Property: A dreamy lakeside cottage in Sligo for €595,000 – which once had a river

Lough Talt, Aclare, Ballymote, Co. Sligo Selling Price: €595,000 Broker: Savills (01) 6181300

In the 1970s, when Irish summers were hot and Ivan McGuire was a young lad, his parents would take the family from south Sligo to Enniscrone beach on summer Sundays. But as they got older, Ivan and his brother developed a passion for fly fishing for trout.

When he was in his mid-teens his parents drove from their home in Bunnanadden on their way to the sea and dropped off the brothers and their fly rods at Lough Talt, Ballymote, and then picked them up from Enniscrone on the way back. “We would lose each other on the water all day,” says Ivan.

Decades later in 2000, when Ivan and his wife Nora (now based in Kilkenny) decided they wanted a holiday home somewhere in South Sligo, they one day stopped their motorhome at a ‘For Sale’ sign they were putting next to it had discovered familiar lake.


View of the house, the lake and the mountains

Ivan and his son climbed over a gate and down to a traditional Irish cottage. “The weather was so bad that Nora stayed in the camper. But still, we all decided there and then, ‘This is it.’ The ‘It’ was not just a cottage then being sold by an English national, but 11.5 acres of land, mostly directly flanked by the lake from the majestic Crummus mountain amidst the great ox chain which runs 40 miles through Sligo to the Mayo border with Knockalongy as the highest peak (1,785 feet).

They bought the house, originally thatched but planed by its English owner. But it was clear that it needed some work.

“This was a traditional 1900’s cottage. A local family had farmed the land and raised seven children there. It was a room and a kitchen with an attic where the children used to sleep.

“It’s built in typical Sligo style, with the front door opposite the back door and what’s known as a ‘waste’ on the chimney. There would be a fixed bed in that corner, and this is where the parents of the family would sleep,” says Ivan.


The lake room with gallery library

The McGuires learned of some of this work, which was required on an early rainy night.

“It was about three in the morning when the boys came into the bedroom and told us to go see what’s going on in the kitchen. There was what could only be described as an inch-deep stream that came in through one door, flowed through the kitchen, and flowed out the other.

“It turned out that the previous owner had moved the entrance to the site and covered a creek. He had a pipe in it that couldn’t handle heavy rain, so when it rained heavily, it just diverted and flowed through the house.”

After putting some things in order, the couple used their cottage for two years to get a feel for it before deciding how to expand it. And her two boys, Ken and Gary, were soon fly-fishing around the lake for its famous wild brown trout and bass.


The half-door entrance to the original cottage

“We needed a lot more space and, most importantly, a large room that could take full advantage of the view of the lake and Crummus,” says Ivan. “I sketched a few ideas and took them to an architect. The extension was built between 2002 and 2004. We have done our best to make it blend in with the original house and its surroundings.”

The McGuires added a two-story wing that increased the accommodation by 75 percent while keeping the original cottage as is. “People said, ‘I suppose you’re going to tear it down,’ but how could you? It’s part of the landscape.”

The focal point of the new wing is the “lake room” with a double-height paneled ceiling and beams made of machine-milled Douglas fir. There are floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake and mountains in a peak reflecting the roof. “There was a destroyed cowshed. I made sure to reuse each of these bricks for the new part of the house.”

The tiled limestone floor acts as a storage heater, absorbing the sun’s rays during the day and releasing this heat in the evening. Upstairs is a library gallery which houses the McGuires’ extensive book collection.


An exterior view of the house showing the decks

The family added a large wraparound outdoor deck overlooking the lake for outdoor seating on summer evenings.

Already in 2004 Ivan thought about saving energy. “We looked at geothermal heating and sunk the grid into the land near the house, spilling out in fingers about five feet. It’s absolutely awesome.

“We have solid wood stoves, but with the geothermal heat they are really just an effect now. We have hot water all day and a nice, even ambient temperature throughout the house.”

The house has a C rating which would be much higher if the couple had insulated the original cottage portion. “We couldn’t do that,” says Ivan. “That would have changed it completely.”

The extension also added two more bedrooms, an upstairs screen room for movies, a bathroom, and her library. Now occupying a spacious 2,196 square feet, the home includes a number of useful outbuildings on the outside, including an adjacent turf shed, workshop, storage shed and woodshed, and there is also a detached boathouse that takes full advantage of the direct lakefront.


Block the adjacent outbuildings

Since acquiring the property the family have fished, swam in the lake, sailed on the lake and hiked the area (the lake is the starting point for the Sligo Way Walk which leads to Dromahair in Leitrim) and there is also a designated 4, 5 km hiking trail that goes around Talt.

Ivan even took up paragliding. “The wind distracts from the mountain and creates lift. So you would climb up the mountain, take off, fly around in figures of eight until you got tired, fly back to the top of the mountain, grab a Mars bar and a breather, and fly off again. It’s spectacular.”

Adds Nora: “This is a magical place to live. There are so many wonderful hiking trails here and I do a lot of walking, especially around the lake or up Moorstrasse.

“Waking up to such a beautiful view every morning sets you up for the day. One of my favorite things to do is walk the fields, especially in May when the bluebells are in bloom. I always look forward to the arrival of the cuckoo in April.”

But the McGuires were having so much fun at the lake that it created a dilemma.


The kitchen in Lough Talt

Both worked professionally in Kilkenny, Nora as a reflexologist and Ivan running his own electrotechnical automation company.

“One day Nora said to me, ‘You know what? I want to stay here.’ I said ‘but I have a shop in Kilkenny’ and she said ‘that’s up to you’. By this time the boys were in their teens and out of school. So I was able to settle down in Kilkenny Monday to Thursday and come back here on Thursday evening.”

And so, through an evolutionary process, the house on Lough Talt gradually went from a holiday home for the McGuires to their primary residence. Eventually they severed ties with the city altogether when they sold their home in Kilkenny to one of their boys.

Nora adds, “My favorite spot is the room overlooking the lake. I love to sit in this room, read and listen to music or just sit and watch the beautiful scenery change before your eyes, certain times of the year here you can experience the four seasons in one day and it there is always something different to see .


A place to sleep in the original cottage attic

“Christmas is always magical here when the fiery furnaces are lit and our family is here. I love that I can stand at the kitchen sink and look straight into the living room and the lake. Ivan plays traditional Irish music so I have great memories of the house full of music.”

The one kilometer square lake has been inhabited since ancient times. It has two crannogs and is home to a number of endangered species including arctic char, a native Irish fish related to the salmon; the european eel; and the white-clawed crabs.

“We harvest our own turf from our land,” says Ivan. “But we learned that despite the swampy ground, this was once a farm with meadows, oats, cattle and chickens.”

Tubercurry (9 miles) is the nearest town, Ballina is 10 miles away and Enniscrone with its beach is 13 miles away.

But now the McGuires have come full circle. “We’ve spent the Covid lockdown here and our grandchildren are in Kilkenny,” says Ivan. “We really want to spend more time with them, so now we’ve bought a house in Inistioge. We really hope that a family will move in here full-time. It’s such a special place.”

Savills demands 595,000 euros. Property: A dreamy lakeside cottage in Sligo for €595,000 – which once had a river

Fry Electronics Team

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