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Six of the best: Cottages in Ireland to rent.
HANORA'S COTTAGE, COUNTY WATERFORD
What began life as a little cottage in the Nire Valley in 1891 has since evolved and expanded into something more like a country house hotel, with jacuzzis in every room. It's still owned by the same family, though, as Mary Wall and her children carry on the business she started with her late husband Seamus in the mid-1980s. While the main house now offers modern-style superior rooms and junior suites, there is also a self-catering option at the nearby Old Hunting Lodge, which provides exactly the romantic setting that you pictured in your head – a supremely comfortable stone enclave nestled amid the woods and wildlife of the Comeragh Mountains. Low season weekly rental from $600.
EMLAGHMORE COTTAGE, COUNTY GALWAY
Literally a stone's throw from the sandy beaches, coral strands and cold, rolling surf of Ireland's wild west coast, this cottage stands apart from the larger main property of Emlaghmore Lodge, on its own three-quarter acre plot of land. A private river runs through it, and there's a small boat you can use for fishing or just floating on the adjoining lake. From here it's about four kilometres to Keough's Pub in Ballyconneely, and just a little further to the beautiful bay town of Clifden – a relatively new tourist hub in the ancient landscape of the Connemara region. Low season weekly rentals from $600.
WATERFALL COTTAGE, COUNTY MAYO
Completely isolated within the expansive grounds of the Delphi estate, this cottage is a little newer than the traditional Irish homestead than many visitors might have in mind – it was actually spliced together from two separate 19th century cottages during a more recent renovation. The huge interior is decked out with modern conveniences, including oil-fired underfloor heating and the River Room – a spendidly James Joycean name for a vast downstairs lounge that opens onto a riverside terrace. But the exterior is still good old stone and slate, embedded in a run of countryside that extends to the offshore islands of Inishbofin and Inishturk (both accessible by ferry), and the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick. Low season weekly rentals from $1285.
TEMPLE HOUSE GARDENER'S COTTAGE, COUNTY SLIGO
As with many of Ireland's best-preserved holiday cottages, this is one part of a larger estate, surrounded by acres of farmland, parks, gardens and woods. The cottage itself provided pretty comfy digs for the former gardener of Temple House, and it's been restored to Victorian glory with its pitched gables and tall chimneys (though the kitchen is now resolutely 21st century). You can go walking, boating, birdwatching and pike fishing without leaving the property. And, if it's raining – which it probably will be – you can sit by the fire with a book and a bottle and still feel like you're having a great time. Low season weekly rentals from $715.
THE COTTAGES, COUNTY MEATH
Less a stand-alone homestead in the wilderness than a cluster of 300-year-old cottages that form a mini-village in the Boyne Valley. The east coast of Ireland hasn't quite got the same edge-of-the-world feel as the west. Dublin is just down the road, and there must be 50 great golf courses within a short drive, not to mention the busy historical tourist spots of Newgrange and Slane Castle. But once inside one of these six heritage cottages – with their thatched roofs, whitewashed walls, open fireplaces, farmhouse kitchens and oak-beamed floors and ceilings – it's still possible to enjoy the peace and quiet of the 18th century (without severing your Wi-Fi connection). Low season weekly rentals from $715.
PORTSALON COTTAGE, COUNTY DONEGAL
The real deal – thatched, detached, and completely secluded on the Fanad Peninsula near the northern tip of Ireland. This is one of the last cottages of its kind in Donegal, and still boasts a few original features, with wood-burning stoves in the living room and kitchen. If you're looking for peace and quiet, here it is – the only sounds you'll hear will be the birds, the wind, and the distant waves (the beach is a mile away). But if all that silence freaks you out, you can always turn the TV on or walk to the pub in nearby Portsalon. Low season weekly rentals from $250.
The writer travelled at his own expense.