Quaint thatch cottage - restored by American couple - selling for €175,000
A mid-19th century cottage in Kilrush shows that our ancestors knew better
If you were getting married in rural Ireland 150 years ago when Thatch Cottage was built, you faced a rocky road through life with rack rents in a landlord led agri economy that was minus all the benefit of modern farm machinery.
But housing provision was far less complicated. The skills of thatching, dry stone building, roofing and render making were encouraged and passed down through generations in each and every parish. So when someone needed a home, it was simply a matter of having family, friends and fellow parishioners come over to build it for you. They used readily available local materials - rocks, river sand, tree timber, river rushes - that cost almost nothing.
And while the vernacular Irish cottage was until recently considered 'backward' - one of the reasons so few of them survive today - it is only recently that we are learning how truly evolved and advanced these globally unique designs really were. And especially, how wonderfully suited they were to particularly Irish weather conditions.
Long before the German-developed standard of Passivhaus arrived in Ireland with devices for retaining heat and minimising energy loss, vernacular designed Irish houses were doing it naturally.
For example, one of the core principles of Passivhaus - the ultimate global standard in energy saving design - is the deployment of small windows on the colder north side of the property to prevent heat escaping, while larger windows are deployed on the warmer side.
Thatch Cottage at Tullagower, among the few cottages remaining which is fairly roughly laid out as originally built, has small windows on one side and larger versions on the other.
Thatch too was considered an ultimate heat-retention device and the warmest place to be was in the eaves bedroom right under the thatch. At Thatch Cottage, the layout still retains that eaves bedroom. And at the centre of the house still is the huge inglenook fireplace which originally would have served to heat and to cook.
In recent generations, surviving thatched cottages which were re-roofed and painted outside; rather than lime-washed as was traditional, began experiencing problems with cold and damp. It was because the old lime method not only helped sterilise and thus prevent the damp, but the old renders also permitted the house to 'breathe'.
Here in the original vernacular cottage, the floors downstairs are stone flag. No trips to pricey tile barns required. This cottage was restored by an American couple who acquired it in 2009 along with the accompanying outhouse on a half acre.
Today the two-bedroom property, which would have been largish by the standards of its day, also begs the question in an age of six-bathroom McMansions: How much space does a family really need? Again, the trend in considered rural building today is moving towards homes which are smaller and better insulated than their bank-busting boom-era predecessors - ranging closer once more to the vernacular styles.
While it has traditional features - including the exposed beams and the rustic look kitchen - it does come with a few traditional but modern devices, such as two energy-conserving solid fuel stoves which are located in the kitchen and in the master bedroom, itself located in its spot on the ground floor. Accommodation includes the ceilinged kitchen/living room, the master downstairs bedroom, the downstairs living room (which could become a third bedroom depending on needs), and the upstairs eaves bedroom. There's also a laundry room and a bathroom.
The cottage is situated on the West Clare peninsula, five miles outside the designated heritage town of Kilrush. It's near Loop Head, Killimer, Kilkee and Doonbeg, home of controversial US President Donald Trump's links golf course.
Tullagower, Kilrush, Co Clare
Asking price: €175,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald McMahon