Bungalow bliss in exceptional Connemara cottage for €550,000

Every room of this architect-designed cottage frames majestic Co Galway scenery

  • Address: St. Judes, Glengowla West, Oughterard, Co Galway
  • Price: € 550,000
  • Agent: DNG Martin O’Connor Auctioneers
This article is 8 months old

Many of us dream of escaping the rat race to surround ourselves with wild oceans or soft, rolling hills, where birdsong, not early-morning traffic, wake us from our reverie. Hours can be lost on property portals chasing broken-down cottages and bungalows that, with some rehabilitation and TLC, may become bucolic buys.

But in reality it requires deep pockets and a lot of time to transform such properties into modern homes that offer all the comforts of 21st-century living. Very often they break the bank. But just sometimes the stars align and the end result is magic.

St Jude’s is a modern Irish country house that, under the penmanship of architect couple Ryan W Kennihan and Jennifer Boyer, has been converted into an elegant property that doffs a cap at the traditional single-storey gabled cottage. It has been carefully executed to ensure that every room frames the pastoral sweeps of the surrounding countryside. The propertywas highly commended in the 2006 Irish Architecture Awards.

And the surrounding scenery is stellar. Just off the main road between Oughterard and Maam Cross, this is big sky country, where the light changes constantly. 

A few miles out the road, in the direction of Maam Cross, is the humpback bridge that played a starring role in the 1950s film The Quiet Man; TG4’s western TV series An Klondike was filmed at nearby Glengowla Mines, where there are deposits of lead and zinc.

St Jude’s is cleverly hidden from view by a limestone wall that was cut at a local quarry in Cashla. In the early 2000s its owner bought a bungalow on the site, and while her original intention had been to demolish it, its location in a scenic amenity zone meant the owner could only get planning to refurbish and extend the original building, dating from the 1940s.

The architects retained the front and back gables so that from the outside it would still look like a cottage but they elongated the space between them, painting the extensions in a bog black render so that they disappeared into the shadows of the garden and the surrounding hills, Kennihan says.

Privacy was also important. “When you’re out in the fields what you see is the cottage, not the extensions. The house is set on a raised commonage area, lands that can never be built on above the bog and near the old railway line. When inside the large format windows make you feel as if you’re immersed in the landscape,” Boyer adds.

Kennihan and Boyle share an interest in traditional Irish buildings and bring a fresh view to repurposing them. “We think it is possible to make a contemporary building that sits in harmony with its surroundings,” says Kennihan.

In 2007 the property was awarded an Opus Design and Construction award, winning in the Best Building under €1 million category.

The original house is a familiar feature on the Irish rural landscape, and Kennihan estimates it would cost about €500,000 to carry out a similar conversion (before fees or the purchase cost of the original property).

Now double its original size, at a roomy 218sq m/2346sq ft St Jude’s is seeking €550,000 through agent DNG Martin O’Connor Auctioneers.

In true west of Ireland fashion, the house is not accessed from the front but the drive leads around the back, where the door opens into a large hall. The property is in walk-in condition. There is room for a clatter of kids, and underfloor heating throughout, banishing any damp carried in from outdoors. 

The open-plan living area is set out in a broken-plan layout with many of the internal walls lined in walnut. Here, storage is sequestered behind the warm honeyed timber.

The living room, with a turf-burning stove, meanders through to the dining room cum kitchen where the worktops and units run the length of the room, galley-style.

In the study a raised area is set into yet another striking floor-to-ceiling window and here the owner escapes to dissolve any work stresses by tinkling the ivories of the baby grand piano. There are no neighbours here to knock on walls and ask you to keep it down.

Three of the four bedrooms, all of which are en suite, are set in a wing to the left of the front hall. The master, which includes a dressing area and jacuzzi in the en suite, is in the same wing as the living space, meaning parents of older kids can, come bedtime, enjoy a real sense of escape.  

And if you need to escape further, you can walk the gardens and extend it to a riverside walk alongside the property. The Owenriff is a tributary of Lough Corrib that flows through Oughterard.