Some of my favorite memories from Ireland were made in traditional cottages in Donegal. From the first time we stayed in a traditional cottage I was smitten–their charm, their traditional beauty, their history, I was completely enamored. In all I stayed in three cottages on five different holidays, all of them I recommend with a loud and hearty “YES! GO THERE!” I found them on a fabulous website called Donegal Cottage Holidays where you can search for cottages based on location, size, cost, and other important factors. Without exception the landlords were warm, welcoming, and helpful without being at all intrusive. One of the cottages where we stayed, Miller’s Cottage in gorgeous Ramelton, was originally built for the family of the miller and was around three hundred years old. In an unbelievable move that can only be classified as “DOH!” I forgot my camera for that trip, I still can’t believe it. It’s no longer available for rent but there are some other adorable cottages in Ramelton, which is a sweet, tiny village with very friendly people. If you go make sure you check out McDaid’s Wine Bar and Conway’s Bar, both define Irish village charm.
Cloverfield Cottage is a cottage I went to twice, each visit for a week at a time. I took my “alone” holidays when my husband was in Iraq, they were crucial for recharging my batteries. I dropped the kids with my folks who were living in Belfast and went off on my own, the kids got spoiled by grandma and grandpa and I got to do all the stuff I can’t do when the kids are around–sleep in, take long, quiet walks, drink wine with lunch, eat Doritos for dinner, that kind of stuff. After dropping the kids off I would stop at Marks & Spencers (M & S), buy all my favorite foods, including pre-made dinners I only had to heat up, pile back in the car and head off to paradise, this cottage:
This cottage was perfect for me, just enough space for me to relax and remote enough that I could gather my thoughts and enjoy the solitude. Sitting in front of a living room window of the cottage, watching the sunrise over Trawbreaga Bay while sipping tea was lovely, especially since I could climb back into the warmth of my bed and drift off to sleep before waking up and taking a stroll along the road that led to some of the beaches on Doagh Island (not actually an island, though it was a very long time ago). I got to pass by friendly horses who would always come over for nose tickles
I soaked in views like this one
I stopped off at one of my favorite patches of earth anywhere, this little alcove under the hills and along the bay, where I never saw another person
Continuing on, past a few farms, I stopped off at the local ruined castle
I always ended up at what I think of as my favorite beach anywhere. I spent hours on this beach, both with my family on other holidays and alone. There is something about it that I found peaceful and restorative, I would stroll from one end to the next collecting shells and rocks, trying to find new ways to implant it in my memory so every time I closed my eyes and thought of it I could hear its surf, feel the spray on my face, feel the sand crunching under my wellies, and remember how good I felt standing on that beach.
Then I would sigh and turn back towards the cottage and the serene beauty of Trawbreaga Bay
Grace’s Cottage, which is over one hundred years old and has been lovingly restored
This cottage is the perfect place for a family, in part because it has an addition that provides a lot of extra space so it has three bedrooms and three full baths. One of our favorite things about it is the big, traditional fireplace and an unending supply of turf.
Another favorite thing of ours about traditional cottages in general are the beautiful, deep windowsills
On our first trip to Grace’s Cottage we took full advantage of the sites that were close by. We went to a ton of fun places, including Grianan Ailligh, a ring fort from the Neolithic period; Fort Dunree (in English it is Fort of the Heather, which I particularly like); Doe Castle, built in the early sixteenth century; Inishowen Museum and Planetarium; Doagh Famine Village, which teaches visitors about the Great Hunger in Ireland as well as about Travelers and the Civil War in the North; and Donegal Friary, founded in 1474. We also hiked through Swan Park, which is not only gorgeous but has quite a lot of historical significance as it holds the spot where Theobald Wolfe Tone, leader of the United Irishmen, was arrested in 1798.
We spent an enjoyable, and mostly dry, day in lovely Glenveagh National Park, 16,000 hectares of beauty nestled in the Derryveagh Mountains
We also explored another castle, Greencastle Castle, which has not stood the test of time as well as Donegal Castle but is lovely in its own way
Then, of course, there were the beaches. Our favorite family beach is Five Fingers Strand
Inishowen, Donegal pretty much defines “perfection” for me!