This ‘UFO house’ in Sligo with eco-credentials could be yours for €300k

Eco-lodge inspired by Sligo's ancient cairns offers a very different living proposition

  • Address: The Gyreum Eco-lodge, Corlisheen, Riverstown, Co Sligo
  • Price: € 300,000
  • Agent: DM Auctioneers
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If a new millennium is a time for fresh starts, then Dubliner Colum Stapleton took the concept further than most in January 2000, when he moved from London, where he had been running an art gallery, and headed for a large empty field in Co Sligo.

Apparently operating very much on the build-it-and-they-will-come premise, the former documentary maker had chosen a rural area steeped in Irish mythology to construct one of most unusual buildings in the northwest, which is now for sale.

Often compared to a UFO, a Christmas plum pudding, or an ancient cairn, the 390sq m (4,200sq ft) structure known as Gyreum, despite its novel design, blends into the landscape on a one hectare site overlooking Lough Arrow.

Stapleton says the building, which is variously described as an eco-lodge, a hostel, a retreat centre, a workshop space and a novel party venue, did take its inspiration from “the 5,000 year-old cairns that dot the hills of southern Sligo”.

The construction of the round geothermally heated structure , which took two years, was filmed for TG4’s 2002 Splanc series by the owner’s film company Smirsh.

Over the years Gyreum has evolved into a space which can sleep up to 30 people, with many patrons attracted by its environmentally friendly credentials, as well as by its location close to a number of key megalithic sites.

Gyreum Eco-lodge, Co Sligo: The building features a 15m (50ft) diameter central hall, with a sunken stove as the focal point
Gyreum Eco-lodge, Co Sligo: The building features a 15m (50ft) diameter central hall, with a sunken stove as the focal point.

Stapleton was drawn to this part of the country when an artist friend, Fergus Lyons, told him about the local archaeological features. He says the Gyreum is aligned with ancient cairns at Carrowkeel, Knocknarea and Moytura, where, according to legend, the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians slugged it out in an epic battle between good and evil.

“When I first visited the area I was in awe – it really had that ‘land that time forgot feeling,’” says Stapleton. The building, in the townland of Corlisheen, is located 8km (5 miles) from Riverstown village and 30km from Sligo town.

Arts hub

Gyreum has become a hub for those interested in the arts, archaeology, and adventure sports, while musicians and Irish language enthusiasts have used it as a rehearsal space and workshop venue.

The building has a 15m (50ft) diameter central hall, with a sunken stove as the focal point, and has hosted conferences, retreats, weddings and, over one winter, a regular Sunday “sermon and soup” gathering for those looking for a different spiritual experience .

The accommodation which Stapleton allows is more “rustic” than five star luxury, and comprises three dormitories which can sleep up to six, two double rooms and nine curtained cubicles around the central hall.

The insulation is a mix of yellow fibreglass from a redundant mushroom farm “which would otherwise have ended up in landfill”, complemented by the fleeces of 150 sheep provided by a local farmer. The green roof, made of torched-on mineral felt, slopes into the landscape while the second phase of the building comprises an outer layer of dormitories, light-filled reception/meeting rooms and a modern kitchen.

Gyreum has its own 3.6m wind turbine built from scratch during a workshop on the premises in 2007. “It has been spinning happily for 10 years and charges enough power to look after 75 per cent of the hot water needs for showers, sinks, and the kitchen,” says Stapleton.

Water requirements

Harvested rainwater and a well on the property meet most of the water requirements although back-up is supplied by the local Lough Arrow water scheme. Toilets are a mixture of dry and flush.

The building, which is registered with eco-tourism provider Greenbox, was awarded an EU “eco-label”, the European Union’s environmental quality mark, in 2006. It was also one of four national finalists in the 2007 LAMA (Local Authorities Members’ Association) awards for Best Ecological Building in Ireland, having been nominated by Sligo County Council.

Stapleton says that having devoted 17 years of his life to the project, he will hand it over to a new “keeper” with a heavy heart. “I would love to see it continue in the same way welcoming people who are looking for time out in this beautiful landscape,” he says.

Before he leaves Gyreum, Stapleton is expecting to host a few more parties – but none more important than the bash scheduled to take place there in December when he and his Brazilian boyfriend Renato Souza de Melo will marry at the venue. “We couldn’t think of a better place,” he says.

Gyreum Eco-lodge, Corlisheen, Riverstown, Co Sligo, is for sale through DM Auctioneers, Sligo, with an asking price of €300,000.