09 Apr 2024

At Home: Aughry Yard

Una and her family have sympathetically transformed this former cow shed into a dreamy, peaceful cottage near the banks of the river Shannon in Country Leitrim.  Available to stay in via Airbnb, the cottage is a sanctuary to escape to when some peace and quiet is required.  We asked Una to tell us more about this beautiful space.

Can you tell us about Aughry Yard?
Aughry Yard is a converted stone building which is now a two bedroom contemporary self-catering cottage available to rent on Airbnb. There would be no Aughry Yard without Aughry. It’s the name of the land where I grew up on from the age of twelve, on the banks of Lough Bofin on the river Shannon in south Co. Leitrim. The cottage was originally a cow shed back in the day with hay stored on the second floor. Centred in the middle of an old stone yard it is surrounded by small outhouses, green fields, a walled garden and a walled orchard. The yard and gardens are the heart of Aughry, although it is still a part of the main family house, it really does stand apart as something special. You feel it when you enter the yard immediately. You are nestled among history and there is a peacefulness that engulfs you, it’s magic. 
There is a lot of history attached to the land dating back to 1640 when Aughry Castle was first constructed by Major John Nesbitt, originally from Scotland. The castle was unfortunately destroyed in 1690 by the Jacobites. The family moved close by to an area called Derrycarne and remained there until the 1850s. They didn’t forget about Aughry as they built a similar house to their Derrycarne house on the land and called it Aughry House in the early 1800's. We believe the current yard, walled orchard, walled gardens were built around this time. The previous owners knocked the original house and built the current house as it stands in the late 1930's. 
There would also be no Aughry Yard without my parents Eugene and Clare, who bought Aughry in 1994 and made their dream come true. They worked endlessly to make it a really special place for the family. There are five kids so lots of hands, we have all worked on Aughry over the years to try maintain the huge grounds while we were away working or at college but Covid gave us time to really reconnect with it all and we gained a renewed energy with a few of us being back home. I wanted to create something at Aughry and the cottage seemed like a great place to start, there it began. 
Did you have to do much work to the cottage?
We were given a huge head start by mum and dad as they had already done a conversion on the cottage in the early 1990’s, adding electricity, water and the oil burning stove is the original that she put in. It sits on a huge rock brought up from the river, it still remains the heart of the cottage today. This was a huge help starting out as the basics were in place for the most part. The interiors were a mish mash but had a cosy cottage vibe to it with old wooden presses and floral sofas, lots of trinkets, bowls, baskets and art. By the time we took on the upgrade, over twenty years later, the majority was not salvageable. The more contemporary interiors are a marked difference from what it was. The great thing was in both cases the four fundamental things still remain, the incredible stone walls, the beautiful wooden beams, the deep window sills and the half door looking onto the garden fountain. I wanted to celebrate these and kept that in mind from the beginning. 
We knew we would go white everywhere in order to do so. I wanted it to be a welcoming peaceful space that gives you a huge hug when you enter, that was the goal. We started by stripping out all the old and honestly decaying furniture. It was such a cleansing experience, mentally. With our positive mind at the time we decided to do the painting ourselves. We stripped varnish, two undercoats and three top coats on all the wood. Not sure I would do it again if I’m being honest! We had more paint on the floors than on the walls and it is still there now! We were still painting come winter and the white was worrying us on cold days but we knew it would work in the end. 
We had to remove the slate flooring downstairs sadly as it was too badly damaged. I knew it had to be hard wearing so it made sense in the end but hard to say goodbye to. We replaced all the small wood cross windows upstairs with larger picture windows to take advantage of the views across the fields. There was never a kitchen so we designed this from scratch to make it small and functional which has worked well. A modern bathroom went in which was a great decision and a last minute one, thankful we pushed ahead with it. 
None of it would have been possible without the support and work of local tradesmen the Reilly’s. There is also Bernard Reynolds, who has been coming to Aughry working his magic for years. He has touched every part of this project and has elevated Aughry in more ways than he will ever know. There was a morning when we sat on the floor of the cottage having a cup of tea and slice of bread and I remember thinking this is probably the best I felt doing a day's work ever. Renovations as we all know are hard work but incredibly rewarding at the same time. There are moments throughout that I will treasure forever and hope to forget the nightmare moments! Lots of work is still happening on the grounds, it’s a continuous effort.
Where do you get your interiors inspiration?
My interiors inspiration has always been soul led, it comes from the gut. By honouring the stone, beams, half door and windows I knew it would all work out. These were the anchors and I used white to showcase them. I wanted every piece to be functional. I didn't want it overrun with trinkets or unnecessary clutter. Textures, fabrics and functionality were important but it needed to be hard wearing to a degree also if we were to rent. There is no art in the cottage as when the light hits the cross windows downstairs it is reflected onto the white walls and for me this is the art. The stone work is also the art and it’s where I wanted people’s attention to be. I guess having no TV also helps with this, we notice more.  
Piece by piece it came together but there are some things that have made the finishing touches, like the handle on the half door that a local tradesman Micheal Hanley specially reworked for us, it’s a work of art. The oak suffolk latches on the bedroom doors that took me weeks to find, the lamp shades that nod to the hay that used to be stored in the old cow shed, the Ferm Living hanging on the wall that made me think of the patchwork fields outside. I took inspiration from the colours in the stone walls, the fields and went with my gut on what gave me that feeling of warmth.
On a wider note, I believe space should nourish our souls, hold us, nudge and whisper unknowingly, gently reminding us that we are safe, enough and can be our true selves. That’s my dream anyhow! I believe space should be honoured. Once it is, it will give back in abundance. The interior conversations will flow when respect, time and thought has been given to each element. The space is always right, we just have to listen, explore and remember not to force it. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t, that’s ok, let it breathe, give it time. I certainly don’t have this perfected as it’s always a work in progress, I guess a huge part of it is restraint.
The search to find those interior spaces that will give experiences to those within that they never knew they could enjoy is what brings me joy. It’s the magic of seamless moments with in an interior space, one after another, gifting you experiences that will soothe you and also remind you of your values and beliefs. There is a continuous flow of conversation happening between space, interiors & body. One supports the other. I don’t believe trends have to be followed or adhered to, I believe that feeling, wellbeing, a sensuality perhaps should come first. 
I create in my mind, not on paper. I have the ability to mentally fly through a space and while doing so I’m creating mood boards as I do, mixing and matching colours, textures, furniture, music, art, people. Combined with continually asking questions, what happens there? what could happen? what’s the dream for this space? how do they want to feel? what does the space want to tell you? My gut is my guide but always inspired truly by where and what the space is about, balancing the what it wants to be versus what you want from it and letting it speak. This is often a slow process for me, but one gut right move always seems to lead to the next decision. Often it’s one thing that sparks the chain reaction of my creations. 
Have you got plans for any more projects?

