Dublin couple turn a derelict cottage which had a cow in the living room into €750,000 retreat in Leitrim
‘It wasn’t pretty, but all we saw was its potential’
Ard Nahoo, Dromahair, Co Leitrim Asking price: €750,000 Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Draper (071) 9143710
There was a cow living in the sitting room of a derelict cottage in Dromahair, Co Leitrim when Brendan and Noeleen Murphy bought it in 1995.
The Dublin couple moved to Dromahair so Noeleen could join a local band. They bought the run down 200-year-old farmhouse on six acres of land to make their family home but later turned it into a thriving retreat business.
But back then there was a lot of work to do. The walls were crumbling, there were holes in the roof and it had no windows. “There was 20 years of cow sh*t on the floor,” laughs Brendan. “On top of that, there had been a fire at some stage. It wasn’t pretty. But all we saw was its potential.”
They were also drawn to the local community of families who had lived there for generations, and the area’s high count of musicians, artists and filmmakers. “It was just perfect,” adds Noeleen. “And when we found the cottage, despite its raw state, we felt it had something magical about it.”
With the help of local craftsmen, they set about developing a two storey, three bedroom family home. They rebuilt walls, laid down floors, crafted windows and put in central heating. What makes this property special however is that it incorporates parts of the old cottage in its structure and has been designed with a classy boho vibe.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, but we selected carefully with what we had and we had a lot of items made specially for the house. I think that gives it it’s unique look,” says Brendan.
In 2000, the couple began developing an eco-tourism retreat centre at their home. Noeleen has been teaching yoga here for 30 years. In addition to the main house, there’s a versatile timber-built venue comprising of an entrance hall and reception area, large yoga studio and function room, a dining area, kitchen, hot tub, sauna deck, steam room, showers, changing room and two treatment rooms.
Also on the six acre site are three wooden eco cabins for guests which can sleep up to 17 people.
They hold retreats, parties, educational events and weddings.
Brendan and Noeleen met in San Francisco in 1992 and after a whirlwind romance, married that year. But moving back to Dublin, they found it difficult to settle.
Then one day, Noeleen who likes to sing, put an ad in Hot Press magazine: ‘Singer looking for a band’. She received a reply from a band in the village of Dromahair in north Leitrim.
That was 1994 and they moved the following year. “We realised Dromahair was the perfect place for us to live,” says Brendan. “We felt at home immediately. Here, we’re surrounded by the mountains. We loved the village which has a river running through it and cosy pubs covered in ivy.”
Inside the house the original stonework is evident in most of the rooms. “The house was covered in plaster when we bought it so the first thing we did was to chip away at it to expose the original stone,” says Brendan.
This works well with the wooden doors and polished wooden floors, with single walls painted in bold matt colours like purple or turquoise adding vibrancy. It’s a good balance of traditional and modern design throughout.
The kitchen/sitting room has an Aga stove, an island made of exposed brick and a high vaulted ceiling with exposed rafters. There’s a dinky stove built into the wall and a cosy L-shape couch under the window.
A mezzanine area upstairs, has an eye-shaped window looking out on the garden below and an unusually designed railing.
A second reception room at the other end of the house is carpeted and is currently used as a music room, housing various instruments and a desk.
There’s a south facing cosy third reception room at the back of the house with sliding glass doors looking out on a patio and the lawn.
From here, you can see the ‘garden room’ which is a self-contained living space with an en suite bedroom, previously the base one of their sons before he went to college.
The property sits on the lip of a small valley overlooking Lough Nahoo. The area is full of wildlife and there are regular sightings of deer, badgers, pine martin, cuckoo and Hooper swans each year. Yet, despite its idyllic rural setting, the property is just a mile from Dromahair and 10 miles from Sligo town.
“The scope for what can be done at Ard Nahoo is huge, whether people want to run it purely as a self-catering holiday business or something more creative,” says Brendan.
Their two sons Daragh, 22, and Eoin, 18, are both living away now. And having just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, the couple have decided to trade down in Dromahair.
“It’s been a wonderful home for us and now it’s time for it to go to someone else,” says Brendan. Sherry FitzGerald Draper seeks €750,000 for the house, events centre and three cabins on six acres.
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