages, even modern ones like this in Ballyvaughan, continue to be an iconic symbol of Ireland
Roofing a house with straw, reed or heather is a tradition that has existed in Ireland for 9,000 years. In the 1800s, nearly half of the Irish population slept under a thatched roof but these days, thatched cottages make up only 0.1% of the housing stock. Although the number of cottages is low, it is one of the most iconic symbols of Ireland.
Traditionally, thatchers passed their trade down from generation to generation, father to son. It provided plenty of work, with roofs needing to be replaced and maintained every five to 20 years. However, despite the reduction in the number of thatched roofs, thatchers are still in demand and are highly respected as skilled craftspeople.
Their art even managed to impress Seamus Heaney in his poem 'Thatcher'.
"Then fixed the ladder, laid out well honed blades.
And snipped at straw and sharpened ends of rods.
That, bent in two, made a white-pronged staple.
For pinning down his world, handful by handful."
Through the last decade however, thatch has undergone a revival, with holiday home developers wise to the postcard credentials that it can bring to the sale. And in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, there is a rash of modern thatched holiday villages in evidence after the boom years.
No 5 Holiday Cottages is a 20-year-old thatched cottage in a holiday village in the heart of Ballyvaughan. The development has wonderful views over Galway Bay and the famous Burren hills.
The three-bed cottage is traditional inside, as well as out. You enter through a quaint half door, which leads into the dining/sitting room. The living area has a flagstone floor and timber ceiling beams. There is a large fireplace in the centre of the room with a solid fuel stove.
The kitchen has a wooden laminate floor, pine fitted units and a tiled splashback. Also on the ground floor are two bedrooms and the main bathroom. The main bedroom is a double room. The second bedroom has built-in bunk beds.
Upstairs, there is another bedroom, the largest of the three. This has an attic window and storage in the eaves.
Ballyvaughan village is located between the hills of the Burren and the coastline of Galway Bay. The dramatic backdrop of the limestone landscape makes this part of Clare attractive to tourists. The village is on the northern border of Co Clare, 39km from Ennis on the N67 and an hour's drive to Galway city. Shannon Airport is about an hour away on the M18.
The area is rich in culture and is considered to be the arts and crafts centre of Co Clare. The Burren College of Art, on the grounds of a 16th-century castle, is an internationally recognised not-for-profit education centre. The Burren Art and Crafts fair is held on Sundays from April in the village hall and here you get a chance to view, or showcase, many handcrafted pieces.
For food, there is a Spar supermarket in the village itself. For bulk shopping, the Londis in Kinvara (20 minutes away) should have everything you need, or you could travel on to Ennis where there is a Tesco and Aldi. Ballyvaughan farmers' market is held in the village every Saturday from April onwards, giving you a chance to sample and purchase some of the local produce.
What to do
You could treat this part of Ireland as a peaceful escape or as a busy activity hub. The main attraction around these parts has to be the Burren. It is rich with historical and archaeological sites offering wonderful opportunities for walkers, hikers or rock climbers. You can take a guided tour with any number of local operators, or just enjoy the dramatic landscape by yourself.
The beaches and coastline are ideal for surfing, swimming, boating and fishing, and get very busy in the summer.
The Aillwee Caves are one of the oldest caves in Ireland and a 30-minute tour will guide you through the beautiful caverns. If the caves remind you of the Fr Ted episode starring Richard Wilson, you can continue your trip down memory lane with a visit to the actual Parochial House, which is now an organic farm run by Cheryl and Patrick McCormack. You can book into the house for a cup of tea and scones - ah go on, ya will.
The magnificent Cliffs of Moher are a half-hour drive from Ballyvaughan and best enjoyed on a still day.
For the singletons out there, Lisdoonvarna, which is only 15 minutes away, plays host to the annual Matchmaking Festival in September. The festival is now over 150 years old and attracts up to 60,000 people every year.
The Burren Perfumery is well worth a visit. When founded 40 years ago, it just made perfume, but it now has its own range of soaps, creams, fragrances, candles and teas. After a visit to the workshop and gardens, you can enjoy a cup of tea and cake in the organic tea rooms.
Eating and drinking
In Ballyvaughan village your best bet for dinner is L'Arco Italian restaurant. It has won awards for best casual dining and best regional ethnic restaurant. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, however. Hylands Burren Hotel is in the centre of the town and is open every day for lunch and dinner.
Two miles out is Burren Fine Wine & Food. This charming café in an old stone coach house specialises in lunches, afternoon tea and wine, as well as eco guided walks and cycles.
For special occasions, Gregans Castle is the place to be seen. This Blue Book hotel was Georgina Campbell's Hotel of the Year in 2016. Multi award-winning head chef David Hurley, takes the best of local ingredients and turns them into a meal you'll never forget.
For a quiet night in the local, O'Loclainn's Pub is popular with regulars and tourists. It is well-loved for its grand selection of whiskeys.
Ballyvaughan is a very seasonal village that relies heavily on the tourist trade. Very popular with tourists from all over, especially Americans and, in more recent times, Germans. The area is still as beautiful and perhaps more dramatic in the winter months, and can be enjoyed with the interruption of the sightseers.
What's Not To Like
The development of cottages may not feel like such an escape in the summer months as no doubt some of the houses would be rented out to tourists.
No 5 Holiday Cottages
Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Asking price: €220,000
Agent: DNG Brian MacMahon (091) 638638