February 9, 2012
By Judy Enright, Special to the BIR
Each traveler has definite likes and dislikes about what makes a trip special. Some are bound by time constraints and can only get away from their “real” lives for a short time; others enjoy spending more time to see as much of a destination as possible.
With this in mind, I wanted to share how much I love renting a house in Ireland and why.
There are so many reasons: I am able to invite friends and family to visit—and I have. I can plunk down my suitcase for the duration and actually unpack. In addition, by renting the same house for the past 10 years, I have been fortunate to meet and get to know many wonderful and interesting Mayo residents.
I was initially introduced to Louisa and Alan Stoney and Rosturk Woods guest accommodation—in Mulranny, Co. Mayo -- 16 years ago when I stopped with my son for a night of bed and breakfast. After that first visit, I stopped by for B&B if I was nearby. Then, in 2001, when I suffered a milestone birthday, I decided to rent a house, invite my family, and celebrate in Ireland. Naturally, I chose Rosturk Woods, which is about two hours by car from Shannon Airport. I have returned there every year since and always in April and May when the weather is somewhat cooperative, although there is definitely a reason why Ireland is green.
I rent a three-bedroom, south-facing modern house with direct, private access to Clew Bay. Alan Stoney meticulously maintains the many plantings, lawns, flowering trees, and bushes on the extensive and beautiful property.
His wife, Louisa, is completely detail-oriented and ensures that renters have every comfort. There are two self-catering units at Rosturk Woods: one is a six-bedroom house, especially suited for families, and the other is a three-bedroom, which is the one I rent.
Both houses have washers, dryers, microwaves, and kitchens large enough to seat eight comfortably around long wooden tables. Every conceivable pot, pan, dish and glass is provided, and Louisa even stocks the house with American measuring cups and spoons because we bring recipes from home.
In the living/dining room there’s a large table at one end that becomes my Irish “office” (internet service is provided, of course.) At the other end of the living room, a couch and overstuffed chairs circle a cozy fireplace. Peat, wood, and fire-starters are constantly replenished by Alan. A television, DVD player, and lots of movies are available and there are rental stores in Westport if you don’t like the selection.
The bathrooms all have walk-in showers with excellent water pressure, which is not the case everywhere in Ireland. Jumbo, thick towels await on heated towel racks. Bedrooms are spacious and sheets are the finest that Louisa can find.
The master bedroom affords a brilliant view of Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick—the Holy Mountain—through French doors that open onto a balcony that’s small but large enough for several outdoor chairs and potted plants. There are no screens on any windows so opening them at night, with lights on, can result in some interesting winged visitors. I leave them closed.
There are so many reasons why I return to Rosturk Woods every spring, but John McKenna probably said it best in the Bridgestone Irish Food Guide, when he wrote: “Louisa and Alan Stoney’s B&B and self-catering houses are one of those places that, quite simply, have the magic. Magical location, magical ambience, utterly otherworldly...”
There truly is much magic at Rosturk: brilliant sunrises and sunsets, rainbows over Clew Bay after a storm, the bleating of sheep grazing on nearby islands, the bark of a fox as I drift off to sleep, the whirring wings of geese as they lift off the bay in the early morning.
I return for the people, especially the Stoneys, who are not only fun but also brilliant hosts, ever ready to help. They both have a vast knowledge of the area (Alan is actually a native of Mulranny and grew up in Rosturk Castle next door). And, there are many other friends and acquaintances with whom I’ve had a lot of laughs and good times over the years.
I also return for the great shopping and dining, for the beauty of the area, for the opportunity to photograph the ever-changing weather and skies in the West of Ireland, and for the sheep.
GREAT WESTERN GREENWAY
A new plus for visitors to this area is the immensely popular Great Western Greenway, the longest off-road walking, running, and cycling trail in Ireland, which crosses the hills just across the road from Rosturk Woods.
The 28-mile long Greenway was built on a long-abandoned railroad bed and is a tribute to the many farmers and other landowners who gave pieces of their property to enable the project. The first stage opened in 2010 and the entire route, from Westport to Achill Sound, officially opened last summer. The Greenway has spawned a number of bike-hire businesses along the route and boosted the local economy.
The Greenway, Mulranny Park Hotel, the Loop Walk, and Mulranny Causeway competed for and won a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) award last year for “sustainable tourism.”
For information about renting at Rosturk Woods, contact Louisa Stoney at email@example.com or visit the website rosturk-woods.com
Self-catering options are available all over Ireland and you can rent everything from a castle to a cottage for varying prices and lengths of time. Many accommodation organizations, such as The Hidden Ireland (hiddenireland.com,) offer self-catering properties, as do most travel books and the internet.
Tourism Ireland also lists self-catering accommodations as well as all kinds of seasonal happenings in Ireland at their informative website: discoverireland.com.
St. Patrick is honored on March 17 and plans are well underway for the usual spectacular St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin, which this year runs from March 16-19. There are also festivals and activities all across the country including Cork City, where their festival happens from Sat., March 17, to Mon., March 19. You can scarcely find a spot in Ireland that doesn’t do some kind of event to honor the patron saint. It’s a fun time to be in Ireland and get into the spirit.
One interesting and different celebration is on Achill Island, Co. Mayo, where there is a longstanding tradition of pipe bands. The St. Patrick’s Day Band Festival starts with a 6 a.m. reveille, followed by attendance at several Masses, performances, and marches through the villages for much of the day. That evening, traditional and modern entertainment is offered in many local hotels and pubs.
And, don’t miss the Titanic Experience that opens in a specially-designed building in Belfast on March 31. Visit titanicbelfast.com for more information.
If a February or March trip to Ireland is in the cards for you, be sure to check out the Tourist Board’s website, discoverireland.com, and the Northern Ireland tourist board’s site, discovernorthernireland.com, for all the events going on in the Republic or in Northern Ireland.Rosturk Woods,Co Mayo (Judy Enright Photo)