We have lots of ideas and we know the potential of Aughry. The aim for us at the moment is to bring it to life for us as a family so that we can make as many great memories here as possible, particularly as Eugene is still a huge part of Aughry. He is the absolute core of the story and it’s wonderful to have him see it being moved forward and celebrated. The magic thing is he’s beyond supportive of anything we would want to do here. It would mean honouring the space, land and heritage for us. Welcoming guests to Aughry has been truly wonderful. To share the space and for people to get what we love so much about it is all we could ask for. The feedback has been incredible. Let’s see what the future brings.
How would a visitor spend a perfect weekend at Aughry Yard?
If I was coming for two days, I’d either bring my bike on the train if possible and cycle over to the cottage as we are only a stone throw away or drive and remember to strap your kayaks or boats on and don’t forget your wee dog. We are blessed to be located right on the Shannon with access at the bottom of the avenue so it’s the perfect place to enjoy the water ways. 
This is a place to switch off, park up, unpack and kick back with a glass of wine or cup of tea. I would recommend a stroll around the property and village to get your bearings and then cooking up back at the cottage, lower the lighting and settle in for a cosy evening with some chat, music or curl up with a book to completely switch off. A restful night is easy here as it’s incredibly peaceful. You’ll be woken by the birds in the early morning which is fabulous. 
Potter downstairs, hit the kettle and throw open the half door to listen to the sound of the garden waterfall hitting the water below, it’s like meditation. Breathe in the fresh air and relax.
We try to give our guests a treat, like cake, bread, eggs or maybe a jam so a slice of something in the morning or eggs from the hens in the orchard is always nice to kick start the day.
If walking, cycling or canoeing perhaps is your thing I would recommend hitting for the Shannon Blueway. A series of on-water and land based trails run from Leitrim, through Roscommon to Co. Longford. The great thing is we are on the border of all three counties. The water trails have accessibility for canoes, stand up paddle boards and kayaks, offering access to over 100km of paddling area. The walking and cycling trails start on Ireland’s first floating boardwalk at Acres Lake in Drumshanbo. We enjoy Drumshanbo, Jinny’s café is lovely and The Shed Distillery is here too, who are the producers of the award winning Gunpowder Irish Gin, they have a lovely shop and café also.
In the evening grab a show or exhibition at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon and perhaps a bite or drink afterwards in the town, The Oarsman is a go to for us. Or head back to Dromod for some tasty pub grub or a drink. There are three great local pubs, The Brandywell, The Copper Still and Cox’s Steakhouse,  we are spoilt for choice in a small village.  
For me the best way to spend your time is actually time spent on the grounds. Making the most of the garden space and the cottage, it’s all yours to enjoy. If the weather cooperates, playing tennis, cooking up and eating in the yard or in the garden is the best. Playing card games in the evening, reading books by the fountain, having a wee nap and then heading off for a slow walk in Derrycarne woods  or down to the harbour is all that’s required. This is a place to just stop, relax, recharge and enjoy. I hope to welcome guests through the gates of Aughry for many years to come. 

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