At the time when German couple, Peter and Monika, embarked on an Irish holiday in 1977, they had no idea that it was going to change their lives. They drove the Atlantic route, before it became the Wild Atlantic Way - from south to north - and when they arrived in Donegal they both felt an "extremely strong draw".
"We discovered Glencolmcille in Donegal in 1977," says Monika. "We were drawn to the pure nature, great history and lovely people. We loved it so much that we came back in 1979 and moved into a holiday home for three months."
As an artist, Peter experienced a great creative phase during these months in Donegal. "We felt at home there and were impressed with the warm-hearted kindness of the locals," says Monika. "Although we had no links to the area, we decided to buy a home there."
In 1981, the couple bought The Bird's Nest. The cottage and adjoining sheds had been empty for a long time and were in a very bad state. "We couldn't live in it," says Monika. "The thatched cottage had no kitchen and no toilet. The big shed was used as a stable and the small shed was used for cows. We worked on the buildings for nearly four years before we could move in."
Once finished, the couple felt like they were living the dream. "It was always Monika's dream to live in a thatched cottage with thick walls," says Peter.
"And it was Peter's dream to have a big studio to work in and be inspired by the area and nature," says Monika. "So this combination of the cottage and art studio, together with the beautiful countryside, was a gift to us."
The front door opens into the living area which has exposed oak ceiling beams, a traditional fireplace with a large cast-iron grate with recessed ash pit, a cast-iron centre light and solid timber floors. This room is dual-aspect and has a built-in bookcase. To the back of the cottage is the kitchen with built-in units and tiled worktops. There is a Belfast sink, a hotpress with copper cylinder tank and an electric oven.
At the other end of the cottage is a sunroom with a double-height window overlooking the garden and an open arch to the bedroom. The bedroom is small with a solid pine floor and built-in bookcase. The second bedroom is upstairs and has a vaulted ceiling and restricted head height of 1.7m with a small gable window. The bathroom has a Victorian pull-chain toilet, a pedestal sink and a bath fitted with a Triton electric shower.
The adjacent studio has a floor area of around 470 sq ft and is entered through French double doors. It's all open-plan with a solid-fuel stove and four Velux windows. There is a loft area upstairs that overlooks the gallery with professional Osram studio lights. This large area could be used as an office.
The other outbuilding is 330 sq ft and is currently used for storage, but with planning permission this could be converted into extra living space to rent out or Airbnb for extra income.
You can see why the current owners fell in love with this cottage that is hidden amongst the trees and surrounding woodland.
Although very secluded, the property is within walking distance of Glencolmcille. The village is on the Slieve League peninsula in south-west Donegal. It's a Gaeltacht town that's very picturesque thanks to the surrounding mountains, lakes, cliffs and beaches. The village has enough for your daily shopping needs and a couple of pubs and cafes. For bulk shopping your best bet would probably be Killybegs, which is about half an hour away. A car journey to Dublin would take about four hours, no matter which route you take. The nearest airport is about an hour and a half north in Carrickfinn.
What To Do
There are two beaches beside Glencolmcille - Silver Strand and Glen Bay beach. Enjoy a swim in the clear waters of Silver Strand or take your board to Glen Bay, where the big waves attract surfers and boarders.
Overlooking Glen Bay beach is the Glencolmcille folk village, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. It's a thatched cottage replica of a rural village as it would have been in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It was designed and built by locals and visitors can take a guided tour through the village to see how our ancestors lived, worked and played. There is a craft shop and tearooms on site.
Just outside the folk park is a piece of art that shouldn't be missed. Clocha na hÉireann, a 50-foot map of Ireland, is a collaborative 1916 commemoration work between stone masons from all over the country. Each mason used stone native to their own county to produce a carving that includes county emblems, local mythology and history.
Eating and Drinking
An Chistín is a family-run restaurant in Glencolmcille that serves food during peak season. Cook's Pantry at Slieve League Lodge in Carrick is only 10 minutes away by car and is very popular with locals. Further afield, The Fleet Inn in Killybegs has a great seafood restaurant and it's said that the Guinness is the best in the area. Donegal town is only 20km away and has plenty of places to choose from, with Trattoria Toscana serving great pizzas and risotto, or The Village Tavern for their small-plate dishes.
For a local pint, you can't beat Roarty's Bar in Glencolmcille. It's a great place to get to know the locals and join in the many live music sessions.
Agent Rory Dorrian has noticed a big change in the holiday home market in this part of Donegal in the past year. Since the Brexit vote last year, there has been a huge decline in the number of enquiries coming from the UK, which has had a big effect on the county. There has also been a fall-off of buyers from Germany and Austria, but this is being offset by an increase in enquiries from South Africa and Canada. This new trend is filling a void that has been left by the traditional British and European buyers. Americans are still coming in small numbers to buy holiday homes around the area, possibly following in the footsteps of actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick, who own a house in Kilcar, which is only 15km from Glencolmcille.
What's Not To Like
The cottage has a BER rating of G, which is not unusual in a property of this age, but new owners may want to upgrade the heating system and look into further insulating the house so it's more comfortable during winter months.