If sleeping in an original stone cottage in Meath and the memories that it might hold sounds magical to you, then a visit to Trohanny Cottage, a 200-year-old stone dwelling near Kells is a definite must.
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Like many old houses scattered throughout Ireland’s countryside, this one, too, is a pre-famine cottage that was once owned by a local landlord.
In this case, the house was one of many in the hands of John Radcliff, the landlord of the local Maio estate.
When Áine McGarry (pronounced “Awn-yah”) and her late husband, Joe, bought the house in 2000, it was a dream come true.
The cottage was originally known as the Maio Farmstead.
However, about 35 years ago, the postal address was changed to Trohanny, meaning “land of the marshes.”
Áine, a native of Naul in Co. Dublin had always lived in the country but wanted a bigger place where she could have lots of animals.
Joe was from Balbriggan, which is part of Fingal, north of Dublin.
After their return to Ireland in 2000 having lived in Australia for a year and then backpacking across Southeast Asia, the couple began house hunting.
Their dream was to find an old Irish cottage that they could renovate themselves.
Discovering a Jewel in the Irish Countryside
Áine says that when they eventually found Trohanny Cottage, “it was the bones of a dream coming true for both of us.”
Even in 2000, it was difficult to find an affordable old property near Dublin.
Áine recalls searching through the local “Buy and Sell” newspaper looking for old dwellings for under €50,000 or even below the bargain price of €30,000.
They found it one day after discovering an ad that read, Old stone cottage on 0.5 acres for sale, Moynalty, Kells, County Meath.
“I’ll never forget, my heart was thumping out of my chest when we scrambled for the road map to check the distance (from Dublin),” Áine remembers.
“It took three attempts to find the place and then took many attempts more to plead with the banks to get a loan. But with help from my mam and an unusually emphatic bank manager, it was finally ours!”
Bringing the Cottage Back to Life
The journey of restoration was a long and difficult one for sure.
“Joe and I had very little money, so we lived pretty much in squalor for quite a while and worked on it as we lived in it,” Áine explains.
Sleeping on a mattress supported by concrete blocks with no central heating or running water was the norm for a while.
“The corrugated iron roof would flap in the high winds and the floors were ice cold. I would sleep in my dressing gown and have wellies by the bed to put on to go to the toilet outside!!”
Slowly but surely, Trohanny Cottage took on a life of its own.
The roof was re-thatched, electricity was connected, and the walls were re-pointed inside and out using natural materials.
The original floors were mud and sloped downward, but instead of leveling them out, steps were created to enhance the look.
To add to the cottage’s authenticity, half of the floors were covered in Liscannor stone flags while the other half was covered in wood.
One of the most exciting finds, says Áine, was discovering the cottage’s original open-hearth fireplace with its top intact.
“We were afraid that it had been knocked out or that there was nothing there, to begin with, but when the final concrete blocks were pulled away, we knew we had hit gold!”
The couple later discovered in the nearby shed the original iron pieces, along with the pots and other accouterments necessary for cooking over an open fire.
“I don’t think I ever worked as physically hard as I did at that time,” Áine recalls.
“Only someone who worked alongside Joe would know how hard it was to keep up to his level and I was (and still am) no slacker, filling water buckets, picking stones from the surrounding fields, painting, whitewashing, and cleaning.
But it was Joe who pulled this cottage back to the bare bones, leaving only what would have been the original structure and building it back up piece-by-piece.”
Tragically, Joe died in a car accident in 2005.
A Cottage with Many Stories
Trohanny Cottage is at least 200 years old, but the original farmstead is many years older than that.
While several families may have lived in the cottage, it is the McMahon family who has documented much of its history.
Áine has in her possession a book titled, “The McMahons of Trohanny.” It is a detailed account of the workings of the farmstead in the late 1800s through to the mid-1900s, written by two nephews of the original owners.
Jenny and Gem McMahon were the last full-time occupants of the cottage. After that, a squatter lived in it before it was closed up and eventually fell into disrepair.
Áine says there is so much history associated with the cottage.
