Thatched Cottage Ireland

a lovingly restored cottage in the West of Ireland

Month: November 2015


Before the purchase we thought checking email on our phones occasionally would be sufficient given we wanted the full remote countryside experience, but in practice the mobile phone reception was terrible.

We could only get data on our phones occasionally and it required you to stand in the cold and mud outside holding the phone in the air.

Add to that the fact that so much research was required to find tradespeople, products and cottage information, which meant proper internet access was just essential.

We were told that a previous owner went to great lengths getting a telephone line to the cottage which involved erecting telephone poles across the fields of the adjacent farm, only to find that the distance from the exchange was too far to provide any kind of decent service.

Thankfully came to the rescue, a wireless based service started by locals to provide Internet to remote locations. They installed an antenna on the apex of the cottage which delivers a 2mb connection for €30 a month:


I wish all internet providers were like this. Getting internet installed in London can require weeks of waiting and 6 hour time slots with a no-show. Not airwire – “I’m only going to be around for one day, could you install my internet on Friday at 3pm?” I asked, “No problem” the friendly gentleman said, and so by 3.30pm that day we were connected.

It’s not the fastest connection (2mb) but is symmetrical which means the upload speeds are the same as download, which is rare. It works reliably and you can watch RTE, YouTube and Netflix…and yes, e-mail indoors – result!


Installing a new wood burning stove

One of the things missing from the budget was a new wood burning stove.

When we first viewed the cottage we had been very pleased to see there was a stove and it looked in reasonably good condition. However after spending a few days there in the cold of October we realised the heat output was not good enough to heat the cottage.


One reason the cottage may have had a smaller stove is that electric underfloor heating had been installed when the floor had been tiled. We had hoped to use it but found during our October trip that despite it being on for most of the stay, it barely made a difference to the room temperature and absolutely guzzled electricity! We needed a bigger stove.

We got in touch with Murphy’s of Kinvara who specialise in stoves and they confirmed based on the dimensions of the living room that we did indeed need a stove with double the current output. We needed to get this installed as soon as possible as we were hoping to spend a few days in the cottage at Christmas when the weather would be at it’s worst.

We soon discovered that there was a secondary reason to get a new stove installed, insurance. To fully insure the cottage against fire we needed to have what is called a ‘double skin stainless steel liner’ in the chimney.

The ‘liner’ part means that the top of the stove must be connected to a steel pipe that goes straight up to the chimney pot. The ‘double skin’ refers to a slightly more expensive version of a standard stainless steel liner, which has a second layer of piping running through it. This double layer reduces the probability of excess heat igniting any exposed thatch and guards against any deterioration/damage to the liner that could then leak sparks or fumes.

The chimney column also needs to be surrounded by a material called vermiculite. This comes in bags of loose fill chips which are poured in around the steel liner to further insulate and protect the flu.

We attempted to find out whether the existing stove had a double liner and had a chimney sweep out to assess. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get access to the chimney cavity without risking debris from the chimney filling the living room. That process would have also rendered the stove unusable. So we were unable to determine what we had and therefore unable to get insured for fire.

There is no compromising or negotiating on this, in our experience you simply cannot get sufficient insurance for a thatched property unless you can prove you have a double skinned liner. But insurance aside, of course we also wanted peace of mind for ourselves that the stove was correctly installed and safe.

So we ripped out the old liner and went for a full new installation. As it turned out the existing liner had not been double skinned and there was no vermiculite in the cavity, only random pieces of building debris so the existing stove had been somewhat unsafe.

Here is the double liner being pushed down the chimney to be connected with the stove:


The grandparents also joined us on this trip to lend a hand. Here we are outside while the stove was being installed (the white bags are the vermiculite ready to be poured down the chimney).


The stove we ended up going for was the Nestor Martin Harmony I. Getting this fired up for the first time and feeling the warmth fill the cottage was a moment of great joy!


Our journey to buying a thatched cottage

Our decision to buy this particular thatched cottage happened very quickly but it was the culmination of a much longer journey towards buying somewhere in Ireland.

We are both from Ireland but now live in London. We had always wanted to own our own home in Ireland. We were also keen to leverage Audrey’s skills as an interior designer. Audrey has her own design business in London and works with people to renovate their homes yet we had never undertaken a renovation of our own. Increasingly it felt like we needed to take action on these longer term goals.

Following the housing market crash in Ireland we were watching property prices in Ireland for a few years and finally around early 2015 we felt the timing was becoming right. The market had recovered and property prices were increasing in Dublin, yet in the countryside prices were still relatively flat with supply quite high. Also with sterling very strong against the euro it felt like a window had opened that may not appear again for a very long time.

Why a thatched cottage?! The market was swarming with large family houses and classic countryside bungalows at bargain basement prices. For the same money we could have picked up a large family home in the countryside. When we told people about the purchase, we could see they were afraid to ask us the obvious question – why don’t you get more for your money? (and you are crazy, aren’t thatch roofs a nightmare – but we’ll leave that to another post!)

I think its important here to define what ‘more for the money’ means to us. More can mean more bedrooms, more space and more land. More can mean re-sale value, proximity to town or south facing. However to us, more meant character, uniqueness and longevity. We wanted something timeless, a piece of history, something unique to the special country we had left behind. It wasn’t long before searching that we came across the first thatched cottages, and instantly we were curious.

We first fell in love with another cottage in Spiddal, a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) community in Connemara, not far from Galway City. We placed an offer on this but ended up a bidding war and lost. We were quite devastated, which surprised us. We really had our heart set on a thatched cottage more than we realised.

A couple of months passed and the thatch idea had far from waned, so we planned a trip back to the west. We blitzed it for 2 days viewing a wide range of properties around county Galway, finding this gem buried away near Headford. It was literally buried behind overgrowth, damp inside and in need of significant work – but we instantly knew this was the one for us.


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