Thatched Cottage Ireland

a lovingly restored cottage in the West of Ireland

Author: Audrey

Summer holidays at the cottage

This summer we are spending a full month at the cottage, which will be our longest stay yet.

We’ve been here a week now and are enjoying the space, the outdoors, walks to the lake and the amazing sunsets…


A tour of the cottage

Let’s take you on a walk through the main rooms of the cottage. These photos are all post-refurbishment.

When you walk through the front door of the cottage, you are in the living room. There is another door directly opposite leading to the rear, a huge fireplace to the right and a staircase to the left.

From my research of thatched cottages, I now know this is called a ‘direct-entry’ house, and the door used was dependent on the direction the wind was blowing on a given day.

Both front and rear doors are ‘half-doors’ which would have allowed air in without cattle being able to cross the threshold.

Traditionally this main room in a thatched cottage would have been a kitchen and living room all in one and in some cases with a double bed in the corner!

One of the big attractions of our cottage was that it has a separate kitchen off the living room.

The room on the other side of the living room is a bedroom – big enough for a double bed.

This room has a nice view out into the garden and we love the traditional deep window recesses.

Behind this is a bathroom, which we have completely refitted with a new shower, WC and wash hand basin.

The staircase is beside the bathroom and leads to a mezzanine floor.

To the right is another bedroom where we have two single beds.

On the main mezzanine area we have a sofa bed, handy for guests to sleep and also as a kids ‘den’ for TV watching/playing games on rainy days!


New sewer pipe

It had not been mentioned in our survey that sewage waste from the cottage was being processed via a macerator.

A macerator takes sewage waste and disintegrates it so it can be pumped away via a small pipe. We had seen a skinny pipe outside the back wall but assumed it was a water pipe leading to the bathroom. In fact this was the macerator pipe but we were still a bit confused why the sewage didn’t just flow directly to the septic tank without this pumping mechanism.

It soon became apparent that the cottage is in fact built on a large slab of limestone rock. The macerator approach avoided having to dig into the rock and lay sewage piping.

Discussing it with our builders we decided that having a macerator wouldn’t be the best plan longer term. Macerators can be prone to failure, need an electrical supply and the exposed pipe protruding from the back of the cottage was both unappealing and at risk of freezing in a particularly cold winter.

Tom and Laurik decided to dig out a trench for sewage piping that would provide a direct route using gravity to the septic tank. This required digging through solid rock and care needed to be taken to avoid vibration damage to the cottage.

They eventually came up with a technique whereby they used circular saws to partition sections of rock and a jack hammer mounted on a digger to dig it out. They used lasers to ensure they were getting the correct angle such that gravity could do it’s job.

A big job but well worth it, and aesthetically the back of the cottage looks much better as a result.



Building work starts

At Christmas our builder Tom called around to chat about the project. Sitting at the kitchen table he surprised us by saying ‘Christy and the digger are free tomorrow, how about we start on site? It would be great to get a few days in while you are here.’ And so we were off!

Our Christmas trip to the cottage was the one time we thought it would be difficult to make much progress with the project, but before we knew it Christy had arrived and started clearing us a driveway as we almost had the car stuck in mud the day before.


Then digging moved to the back, clearing away the overgrowth and we were finally able to get a sense of how big the gardens would be. This had been difficult to judge before as they were inaccessible.


Top of the list was to finally assess the septic tank and the pipework so the guys traced the pipework and started to dig it out.


It had been a a struggle to walk around the land at the rear of the cottage, it had been so overgrown and full of rocks.


It was great to finally get started and see more of the surrounding landscape emerge.

‘Irish Thatch’ by Emma Byrne

We love this book!

Published by O’Brien Press in 2015, this book came out just as we bought the cottage and was given to us by a friend.

It is an inspirational book with photos and information about cottages from all around Ireland.

As the author Emma says at the beginning of the book: ‘Nothing matches the feeling of warmth and comfort that comes from three-foot-thick clay walls and a two-foot-thick natural roof, keeping in the heat of your blazing stove, or knowing that your two hundred-year-old house has stood for so many years.’ We ageee wholeheartedly!

The book has a section exploring the history of thatch in Ireland with technical details of how this type of roofing is carried out.

The remainder of the book takes you on a tour of thatched buildings throughout Ireland. This was particularly useful to use when we were making decisions to do with the exterior of our cottage and the surrounding land and outbuildings.

Highly recommended!

Link to Amazon



Finding a builder

This project was certainly not something we could tackle alone.

During the purchasing process we decided we needed to seek out a building company. We needed someone who shared our passion for bringing historic properties back to life. We wanted the renovations to be sympathetic to the original character of the building and it’s features while transforming it into an idyllic place for us (and in time, hopefully others) to spend relaxing and memorable holidays. A small ask!

We were starting from scratch, working from London so our only option was to start googling Irish building companies. We found three that appeared to be actively involved in conservation work and whose experience and outlook appeared to be a good match for our needs. I contact contacted them all to see if we could arrange a meeting on site at the cottage to get some initial costs together and to help us figure out how realistic the project might be (or whether we were just crazy!!).

The first one was booked up for ten months (!) and would not be able to take on a new project until the following June.

The next one was going to charge a fairly substantial initial fee for a feasibility study, which may have been ok if we actually owned the property, but we were obviously trying to keep costs down at this stage (knowing that there was a costly road ahead!).

The third company we contacted bounced back with keen interest in the project, we had a phone call to discuss and the friendly builder called Tom offered to meet us on site.

In August 2015 we met Tom at the cottage and talked through the issues from the survey, our hopes and fears! He was very supportive and shared our passion and vision for the cottage. He also said ‘if we didn’t buy the cottage he knew someone else who would!’.

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