Expect to hear plenty of stories when you visit Trohanny Cottage, as Aine is known to give her visitors a full rundown of its past inhabitants and much more.
Opening the Cottage to the Public
It wasn’t until 2019 that Áine and her husband Philip (known on her social media feed as “The Elusive Mr. P”) decided to open the cottage up for guests, even though it had been suggested she do so several years before that.
It was both a practical decision since the cost to maintain the thatched roof and to keep the authenticity of the home intact can be expensive.
But it was also an emotional one.
Áine really wanted to share the labor of love that had gone into the house that she not only opens up to guests but that is also home to her husband and two children, 10-year-old Conall (“Mr. C”) and 6-year-old Tiarnach (“Mr. T”).
“I had so many talks with my husband and family and friends. I even had my best friend and her boyfriend come to stay as a trial before I could take the leap,” Áine says.
“I literally didn’t sleep for weeks before the first guests arrived and then the panic to have the place perfect. Oh, the stress! I couldn’t have done it without my family’s help and support.
And I knew Joe was watching out for me every step of the way. He sent me the most wonderful, appreciative guests, and for the most part, continues to do so.”
Staying at Trohanny House
An “authentic Irish experience” is what you can expect at Trohanny Cottage.
Guests get the full use of a 4-roomed Irish traditional thatched cottage and gardens to themselves.
The house, which has underfloor heating throughout, includes a working kitchen but with all the original features, including an inglenook fireplace and beams.
“The Rose Bedroom” contains an authentic cast iron bed. Its soundproof thick stone walls ensure you get the most amazing night’s sleep, as previous visitors have attested to, Áine says.
Relax in the atmospheric “Greek Bathroom,” with its deep antique enamel bath together with complimentary bath salts, donkey milk soaps, and luxurious bath towels. A lit candle in the original sash windows adds to the tranquility of the space.
The autumnal-themed living room features a granite fireplace that contains the stonemason’s mark, an etching placed there by her late husband.
Sit by the turf fire, curl up with a favorite book (there’s no TV, but there is excellent WiFi available!), and wrap yourself in a cozy Donegal tweed throw for additional comfort.
Feel free to make your own delicious Irish breakfast with the eggs, bread, cheese, and orange juice that are provided to all guests. Áine also adds a few treats that no doubt pair well with a cup of Irish tea!
The cottage is surrounded by stunning views of the Boyne Valley and trails that are ideal for either a relaxed walk or a more strenuous mountain trek.
Áine and her family live with a menagerie of 4-legged friends that include three horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and two cats, who are all part of what Áine describes as her “welcoming committee.”
“Our animals are a massive part of our lives. My boys call them their brothers and sisters!” Áine says.
“When guests come to stay, they get to interact with all of the animals; even the cows in the big field sometimes come over to say hello.”
The family also keeps sheep in the winter and there has been some talk about getting miniature goats to add to the existing charm of Trohanny Cottage.
What Makes Trohanny Cottage Special
Because Trohanny Cottage is an actual home versus a rental space, Áine says that makes it all the more appealing.
“From the reviews that guests have given me, they feel so relaxed here and for some, it’s a healing time – and I really love that.
They also say there is a special energy to the place, which is something I can definitely attest to.”
Áine says that every detail of the cottage has been thought of with care and with love. All of that, she adds, makes her guests feel very special indeed.
“You cannot fake authentic,” Áine adds. “People know the difference. They know when they stay here it is something truly special and they leave knowing they now have become a piece of its history, too.”
Trohanny Cottage is located within a few kilometers of the historic village of Moynalty and 20 km (12 miles) from Kells.
Other, well-known tourist attractions are within an hour’s drive from the cottage.
How to Book a Stay at Trohanny Cottage
If you’d like to read more about the goings-on at Trohanny Cottage, be sure to check out her blog, Tales and Tails, where you’ll get the full story of the stonemason’s mark and so much more.
The cottage, which was on the list of places that Ireland’s national television station, RTE, considered for its “Home of the Year,” is about an hour’s drive from Dublin Airport.
Rates at Trohanny Cottage are approximately €130/$152 per night, with a cleaning fee of €25 and a service fee of €27.