(IRISH INDEPENDENT, February 5th, 2016)
You are looking at the photographs of the gleaming white stack stone Thatch Cottage in Tullagower, Cooraclare, Kilrush, in West Clare, that accompany this article. You linger on the charming yellow door and thatched roof outside before being drawn inside, to the vaulted ceilings, flagstone floors and exposed stone walls. You are probably wondering: why is it being sold?
Well the owners, an American couple, do this sort of thing; they buy an attractive property, restore it to tip-top condition, and move on their next project.
They bought the 150-year-old cottage, and accompanying outhouse, on a half-acre of manicured garden, in 2009, and painstakingly renovated, rethatched and refurnished it. Now the pristine three-bedroom property is all exposed beams, vaulted ceilings, flagstone flooring, exposed stone accent walls and solid fuel stoves in the kitchen and master bedroom.
€169,000 through agents Sherry FitzGerald McMahon in Ennis.
On the West Clare peninsula, five miles out from the designated heritage town of Kilrush. Also nearby are Killimer, Kilkee and Doonbeg, home of controversial US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s Greg Norman-designed links golf course. Further south are Carrigaholt and Loop Head.
Loop Head, a cliff-girdled peninsula with the Atlantic on one side and the Shannon Estuary on the other, became a European Destination of Excellence in aquatic tourism in 2010. Villages like Doonaha and Querrin along the estuary are full of charm, and there are unspoilt beaches. This this being Clare, you are never far from a pub with a traditional music session going on.
Kilrush is a planned town, with well preserved, cut stone townhouses dating from the 19th century, traditional shop fronts and pubs, the Market House in the main square and a long and wide main street, Frances Street.
Kilrush’s Creek Marina is an ideal base from which to explore the 50-mile-long Shannon Estuary, with its riverside towns and villages. It also gives access to the vast inland waterway system of the majestic river.
Walkers or, indeed, cyclists, will enjoy the Slí na Sláine route, which goes past Cappa village, a popular Blue Flag swimming area in summer, and along the Shannon Estuary with its views of Hog and Scattery islands.
On this five-mile circuit they will also pass “the Rock”, another popular swimming area, and will pass Kilrush Woods, bounded by the original estate wall of the landlords associated with Kilrush for over 200 years, the Vandeleurs. The jewel here is the restored Vandeleur Walled Garden which now includes a café and gift shop in the original stables buildings.
Kilrush has also become synonymous with dolphin watching as the Shannon Estuary is one of the few areas in the world with a permanent school of bottlenose dolphins. The school of approximately 80 dolphins is now used to being viewed by regular boat tours between April and October.
Kilrush is a bustling market town, with branches of Tescos, Supervalue and Lidl. Less than an hour’s drive from Shannon airport, you also have car ferry across from Killimer to Tarbert in Co Kerry.
What to do
In Co Clare, it’s outdoors for the scenery, hill-walking, cycling, sea-angling, horse-riding, surfing (especially Lahinch), dolphin-watching, golfing and all that, and it’s indoors for atmospheric pubs, music and eating well.
Upon north in the county, there is also the unique landscape of the Burren.
The Western Yacht Club, on the marina, has never been busier, while
tennis, soccer and athletics are catered for at the Cooraclare Road complex, and the local rugby club is based on the Doonbeg Road.
Many people will have heard of the West Clare Railway, made famous by the old Percy French song, “Are ye right there, Michael?”, which closed in 1961. Well, two-and-a-half miles of of the original track, and the station house, have been restored at Moyasta Junction to provide a fun day out for families and school tours. “The Sliabh Callan” will be there burning coal and carrying visitors during the summer months.
Hill-walking is a great way to get to know an area and one off the best routes in these parts is the Kilkee Cliff walk. This circular trek begins at the Diamond Rocks Café at the west end of the town and follows a cliff path, taking in the quartz-filled Diamond Rocks and a natural stone amphitheatre formed by the waves, and Intrinsic Bay, named after the Intrinsic, which sank along with all 14 hands on board in 1836.
Kilrush Golf Club, overlooking the Shannon Estuary, is playable all year round and water, sand and trees combine to test the golfer’s skill.
For swimmers, White Strand (Tra Ban, *fada on both as), at Doonbeg, is a quiet, secluded and safe beach, backed by dunes, and there are loads off flat stones, perfect for skimming along the water.
Doughmore Bay, north of White Strand, is popular with horse riders and locals walking their dogs
For angler’s, Doonbeg River is a great salmon and sea trout river. It gets a small run of spring salmon and a fair run of grilse and sea trout from June.
Eat and drink
Crotty’s Pub & Bed and Breakfast, on Market Square, is a traditional Irish music bar and restaurant and among many accolades received are the 2009 Failte Ireland Tourist Pub of the Year; the 2011 National Hospitality Awards “Best Traditional Pub”; and the 2015 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence.
The family-run Long Dock Pub and Restaurant in Carrigaholt is all olde world charm. In the days when pubs bottled their own stout, it was owned by a Mrs O’Hehir. She had a very original way of aerating her stout: using a bicycle pump, which she kept behind the bar.
The current owners have a Quality Assurance Certificate from Bord Bia, and it is recommended by Georgina Campbell and John and Sally McKenna.
The Potters Hand, on Vandeleur Street, offers fresh homemade food and nice cakes, while the Buttermarket Cafe, on Burton Street, has great carrot cake!
We would also recommend the homemade shepherd’s pie in Kelly’s bar steak and seafood house, on Henry Street, while Tubridy House, in Cooraclare offers tasty crab claws.
What’s not to like
The house is a little too close to the main road.
Broadband connectivity has been an issue for business people in Kilrush.