Story of Home A re­treat to the hills

In the sec­ond in the Ul­ster Bank series we meet two Dublin­ers in Done­gal who have cre­ated a stun­ning home and a unique Ir­ish de­sign- themed re­treat

The Irish Times Magazine - - INTERVIEW -

Breac House is a beau­ti­ful ode to Done­gal. This mod­ern re­treat is the home of its own­ers Cathrine Burke and Niall Camp­bell and a “home from home” for the guests who stay there. Re­flect­ing the splen­dour of Done­gal’s land and sea back to guests at Breac House, which sits on the breath­tak­ing head­land of Horn Head in Dun­fanaghy, was fun­da­men­tal to the cou­ple in cre­at­ing their home and busi­ness. This very spe­cial place to stay has the dra­matic, un­spoilt beauty of Done­gal singing seam­lessly through­out.

“When peo­ple come in, the first thing we say to them is ‘ for the next few days you are to make your­self feel com­pletely at home.’ We are here to look af­ter them to make tea, cof­fee, what­ever they want over the course of their stay. But the whole con­cept is, you come and you use this house as you need to,” she said.

The cou­ple are both from Dublin and met while do­ing busi­ness de­grees in DCU. They went on to work as ac­coun­tants but al­ways knew they “had an­other ca­reer in them.”

“Niall has been com­ing to Done­gal since he was a child. I have been com­ing since col­lege so we de­cided that at some point in the fu­ture we would build, buy or cer­tainly do some­thing in Done­gal, and we would do some­thing from a busi­ness per­spec­tive,” says Burke.

“Over the years we built a plan in our heads of some­thing we thought would re­ally work in Done­gal and it was a ques­tion of find­ing the time and the op­por­tu­nity and the right place to do some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent.”

They had bought a hol­i­day home in Gaoth Dob­hair, over half an hour away from Dun­fanaghy, where Breac House is lo­cated. They found them­selves spend­ing more and more time there as they loved the cof­fee in the lo­cal cof­fee shop, “Muck and Muffins,” who would later be com­mis­sioned to cre­ate crock­ery es­pe­cially for Breac House.

“We would be walk­ing for the day and we’d find our­selves do­ing a de­tour via Dun­fanaghy for cof­fee on the way back. We thought, if you are go­ing to do some­thing, par­tic­u­larly in tourism, you want to be near a re­ally nice town that has nice res­tau­rants, nice cof­fee shops, nice ser­vices so I think, lit­tle by lit­tle, we re­alised that it would prob­a­bly be in this part of Done­gal rather than fur­ther west,” she says.

The cou­ple knew the lo­ca­tion had to be per­fect. They were fa­mil­iar with the house that ex­isted where Breac House is now from their walks around Horn Head, and in 2014 they jumped at the chance to buy it.

“There was no doubt in our minds and we both knew on that day. We made the de­ci­sion in five min­utes that we were do­ing it once we stood here.”

Their pas­sion for keep­ing things as lo­cal and sym­pa­thetic to the land­scape and com­mu­nity as pos­si­ble i s ev­i­dent through­out Breac House. They used the award- win­ning Let­terkenny- based, MacGab­hann ar­chi­tects for the new de­sign of the prop­erty, which took in­spi­ra­tion from nearby Muck­ish moun­tain.

“I think you have a cer­tain re­spon­si­bil­ity when you build in ru­ral Ire­land, and in par­tic­u­lar ar­eas of nat­u­ral beauty, that the house be­comes part of the land­scape. I sup­pose, our vi­sion for the ar­chi­tects and our in­struc­tion to them was that we want ev­ery­thing about this house to be Done­gal. So Done­gal ar­chi­tects, Done­gal builders, Done­gal join­ers, ma­te­ri­als, wher­ever pos­si­ble, were to come from the lo­cal­ity. It was to be a com­plete re­flec- tion of ev­ery­thing you see when you look out the win­dow,” says Burke.

For such a mod­ern prop­erty, there is an au­then­tic con­nec­tion to tra­di­tion through­out. From the hand­cut Ar­dara quartz flag­stones to the gor­geous oak to the Fanad gran­ite. Done­gal is all around you, in­side and out.

“Breac House, for us, is all about peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ‘ au­then­tic Done­gal’. That phrase is very overused but when peo­ple travel nowa­days, of­ten they stay in a mod­ern ho­tel and they meet no one, they speak to no one and they don’t get to dis­cuss where they are.

“Any­one com­ing to Breac House will ei­ther sit in the lounge or in their room and the first thing they will see out­side is Muck­ish moun­tain and we have a whole theme within the house that runs off that. From the colour of the pot­tery through to the chairs in the be­d­rooms that are all in­spired by that moun­tain that we look at ev­ery sin­gle day.”

The in­cred­i­bly clever de­sign al­lows for awe­some views from ev­ery part of the house, be it the thrash­ing waves of the north At­lantic in Sheep­haven Bay or the green and heath­ery fields and out­crop that lie be­tween you and Muck­ish.

“This home is at once tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary, and the cou­ple have cre­ated a cel­e­bra­tion of their pas­sions for de­sign, ar­chi­tec­ture, food and travel, as well as for Done­gal. There is out­stand­ing

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