We spent a fabulous week at Denis's Cottage, which truly was a home from home. It was a perfect setting for us, plus our two girls aged 9 and 10, and the family dog, to explore Donegal, its beaches, villages and mountains.
The cottage is owned by Michael and Mary, who farm the fields around. It is Michael's childhood home, and they've recently been able to buy it back into their family and renovate it as a rental cottage.
It's beautifully presented. Some Irish cottages are gutted out and made to feel like brand new properties inside. That can be nice, but it's not very authentic. Denis's Cottage is quite different. The renovation has kept lots of original features, so it really does feel like living in a proper old Irish cottage. However, it is cosy due to a wood stove and central heating, equipped with everything you will need, and lovingly furnished. Mary has taken such care inside: ornaments, books (including kids books) and pictures make it feel like a real home. There are three good, comfortable bedrooms, a lounge with TV, DVD player and CD/radio, a well equipped kitchen that we cooked in every night, and a bathroom with bath and shower.
Michael and Mary were so welcoming. Mary met us and took us to the cottage, where basic provisions were already there, and lovely flowers on display in the bathroom. She explained that unfortunately the washing machine was not working, and she hadn't been able to get a service man yet. However, we were welcome to use her washing machine; she and Michel live about 10 minutes away. Thus we ended up at their home the next night, drinking tea and chatting as the washing machine completed its cycle. A friendship was born!
It's worth saying something about the location. Don't expect to be at the heart of things. In fact, the cottage is way out in the countryside, amongst roving hills, with sheep all around. Not the place to go if you expect to walk to the pub, but perfect if you want a peaceful spot with beauty and nature all around. We even spotted some deer. Our girls loved playing in the garden, and built their own 'den' down by the little stream. They were safe, and we could just let them get on with it.
Ardara, the nearest village, is about six miles away. There you'll find good pubs and food, music sessions, a small supermarket and craft shops. About ten miles in the other direction is Killybegs, a fishing town with an impressive trawler fleet. Donegal town is more like 20 miles away, but well worth it.
I'd forgotten how lovely Donegal really is. Drive out the coast from Killybegs and walk along the spectacular Slieve League cliffs. Nearby Malin Beg beach was a beautiful place for the dog and the kids to let off steam - but there seams to be a beach around every corner in Donegal. Clencolmcille folk village is an inspiring window on the past - a must see. Those were our highlights, but you'll make your own, there's so much to see.
This was a really special family holiday, and we have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Denis's Cottage. We'll be back!