Spring—my favorite time of year—is
already here. My garden is ablaze with golden daffodils.
Now picture gamboling lambs and shaky-legged
foals...blackthorn trees erupting with blossomy white veils...woods covered
in bluebell carpets...tiny primroses and wild violets huddling in the shadow
of stone walls. One of the best places to enjoy the spring flower-fest
is along the “Green Roads” of County Clare’s rocky Burren region. Green
Roads are ancient sunken trackways, formerly used by cattle drovers. They
meander past a botanists’ treasure trove of orchids and other rare blooms.
Summer means days out at unspoiled
beaches in Sligo or Donegal...riverbank walks beside the river Shannon,
trying to spot the turquoise flash of kingfishers or a solitary gray heron
flapping towards the reed-beds...scarlet fuchsia hedgerows...music festivals
and the Puck Fair in Kerry where a goat is crowned king.
Fall is misty and mellow, the woods
pungent with mushroomy smells. Blackberries spangle hedgerows, native oysters
come back on the menu, and traveling people (gypsies) meet up at the Great
October Fair of Ballinasloe. Held in County Galway, this is Europe’s largest
horse fair with thousands of horses milling about on the Fair Green.
For me, winter kicks off with the
Wexford Opera Festival—Wexford is a quirky southeast coastal town founded
by the Vikings. Although December, January, and February are mostly months
for snuggling indoors, you often wake up to find what locals call “a pet
day.” The sky is pale blue, the sun is shining—nothing beats bundling up
in thick woolens and setting off on a brisk hike on a day like that.
The safety factor
Cities harbor criminals—I wouldn’t
tell you otherwise. But the streets of Ireland’s rural towns are still
among the safest in the world. There is no burglar alarm fitted to my cottage—or
to any of my neighbors’ homes either. And I still never lock the car when
going into my local town to shop.
Nine picks from the rural cottage
crop—all less than $200,000
1. According to the agents,
this bargain-priced stone-built cottage on a third of an acre plot in Clare
could be a weekend retreat. Although it has only two rooms, extensions
are possible. However, while structurally sound, the property has been
empty for years, and you’d need to reconnect electricity. Within easy reach
of the river Shannon, it’s also only a short drive from Kilrush and the
coast. Price: $49,000 through Green Valley.
2. A two-bedroom refurbished
cottage, along a leafy lane four miles from Boyle Town, County Roscommon.
The kitchen has rustic terracotta floor tiles, solid fuel stove, pine ceiling
with beams, and French doors. The sitting room has an old-style fireplace
and original ceramic floor tiles. Offers in the region of $110,000 through
3. On a well-maintained half-acre
site at Frenchpark, County Roscommon. A one- bedroom cottage, with potential
for two to three bedrooms. Now restored, this was originally a four-room
traditional cottage. Price: $110,700 through Egans.
4. At Inagh, six miles from
Lahinch and the County Clare coast, a three-bedroom single-story house
ready to move into. No need to don gardening gloves—the garden is already
planted with cottage-garden style flowers and shrubs. There’s also a garage/workshop.
Price: $139,800 through Green Valley.
5. Partly bordered by a stream
and wooded gully, a simply renovated whitewashed cottage near Gort, County
Galway. It comprises one room (320 square feet) plus two sleeping lofts
and a detached bath house. On 3 acres, there are other outbuildings, a
flower garden, and an organic vegetable plot. A short walk brings you into
the Slieve Aughty mountains, with views over counties Clare and Galway.
Galway city is 25 miles away. Price: $153,700 through Green Valley.
6. “Shepherd’s Lair” is a
modernized and well-maintained traditional cottage on an acre plot less
than five miles from Tipperary Town (County Tipperary). Three bedrooms,
new windows, rewired, and with oil-fired central heating. Price: $160,000
through Green Valley.
7. Pretty whitewashed cottage
at Causeway, County Kerry. Fully renovated and extended, on 1½-acres
of land, it has two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a living room, and
a bathroom. The living room has a wood-burning stove, but there’s also
oil-fired central heating. Price: $166,000 through European Estates.
8. A two-story house with
a romantic ivy-clad front at historic Ardfert, County Kerry. Three bedrooms,
mature gardens. Price: $184,500 through European Estates.
9. Fully modernized traditional
thatched cottage approximately four miles from Ballybunion Golf Course
in County Kerry. Comprises kitchen/living room, three bedrooms (two en-suite),
and a bathroom. Price: $196,800 through European Estates.