‘It wasn’t pretty, but all we saw was its potential’ – from a cow in the living room and holes in the roof to a €750,000 property in Leitrim

Ard Nahoo, Dromahair, Co Leitrim Asking price: €750,000 Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Draper (071) 9143710

there was a cow that lived in the living room of an abandoned cottage in Dromahair, Co Leitrim when Brendan and Noeleen Murphy bought her in 1995.

The Dublin couple moved to Dromahair so Noeleen could join a local band. They bought the dilapidated 200-year-old farmhouse on six acres of land to make it their family home, but then turned it into a thriving retirement business.


Dublin couple Noeleen and Brendan Murphy bought the property in 1995

Dublin couple Noeleen and Brendan Murphy bought the property in 1995

But at the time, there was a lot of work to do. The walls were crumbling, there were holes in the roof and there were no windows. “There’s been 20 years of cow shit on the floor,” laughs Brendan. “On top of that there had been a fire at some point. It wasn’t pretty. But all we’ve seen is its potential.

They were also drawn to the local community of families who had lived there for generations and the large number of musicians, artists and filmmakers in the area. “It was just perfect,” adds Noeleen. “And when we found the chalet, despite its raw state, we felt there was something magical about it.”

With the help of local artisans, they set out to develop a two-storey, three-bedroom family home. They rebuilt walls, laid floors, made windows and installed central heating. What makes this property special though is that it incorporates parts of the old cottage into its structure and has been designed with a bohemian chic vibe.

“We didn’t have a lot of money, but we carefully selected what we had and had a lot of items made especially for the house. I think it gives it a unique look,” says Brendan.

In 2000, the couple began developing an ecotourism retreat center at their home. Noeleen has been teaching yoga here for 30 years. In addition to the main house, there is a wooden multi-purpose venue comprising of an entrance hall and reception area, a large yoga studio and reception room, dining room, kitchen, hot tub , a sauna terrace, a hammam, showers, a changing room and two treatment rooms.

Also on the six-acre site are three eco-friendly wooden guest cabins that can accommodate up to 17 people.


An aerial view of Ard Nahoo which spans six acres and includes three eco cabins and an event center

An aerial view of Ard Nahoo which spans six acres and includes three eco cabins and an event center

An aerial view of Ard Nahoo which spans six acres and includes three eco cabins and an event center

They organize retreats, parties, educational events and weddings.

Brendan and Noeleen met in San Francisco in 1992 and after a whirlwind romance, married that year. But on returning to Dublin, they struggled to settle.

Then one day, Noeleen who likes to sing, put an ad in heat press magazine: ‘Singer looking for a band’. She received a response from a group in the village of Dromahair in North Leitrim.

It was 1994 and they moved the following year. “We realized Dromahair was the perfect place to live,” says Brendan. “We immediately felt at home. Here we are surrounded by mountains. We loved the village crossed by a river and the cozy pubs covered in ivy.

Inside the house, the original brickwork is evident in most rooms. “The house was covered in plaster when we bought it, so the first thing we did was chip it away to expose the original stone,” says Brendan.

It works well with wooden doors and polished wooden floors, with simple walls painted in bold matte colors like purple or turquoise adding vibrancy. It is a good balance between traditional and modern design.

The kitchen/living room has an Aga stove, an exposed brick island and a high vaulted ceiling with exposed rafters. There is a small stove built into the wall and a comfortable L-shaped sofa under the window.

An upstairs mezzanine has an eye-shaped window overlooking the garden below and an unusual designed balustrade.


Another of the reception rooms

Another of the reception rooms

Another of the reception rooms

A second reception room at the other end of the house is carpeted and is currently used as a music room, housing various instruments and an office.

There is a cozy south-facing third reception room at the rear of the house with sliding glass doors leading out to a patio area and lawn.

From here you can see the ‘garden room’ which is a self-contained living space with an en-suite bedroom, previously their son’s base before he went to college.

The property sits on the edge of a small valley overlooking Lough Nahoo. The area teems with wildlife and there are regular sightings of deer, badgers, pine swallows, cuckoos and Hooper swans each year. Yet despite its idyllic rural setting, the property is just a mile from Dromahair and 10 miles from Sligo town.

“The scope of what can be done at Ard Nahoo is huge, whether people want to run it purely as an independent vacation business or something more creative,” says Brendan.

Their two sons Daragh, 22, and Eoin, 18, are both now living. And having just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, the couple decided to swap Dromahair.

“It was a wonderful home for us and now it’s time for it to go to someone else,” Brendan says. Sherry FitzGerald Draper is seeking £750,000 for the home, event center and three cabins on six acres.

Elizabeth J. Harless